Cahokia High senior guard Carleton "C.J." Rivers has plenty of basketball talent, but the hard work he did in the classroom gave him a lot more college options.
The 6-foot-3 Rivers has committed to Drake and because of his combination of basketball and academic skills had 12 offers from schools like Cornell, Brown and Lehigh as well as Valparaiso, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and SIU Edwardsville.
Rivers has a 4.2 grade-point average and ranks fifth in a class of nearly 300. He chose Drake over Cornell and Valparaiso.
"If you take care of grades, every thing else takes care of itself on the court or the field or any other sport," said Rivers, who averaged 7.8 points and 2.75 assists last season for a 33-4 Cahokia squad that finished second at the Class 3A state tournament. " It was fun, just getting that experience and getting to state and making history. We broke a lot of records and were a hard-working team.
"We're working right now putting pieces together so we can make another run at state."
Rivers, whose skills improved even more this spring and summer with the Southwest Illinois Jets travel team, is Cahokia's second Division I recruit in two weeks.
Teammate Darius Austin recently committed to Missouri-Kansas City.
Drake and first-year coach Ray Giacoletti has picked up three guards commitments this week in Rivers, Ore Arogundade from St. Viator near Chicago and Wisconsin guard Reed Timmer.
Giacoletti, a Peoria native, had been a Gonzaga assistant for six seasons before taking the Drake head coaching position. Gonzaga made six straight NCAA Tournament appearances and won five West Coast Conference championships during Giacoletti's tenure.
He also has been the head coach at Utah for three years, Eastern Washington for four years and North Dakota State for three years.
"What led me to Drake was the plan they have for the future,' Rivers said. "I wanted to be part of Coach Giacoletti's first recruiting class. It was close enough to home, but not too close, and the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament comes to St. Louis every year.
"It was big thing for my family to come watch my games, they don't like missing a lot of games."
Rivers said Drake sees him as a combo guard, able to play with the ball or as a shooting guard.
"I think my jump shot has really improved and that's been a big focus for me, improving my perimeter shot and shooting off the dribble," Rivers said.
Rivers' father is Carleton Rivers, Sr., a talented tight end at Lincoln High in East St. Louis who later played for Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
Rivers' father also played basketball at Lincoln.
The current Drake roster includes former Springfield Lanphier guard Karl Madison. The Bulldogs were 15-17 last season and 7-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference.