BELLEVILLE — An opportunity to join a program with a new head coach and plenty of room for growth appealed to Belleville East senior guard Darreon Reddick, who is headed to Division I Tennessee State.
"We have a lot of new recruits coming in, so we should have a nice young team and be able to build together over the next four years," said the 6-foot-3 Reddick, who chose the Nashville, Tenn., school over another offer from Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis. "It's a good fit."
Reddick's decision was finalized following his campus visit earlier this week.
Former Illinois State player and assistant coach Dana Ford was recently hired as the new Tennessee State head coach. A native of Tamms, the 29-year-old Ford coached previously at ISU, Tennessee State and Wichita State and takes over a program that was 5-25 last season.
Reddick was the Lancers' top scorer this season and the three-year starter averaged 13.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.63 assists per game. He also led East in assists (79) and steals (43), helping the Lancers win a regional before they lost in the sectional to state tournament qualifier Edwardsville.
Reddick averaged 13.6 points as a junior and 8.1 points as a sophomore while playing on a team with current University of Illinois freshman Malcolm Hill.
East coach Abel Schrader was excited to see Reddick get a chance to continue his career.
"This shows the hard work and commitment he's put in," Schrader said. "He's very deserving of the opportunity and there's a new head coach and a lot of excitement down there, so he's got a great opportunity."
Reddick had interest from DePaul an other schools at various times over the past three years. His recruiting path wasn't always the easiest, but he wound up with what he wanted all along -- a Division I scholarship.
"I've been working on my jump shot a lot and conditioning," Reddick said. "They see me as a combo guard, a one or a two. I've always been an unselfish player; I want to get my teammates involved and get to the line more."
Reddick was impressed with the support for the Tennessee State program within Nashville, which also is home to Vanderbilt and other college programs.
"They had a losing record last year," Reddick said, "but they love the team and they want them to be successful, so win or lose they have a good fan base."
Reddick's AAU coach with the Southwestern Illinois Jets, Dana Morgan, also went to Tennessee State.
"He's pretty excited about me going to his school," Reddick said.
Schrader, who coached Reddick the past two seasons, has watched his game evolve.
"He's improved a lot," Schrader said. "His jump shot has gotten more consistent. He's a better leader and he's gotten stronger. He's obviously got a great skill set and he has the potential to have a big upside at the next level.
"He's got a lot of tools that are very attractive to colleges."
Schrader feels Reddick has a good chance for success if he makes a quick transition. Schrader recalled the same adjustment period after going from being a top player at Okawville High to playing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
"I don't care who you are, when you go from the high school to a Division I college there is an adjustment period," Schrader said. "Some kids get it quicker than others: how hard the game is played, the intensity of the play, adjustment to details.
"It's something Darreon has wanted for a very long time and we're very proud that he gets an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream."