CHICAGO — As the Loyola Ramblers continue to bust brackets in the Sweet 16, students at Simeon Career Academy are keeping a close watch on one of their own, Donte Ingram.
Teammate Lucas Williamson is also a CPS grad and played for Whitney Young Prep.
While some kids who play ball in Chicago want to get out of the city, Williamson and Ingram saw Loyola as an opportunity to excel close to home.
Robert Smith, who has coached Derick Rose and Jabari Parker, has been the coach at Simeon since 2004. Two of his former players, Ingram and Gonzaga’s Zach Norvel Jr. are in the Sweet 16.
“To see them as men, especially Donte… it’s huge for just not Simeon, but all of Illinois,” Smith said.
He hopes Loyola will use this momentum to recruit and keep more local talent in the city.
“It has the other kids in the state looking at Loyola as well like, ‘Oh man, this is something that could be good.’”
Simeon has 15 alums who are currently playing Division 1 basketball, but hardly any of them are still playing in Illinois.
“We just have to do a better job of coming inside of these schools and helping them stay home,” Smith said.
As Ingram’s star has risen, his former coach says it’s clear Ingram picked the right place to play.
“If you look at Loyola, for Donte, that was a perfect fit," Smith said. "He was able to go in. And look at him now: one of the main guys on the team.”
All together, there are nine teams in the Sweet 16 who have players from Illinois on their rosters.