April 17, 2008
DeKalb, Illinois - Northern Illinois University head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton announced on Thursday that he has signed guards Jerwin Callaway (Chicago, Ill./Marshall/Mineral Area College) and Keith Smith (Chicago, Ill./St. Ignatius) to National Letters of Intent to play for the Huskies beginning in 2008.
In addition, former Patton recruit Xavier Silas (Austin, Texas/Brewster Academy (N.H.)/Colorado) has signed a tender to join the NIU basketball team in 2008. The 6-5, 195-pound guard will have to sit out the 2008-09 season due to NCAA Transfer rules after playing the previous two seasons at Colorado.
After completing his first season coaching in the Mid-American Conference, Patton realized that strong guard play was the key to success.
"If you look around the MAC and the country, the teams that are playing the best basketball are really good at the guard spot," Patton said. "If you add the three guys we have signed in April with the class we had in November, we have gotten better on the perimeter."
Callaway, Silas and Smith join fellow signees Mike DiNunno (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben), Bryan Hall (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), Dominique Johnson (Detroit, Mich./Laura F. Osborn/Southwest Tennessee C.C.) and Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) to make up the Huskies' 2008-09 signing class.
Callaway, who led Mineral Area College with 13.4 points-per-game last season, provides Patton with the outside threat that he has been seeking. As a sophomore, Callaway drained a team-best 50 trifectas. The Chicago native can take it inside as well, as he was second on the squad with 6.4 rebounds-per-game.
As a senior at Marshall High School, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Callaway led the Commandos in scoring with 28 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals-per-game, helping Marshall to 28 wins and the 2005 IHSA Class AA Regional Championship.
"Jerwin Calloway is one of the best three-ball shooters that I saw (during the recruiting process)," Patton said. "There were a lot of BCS programs recruiting him early on, but I think he saw an opportunity to come here and really have a great college career for the next two years. He's a local guy from Chicago that I think will bring experience and toughness to our program."
Smith averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 assists-per-game in 2007-08, leading St. Ignatius to a 20-6 record and the Chicago Catholic League North title. The 5-foot-5 point guard was named to the All Chicago Catholic League team as well as the Southtown/Star All-Area squad. A three-year starter, Smith is a two-time MVP for the Chicago Tigers AAU squad and led St. Ignatius in assists, steals and was second on the squad in blocks as a senior.
"Keith Smith is a true point guard," Patton said. "He has some intangibles that I think are pretty difficult to teach and he is as good a passer in basketball that I have seen in a long time.
"He's capable of knocking down the three-point shot if you back off of him," Patton continued. "His quickness is good enough that you have to play off of him to guard and stay in front of him but he's good enough to drain that three to make you get up and pressure him."
In two seasons with Colorado, Silas averaged 10.9 points per game with 36 starts in the 48 games that he played. As a freshman, Silas averaged 12.0 points per game, good for third on the squad, while chipping in 9.7 points per game as a sophomore, also good for third on the Buffs.
"Xavier Silas is a guy that played his first two years in the Big 12," Patton said. "He's a young man, a big guard at 6-foot-5 who can play either side of the floor. Physically, he is strong enough to dominate his position."
The Huskies return seven lettermen in 2008-09, including 2008 MAC Freshman of the Year, Darion Anderson (Chicago, Ill./Carver Military Academy).