Ronnie Fields Teaches the Next Generation of Hoopsters at Farragut
SOUTH LAWNDALE — Farragut Academy senior guard Johnnie Jones learns from his idol every Saturday.
The 18-year-old is one of several youngsters ingesting hoops knowledge from former Farragut phenom Ronnie Fields, who hosts weekly workouts at his alma mater.
"I look up to him a lot," Jones said. "I talk about him every day. He's amazing.
"In my eyes, he's the best player to ever come out of Farragut."
Strong words considering Fields at one point was on the same prep team as future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. Fields never made basketball's highest level after a series of high-profile incidents, including breaking his neck in a car accident late in his senior season in 1996.
Still, Fields, 35, is held in ultra-high regard at the school at 2345 S. Christiana Ave. Farragut athletic director Linda Ruiz said she was so pleased to see Fields back in her gym that she "almost cried."
"He's been through so much, and he made it through. I admire that," Jones said of Fields, who had a stellar career in minor and overseas leagues before retiring earlier this year. "Doesn't matter if he made it to the [NBA]. He just kept playing."
Jones and about 20 other players, ages 8 to 18, participate in the two-hour workouts. Fields, who has YouTube clips devoted to his high-flying dunks at Farragut, wanted to give back to the school he helped put on Chicago's basketball map.
"It's just fun for the kids to be out there," said Fields, who has a mural in the Farragut gym immortalizing one of his dunks. "You get a laugh so many different times."
The workouts, which began in August, are free. Most of the participants heard about them through word of mouth. Fields also posts news on his Twitter feed.
Drew Corgwell, 9, was the first boy to join Fields' workouts. He said his game — from spin moves to crossover dribbles — has improved immensely in the few months with Fields.
"He explains things good to me and the other kids," said Corgwell, of Westmont.
Added Fields: "He's only in fourth grade. People can't believe how well he can handle the ball."
Farragut boys basketball head coach William Nelson said Corgwell's experience is common among Fields' pupils.
"The little shorties that work out, you can see the development," said Nelson, a North Lawndale native.
Fields and Nelson want to increase the number of participants and hold a summer camp and tournament next year at the school.
"We just want to get something going here for a lot of kids who love playing," Fields said.