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His Team Has No Regular Practices, But He Still Leads State in Scoring

By Justin Breen | December 19, 2012 6:01am | Updated on December 20, 2012 9:52am

NORTH LAWNDALE — Power House senior guard Elliott Cole easily leads the state in scoring — and he barely even practices.

Charter school Power House High — which has had a boys basketball program for only three seasons — doesn't have its own gym. Coach Jermaine Johnson said his team practiced Tuesday night at a local church — its first time in two weeks.

Yet Cole, who transferred from St. Joseph High School in Westchester over the summer, has dominated the competition, averaging 35.9 points per game. That's the top average in Illinois and 10th best in the nation, according to maxpreps.com.

"Just means we have to practice twice as hard when we get a chance," said Cole, 18, whose Panthers are 5-8. "Some teams get to practice twice a day. It's not like that here."

Johnson's team practiced at the nearby Greater Open Door Baptist Church's gym all of last season. But he said the school decided to have all of its varsity squads use the facility this school year, giving his club extremely limited time.

The Panthers average one practice a week, said Johnson, a North Lawndale resident. The coach said they hope to find another practice site early next year, and the school plans to build a gym of its own across the street in two years. The team plays home games at the Homan Square Park District gym.

"It's annoying because the team has tremendous potential, but it's hard to reach it when you don't practice," said LaDarius Jackson, a senior forward.

Jackson said Cole has had to carry the Panthers all of this season. Johnson wanted Cole to play point guard this year, but the Panthers' lack of depth has required to him to compete at shooting guard.

"In this situation, he's forced to shoot," said Johnson, a Collins High School graduate.

Cole has put up points prodigiously. He's scored more than 30 six times and better than 40 three times.

"Now he's getting to show people what he can do against Chicago's elite," said Cole's 26-year-old brother, Felton Cole Jr., also a Power House assistant coach.

His best game may have been a 49-point outburst in a 68-64 loss to Newark (Ill.) High School. He scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, when his team trailed by 23.

"It looked like he was playing a video game, he made it look so easy," Panthers junior small forward Orlando Brown said.

Cole notched 47 points in a 90-74 loss to Farragut Academy despite Admiral coach William "Wolf" Nelson employing a triangle-and-2 defense where his team constantly harassed Cole.

"Last time we chased a guy like that was Tony Allen," said Nelson, referring to the former Crane High School star who now plays for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. "That kid Cole can play."

Cole felt like he had no choice to transfer from St. Joseph, where he was a reserve for three years. He chose Power House — built in a former power plant at 3415 West Arthington St. for the then Sears, Roebuck & Company world headquarters in 1905 — because Johnson is a friend of his trainer.

"I liked the coaching and the situation and the team," Cole said.

St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore said he was disappointed Cole left his program but also understood the move.

"Kids have to do what's best for them," Pingatore said. "He's doing well, and hopefully he's going to get to the next level and continue to do well."

Cole and Johnson said Chicago State already has offered a scholarship.

The senior also has had looks from several other schools, including Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Illinois State.

"I'm just a hard-working person who's willing to turn my dream into a reality," Cole said.