LITTLE VILLAGE — Chicago high school legend Ronnie Fields has founded a youth basketball program named after the prep program he helped make famous.
The Illinois Admirals, who will play on the AAU basketball circuit, will share the name of his team at Farragut Academy, where Fields' high-flying dunks and explosive athleticism made him a national superstar.
The AAU program will feature players from the city and suburbs and will be based near west suburban Westmont, where Fields now lives. Fields will start with two teams — one for ages 13-14, the other 15-16.
"Most of the emphasis will be on practicing and fundamentals," said Fields, who turns 37 in February. "Those are the things I'm going to work on and build the players' confidence, so when they return to their high school teams, they know what they're capable of doing."
Fields said he planned to hand-pick his ballers for the private AAU program, which costs $1,000-$1,200 per player. Each team will have 11 or 12 players, he said.
"After we build this foundation first, we plan to expand in future years," Fields said.
Fields said he would coach the squads some of the time, but the other coaches, whom he has yet to choose, would preach his basketball beliefs. The teams will begin traveling and competing in AAU tournaments in April, Fields said.
Fields, who dominated with NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett at Farragut, seemed bound for basketball's biggest stage until a series of high-profile incidents derailed his stardom, including breaking his neck in a car accident late in his senior season in 1996. He and two other men also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse of a woman in September 1996, according to the Tribune. He was sentenced to probation, including donating $750 to a women's shelter.
Fields ended up playing in the Continental Basketball Association for eight years and also played in other international leagues.
Fields is still held in ultra-high regard at Farragut, where a giant mural of him dunking a basketball is showcased in the main gym.
He frequently returns to his alma mater, where he holds hoops clinics for younger players.
"It's just fun for the kids to be out there," Fields said. "You get a laugh so many different times."