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Chicago State gets major boost with return of Fred Sims Jr.

The Cougars’ leading scorer gave his coach a pleasant surprise.

NCAA Basketball: Chicago State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago State has finished at the bottom of the WAC standings three seasons in a row. Tracy Dildy doesn’t plan on stretching that streak to four.

“One thing I can assure you, and I said this last week at the AD’s meeting, we won’t be at the bottom team next year,” Dildy said in a phone interview last week.

When he made that statement, confident as it may have been, the Cougars’ coach assumed it was more likely than not he’d need to replace his leading scorer. That changed after Fred Sims Jr. decided to withdraw his name from the NBA draft and return to the South Side for his junior year.

Sims was named to the All-WAC second team last season after averaging 18.1 points per game and recording the highest usage rate in the league. While he struggled from three in conference play (27.1%), he was still an efficient scorer that rarely turned the ball over considering how much the CSU offense relied on him. He was also one of the best rebounding guards in the WAC.

Just prior to withdrawing his name, Dildy thought all that production would be gone.

“I would think it’s a 70/30 chance he keeps his name in with the numbers he had, and he’s such a great kid,” he said. “With the guys that have had NBA careers that I’ve coached, my philosophy has always been to look at going when you’re hot.”

Dildy is likely ecstatic that the longshot odds came up a winner. Sims will pair with two players coming off redshirt years - redshirt freshman Travon Bell and redshirt senior Jelani Pruitt - to give CSU an athletic perimeter rotation. We’ll have more on those two players in a full Q&A with Dildy that will run later this week.

And in the short term — or, as short a term as there can be in May — Sims should make CSU’s slog through another brutal non-conference schedule a little better. Last season, he had big nights against both Wisconsin (26 points, 10-22 FG) and Northwestern (22 points 7-16 FG).