Southeast receives a big commitment

Monday, March 29, 2010 ~ Updated 12:25 AM

A 7-foot, 255-pound junior college center plans to sign with the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball program next month.

Zach House, a sophomore at Sauk Valley (Ill.) Community College, said he called Southeast coach Dickey Nutt on Thursday night to give a verbal commitment.

Verbal commitments are nonbinding. The first day House can make things official is April 14 when the spring signing period begins.

"I'm very, very excited," House said. "I plan to sign April 14."

House averaged about 15 points, nine rebounds and several blocked shots per game this year at Sauk Valley, which is located in Dixon, Ill., about 100 miles west of Chicago in northwestern Illinois.

House signed with Northern Illinois out of high school. After a coaching change at that university, he started his college career at Evansville, where he redshirted in 2007-2008 and saw limited action last season.

House made an official visit to Southeast last weekend. He said he was so impressed that he decided to cancel campus visits to several other schools recruiting him.

"I just liked it so much at Southeast," he said. "I was really comfortable with the coaches. Coach Nutt is great, he makes you feel at home, like part of a family.

"The campus is nice. I got along really well with a few players I met. I just liked everything."

Asked to describe himself as a player, House said: "I like to score out of the low block with a jump hook, but I can step outside and hit the 17-footer. I really worked on that part of my game this year. Just being big inside, blocking shots, rebounding."

House, who has a 4.0 grade-point average at Sauk Valley, said he was being recruited by other Division I programs, including Wright State, which recently lost to Butler in the Horizon League tournament championship game.

Nutt is prohibited by NCAA regulations from commenting on recruits until they sign. But a former Southeast assistant believes the Redhawks are getting quite a catch.

Ronnie Dean, now the coach at perennial national power Highland (Ill.) Community College that is in the same conference and region as Sauk Valley, is familiar with House.

"He's got great hands, he can score and he hits his free throws," said Dean, whose team faced House's squad three times this season. "He can score over you. He has a great jump hook and he can hit the 15-to-17-footer."

Dean, Southeast's chief recruiter for four seasons from 2004-05 through 2007-08, said he saw House play eight games this season.

"He's a great kid and he's got some toughness," Dean said. "He blocked eight shots against us in one game and we've got Division I athletes. I've never seen a kid improve so much from game to game.

"I think he's a major-league steal for SEMO. I think he was overlooked because I don't know the last Division I player that came out of Sauk Valley. Nobody really knows about Sauk Valley. If he were playing at a Kansas juco you couldn't touch him. I think in two years people are going to be wondering how they got him."

House said he is looking forward to helping turn Southeast's struggling program around and believes it will happen.

"I feel coach Nutt is a winner and he's ready to take Southeast back to the top. I'm ready to ride it with him," he said.

House is Southeast's second known verbal commitment for the spring signing period, joining 6-8 high school senior Dominique Elliott from Savannah, Ga.

Elliott averaged about six points and six rebounds this season, but that might be misleading because he played for a loaded team in Georgia's largest classification that lost only two games and featured other Division I prospects. Elliott competes for one of the nation's top AAU squads based out of Atlanta.

Southeast signed 6-9 forward Waylon Jones from Albany Tech Community College in Albany, Ga., during the early period. Jones missed his entire sophomore season with a stress fracture, meaning he will have three years of eligibility with the Redhawks.

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