Jon Ekey made it official.

The lanky William Chrisman senior is officially a member of the Illinois State University Redbirds.

Jon Ekey made it official.
The lanky William Chrisman senior is officially a member of the Illinois State University Redbirds.
“This is a dream come true,” said Ekey, a 6-foot-7 swingman who led the state in blocked shots (151) last season. “I remember a conversation I had with my mom a few years back.
“We were talking about AAU basketball, and I told her I thought I could play Division I ball, and she said if I really meant it, and was willing to work toward that goal, she would do anything she could to support me.”
His mother Jill grinned when asked about that conversation.
“Jon had been approached to play AAU ball,” Jill Ekey said Wednesday afternoon, as students, family members and friends of the family poured into the Chrisman gymnasium. “I asked him what his goals were. We talked about taking his game to the next level, and here he is today.”
Ekey’s father, Bill, recalls an even earlier conversation he had with his son.
“Jon told me he was going to play for Duke,” said Bill Ekey, who was sporting a Cardinal red Illinois State jacket. “He didn’t tell me he was going to Duke, he told me he was going to play for Duke. I think he was 10 when he made that comment. So I guess you could say playing Division I basketball has been in his plans for a long, long time.”
Chrisman coach John Vickers recalled Ekey’s first varsity appearance.
“He was a freshman, about 6-foot tall and maybe 100 pounds, he blocks two shots,” Vickers said, beaming like a proud father. “He was so skinny if he turned sideways, you couldn’t see him. But he worked as hard as any kid I’ve ever coached.
“And he continued to work hard. I can’t even tell you how proud I am of him.”
Overhearing that comment, Chrisman activities director Dan Ogle added, “I wish every freshman who is interested in playing a sport at William Chrisman High School was here to see Jon sign this Division I letter. He could inspire a lot of kids who don’t know what a little hard work and commitment can mean.
“This is the first D-I signing I’ve been a part of as activities director at the high school and recently, the only others I can think of are LaShena Graham (basketball at Colorado) and Lindsey Ramsay (softball at UMKC).
“We’d like to make this an annual event. I know our coaches would like to see that happen.”
Ekey has become a force at both ends of the court for the Bears, who are anticipating a special season.
“When I talk to (head) Coach (Tim) Jankovich or Coach (Anthony) Beane, we talk about my senior year and how special it can be. We talk about personal things. It’s like they really want to get to know me as a person.
“And they talk about what a great year this could be for me and the basketball team. When I visited Illinois State, and met them, I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”
Ekey was joined by his mother and grandfather, Raymond Allen, for the official signing.
It was a bittersweet moment for the family as Allen’s wife, Ekey’s grandmother, Margaret Allen, passed away Tuesday following a brain aneurysm. There were more than a few tears as Ekey signed his letter, hugged his grandpa and his mom and looked skyward, knowing that his grandmother was beaming her approval.
Allen is going to establish the Raymond and Margaret Allen Scholarship. More details will be available in the near future via the Chrisman counseling center.
After an emotional ceremony, Ekey greeted many of his classmates and teammates.
“I made sure we had something for them to eat,” Ekey said, pointing to several cookie cakes. “If there wasn’t any food, I wasn’t sure if they’d come.”
Justin Clark, a teammate of Ekey’s at Chrisman who also made a verbal commitment to Illinois State, is expected to announce his future plans next week.