Morton College opens door for Wido to earn baseball ride to Chicago State
July 29, 2014
Chris Wido came to Morton College as a back-up catcher in high school and left with a scholarship to an NCAA Division I school in Chicago State.
"Morton College gave me a chance to play every day and be noticed by another school," Wido said. "Overall, it was a positive experience for me. I accomplished what I wanted to do. I was able to get better individually and gain exposure."
The 6-2, 180-pound Wido is Morton College's first Division I baseball player since the trio of Andres Ortegano (UIC), J.C. Burrell (Eastern Michigan) and Joey White (Western Illinois) made the transition from the 2011 team.
The graduate of St. Charles North and son of Panther baseball alumni Mitch Wido signed his letter of intent with Chicago State in November. Wido was attracted to Chicago State because of its new on-campus baseball stadium and the opportunity to play in the Western Athletic Conference, which includes road trips to Arizona (Grand Canyon), California (Bakersfield and Sacramento State) and New Mexico State for league games.
"I was really intrigued because Chicago State is part of the WAC and we'd be able to play teams from the west coast," said Wido, who graduated in May with an Associate in Arts degree. "Chicago State also has a new field. That was really big for me to have all those perks."
Wido is one of nine players on the Chicago State roster with Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference ties. McHenry products Matt Schmidt (INF), Chase Matheson (INF), Joe Ross (P) and Nick Kostelek (P) are scheduled to return, while Wido joins McHenry's Andy Gertonson (INF/OF) and Cody Freund, Lake County's D.J. Engle (P) and Elgin's Jake Perkins (P) for the 2015 campaign.
Wido, a second team all-Skyway selection, is aiming for an opportunity to start as a senior. The future psychology major is honing his game with the Chicago Zephyrs of the six-team Midwest Collegiate League.
"There's a lot of Division I pitchers, so it's good preparation for the type of pitching I'll be seeing," Wido said. The coach (Marco Fajardo) is helping me with my swing big-time."
Although Morton College was 8-60 in Wido's two years, he leaves with plenty of fond memories, like getting a hit in his first collegiate at-bat against Kankakee. Or homering against Triton both times the two teams met last year. Morton College's final game this season, a playoff loss to Moraine Valley, also stood out.
"We played our best baseball and battled really hard," Wido said. "It was our best team effort of the season."
Wido also went out of his way to thank Gene Rausch, his coach at Morton College. "I appreciated Coach Rausch for having a lot of faith in me," Wido said. "He did a lot for me as did everyone else at Morton College who helped me along the way."
Stamas reaches lifelong goal of Division I men's basketball scholarship
July 29, 2014
Jimmy Stamas is finally living the dream, although it means spending the summer in school and training for eight weeks.
But that's OK for the former Morton College men's basketball standout, the NJCAA Division II assist leader this season at 9.2 per game, who fulfilled a lifelong goal with an NCAA Division I scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Stamas, a 6-1 guard, will have two years of eligibility for Milwaukee, which went 21-14 last year. The Panthers won the Horizon League Tournament and lost to Villanova in a NCAA second-round game.
"It worked out well," said Conte Stamas, Morton College's coach and Jimmy's father. "He worked his tail off to get this and I'm speaking from the perspective of a basketball coach and not his dad. I don't know anybody else who worked harder than he did. I'm really happy for him. It was a lifetime goal of his to play Division I basketball."
The graduate of Lyons Township High School helped the Panthers win back-to-back Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference titles and compile a 21-7 league record and 41 wins overall in his two seasons at Morton College.
Stamas was an all-Skyway player both seasons, garnering second team honors his freshman year and first team as a sophomore. This season, Stamas was the team's MVP and second-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game. He also shot 80 percent from the free-throw line and made just 46 turnovers in 32 games this season. Stamas averaged 8.1 points and 3.1 assists during the 2012-13 campaign.
Stamas also was Morton College's male nomination for the Illinois Skyway's Dick Durrant Award, which goes to a conference athlete with the highest grade-point average. Stamas finished with a 3.61 grade-point average and graduate with an associate's degree.
"During my coaching career, the point guard position always has been so crucial," said Stamas, the coach. "In Jimmy's two years, I didn't have to worry about that. He was unselfish and somebody I really could trust."
Stamas, who also was being courted by Western Illinois, Chicago State and San Jose State, will be the second Stamas on the Milwaukee campus. His sister, Cassie, is currently attends the school.
"Once Jimmy visited the campus and saw the facility, he really liked it," Stamas said. "He felt very comfortable and he liked the coaches."
Thompson out to build up Morton College women's softball program
July 23, 2014
Jim Thompson, a competitive bodybuilder and power lifter, was hired as head coach to bulk up a Morton College women’s softball program that has had plenty of sand kicked in its face over the last decade.
Thompson, also a familiar voice to listeners on the Ottawa sports radio scene in central Illinois for over 30 years, looks forward to being the face of Morton College women’s softball.
He thinks big and why not? His ultimate goal is to get Morton College to the NJCAA World Series, but Thompson realizes he has to take care of first things first.
“Job number 1 is to make Morton College a destination place for high school girls who want to begin their career path,” Thompson said. “There’s no better place to begin than at a community college. I went to a community college and it was the best decision I ever made. Small class sizes, better opportunities to interact with the teachers – it gives you a great two-year foundation. We just need to get the word out.”
Thompson, a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches’ Association’s Hall of Fame, knows how to sell. He owned a successful Lincoln-Ford-Mercury-Kia car dealership in Ottawa for 20-plus years, so selling a potential student-athlete and their family on the overall Morton College experience won’t be difficult for Thompson.
“I want to get around to the schools and tell them all the features and benefits that Morton College offers,” Thompson said. “Being a student comes first. We have to prepare you for life after school.”
Thompson has coached baseball and softball for over 40 years. He’s been at every level, ranging from Little League and PONY to community colleges to women’s travel softball teams. A women’s slow-pitch softball team he ran in the Streator-Ottawa-Morris area was named one of the top 10 stories of the 1980s by the Ottawa Daily-Times.
He considers himself lucky to have been associated with successful baseball coaches such as Gordie Gillespie and Dave Randall, who combined for close to 2,800 career wins at the college level.
Growing up in Joliet, Thompson was among the many young people influenced by Gillespie. Thompson played park district baseball for Gillespie, who won five state football titles at Joliet Catholic and 1,893 baseball games at three different stops.
Thompson, who played baseball and hockey at Joliet Junior College and majored in philosophy at Lewis University, later took a baseball class from Gillespie at Lewis.
“He’s my biggest coaching influence,” Thompson said. “I took a baseball class from him at Lewis. It was only offered at 8 a.m. and I swore I’d never take an 8 a.m. class. But for 50 minutes, it was just electric.”
Thompson also spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons at Illinois Skyway rival Waubonsee as the baseball team’s pitching coach. During that time, the Chiefs finished third and fourth at the NJCAA Division III tournament under Randall, who won 895 games during a 37-year run at Waubonsee.
His association with Gillespie and Randall also provided Thompson with the foundation he operates his program.
“From my players, I expect a commitment to the weight room and knowing how to run the bases and playing defense,” Thompson said. “Offense comes and goes. There’s no excuses for poor defense and poor base running. Those are constants.”
Men's basketball standout Miller helps Clarion to prestigious academic award
March 26, 2014
Morton College graduate Demarius Miller helped the men’s basketball team at Clarion University in Pennsylvania receive the Carlson Cup Team Award.
The award goes to the intercollegiate athletic team at Clarion that shows the biggest overall increase in grade-point average during the past calendar year. The award is named after Bob Carlson, who started the Scholar Athlete luncheon in 1991 and was Clarion's athletic director from 1990 to 2005.
The 6-2 junior guard was among 166 Clarion athletes named a Scholar-Athlete, which goes to those with a grade-point average of 3.2 or higher. He was one of five men’s basketball players honored.
Miller, the fourth all-time leading scoring in Morton College history with 1,208 points, led Clarion in scoring this season at 16.4 points per game. He shot 77 percent from the free-throw line and scored 30 or more points three times this season. His season-high was 42 against Penn State Beaver on December 15, 2013. Two nights later, Miller scored 34 against Kutztown.
Clarion competes at the NCAA Division II level.
Former men's soccer player carries Chicago Mustangs to Ron Newman Cup
March 26, 2014
Guilherme Veiga’s dream season ended with the Chicago Mustangs indoor professional men’s soccer team hoisting the Ron Newman Cup after defeating Hidalgo La Fiera 14-5 March 16 before 4,000 fans at the Sears Centre.
The Newman Cup goes to the best professional indoor soccer team as the Mustangs capped off an undefeated season. The Mustangs also were the Professional Arena Soccer League’s Eastern Division champions.
The 29-year-old Veiga was born in Brazil and came to the United States eight years ago. He attended Union University, a NAIA school in Jackson, Tennessee, where Veiga made Transouth All-Conference Second Team honors in 2007. He helped Morton College to a 15-4 season in 2010 before going on to play professionally with the defunct Chicago Storm.
Veiga is the Mustangs’ director of soccer operations. He helps run the team’s youth indoor soccer leagues, tournaments and camps.