Pickens Makes Pledge to Bears

East St. Louis, Ill., native Cuonzo Martin had recruited the St. Louis area for years when he was an assistant at Purdue. When he was hired as Missouri State's head coach in March, he said that recruiting area would be key for the Bears.

After gaining a commitment from Oakville High School swingman Keith Pickens, the new Missouri State coach has landed three commitments from the St. Louis area in the last six months.

Pickens, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard, joins point guard Derron Hobbs from Gateway Tech and swingman Jerome Jones from Miller Career Academy in the new St. Louis-to-Springfield pipeline.

Hobbs is already on campus, while Pickens and Jones will sign with Martin during the early period.

"I think he's taking it in the right direction and he can get it done," Pickens said of Martin.

Pickens also considered Evansville, Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech and Southeast Missouri State.

"I thought it was the right fit," Pickens said. "I liked the school. The coaches seemed pretty cool. Everything seemed good."

Pickens averaged 13 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game as a junior at Oakville, located in the suburbs south of St. Louis, but burst on the AAU scene this summer playing with Team Rameybasketball.com.

"I came out of nowhere pretty much," Pickens said. "It was my first year playing AAU basketball and I had a good summer, a consistent summer. That's pretty much it."

Pickens and Jones are competing in the same fall league in St. Louis. The Oakville guard talked to Jones about the Bears last weekend.

Both swingmen are similar-type players who can attack the rim in transition with the best of them. Along with Hobbs, they seem to fit the bill of the kind of squad Martin is trying to build in Springfield.

"He's looking to run and gun, get up and down the court and play high intensity defense," Pickens said.

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