Elliott Cole spent much of his childhood waiting for this moment.
It was a wintry Friday night in Westchester, and legendary St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore walked down the sideline to approach him.
The conversation was surreal, but it was nothing like the one in Cole's daydreams.
"He came up to me, congratulated me, shook my hand and we hugged," Cole said of the meeting this season at a St. Joseph game he went to watch.
"He said he'd been following my games and told me to maintain my grades."
Cole grew up in Westchester idolizing former St. Joseph star and current Philadelphia 76ers player Evan Turner. After failing to crack Pingatore's rotation in three years at the basketball powerhouse, Cole is having a quite a career this season at Power House, a charter school on Chicago's West Side and on the opposite end of the basketball spectrum.
Playing for a team that depends heavily on him to score, the 5-foot-9 guard is averaging 35.3 points per game, including a 64-point outburst against Little Village on Jan. 7, and is just 46 shy of 1,000.
He is the Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 Athlete of the Month for January.
"I still love Joe's with a passion," Cole said. "It just didn't work out. If we don't play on Fridays, I'm over there supporting them. There are no hard feelings. It wasn't a good fit for my playing style. St. Joe's doesn't fit everybody.
"I didn't want to leave, but I felt like I had to. This was my last year, and I got the feeling it was put up or shut up time."
Unknown to the Chicago basketball and college coaching communities prior to the season, they're all trying to make sense of how much Cole has put up.
His quickness, ball-handling, shot-making and ability to get to the free-throw line are all strengths.
Grades were an issue at St. Joseph, but they've improved and he is on track to qualify academically, according to Power House coach Jeremiah Johnson.
Cole considers himself a pass-first point guard, and Johnson said the strategy going into every game is to try to get others involved first.
But what isn't known is whether he can achieve a happy medium between running a disciplined offense like St. Joe's and firing away at will like he does now.
"That is the ultimate question," said Scott Burgess, a scout and recruiting analyst for Chicagohoops.com. "It is a very tough read for college coaches. I definitely think he can play low-level Division I.
"I have college coaches tell me, 'I hope he doesn't play against us.' They don't want to take him, but they don't want him in their conference."
Chicago State is sold. Quietly, Cole gave Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy an oral commitment late last month, though his recruitment is ongoing.
The commitment is considered "soft," because though Cole said, "I intend to be a Cougar," he is keeping his options open.
After Cole scored 35 points against Kansas Sunrise Christian and high-major point guard prospect Lourawls Nairn on Jan. 25, interest seemed to pick up.
A 25-point, 10-assist performance against Carver on Wednesday also helped.
"He has interest from a lot of schools — DePaul, Utah Valley, Eastern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Wyoming, Western Michigan," Johnson said. "Oklahoma, Wichita State, Ole Miss were all at the shootout (in Kansas) last week. His name is getting out there as people see what he can do."
Pingatore, the owner of the most coaching victories in state history, doesn't know if Cole would have been a starter — let alone a Division I prospect — if he stayed at St. Joseph.
He does know Cole would not have averaged anywhere near 35.3 points per game and suggested the move may have been the best thing for him.
"Isiah Thomas, his senior year, averaged 24 points a game," Pingatore said. "In the first three games he averaged 40, and we were 1-2. Our best teams have three or four guys in double figures.
"We were forcing him (Cole) to run our stuff. He was a good kid, a cooperative kid. I still talk to him. He did what we wanted him to do, but that might not have been what he wanted to do.
"I don't know what would have happened if he stayed. They probably felt he was better off somewhere else."
Elliott Cole file
School: Power House.
Numbers: 35.3 points per game.
College: Committed to Chicago State but keeping his options open.
Power House's Elliott Cole will be featured during a segment on WGN-Ch. 9's "Instant Replay" at 9:40 p.m. Sunday. If you miss it, watch the video Monday at prepsplus.com.
2012-13 Athletes of the Month
September: Justin Jackson, Glenbard North, football.
October: Chris James, Notre Dame, football.
November: Olivia Smoliga, Glenbrook South, swimming.
December: Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic, basketball.
January: Elliott Cole, Power House, basketball.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun