When Wauwatosa West’s boys basketball team took the floor this past season, all eyes were on Alou Dillon, and rightfully so, as he's a special talent capable of impacting the game in a variety of ways.
One of just 13 NCAA Division 1 recruits from Wisconsin in the class of 2017, the South Dakota State commit often times faced double and triple teams and was always the center of attention for opposing defenses.
The 6-foot-8 Dillon learned to adapt as the season wore on, averaging 17.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game to earn Now Newspapers All-Suburban honors for the second consecutive year.
“It was kind of hard,” Dillon said. “Early in the year, I wanted to be more aggressive but I found that trying to force things just wasn’t going to work. At the end of practices, we started moving the ball around and getting other guys shots to force them to get out of the junk defense or the box and one. We tried bringing me off screens, trying to free other players up or having me bring up the ball to draw the attention to me to give it up right away for a quick score.
“It was definitely tough some games where I only had two or three points at halftime and to have to try to find a way to win. It was frustrating at times, but I think I handled it pretty well.”
Offensive game develops
Dillon was a shot blocker and defensive standout throughout the early portion of his basketball career. Because his offensive game didn’t develop until he got to high school, he developed a level of unselfishness that has stuck with him.
As his offensive game grew, he learned he could create for his teammates when opponents keyed on him without forcing shots that weren't there. In addition to being multi-dimensional on offense, Dillon was a defensive force and often times bailed out the Trojans with his shot-blocking ability.
"He took a beating in practice and in games and never complained or let it show," Tosa West coach Pat McCabe said. "He constantly saw gimmick defenses geared to stop or slow him down. He accepted this and was a willing passer. He put the team before himself.
"He is a very tough matchup for nearly all high school players in a one-on-one or man-to-man scenario. That's why all eyes were on him and defense were geared to stop him."
When Dillon sat down with South Dakota State head coach T.J. Otzelberger, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Thomas More grad produced a long list of Milwaukee natives that have had success playing for him when he was an assistant at Iowa State.
Otzelberger told Dillon he could contact any of those players and they would describe the trust they have in him. It provided Dillon with a high level of comfort committing to a coach with Milwaukee ties.
"I really felt the connection with coach Otzelberger when I first met him," Dillon said. "We always kept that close relationship and bond. When he got the job at South Dakota State, he really laid it on me that he wanted me to be the guy there. He just wanted to build his program around me."
Heading to South Dakota State
McCabe, who played Division 1 basketball himself at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, feels Dillon will thrive once he gets to South Dakota State where he will not be subject to constant increased attention.
"Being fortunate enough to play with numerous high-level college and professional players, I really think that Alou has untapped potential," McCabe said. "In addition to his physical traits of size, length and athleticism, he has the desire and drive to be a great player as well as the willingness to accept criticism and learn along the way.
"As he gets stronger, I expect him to be a very good player at the next level and by the time his college career is over, I fully anticipate him to be in a position where he can make basketball a career."
Dillon agreed with McCabe's premise that he has another level he can take his game to with the Jackrabbits, which made the NCAA tournament as the Summit League Tournament champions in 2016-17.
"I feel like in college I will have a lot more space to work with," Dillon said. "I won’t see a lot of double teams, triple teams, box and ones and things like that. I’ll have a lot more opportunity to develop my game there and showcase what I can do.
"There were a lot of things I worked on this year that I just wasn’t able to do because of defensive pressure I faced. Over the next couple of years, I feel like I have a lot more in me and a lot more to show."