The starting center left school in early December, depleting the Cougars of their leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. The point guard tore a knee ligament. At times, Chicago State has taken the court with just six available players, one above the minimum. Jackson and her two assistants sometimes join practice so there will be enough bodies to complete drills or fill out a scrimmage.
As the losses have mounted, Chicago State has encountered an opponent that can be as difficult to overcome as defeat: perception.
“Is it really as bad as they’re making it sound?” members of the freshman forward Alexandria Cliff’s family ask her. “No,” she said. “Not at all.”
Yet the questions persist as Chicago State seeks to recover, reform and redefine itself athletically and academically.
“You could make Geno Auriemma the head coach, and he’s going to have the same problems without funding,” said Bob Hallberg, a former men’s basketball coach at Chicago State who is now the athletic director and women’s coach at St. Xavier University in Chicago.