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.