The gray sweats didn’t totally conceal the poundage Kleinschmidt has added in the 20-plus years since he willed and worked his way into becoming the most-storied performer this gym has produced.
But the face, the voice, the all-too-obvious passion … no doubt this was Tom Kleinschmidt, neighborhood guy turned basketball demigod, back where he belongs.
“This is home for me,” Kleinschmidt says. “I lived out of a suitcase for 13 years. This is perfect.”
Think of Kleinschmidt as the Jabari Parker of the early ’90s, a household basketball name around Chicago as a two-time all-stater and a McDonald’s All-American who carried underdog Gordon Tech to the finals of the state tournament, dropping 27 points on an imposing King team overrun with slick prospects and powerful 7-footers.
Gordon Tech lost, but the legend grew. A coast-to-coast recruiting derby brought the nation’s top-tier college coaches to Addison and California. Kleinschmidt stayed home to attend DePaul, where he was a four-year starter and the No. 5 scorer in school history with 1,837 points and a 16.3 average.
“Tom was an underrated player because he wasn’t off the charts athletically,” said Joey Meyer, his coach at DePaul. “He was strong, he was tough, he had range on his shot and he had a terrific basketball IQ. He was stereotyped in the eyes of the NBA — not quite quick enough, not quite this or that.”