Cubs

Adekoya seeks better finish in 2013

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Adekoya seeks better finish in 2013

36-22.

Jubril Adekoya doesn't have to be reminded. He knows what 36-22 means. It was the final score of Andrew's loss to Homewood-Flossmoor in the Class 4A sectional semifinal last year.

Adekoya and his teammates were experiencing the most successful basketball season since the Tinley Park school opened in 1977. They won 15 of their first 17 games, won their first conference title in 35 years and were ranked among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area.

Then they met Homewood-Flossmoor in the sectional semifinal.

"That was ugly. Quite honestly, I don't try to remember it," Adekoya said. "We weren't prepared to play. We weren't excited to play. It wasn't a good day for us as a team."

Adekoya scored no points in the first half and shot 0-for-4. He managed 14 points in the second half but it was too little, too late. Andrew converted only 11.9 percent (5-for-42) of its shots. The Thunderbolts finished with a 23-5 record.

"When the buzzer went off, I realized that was it, no practice tomorrow," Akekoya said. "It was tough for a lot of guys but it was reality. I didn't handle it great. I was frustrated at myself. What could I have done to help my team? It was my worst game of the season. We ran out of gas. People who were ready to play weren't knocking down shots or doing what they usually do. I was frustrated, double-teamed. I couldn't get the ball."

So much for 2011-12. Adekoya, a 6-foot-6 junior whom coach Mike O'Halloran describes as only the third Division I player in 35 years to come out of Andrew, returns with one other starter, guard Glorind Lisha. He knows it will be difficult to improve on last year's record but he is determined to finish the 2012-13 season on a winning note.

"After the buzzer went off (at the conclusion of the H-F game), I just began to think about this year," Adekoya said. "I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I don't ever want to feel that again. Mentally, I'm preparing for next season and I haven't even started summer workouts yet. I'm motivated a whole lot.

"With so many losses (three starters, four of the top six players), my role will have to triple. I averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds last season. For total effectiveness, I must continue to rebound and score more points, probably over 20 per game. I feel I have to get more selfish to help my team next season. My task in every game also will be to defend the other team's best player. I have to step up in every aspect of the game and become a better leader."

Meanwhile, Adekoya is eager to prove he is one of the top prospects in a class that recruiting analysts project as perhaps the best crop of talent produced in the Chicago area since 1979.

He has scholarship offers from Loyola, St. Louis, Northern Illinois, Pennsylvania, Western Illinois, Akron and Toledo. He has interest from Illinois, Tennessee, Oregon State, DePaul, Northwestern, Illinois-Chicago, Detroit, Ball State, Indiana State, Creighton, Drake, Ohio, Wichita State and Illinois State. As he gains more exposure and becomes more dominant, more offers can be expected.

His dream school is Oregon. "Since I was young, it started with the colors (green and yellow). I fell I love with the jersey and the colors. I fell in love with Oregon, watching them on TV when I was growing up. Now I follow them. I feel it would be fun to play in the Pac-12 Conference. It would be cool to play on the West Coast, to play against UCLA. It would be awesome if (Oregon) showed me some attention. I'd be super excited about
that," he said.

He has no favorites at the moment. He is just enjoying the recruiting process. He wants to play wherever he can fit in best and play right away. He thinks a large college would be cool but if he can't help the team right away, he might prefer a smaller school that would provide a better fit. Location doesn't figure in the equation. He figures his decision will come down to how he fits in with the coaches and players and if he feels comfortable on the campus.

Adekoya admits he felt comfortable midway through last season and was ready to commit. But more schools began to contact him as he played better. So now he believes he will wait until after the 2012-13 season. He isn't in a hurry. He figures he will get better and more schools will become aware of him.

"Hopefully, more schools will offer me," he said. "I want to be patient and hope the decision will be easier to make. I know there will be somebody who wants me to go there as bad as I want to be there and feels I can play at a high level."

Meanwhile, he is improving his skills and showcasing them this summer while playing with Mean Streets on the AAU circuit. "I'm improving my guard skills. Last year, I was one-dimensional, on the block or inside. I overpowered smaller people last year. But my outside shot and dribbling and ball-handling have improved. I hope recruiters see I am more comfortable on the perimeter," he said.

"I have improved a lot. My guard skills and perimeter game have shot up since last year. I was constricted in high school because I was the biggest guy on the team. For Mean Streets, I'm playing all over. For college, some have talked about strong forward, some wing, some say both positions. I feel I am a mismatch for a lot of people. I have size but also quickness and I can play on the perimeter. My skills are there but my goal always is to get better.

"As far as next season, I feel stuff will fall into place. I want to be the best leader I can be on and off the floor. And I want to play everywhere on the floor. I hope to continue to rebound as well as I did last year but I want to improve my assists. I should be involved in almost everything we do...score, set screens, pass, rebound, defend."

And erase the memory of 36-22.

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?