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Are Tuck, Loyd on All-Time Five Best?

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Are Tuck, Loyd on All-Time Five Best?

Steve Tucker and Derril Kipp have been close friends for years. Nobody knows more about girls high school basketball in Illinois than they do. They have been observing the game for more than 30 years, Tucker as a former high school sports writer and editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and Kipp as a basketball coach at Maine West in Des Plaines.

They agree on a lot of things but when the conversation turns to Bolingbrook's Morgan Tuck and Niles West's Jewell Loyd, two of the most prolific scorers in state history, they agree to disagree. They agree both are great high school players. But how great? All-time greats?

The subject came to a boiling point on January 16th when Tuck and Loyd were matched up in the showcase game of the annual McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook. Tuck scored 26 points as Bolingbrook crushed Niles West 67-36. Loyd scored 26 points but shot only 6-for-19.

Tuck is a 6-foot-2 senior who is committed to Connecticut. She was Illinois' Ms. Basketball in 2009, a three-time All-State selection who is a member of USA Basketball's U17 and U19 national teams. She averages 31 points per game and hopes to lead Bolingbrook to an unprecedented fourth state championship in a row.

Loyd is 5-foot-10 senior who is committed to Notre Dame. She is a two-time All-Stater and a member of USA Basketball's U17 national team. She averages 30 points per game.

According to All-Star Girls Report, Loyd and Tuck rank 3 and 4 nationally in the class of 2012. A year ago, Tuck's teammate, Ariel Massengale, now a freshman starter at Tennessee, ranked No. 3 in the class of 2011.

So where do Tuck and Loyd rank among the all-timers in Illinois?

"It is hard to compare players from different eras," Tucker said. "Tuck and Loyd don't rank on my list of the top five but they have to be in the discussion for the second five."

Tucker's first five, in no particular order, are Yolanda Griffith of Carver (1988), Candace Parker of Naperville Central (2004), Tamika Catchings of Stevenson (1995), Kim Williams of Marshall (1993) and Tina Hutchinson of East St. Louis Lincoln (1983).

Griffith emerged as one of the all-time greats in women's basketball, a future Hall of Famer who has been voted as one of the 15 best players in the history of the WNBA. Parker, one of the top five players in the WNBA today, is a likely member of the 2012 Olympic team. Catchings, another WNBA star, played only two years at Stevenson, losing only one game and winning a state title before moving to Texas. Williams won three state titles in four years at Marshall. Hutchinson was the first dominant player in state history but she was injured before her great career could be realized.

Tucker's second five would include Tuck, Loyd, Whitney Young's Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, Peoria Richwoods' Nora Lewis, Chicago Notre Dame's Carol Owens, Marshall's Kim McQuarter, Joliet East's Pam Gant, Joliet West's Kathy Boswell, South Shore's Diana Vines, Lindblom's Donna Holt, Hinsdale Central's Toni Kokenis, Senn's Bebe McBride and Maine West's Nancy Kennelly.

"Tuck has a great skill set. What amazes me is how much better she is now than last year," Tucker said. "She won state last year and was good. But she is much better now. She is playing on a team with seven other Division I players and she dominates. She has developed so much.

"The biggest difference is she has gone from more of a post player who played with her back to the basket and rebounded to a player who shoots the three. She can do everything. Is she a top five player? The others have more history. If Bolingbrook wins the state again, since no one has ever won four in a row in girls, you'd have to add that to the mix."

Kipp also rates Griffith and Catchings on his all-time first five. But he also picks Boswell (1978), Lewis (1985) and Marshall's Janet Harris (1981) to fill out his starting lineup. He singles out Lewis, who was national high school player of the year in 1985 and later was a national collegiate player of the year who won two NCAA championships at Louisiana Tech, as "maybe the best player ever."

Kipp's second five are Hutchinson, Canty, Massengale, Parker and Marshall's Marie Christian.

"Is Tuck as good as Massengale? She is good but the state titles that Bolingbrook won were precipitated by Massengale's ability. Without her, they wouldn't have won any state titles," Kipp said.

"Tuck is a player who has gotten better each year. She has the ability to play inside and outside. But she has to prove she can play at Connecticut because of her (6-foot-2) size. She can't play in the post at Connecticut. No one pushes her around in Illinois. She has to keep changing her game, depending on where they play her in college."

Tucker said Loyd is "one of the most offensive-minded players I have seen. She has no range. She can make it from half-court. It is so hard to compare the two because Tuck plays with so many Division I players. There never has been a match-up of two kids like that in one game. If she was at Bolingbrook and Tuck at Niles West, they still would be great players but maybe the whole take on this story would be different," he said.

Kipp isn't as impressed. "She will be good at Notre Dame. In high school, she is scoring a lot of points and does a lot of things because no one can guard her. She is shooting the ball extremely well from deep but she isn't being guarded by people who can guard her," he said.

"She isn't a top five player. Does she have great potential? Yes. She can handle the ball. And she scored 50 points against Maine West. But I like Tuck way better. She is more of a team player and plays harder."

The first 10 women inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville in November were Boswell, Gant, Canty, Catchings, Harris, Williams, Lewis, Hutchinson, Griffith and Hill. Parker wasn't eligible because nominees must be out of high school for 10 years before being considered.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: