Bears

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.