Blackhawks

Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

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Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

The best individual performance at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, described by many observers as the premier basketball event of the summer in Illinois, wasn't recorded by Jabari Parker or Jahlil Okafor or Kendrick Nunn or Gavin Schilling or Sean O'Mara any of the usual suspects.

It was David Cohn. The 6-foot-2 junior guard from York isn't included on anybody's list of the leading major Division I prospects in the Chicago area. But he bolstered his stock by giving a five-star performance in the two-day event that concluded Sunday in Riverside.

"He plays so hard. No player in the state plays any harder from start to finish," said recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "He has the ability to get his shot against almost anybody."

As he looks ahead to playing for his fourth coach in four years at York, Cohn doesn't appear to be perplexed by the change in faces and philosophies. He emerged as the leading scorer in the 36-team tournament. He scored 41 points in one game, 40 in another and 27 in another.

Last season, Cohn led York to a 22-9 record in coach Tom Kleinschmidt's first season. Kleinschmidt left to become head coach at his alma mater, Gordon Tech. Last week, Vince Doran, who had been dismissed at Hinsdale South, was hired to become York's fourth coach in four years.

"He is an ideal mid-major combo guard," Schmidt said. "He still has to prove he is a major Division I player. He isn't a pure point guard. He is being looked at by some schools as a point guard. But big schools haven't offered. They aren't ready to jump in yet. If he blows up during the July evaluation period in front of high major coaches, it would be difficult for some not to offer, particularly Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Stanford."

Cohn has been offered by Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wright State, Valparaiso, Colorado State, Santa Clara, Drake and William & Mary. He expects more offers and hopes to play at the highest level possible.

While Cohn turned in the best performance of the tournament, Schmidt singled out Proviso East's Sterling Brown as the MVP. He scored 30 points while leading his team to a 72-69 victory over Simeon in the championship game.

"He clearly was the biggest difference-maker on the floor," Schmidt said. "He has the ability to take over games down the stretch. He has great leadership qualities, a will to win. You couldn't tell him that these were meaningless summer league games."

Schmidt said that Brown, who was 6-foot-4 last season but has grown to 6-foot-5 and is pushing 6-foot-6, will be a top 50 player nationally by the end of the summer. "He is a high major prospect. He will make some major program very happy," Schmidt said.

Brown has scholarship offers from Northwestern, DePaul, Minnesota and Nebraska. Michigan State is showing a lot of interest. He had an offer from Illinois coach Bruce Weber but hasn't been offered by new Illini coach John Groce yet.

"He figures to command attention from major Division I programs in the near future," Schmidt said. "In last year's state final (when Proviso East lost to Simeon), he showed how far he has come with his perimeter shooting. Now he is bigger and stronger and more physical."

The next best player, according to Schmidt, was Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 sophomore Okafor, who scored 38 points against Evanston and 26 against Mount Carmel. "Once again, he showed he is an unstoppable force down low when he gets the ball. He has great hands and an ability to totally dominate games in the paint," Schmidt said.

The best teams? That's easy. Proviso East and Simeon confirmed -- if there ever was any doubt -- that they clearly are the two best programs in the state at this time. And Proviso East has definitely closed the gap. Coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates are closer to Simeon than people think. They beat Simeon at R-B with all of Simeon's players on the floor.

Schmidt pointed out that Brown has two outstanding complementary players in 5-foot-11 junior point guard Paris Lee and 6-foot-4 junior Brandon Jenkins.

"Lee might be the most underrated player in the state, the best on-the-ball defender in the state," Schmidt said. "Jenkins didn't play last year. He was academically ineligible. He has a lot of upside. He is very long and athletic and has the ability to consistently get to the basket. He is another offensive threat and can take pressure off Brown and Lee. He is just scratching the surface of his potential."

But don't feel sorry for Simeon coach Robert Smith. He has added another transfer -- and more depth -- to his roster, 6-foot-5 sophomore Dante Ingram, who comes from Danville.

Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 junior Kendall Pollard has started to emerge from the shadow of more highly publicized teammates Parker and Nunn. His stock skyrocketed at R-B.

"He is becoming more assertive and more of a leader," Schmidt said. "He is a mid-major plus player, on the fringe of becoming a high major player. Skill-wise, he is showing how versatile he is in being able to play multiple positions on the floor and score from the perimeter and around the basket."

The surprise team of the tournament was St. Patrick. Coach Mike Bailey's Shamrocks made the Final Four, beating Whitney Young in the quarterfinals in the biggest upset of the event, then losing to Proviso East by five in the semifinals. "They proved they are for real, a top 20 team next season," Schmidt said.

St. Patrick was led by 6-foot-5 junior Keith Langston, a transfer from Whitney Young, and 6-foot-1 junior Royale Ewing.

The biggest sleeper? Schmidt singled out 6-foot-7 junior Josh McAuley of West Aurora. "Last year, he was a role player for coach Gordon Kerkman. But he has demonstrated vast improvement on offense and is stepping up and becoming more of a scorer and interior force on offense and defense," Schmidt said.

The tournament's hidden gem? A player who no one knows about right now but who has a chance to be very good, according to Schmidt, is 6-foot-7 sophomore Davonte Heard of Homewood-Flossmoor.

"He played some last year on the varsity as a freshman," Schmidt said. "He has very strong wing skills and an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot from three-point range. He is in the mold of (former H-F star) Julian Wright. Against St. Viator, he was the best player on the floor."

Other players who impressed were Andrew's Jubril Adekoya, Mundelein's Northern Iowa-bound Robert Knar, Morton's 6-foot-5 junior Waller Perez, Morgan Park's 6-foot-1 junior point guard Kyle Davis and Loyola's 6-foot-2 junior Jack Morrissey.

Adekoya, an All-Chicago Area selection last season, is a workhorse who is starting to show improvement on the perimeter as a shooter and ball-handler. Knar scored 30 points against St. Rita and reminds many of former Washington, Illinois, star Matt Roth, now at Indiana, but he is more multi-dimensional.

Perez is a sleeper who is very active around the basket and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and score in one-on-one situations. Davis, a transfer from Hyde Park, has established himself as a high major prospect. Morrissey, a nephew of former Chicago Bears linebacker Jim Morrissey, scored 38 points in one game.

Are kids playing too many games in too many tournaments? Are they in danger of burning out? It is recalled that former King coach Landon Cox once was roundly criticized for playing an NBA-size, 80-game summer schedule. But his teams qualified for the Final Four five times in eight years and won three state championships.

"Kids aren't playing too much basketball," Schmidt summed up. "It has reached the point where you have to play as much as possible in the summer because you always want to achieve a competitive edge. Team-wise and individually, you always want to maintain a competitive edge. To do that, you must not only play as much as possible but you also have to play against the best teams possible."

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.