Bulls

Davis, Leonard, Miller homegrown talent hoping for the NBA call

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Davis, Leonard, Miller homegrown talent hoping for the NBA call

Illinois' annualhotbed of basketball talent is no exception this year, as at least threeplayers from the the state are expected to be drafted in the first round ofThursday's NBA Draft. Here's background on the high school days in Chicago ofsome of the nation's best NBA prospects.

AnthonyDavis, Kentucky: (ProspectivesCharter H.S.; Chicago)

It's rare that aconsensus No. 1 overall pick comes out of nowhere, but three years ago hardlyanyone knew who Anthony Davis was. As a wiry, 6-foot-4 guard who played for anaverage team, Prospectives Charter H.S., in Chicago, Davis did nothave any high major offers from Division I colleges.

But a four-inch growthspurt between his sophomore and junior year got the attention of many, as thenow 6-foot-8 Davis used his point guard skills to take over games. Animpressive spring and summer on the AAU circuit with Meanstreets after hisjunior season, including an invitation to the NBPA Top 100 Camp, really putDavis on the scene.

He was named the No. 1player in the country for his class by Scout.com and ESPN.com, and Rivals.comlisted him as the No. 2 player in the class behind Austin Rivers. His seniorseason, as now a 6-foot-10 power forward, he averaged 32 points, 22 reboundsand 7 blocks per game. Last year's National Player of the Year chose Kentuckyover Syracuse, Ohio State and DePaul, and will almost certainly be the top pickcalled by David Stern on Thursday night after leading the Wildcats to anational championship.

Meyers Leonard,Illinois (Robinson H.S.;Robinson)

Like Davis, Leonardentered high school as a guard, but grew six inches between his freshman andsophomore years. That agility from his days as a guard made him one of the moreathletic big men in the country, as he grew to 7-feet by his senior year.

Again like Davis,Leonard burst onto the scene after his junior season and a successful springand summer with the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.

The only player onthis list to lead his high school team to a State Championship, Leonardaveraged 19 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game as a senior. Leonardwas a consensus first team All-State selection by the Associated Press, andchose Illinois over Florida and Purdue.

Quincy Miller, Baylor (Westchester County Day in N.C.;Chicago)

Miller was born andraised in Chicago, but at 13 years old he moved in with his uncle in NorthCarolina in hopes of a safer life. But we'll still give him the benefit ofbeing a Chicago kid, as he was prepared to attend North Chicago High Schoolbefore leaving.

Miller played hisfreshman season for Fairmont High School, but transferred a year later toQuality Education Academy. It was there that he grew eight inches and burstonto the scene after a successful AAU season with D-One Sports. After thesummer evaluation period, Miller was ranked as a consensus top-5 recruit forthe 2011 class.

His junior season heaveraged 25.5 points, 12 rebounds and five assists for Quality Education,before transferring once more to Westchester. Early in his senior year, he torehis ACL and was forced to miss the rest of the season. By then, however, Millerhad already received an offer from and committed to Baylor. He chose the Bearsover Duke, Louisville, Ohio State, and a list of other high major programs.

John Shurna,Northwestern (Glenbard WestH.S.; Glen Ellyn)

Of the four potentialNBA Draft selections from the state of Illinois, Shurna was easily the mostoverlooked as a high school prospect. Just a three-start prospect out ofGlenbard West, Shurna was named to the All-State second team as a senior. The6-foot-9 shooter averaged 22.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per gamehis senior year, all of which were school records.

He's also down in theHilltoppers' record book as leading the school to its first Class AA sectionalchampionship title since 1938 his junior year. In that win over East Aurora,Shurna poured in 31 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked six shots.

He chose Northwesternover Washington State, Loyola, Green Bay, Davidson and Penn, and he ended hiscareer as the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer (2,038 points), shot blocker(136) and in games played (136).

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Seth Gruen and Ben Finfer join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

The Bulls win again. Do they dare think playoffs? Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.

Plus, they debate where the “Minneapolis Miracle” ranks amongst the greatest plays in NFL playoff history and if Tom Ricketts is right to say that Sammy Sosa needs to put everything on the table to rejoin the Cubs family.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Humorous things we learned at Cubs Convention

Humorous things we learned at Cubs Convention

One of the best things about Cubs Convention is the access fans and media have to the team and the state of mind the players possess in mid-January.

At this point, they’ve had time away from the field to rest and relax with their family and friends and as Anthony Rizzo says “no one is oh for four yet.” While workouts are in full swing, few have started hitting or pitching at this point in their off-season schedule, so “baseball talk” is not always priority. Instead, this is when we get to hear fun stories and entertaining tidbits about these players.

It’s no secret this team genuinely enjoys being around one and other and that the camaraderie is on full display for fans as they interact and poke fun at one and other during the question and answer panels. So, for those that may have missed the weekend’s festivities here are a few humorous things we learned about the Cubs:

  • When asked about a celebrity crushes, Anthony Rizzo coaxed Javier Baez into a J-Lo response while Kyle Schwarber weighed out his options before coming up with Katy Perry. That was “until she shaved her hair off and now looks like Eleven from Stranger Things!”
  • Schwarber’s name has consumed the recent headlines following his physical transformation this winter, but he isn’t the only Cub who dropped some weight this off-season. Those that got a picture or autograph from Ian Happ over the weekend should have noticed a slimmer physique as well. Happ told me “you have to look and feel your best for your first full season.” And when it comes to all the trade rumors involving his name, he said he’s been too busy golfing and working out this offseason to pay any attention.
  • During a one-on-one interview with new Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood, he gave us his best scouting report on himself, “four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, I’ll throw my curveball a lot more. That’s always been my best pitch and I kind of got away from it a little bit, but I’m going to be throwing that a lot more. Cutter and a changeup, too. So, you know, try to trick them with something.” And when asked which Cubs player he’s most interested in meeting, his response was Kris Bryant. “Just watching him it seems like he does everything cool.”
  • Addison Russell recalled his favorite memory or most funny moment of 2017 as the exchange with Nacho Man. Bringing Cubs and Cardinals fans together over nacho cheese and selfies. The All-Star shortstop also informed us that if he weren’t playing major league baseball, his fallback would be, a dart player. That’s right.
  • After being left off the panel of last year’s Kids Only Press Conference, Anthony Rizzo asked to be the host this year. “It’s my favorite event of the weekend,” Rizzo said. The Cubs first baseman did a tremendous job, toeing the line between appropriate parent/child humor. And after a few minutes of trash talking with Kris Bryant, Rizzo conceded that the younger Bryzzo partner would likely beat him in a one-on-one pickup game. Something I’m sure we’ll see a few weeks from now in Mesa at Spring Training.
  • And last, but certainly not least, Willson Contreras stole the weekend as he recalled the best defensive play of 2017 being Jon Lester’s pickoff of Tommy Pham. “I went out there and said hey motherfu**** throw the ball to first.” A moment that left his teammates on stage shaking their heads in disbelief. But our takeaway: the young, fiery catcher is not intimidated working with the veteran lefty, and he’s just the guy you want behind the plate for this experienced rotation.

After an easy going weekend full of laughs and selfies, the players now buckle in and turn their attention to spring training, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa in less than a month.