Preps Talk

Doyle unknown quality at Marshall

600388.png

Doyle unknown quality at Marshall

You might not remember Milton Doyle. He had an outstanding sophomore season at Marshall but suffered a broken hand and was forced to sit out his junior year. So he fell off everybody's radar screen. Well, everybody's except Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who recruited him.

Doyle, a 6-foot-4 senior, is committed to Florida International in Miami. It is the site of Thomas' latest coaching venture and the former St. Joseph, Indiana and Detroit Pistons star is eager to turn the program into a national power. Doyle is anxious to be part of it.

"An assistant coach from Florida International came to Marshall in September. I was surprised. He told me that the head coach was Isiah Thomas. I knew who he was. I had seen highlights of him. I knew he was a legend in basketball," Doyle said.

He talked to some other schools, including Loyola, Chicago State, Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois, but he committed to Thomas in November. How could he resist playing for one of the best players ever to play the game?

"When I went for a visit, I liked the school and the team -- and I liked their offense," Doyle said. "I felt I fit in good with the program and I liked the coach. I was impressed with how much he knows about basketball and how far his career has taken him. I'm looking forward to playing for him."

Doyle averaged 22 points per game as a sophomore. "It was a breakout year for me. I was really looking forward to my junior year," he said. Then he broke his hand during a summer softball game while diving into second basket trying to stretch a single into a double. Scratch the basketball season.

"It was very disappointing to sit out the basketball season," he said. "I went to all the games and sat and watched. It was very frustrating. It was hard to watch my teammates go through the playoffs and not be able to help them."

Last summer, he played for coach Chris Head's AAU team, the Illinois Hawks. He participated in a Reebok tryout in Chicago and was so impressive that he was invited to Reebok's national camp in Philadelphia. That's when Florida International discovered him.

"I wanted to turn heads and show off my skills and show off my game," Doyle said. "I wanted to show that I can play with the best players in the country. I felt I was doing it all. I had to get used to playing with people I hadn't played with and adjusting my game to them. I was determined to play as hard as I could and make up for last year.

"After it was over, I was proud of myself. But I felt I could be even better. What I want people to know is I can play every position and guard every position. And I have scoring ability from any angle and anywhere on the floor."

Marshall coach Henry Cotton's phone started ringing off the hook. "People ask: 'Why didn't you tell us about him?' A lot of people still don't know about him. But there isn't anything he can't do on the floor. At first, I thought he'd wait until after the season to make a commitment. But...how can you turn down someone like Isiah Thomas?" Cotton said.

If Doyle is a surprise this season, so is Marshall. Only one starter returned from last year's 18-11 finisher. But the Commandoes are 9-1 going into Tuesday's game against Gateway in the opening round of the Normandy Holiday Tournament in Saint Louis.

Last week, Marshall swept Red-West rivals Raby 83-61 on Wednesday and North Lawndale 71-60 on Thursday. Doyle had 22 points and 13 rebounds against Raby and 23 points and 10 rebounds against North Lawndale.

Cotton, 44, a 1985 graduate of Austin, is in his fourth year as head coach at Marshall. He was an assistant when Courtney Hargrays guided the Commandoes to a state championship in 2008. Previously, he was an assistant under Roy Condotti, Frank Griseto and Chris Head at Westinghouse.

"Doyle is our best player. When things get tight, he can play point guard," Cotton said. "But we have several unknown kids who can play well. You can't key on one kid. We don't have a lot of size. We compensate with speed and man-to-man pressure defense."

Doyle is surrounded by 6-1 senior Korbin McClain (14 ppg), the lone returning starter; 6-foot junior Derrick Miles (11 ppg); 6-1 sophomore Citron Miller (9 ppg); and 6-foot-1 junior Chris Crieg (10 ppg). Tony Lewis, a 6-foot-3 junior, is the sixth man.

"They have shown me commitment," Cotton said. "They work hard every day. They go through a wall for me. They show up and accomplish something every day. They improve game by game. We need to get stronger on rebounding and be more consistent on defense. We need to pressure the ball for 32 minutes instead of 27 or 28. We can't take a break on defense."

Doyle is glad to be part of Marshall's tradition. He saw Darius Smith and the 2008 state championship team. He is aware of the 1958 and 1960 state champions and all of the other trophy winners. And he knows who George Wilson was. He hopes future players will remember who Milton Doyle was.

"I like everything about this team," Doyle said. "We fight hard. We have all the tools to beat anyone we face. We have speed and chemistry and
defense. Everybody goes hard. Nobody gives up."

High School Lites features several teams with long winning streaks

High School Lites features several teams with long winning streaks

High School Lites is focused on the small schools this week as the show sticks with Class 1A and Class 2A teams that you need to get familiar with before the state tournament. The show has some long winning streaks to keep an eye on as teams with 15, 14, 13 and 12-game winning streaks will all be featured on Friday night.

Be sure to catch an all-new edition of High School Lites on Friday on 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago.

Thursday

Fenger at Corliss, 6:30 p.m. -- We head to the Public League White-South for this one as Corliss hosts Fenger. Corliss (16-2, 7-0) is riding a 14-game winning streak as they've only lost to one Illinois opponent this season. Senior big man George Conditt is a major All-Area threat as the Iowa State commit is putting up massive numbers. Fenger (8-7, 2-5) has dropped three straight games as they try to earn a win over a rival to get back in the conference mix.

Friday

Aurora Christian at Mooseheart, 7:30 p.m. -- Undefeated Aurora Christian heads to Northeastern Athletic rival Mooseheart in this one. The Eagles (15-0, 5-0) are the only unbeaten team left in the area as they feature senior guard Jake Wolfe, an All-Area candidate and Lipscomb commit. Mooseheart (8-2, 4-1) is also in the midst of a solid season as they had an easy win over Alden-Hebron in their last game. 

Alden-Hebron at Westminster Christian, 7:30 p.m. -- Staying in the Northeastern Athletic, Westminster Christian hosts Alden-Hebron. The Warriors (13-3, 5-0) have won three straight games, including an important win over Mooseheart that helped keep them tied for first place with Aurora Christian. Alden-Hebron (2-13, 1-4) wil try to earn its first win in over a month.

Burlington Central at Marengo, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the Kishwaukee Valley play here. Marengo (10-5, 1-1) is coming off a 10-day layoff after beating Genoa-Kingston on the road. Burlington Central (16-2, 3-0) has won 13 straight games as they won the Plano Christmas Classic and their own Martin Luther King event. 

Crane at Collins, 5:00 p.m. -- Two unbeatens collide in the Public League White-South in this one. Collins (11-5, 7-0) has won three of its last four as they held off Jones for a win earlier this week. Crane (11-8, 7-0) is also hot as they've won three straight games heading into this one, as they also got a win earlier this week over Clemente. 

Momence at Watseka, 7:30 p.m. -- A matchup of unbeatens teams in the Sangamon Valley in this one. Watseka (13-5, 2-0) has won four straight games as they look to take the lead in the conference. Momence (14-2, 3-0) had an 11-game winning streak snapped when they lost to Herscher on the road. 

Northridge at Latin, 6:00 p.m. -- The Independent School League's top two teams do battle in this one. Latin (12-6, 5-1) is trying to catch up with Northridge for the conference lead as they just had a major test against Niles North in a non-conference loss. Northridge (12-5, 6-0) is coming off a win earlier this week against Morgan Park Academy as they 

Beecher at St. Anne, 7:00 p.m. -- The River Valley is one of the most hotly-contested conference races in the area, as four teams sit within one game of first place. St. Anne (8-8, 5-1) currently leads the league over three other teams as they've won four of the their last five games. Beecher (9-11, 4-2) gave St. Anne its only conference loss with a 52-44 win on Nov. 30 at home. Now the Bobcats see if they can pick up the season sweep on the road.  

Christ The King at Hope Academy, 7:30 p.m. -- A Chicago Prep Red conference game in this one. Hope Academy (15-4, 1-0) has won seven of its last eight as they're one of the better small schools in the city. Christ the King (10-7, 1-1) is coming off a win over Eisenhower earlier this week as they try to gain a game on Hope Academy in the league standings. 

Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

Ellison at Northtown, 6:30 p.m. -- Our Viewers' Choice Game of the Week heads to the Chicago Prep Black as two conference unbeatens play. Northtown (13-4, 1-0) has won 12 straight games since a 1-4 start as they haven't lost since Nov. 30. Ellison (9-10, 2-0) has won two straight games as they try to take the conference lead. These two teams also play a second conference game at Ellison later this season on Feb. 5.

Vic Fangio delivers some refreshing honesty about the state of the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio delivers some refreshing honesty about the state of the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio took the podium at Halas Hall on Thursday after coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich fielded questions for about 30 minutes, and began his press confernece with a classic quip. 

“Alright, let’s continue this lovefest,” Fangio said. 

For a Bears team coming off a 5-11 season — the fourth consecutive double-digit loss season for the franchise — there’s been plenty of positivity pinging around Halas Hall since Nagy was hired last week. But Fangio showed up with a reality check on Thursday, at least as it relates to the defense he’ll return to coach for a fourth year. 

“There’s no doubt strides were made," Fangio said. “Not enough. I think it’s a wrong picture to paint that the defense was great and the rest of the team wasn’t. We were 5-11. 

“If we were a great defense we’d have more than five wins. There’s a lot of room for improvement there — a lot — and we need to do that.”

The Bears opted for continuity in enticing Fangio to return to coach their defense, which ranked 10th in total defense and 9th in points last year, but was 14th in defensive DVOA. This was a good, not great defense that won the Bears a few games (most notably, the 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers) but struggled at times, too. 

A great defense? That’d be the Jacksonville Jaguars, which on the back of one of the league’s best pass rushes and secondaries has vaulted Blake Bortles into the AFC Championship game. A great defense wouldn’t have let Brett Hundley post a 110.8 passer rating against it in Week 10; a great defense wouldn’t have allowed Matthew Stafford to scythe through it on two occasions. 

And that Fangio — who’s generally honest and brings a no-B.S. attitude to his press conferences — acknowledged that eight and a half months before the 2018 season starts was refreshing to hear. It’s almost been easy to forget the Bears lost their 11th and final game of the 2017 season less than three weeks ago with a new, young, offensive-minded coach stepping into Halas Hall. 

There will be plenty of turnover on the offensive side of the ball — possibly an entirely different receiver corps than was regularly on the field in 2017 — but the defense will have some consistency, starting with Fangio and extending to his defensive coaches, who he said Thursday he expects to be back. This is a group that needs more talent at edge rusher and cornerback, Fangio is more concerned with developing the guys who are already here — and were why this was a “good” defense last year. 

“Guys like Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Leonard (Floyd), Eddie Jackson, I know I’m going to miss some, I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. 

“So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

And that approach — moreso than his lengthy experience in the NFL — is why retaining Fangio made so much sense for the Bears. Nobody knows the strengths and flaws of the Bears’ defense better than Fangio; and keeping Hicks, Goldman, Trevathan, Floyd, Jackson etc., in the same scheme with the same coordinator and same coaches gives this Bears’ defense the best chance to go from being “good” to great.