Bulls

Football or Basketball for Weishar?

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Football or Basketball for Weishar?

First, the easy question: Why is Nicholas Weishar referred to as Nic instead of Nick?

"My mom chose it and I went along with it," he said. "Nicholas is my full name. Nic stuck. Without the k. It bothers me that everybody misspells my first name. But that's the way it is."

Second, the hard question: Which sport do you prefer, football or basketball?

"I like both sports equally and I continue to work hard at both. I don't know which sport I'll play in college," he said. I don't know if I can give one of them up. I have been playing both sports all my life. I'm not ready to decide yet."

Weishar, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound sophomore at Marist, doesn't have to make an early judgment. He still has ample time to develop and improve in both sports. But he has two scholarship offers in football, none in basketball, so it would appear that his future might be in cleats, not sneakers.

Or is it?

"He is very good at both sports," said Marist basketball coach Gene Nolan. "He enjoys the high school experience. His energy never lets up. He runs like a guard. He acts and plays and listens as if he is the 15th player on a 15-man team. He is humble and down-to-earth. He could be the best athlete ever at Marist."

At the moment, Weishar is concentrating on basketball. Marist is 16-4 going into Tuesday's game at Seton. The RedHawks will play at Carmel in Mundelein on Friday. In their last three outings, the swept St. Patrick 62-57, Brother Rice 75-69 and Harlan 45-44.

"We're not real big but I like our team," Nolan said. "Our kids are committed. They are coming together. We're coming into the tough stretch of our schedule in January and we'll find out a lot about our team. Rebounding is our biggest issue. We must sustain effort on defense for entire possessions. We have a real challenge ahead. But it is a great group to coach."

In his 12th year, Nolan has three starters from last year's 19-11 squad which the coach felt was an overachiever, certainly more successful than the previous teams that were 12-17 and 15-15.

"I was excited going into this year," said Nolan, who believes his 2012 team has the potential to surpass the achievements of the 2004 (25-5), 2005 (25-4) and 2007 (23-8) squads that reached the sectional semifinals. The school's only Sweet Sixteen qualifier was coach Paul Swanson's 26-4 team in 1981.

The RedHawks are led by Weishar (13 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-foot-1 junior L.J. McIntosh (17 ppg) and 6-foot junior point guard Lexus Williams (13 ppg, 5 assists). The other starters are 5-foot-7 Tyler Oden (9 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Matt O'Reilly (8 ppg). Jack Barry, a 6-foot junior (5 ppg), provides spark off the bench.

In the victory over St. Patrick, Oden scored 16 points, Weishar 14. Against Brother Rice, all five starters scored in double figures -- McIntosh (18), Oden (14), Williams (14), Weishar (13) and O'Reilly (13). Against Harlan, despite playing with flu-like symptoms, Weishar scored 22 points, including the game-winning basket as time expired.

Weishar began playing football in second grade, basketball in fourth grade. He was a chubby offensive lineman until eighth grade, then was switched to running back. He enjoyed playing in the line because he was involved in the offense and had ball-carriers running behind him.

But Marist football coach Pat Dunne moved him up to the sophomore squad as a freshman and noticed he had "good hands and decent speed." So the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder was moved to wide receiver. The sophomore squad went 9-0 and Weishar had found a home.

"I trusted coach Dunne," Weishar said. "I liked (wide receiver) right away. I thought it was a great fit for me. I liked using my speed against smaller cornerbacks. And I enjoy contact. You can't get it in any other sport. I love hitting people even though I'm a wide receiver. And I like scoring touchdowns. There is no better feeling for your team."

College recruiters like the looks of Weishar in a football uniform, too. He has offers from Illinois and Northwestern and interest from Notre Dame, Michigan State and Minnesota. Many more offers are coming. He is rated as one of the two leading prospects in the class of 2014 in Illinois, according to recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

It isn't easy juggling a busy schedule that includes playing basketball, negotiating the recruiting process in football and maintaining a 5.42 grade point average on a 5.0 scale.

"It is challenging to do it all...balance athletics and schoolwork. I don't have much of a social life," Weishar said. "Sunday is a big homework day. It is hard to focus on both sports. I call football coaches every week while I balance football, basketball and my studies. It gets pretty difficult, a lot of late nights. But I'm getting used to it. It is an awesome experience. I'm not going to complain about it."

Academics are most important. If he gets a bad grade on a test, his parents let him hear about it. They push academics. But they want their son to be well-rounded and they recognize that sports also is an important part of the educational process.

He has visited a Northwestern practice and attended Penn StateNorthwestern, Ohio StateIllinois and NavyNotre Dame games. He also plays AAU basketball with coach Mike Mullins' Illinois Wolves in the spring and summer. In fact, he often works out in football and basketball on the same day in the summer. And he plans to attend football and basketball camps during the coming summer.

So basketball still is in the mix.

"All of my best friends play basketball. I don't want to let any of them down," he said. "I'm not interested in comparing scholarships right now. I just love basketball. I want to win a state title. In basketball, I like the crowd that is on top of you. I like to take charges. That's my favorite thing to do. It gets the team pumped up. I like the contact."

Weishar would be thrilled to receive Division I offers for basketball. "The ideal situation would be to have to decide between offers for both sports," he said. He believes basketball recruiters should take notice of his leadership skills. "That's what sets me apart in basketball. I think that's what college coaches would be interested in," he said.

No matter which sport Weishar is playing, there is a whole lot to like.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.