Preps Talk

Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago

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Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago

The Bench Mob reunion tour continues Saturday night at the United Center with the return of C.J. Watson, now the backup point guard for the visiting Nets.

Its fine, its cool, Watson said prior to the game, after greeting a litany of former teammates, coaches and Bulls employees on the United Center court. A lot of emotions, but youve just got to go out there and play the game.

Watson has made a smooth adjustment to his new team, probably because hes used to his role of backing up an elite point guard in Chicago, it was Derrick Rose and in Brooklyn, its All-Star Deron Williams for a team in a major market.

Its been fun. Im just trying to get used to the system that Coach Nets head coach Avery Johnson and get used to my teammates, he said. I just try to go out there and be aggressive, lead the second unit and also try to go out there and play with Deron some, depending on matchups. So its good and I just try to go out there, and do my best.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Watsons performance with the Nets thus far after the teams practice Friday.

Hes a winning player, he said. Hes going to play for the team first and those guys could go a long way.

Watson also addressed a mild controversy from the offseason, when he reportedly ranked Williams above Rose in his introductory Nets press conference after signing with Brooklyn as a free agent in the summer.

Actually, I didnt say that, he explained. I said, To me, he was the best point guard. Then, I was asked who was better and he the reporter said, Compare the two, and I said, You cant compare the two.

While Watson remains close with some of his former teammates among them, Nets teammate Keith Bogans, whos one year removed from his stint in Chicago he isnt exactly pining to be back with the Bulls.

Ive watched some of the games. I havent really been keeping up with them that much, he said. I talk to Ronnie and Kurt all the time because theyre in New York, so I see them a lot. I try to keep up with John Lucas III and everybody else.

Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I had returned to Chicago, but you cant think about that because it didnt happen, the Las Vegas native continued. I try to take some of the stuff that I learned from Thibs, the defensive stuff and apply it to our team here because Averys trying to be a defensive coach.

"Just trying to teach some of the stuff that we learned in Chicago, because theyve been the best defensive team the last couple of years, so its always good to take away and learn, and take it somewhere else.

While he acknowledged his defensive improvement with the Bulls, Watson also joked that he didnt miss Thibodeaus famously long practice sessions.

No, he deadpanned. Not at all. I like these 30-minute, 45-minute practices.

Watson has mixed memories of his time with the Bulls, as he fondly remembers his experience with the Bench Mob, but also hasnt forgotten how last season ended, when he was a target for angry fans after passing the ball to Omer Asik, a subpar free-throw shooter in Game 6 of the teams first-round series with the 76ers, a contest that was eliminated the Bulls from the postseason.

It was fun because we all knew our role, we knew what to do and we knew who was going to get the ball, who was going to score and who was going to play defense. We just fit into our roles and everybody played their role to the best of their ability, said Watson, who noted that he never considered returning to Chicago at a lesser salary. The season ended how it ended. I wasnt worried about that. I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake, maybe. But at the time, I didnt think it was. I just thought I kind of got mistreated, but it is what it is.

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

The first week of the preseason Preps Power Rankings is always difficult to assess. There are plenty of teams who just missed the cut of the initial top 25. Below are a group of talented teams who should do enough to make their way into the Power Rankings at some point during the season.

Most of these teams have experience and star power, so watch for them in the next few weeks to see if they have strong starts to the season. 

DePaul Prep -- The Rams remain one of the major threats in the Catholic League this season as they return plenty of talent from a sectional finals team. Junior guard Perry Cowan and junior big man Pavle Pantovic make up a very solid one-two punch and sophomore guard Lance Mosley had some flashes of strong play during the summer. Seniors Spencer Cody and Anthony Papaioanou are steady contributors as well. The move up to Class 3A will be something to watch for with this team. Since the local Class 2A draw features Orr and Uplift, DePaul Prep might actually have an easier state tournament draw in the higher class.

St. Joseph -- There isn't one true star for the Chargers this season. Head coach Gene Pingatore has a lot of balance and experience but finding a go-to player could be the difference for St. Joseph this season. Senior Ahmad Muhammad will be asked to do a lot with the ball. Other returning seniors like Jalen and Jordan Boyd and Joffari Brown also have plenty of varsity experience. Losing junior point guard Marquise Walker to Curie definitely hurts. But not many teams in the state have four seniors who have already played in Peoria.

Geneva -- It was tough to leave the Vikings out of the preseason Power Rankings as they once again look like a major factor in the Upstate Eight River this season. New head coach Scott Hennig, a former assistant at Geneva, takes over for Phil Ralston (Glenbrook South) as he inherits a solid group of talent. Junior point guard Jack McDonald is an All-Area threat after a standout sophomore season. Another junior, guard Mitch Mascari, was one of the area's best three-point shooters last season. And Geneva also returns plenty of size, including 6-foot-6 senior Will Courter and promising 6-foot-7 sophomore Nate Santos. With the right blend of size and perimeter firepower, Geneva is a team to keep an eye on.

St. Viator -- Making the leap up to Class 4A this season, the Lions return some talented players from a team that made a surprising postseason run last season. St. Viator returns a Division I prospect in talented junior forward Jeremiah Hernandez while senior forward Peter Lambesis is also back. Finding stability at point guard could be the key to this season for the Lions as they have to replace J.R. Cison, who transferred to Lake Zurich. If junior Trey Calvin can step up, then St. Viator shouldn't miss much of a beat. The Lions already started the season with a solid win over Libertyville.

New Trier -- The most intriguing part about New Trier this season is the size on the interior as two junior big men have college aspirations. Ciaran Brayboy, a 6-foot-9 big man and Spencer Boehm a 6-foot-7 forward create one of the area's more talented frontcourts for the Trevians. The frontcourt is a plus and the backcourt, a senior-laden group, is also better and more experienced than last season. New Trier should crack the top 25 at some point this season. 

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

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USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen