Bulls

Glenbard West off to best start ever

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Glenbard West off to best start ever

Glenbard West is a football school, right? Like Maine South or Mount Carmel or Joliet Catholic or Montini or Loyola, right?

So what is coach Tim Hoder's basketball team doing with a 10-0 record and holding a pair of holiday tournament championship trophies going into the New Year?

Is this the same team that was picked to finish fourth in the West Suburban Silver in the preseason behind Oak Park, York and Proviso West?

Is this the same school that has qualified for the state finals only once in its history -- in 1938?

Is this the same program that has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen only twice in the last 74 years?

The same school that hasn't won a conference title in 40 years?

Maybe you've heard of John Shurna?

Yes, it's that Glenbard West.

The Hilltoppers are off to a 10-0 start, best in school history, better than the 9-0 start of the 1973 team that was led by Jim Molinari and Bob Hildebrand. They'll seek to extend their winning streak at Bolingbrook on Wednesday, then resume conference play at York on Friday.

"Depth is our biggest asset," Hoder said. "We play 10 kids regularly in the first quarter. We also have size. And we're now able to handle pressure. In the past, pressure was a problem. We got pressured and it bothered us. And we have camaraderie, a lot of togetherness as a group. We have some leaders you don't notice in the scorebook.

"But what our 10-0 start told me is we have to get to the meat of our conference schedule yet. We have a lot of getting better to do. We can compete in our league and get a good seed in the sectional. But even though we attack pressure well, we still turn the ball over too much. We need to cut down on turnovers. And, for our size, we have to be more dominant on the boards. We do well but we can do better."

One of the leaders who is noticed in the scorebook is 6-6 senior Michael Mache, who averages 23 points per game. He has been on the varsity for four years and he has noticed how the team has evolved, how it went from 11-17 a year ago to 10-0 this season.

"Our goal is to win the conference and go to the supersectional, to do some things that haven't been done before. The sky is the limit if we keep working hard and cut down on turnovers," Mache said.

"Our camaraderie is the best it has ever been. This is the tightest knit group of all. We push each other every day in practice to do our best. And we are deep at the guard position, which we haven't been in the past.

"We can get up and down the court. We thrive in the full-court and attack the basket and we're more aggressive than before. In past years, we used to slow it down and play in the half-court.

"We want to keep it rolling. We're 10-0 and we want to keep doing what we are doing. This is the first year we are keeping a fast pace going, moving at a new pace, getting clean stops, getting rebounds, getting the ball to the point guard (Jeff Levesque), getting up the floor, creating easy shots and keeping the defenders off balance."

Mache (pronounced Mackey) is surrounded by his twin brother Matthew, a 6-6 senior who averages 10 points per game, 6-8 senior Pat Mazza (8 ppg, 10 rpg), 6-1 junior point guard Jeff Levesque (8 ppg, 6 assists) and 5-10 senior Justin Taylor (6 ppg).

The second five also gets plenty of playing time--6-4 senior Mac Corbin, 6-6 senior Vernon Harris, 6-1 senior Egan Montgomery, 6-1 senior Kevin Loftus and 6-foot sophomore point guard Cory Davis.

How identical are the Mache twins? Matthew wears No. 42, Michael wears No. 41. Both weigh 205 pounds. Michael claims Matthew has a wider face and a more aggressive personality but he has a better three-point shot. Hoder said Michael is one of the team's leaders on and off the court.

"(In a recent game), to start the second half, I had a layup and the announcer said it was Matthew," Michael said.

Hoder, 43, a Lake Park graduate of 1986, knew what he was getting into when he arrived at the Glen Ellyn school 10 years ago. He had played basketball for his father, attended Augustana College, coached at Ridgewood for one year, then Maine East for eight years before being hired at Glenbard West. He is in his fifth season as head coach.

"I grew up going to a doctor in Glen Ellyn so I was familiar with the school and the tradition," he said. "I knew what I was getting into, a great football tradition. They had great success in football in the 1980s and in recent years. Any success we are having now is because we have a core group of seniors who have invested themselves in basketball."

Actually, the fact that Hoder landed at Glenbard West didn't have anything to do with football or basketball.

"After being at Maine East, it was a matter of wanting to find a place to settle down with my family and raise kids, the community we wanted to live in," he said. "That was the factor why I ended up at Glenbard West. The fact that our kids can go to a school like Glenbard West was important to us."

It has taken time to put a winning program together. When he arrived, Hoder realized there were many multi-sport athletes at the school. "It is hard to compete in basketball because kids in our league are playing basketball year-around," he said. But he also knew he had a group of 10 seniors who had stuck together through thick and thin because they wanted to succeed.

Last year's 11-17 team wasn't as bad as it seems. The Hilltoppers lost six games in overtime. And Levesque was sidelined until Christmas after undergoing thumb surgery.

"We went 10-10 with him. If we had him healthy, we wouldn't have started 1-7. He is a big part of our success," Hoder said.

There are other things in Hoder's favor. The feeder program, the Glen Ellyn Titans, hosted a 70-team tournament last weekend. Hoder's son Thomas, a fifth grader, is one of 40 players who participate in travel basketball.

"So many kids are growing up playing basketball now," the coach said.

"Coming into this year, we had high expectations," Michael Mache said. "We want to finish our four-year run. We knew this could be a great opportunity. With a lot of hard work, we feel we can do this. We want to do things that never have been done before. We want people to remember this team."

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”