Bulls

High School Lites preview

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High School Lites preview

Its hard to imagine but we are less than eight weeks away from IHSA championship time in Peoria. Could Hope Academy make some noise? Although they lost guard Jalen James to La Lumiere (IN) via transfer, they still have enough talent to make a deep playoff run. Plus, several other conferences boast pivotal games Friday night. Will Ridgewood dethrone Riverside-Brookfield this season in the Metro Suburban? Who will take control of the Catholic South? And who takes the battle of Grayslake? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

THURSDAY GAME

St. Charles North (7-12) @ 6 Elgin (16-1), 4:00pm

The Upstate Eight River conference is loaded with D-1 talent, and plenty of that will be on display Thursday night. Future Loyola Rambler Quinten Payne, a junior, leads St. Charles North. He opposes Elgins senior forward Kory Brown, whose stock is rising in college basketball circles. The sixth-ranked Maroons come into Thursdays game 5-1 in conference, the North Stars are 3-3. Keep an eye on Elgin standouts Arie Williams and Dennis Moore to complement Browns attack.

FRIDAY GAMES

1 Simeon (19-1) @ Harlan (12-6), 4:00pm

The top-ranked Wolverines have shown whos boss in Chicago, Public League playoffs notwithstanding. Simeon has already defeated two of the top challengers for city supremacy, Curie and Bogan. In Wednesdays triumph over the 7 Bengals, Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn both tallied 20 points. The newly-minted champs of Chicagos Red-South conference now face Harlan, who overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Brooks on Wednesday. Deonte Johnson has been their spark this year.

T.F. North (8-12) @ 16 Hillcrest (16-4), 6:30pm

Hillcrest is coming off another impressive win, as they took care of Crete-Monee 70-60 Tuesday night. The Hawks have three players who can be game changers at any point: Jovan Mooring, Jayon'e Troutman and Jalen Loving. T.F. North has a pair of talented junior guards: Ashanti Randolph and D.J. Deere. A win by Hillcrest moves them up to 9-0 in the South Suburban Blue. The Meteors (5-3) needs to keep pace in the jumbled midsection of the league.

T.F. South (11-7) @ Tinley Park (10-9), 7:00pm

The 11-7 Rebels are coming off their most exciting win of the season, a 56-55 triumph over Rich East, as Donald Hardaway hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. They will have momentum on their side as they go back into conference play to take on a Titans team that lost to crosstown rival Andrew Tuesday night. Tinley is 7-1 in the South Suburban Blue, while South is 5-3. Ironically, Tinley Park's senior guard Jon Calhoun already has two game-winning buzzer-beaters this year.

20 Hope Academy (17-2) @ St. Benedict (14-3), 7:00pm

What will the future hold for Hope Academyminus Jalen James? The talented guard -- and Illinois recruit -- transferred to La Lumiere (IN) earlier this month, but the Eagles havent missed a beat. Theyve won four straight in his absence, including Tuesdays double OT win over Lake Forest Academy. Alex Houston, Torrance Johnson and Tyrone Smith have played very well. As for the Bengals, they have one of the most talented freshman in the city, guard Marshawn Williams. Both teams come in undefeated in conference play.

Riverside-Brookfield (13-4) @ Ridgewood (12-5), 7:00pm

The 13-4 Bulldogs lost every starter from the 2010-11 team to graduation. And yet, they still find themselves in a first place tie in the Metro Suburban with Ridgewood going into Friday night. Thats due in large part to the efforts of their junior guard Damonta Henry. Ridgewood needs to contain him in order for a chance at winning, but the Rebels have a talented guard of their own in senior Andy Mazurczak. Fun fact: R-B has won 10 conference titles in a row.

Grayslake North (11-6) @ Grayslake Central (14-5), 7:00pm

The Fox Valley 'Fox' conference -- not to mention the town of Grayslake, of course -- figures to be up for grabs Friday. Both North and Central will have momentum, winning league games on Tuesday. The host Rams (6-0 in FVF) have size and can shoot the ball well. Look for center Casey Boyle and guard Jordan Taylor, both seniors, to cause damage. The Knights (4-1) are guided by junior guard A.J. Fish, along with seniors Zack Krupp and Mark Hall.

Evanston (13-6) @ Waukegan (9-8), 7:30pm

The Bulldogs clawed their way back to the plus-side of .500 over the weekend, beating St. Vincent (WI) for their third straight victory. Theyre also creeping near the top of the Central Suburban South conference. Akeem Springs, Jordan Johnson, and Jerome Davis are a few of the difference-makers for Waukegan. Evanston also needs this game to stay in the upper half of the CSS. Seniors Josh Irving and Leonard Garron will try to keep the Dog Pound quiet Friday night.

Seton Academy (16-3) @ Brother Rice (11-7), 7:30pm

If the Crusaders have one thing on their side come Friday, it could be anger. Brother Rice got upset by St. Francis de Sales Tuesday night, but still could gain a share of the conference lead with a win against the Sting. Rice's leader is 6-7 junior Alex Majewski. The Sting, who escaped Marist with a 64-62 win on Tuesday, will have to limit Majewski if they want to stay undefeated in the Catholic South. Forward Russell Robinson and guard Jordan Foster are two of their main weapons.

Mount Carmel (5-12) @ St. Laurence (3-16), 7:30pm

Its been a tough season for these two tenants of the Catholic South, but a little history could be made for one of the teams: Mount Carmels head coach Mike Flaherty will be going for his 700th career win. Flaherty is crediting for recharging the Thornridge basketball program in the 80s. He coached the Falcons for 21 seasons. On this years Caravan squad, his leader is standout guard Alex Austin. Jim Schick is one of the go-to guys for the Vikings.

Pending Thursdays result

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Well take a look at the Whitney Young girls basketball team, who has won 100 consecutive home games. The Dolphins, CSNs Muscle Milk Team of the Week, features two D-1 standouts and a deep roster that could make another state title run. Well also visit a former Homewood-Flossmoor star in our Flashback segment, and youll get caught up on the top-ranked Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.