Bears

High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

396393.jpg

High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 11:33 p.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com
Comcast SportsNet is your number one source for high school sports in Chicagoland. The boys basketball playoffs are underway in class 1A & 2A. Well have highlights of three regional championship games in the area. Well also take you to Chicago Heights where the Southland conference will be decided. Will Crete-Monee win it outright or will Bloom take a share of the title? Plus, we sit down with Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu and Mike Shawthree high school seniors looking to contribute to the Fighting Illini next season. And well bring you the story of the high flying Warriors of Wheaton Academya team that hasnt lost to an in-state opponent yet this year. Here is a snapshot of each game we will cover on Friday night, which include updates on the girls basketball playoff picture:
(17) Lyons @ Proviso West, 6:00pm

The Lions (22-2, 11-0) look to finish the regular season with a perfect record in the West Suburban Silver Friday night in Hillside. Spencer Mahoney, Eric Powers, Nick Zeisloft and company will look to keep the momentum going after a heart-stopping 55-53 win over Proviso East in the City-Suburban Showdown. Proviso West (16-8, 8-3) is currently a distant second in conference and will not factor in the title chase, but theyre having a solid season thanks to a well-balanced attack led by standout guard Nick Frazier.
(12) Crete-Monee @ Bloom, 6:30pm

The only thing standing in the way between Crete-Monee (20-3, 8-1) and a Southland conference title is a Bloom team that has already succumbed to the Warrior attack earlier this year (56-45 on January 21st). So why should 12th ranked Crete-Monee be concerned? Revenge factor aside, the Blazing Trojans (15-10, 7-2) are getting key contributions from forward Lajavius Johnson. He will have to bring his game Friday to help his team get a share of the title. Crete-Monee boasts a rugged lineup featuring DePaul-bound guard Jamee Crockett.
Crystal Lake Central @ Crystal Lake South, 7:00pm

Crystal Lake Central (21-4, 11-1) might not get a lot of the love that their fellow 20-game winners are getting, but the Gators have been thriving on the lack of limelight. They hope to sneak up on teams in the playoffs behind senior Joe Pijanowski and junior Chase Cane. The host Gators (15-10, 4-6) are paced by senior forward Kevin Rogers. Central has not lost a game since January 19th against Grayslake North.

St. Ignatius @ (23) Mt. Carmel, 7:30pm

This game might make you wonder if the Fighting Illini could have used St. Ignatius Nnanna Igwu and the Caravans Tracy Abrams this year. The two Illinois-bound prep stars square off Friday night in a game that could be a nice springboard for the state playoffs that lie ahead. The visiting Wolfpack have won six straight games, including Sundays 52-41 win over Leo. 23rd ranked has been on fire since the Pekin Holiday Tournament, losing only to Halesby four points.

Batavia @ (18) East Aurora, 7:30pm

The 18th ranked Tomcats (19-5, 10-2) hope to have guard Letrell Snoop Viser back for the game against Batavia. He left last during last Friday's game against Lake Park with a sprained ankle. UConn-bound star Ryan Boatright looks for one final regular season tuneup before the playoffs begin. The visiting Bulldogs (13-11, 8-4) have won three straight, including Tuesday's 45-37 win over Streamwood. Senior guard Jesse Coffey hopes to make it back into the lineup for Batavia after an illness kept him sidelined earlier this week.
Elgin @ Streamwood, 7:30pm

Like East Aurora, the Elgin Maroons (20-5, 9-2) can call themselves conference champs after a decade-long wait. Elgin previous Upstate Eight title was in 2000-01, East won it previously in 1998-99. But if the Maroons want to win it outright, they will have to defeat Streamwood (8-17, 3-8) on the road. Elgin's junior guard Kory Brown has been an absolute force this year. He is coming off a season-high 30 points Tuesday against Grayslake Central.

(11) Hales Franciscan vs. Chicago Christian, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Chicago Christian)

Will the 11th ranked Spartans play in Peoria? The magic eight ball consensus would say "yes." Hales Franciscan (22-4), an elite team featuring brothers Aaron and Aaric Armstead, cruised past Dyett Wednesday night 85-46 in the regional semifinal. However, they cannot afford to look ahead, especially after what happened in the other semifinal Wednesday. Chicago Christian (21-6) raised a few eyebrows with a 53-51 win over Leo. Dan VanGroningen talled 17 points and Jason VanderLaan scored 13 for the victorious Knights.

Latin vs. Parker, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Holy Trinity)

It would only seem fitting that Latin and Parker would meet for a regional championship, given the nice rivalry between the two schools that has developed over the years. Latin (16-8) advanced thanks to Chad Stevenson, who led all scorers with 26 points in Latin's semifinal win over Marine Wednesday night. The Romans will take on an F.W. Parker team that defeated Holy Trinity 70-33 in the semis. Langdon Neal is one of the leaders for the Colonels (19-7).
St. Benedict vs. Hope Academy, 7:30pm (1A Regional Championship @ St. Benedict)

St. Benedict,the third-seeded team in the regional, won a thrilling semifinal game Thursday night over Universal, 51-50 in overtime. Krys Gago and Habeeb Olowo had 16 points apiece to lead the Bengals (16-12). Chicagos Hope Academy (19-10), the top seed, is a member of the Chicagoland Prep conferenceas is St. Benedict. The Eagles defeated St. Benedict 75-57 on January 7.

THURSDAY: (24) Maine South 54, (23) Niles West 47 OT-- (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ Maine East)

The 24th ranked Hawks scored the first 13 points of the game and then held off a furious Niles West rally to win their first sectional title since the 2007-08 season. Michelle Maher and Jacqui Grant tallied 14 apiece for Maine South. Kaitlyn Mullarkey had two clutch buckets in overtime for the victors, who defeated the Wolves for the third time this season. Niles Wests Jewell Loyd scored 25 points in the losing effort.

THURSDAY: (9) Proviso East 55, (8) Trinity 47 (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ York)

The 8th ranked Blazers might have limited Illinois-bound Ivory Crawford to 12 points, but they had no answer for Ricquia Jones. The 5-4 guard finished with 18 points, five steals and four assists to lead the Pirates, who won their 18th straight game. They will go on to play Maine South in the Loyola supersectional Monday night. Megan Podkowa finished with 14 points for Trinity, who finished their season with a 28-5 record.

Check us out this Friday night at 10:30. We will also bring you up to speed on the 1A and 2A girls basketball state playoff semifinals from Redbird Arena in Normal. High School Lites streams live at CSNChicago.com.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“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.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

anthony_davis.jpg
AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”