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Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

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Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

Johnny "Red" Kerr didn't earn All-State recognition while playing at Tilden. And Jack Sikma, from tiny St. Anne near Kankakee, was the first small-school player in Illinois to take advantage of the newly adopted two-class system and make a big reputation for himself.

They are two of the 25 male and female players who will be inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville. As members of the second class of honorees, they will be recognized at the annual banquet on Nov. 3 in Champaign.

Kerr's first passion was soccer but an eight-inch growth spurt compelled him to turn his attention to basketball. At Tilden, he led coach Bill Postl's team to Chicago Public League championships in 1949 and 1950.

He starred on Tilden's 1949 team that finished 20-9 and lost to John Biever and West Aurora 34-33 in the state quarterfinals. But he was a mid-year graduate in 1950 and wasn't on the tournament roster for the 27-5 team that lost to Elgin 59-50 in the state quarterfinals.

Later, the 6-foot-9 center scored 1,299 points in three years at Illinois, helping the Illini to the Big 10 championship and the NCAA's Final Four in 1952. He was elected to Illinois' All-Century Team in 2004.

In 1954, Kerr was chosen by the Syracuse Nationals as the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft. As a rookie, he averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as the Nationals won the NBA championship. He had over 12,000 points and over 10,000 rebounds in his career and held the NBA record for most consecutive games played (844) until 1983.

He retired from competition after the 1965-66 season to become the first head coach of the new Chicago Bulls franchise. Later, he became a popular color commentator on the Bulls'television broadcasts, overseeing the Bulls' six NBA titles in the 1990s. He died in 2009.

Sikma was the Chicago Daily News' Class A Player of the Year in 1973, leading St. Anne to a 30-3 record and fourth place in the Class A tournament. He was the second-leading scorer with 100 points and 73 rebounds in the final four games.

The 6-foot-11 center went on to become the leading scorer and rebounder ever to play at Illinois Wesleyan, then was chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics as the eighth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie team, was a seven-time all-star and helped Seattle to win the NBA title in 1978-79. In his career, he scored over 17,000 points and grabbed nearly 11,000 rebounds.

One of the most accurate shooting big men in NBA history -- he led the league in free throw percentage (92.2) in 1987-88 and averaged 84.9 for his career -- Sikma had his No. 43 jersey retired by Seattle in 1992. He currently is an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA.

Kerr is one of 10 inductees from the pre-1960s era. The others are Bumpy Nixon, Galesburg; Rich Falk, Galva; Lynch Conway, Peoria Central; Joe Ruklick, Princeton; Rod Fletcher, Champaign; Jake Fendlay, South Shore; Homer Thurman, Bloom; Bob Owens, Paris; and Tom Cole, Springfield.

Sikma is one of 10 inductees from the post-1960s era. The others are Lloyd Batts, Thornton; Joey Range, Galesburg; Darius Miles, East St. Louis; Michael Payne, Quincy; Steve Kuberski, Moline; Russell Cross, Manley; Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young; Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual; and Greg Starrick, Marion.

The five women are Cappie Pondexter and Marie Christian, Marshall; Diana Vines, South Shore; Natasha Pointer, Whitney Young; and Alicia Ratay, Lake Zurich.

Legendary Galesburg coach John Thiel once described Lawrence "Bumpy" Nixon as "the best player ever to grace the halls of Galesburg High School." As a junior, he led Quincy to the Sweet Sixteen. As a senior at Galesburg, he led his team to a 29-2 record and third place in the state tournament.

Falk was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A guard at Galva, he averaged 29.8 points per game as a senior. He scored over 2,000 points in his career. He ranks second in state history for scoring more than 50 points in five games with a high of 57. Later, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection at Northwestern and was head coach at his alma mater from 1978 to 1989. In 2009, he retired as associate commissioner of the Big 10.

Conway was the leader of the Peoria Central team that won the first state championship in 1908. He scored 22 points in the state final and his mark of 11 field goals stood for 42 years. He also was the first African-American to play on Bradley University's basketball team.

Ruklick, a 6-foot-9 center, led Princeton to fourth place in the 1955 state tournament and finished as the leading scorer with 104 points in four games. He later was a standout at Northwestern. But he is best remembered as the Philadelphia 76er who passed the ball to Wilt Chamberlain for his 100th point, most ever scored in an NBA game.

Fletcher started on Champaign's 38-1 state championship team in 1946 and its 38-4 state runner-up in 1947. As a senior in 1948, he was named to the All-State team while playing for a 13-15 team that reached the Sweet Sixteen. At Illinois, the 6-foot-4 guard was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior. He led Illinois to two Big 10 titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances.

Fendley was a two-time All-Stater at Chicago South Shore in 1946 and 1947. He played on South Shore's 1944 team that finished third in the state tournament. The 6-foot-1 guard was his team's leading scorer and an all-tournament selection on the 24-3 team that lost to state champion Paris in the 1947 quarterfinals.

In the 1950s, when Bloom Township of Chicago Heights was the dominant high school sports program in Illinois, Thurman emerged as one of the best all-around athletes in state history. He was an All-Stater in basketball in 1959. As a sophomore, he started on a 22-2 team that lost in the Sweet Sixteen. He also excelled in football and track and field.

Owens was a two-time All-Stater at Paris in 1946 and 1947. In the 1940s, when Paris was one of the most dominant programs in the state, Owens was the standard-bearer. The 6-foot-2 center was the leading scorer in the 1947 tournament while leading Paris to a 40-2 record and its second state title in the decade. He scored 22 in the state final as Paris crushed Champaign 58-37.

Cole was a two-time All-Stater at Springfield in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, he led the Senators to a 24-9 record and the state quarterfinals. In 1959, he led his 33-1 team to the state championship. The 6-foot-7 center was the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 90 points, including 26 in a 60-52 victory over West Aurora in the state final.

Batts emerged as the all-time leading scorer at one of the state's most storied programs. The 6-foot-5 guardforward was a two-time All-Stater who averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior on teams that won 46 of 57 games. When he graduated from Cincinnati, he ranked behind only Oscar Robertson among the school's all-time leading scorers.

Range and Nixon are generally regarded as the two best players in Galesburg history and two of the leading players in the history of the Western Big 6 Conference. In four years, Range scored 2,390 points and averaged 21 per game. He missed only one of 114 games in his career.

Miles, a 6-foot-9 forward, was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2000. He led East St. Louis to a 24-6 record and the state quarterfinals in 1999 and to a 21-11 record and third place in the Class AA tournament in 2000. Afterward, he opted to go directly into the NBA draft and was the third player chosen, highest for a high school graduate up to that point.

Payne, a 6-foot-11 center, joined with guard Bruce Douglas, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural class, to form one of the greatest teams in state history. Payne averaged 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds and intimidated opponents at the top of the ball-press defense as Quincy went 33-0 in 1980-81. A McDonald's All-American, he later played at Iowa.

Kuberski graduated as the highest scoring player in the history of Quad-Cities basketball. As a junior, he averaged 30 points per game. As a senior, he averaged 27.7 points for a 25-3 team that lost to Chicago Marshall 75-72 in the state quarterfinals. He scored 50 points in one game.

Cross was a high school version of Bill Russell. The 6-foot-10 center put Chicago's Manley High School on the map by leading the Wildcats to a 28-3 record and the state quarterfinals in 1979. He was the state's most dominant player in 1980, leading Manley to a 31-1 record and the state championship. At Purdue, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection.

Richardson was the leader of Whitney Young's 1998 state championship team, one of the best teams in state history. The 6-foot-6 guard played only two years at DePaul but is the only player in school history to score over 1,000 points, grab over 500 rebounds and convert more than 100 three-point shots. He was the 18th pick in the 2000 NBA draft.

All you need to know about Sergio McClain is one statistic: 32-0. In four years, McClain led Peoria Manual to a 32-0 record and an unprecedented four championships in state tournament play. Recognized as a consummate floor leader and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 1997, he was selected as one of the 100 legends of Illinois high school basketball in 2007.

Starrick was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A 6-foot-2 guard at Marion, he averaged 30.3 points per game as a junior and 33.5 points as a senior. He set South Seven Conference records with 70 points in one game and 511 points or 36.5 points per game in conference play in 1966-67--all in an era before the three-point line.

Pondexter was Illinois' Player of the Year in 2001. As a sophomore in 1999, she led Marshall to the state championship. At Rutgers, she scored over 2,000 points, was Player of the Year and led her team to the NCAA tournament four times. She was voted one of the top 15 players in the 15-year history of the WNBA.

Christian was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1983. She led Marshall to the biggest upset in the history of the girls' state tournament, beating East St. Louis Lincoln with Tina Hutchinson and Toni Wallace 72-71 in overtime in the 1983 quarterfinals.

Vines was an All-Stater in 1985. She led South Shore to three straight Final Four appearances in the Public League playoff. She was the first city player to score more than 2,000 points. Later, she was a four-year starter at DePaul and until recently was the all-time leading scorer in the program.

Pointer was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1995. She led Whitney Young to a 25-4 record and the state quarterfinals in 1995. In one game, she scored 56 points. She ranks with Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, as the best players in school history.

Ratay ranks No. 13 on the state's all-time scoring list with 2,740 points in 1995-99. At Lake Zurich, she was recognized as the best three-point shooter in state history and also played on a National AAU championship team. She led Notre Dame to an NCAA title and was the nation's leading three-point shooter.

Dunking Markkanen, dead-legged LaVine, no Dunn and tanking the right way

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USA TODAY

Dunking Markkanen, dead-legged LaVine, no Dunn and tanking the right way

ATLANTA — Here are the observations from the Bulls’ 113-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena Saturday afternoon.

Not a shooter, but a scorer: The Atlanta Hawks’ gameplan was clear on Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen: Do anything but let him shoot.

They succeeded at that objective but in the words of Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, they “won the battle but lost the war” as Markkanen missed all four of his 3-pointers and didn’t hit a jump shot.

But he scored 19 including six dunks—after coming in with 28 dunks in the first 42 games. The Hawks kept putting smaller players on him after switching pick and rolls and the Bulls smartly and patiently went to Markkanen inside after ball movement.

Shooting over 6-foot-10 guys who aren’t as agile is certainly satisfying for the rookie but as Markkanen said, “dunking is fun.”

“Trying to be a complete player,” Markkanen said. “If that was their game plan, I don’t know. I can do much more than shoot. I missed how many three’s today? But that wasn’t going for me tonight so I went to something else.”

Clearly while Markkanen’s game is growing the easiest thing for opposing teams to do is to see how he’ll perform against smaller players, but as the season has gone on he’s shown more comfort with his back to the basket and being two passes away, ready to step into the lane when defenses collapse.

“I know I can’t just shoot threes, I gotta get to the rim,” Markkanen said. “Eventually it’ll open more space for 3-pointers and stuff like that. Trying to mix it up.”

Dead legs or settling in for Zach LaVine: It was tailor made for Zach LaVine to get his second slam of the season, getting the ball on a breakaway with only Taurean Prince trailing him.

Whether LaVine heard footsteps or knew he didn’t have the full lift to get there, Prince caught up with him to foul from behind as LaVine tripped before liftoff, missing a layup.

It was indicative of his early showing, as the adrenaline from the first two games has worn off and LaVine is having to get used to his body’s limitations in the moment—especially as his minute restriction was raised to 24 minutes for the next three games before he’ll be re-evaluated again.

He was 0-for-4 in the first half before catching a bit of a rhythm in the second half, finishing two-for-nine with eight points in 18 minutes, adding nine rebounds. His explosion isn’t there yet, going to the rim. And his legs on his jumper feels a little flat, too.

“I don’t have all of it (legs),” LaVine said. “A couple possessions down the floor, I get tired. Get fouled and have to walk it off. I have to get the game legs back and I can’t practice it, it comes with playing.”

In two months, one would think he’ll finish that with little issues but he admitted fatigue caught up with him more than anything.

“My first two (games) I was extremely excited, energized,” LaVine said. “I just feel like it’s something I gotta get used to playing NBA games again. I feel it a little bit.”

Especially in watching Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas go through a similar up-and-down period with his return, nobody should’ve expected LaVine’s performances to just keep rising and rising without dropoff.

This is part of the rehab, and the Bulls feel as if they’re prepared for it. Their reasoning for only marginally increasing LaVine’s workload from 20 to 24 minutes is simple: They want him to have off-days to continue strengthening his surgically-repaired knee, not just having him take the practice days as recovery from playing heavy minutes.

“You can’t anticipate any of it,” LaVine said. “I felt good the first two, I feel good now. No injury, no knick-knacks or anything. Just energy-wise and your legs, making sure you’re getting up and down the floor, making sure you’re getting elevation on your jumper and in the lane, I gotta get better at it.”

As self-aware as anyone considering what he’s been through over the past year, he offered an assurance to any who may be concerned.

“I gotta play through it, find ways around it,” LaVine said. “Regardless I’m not scared or anything. I feel fine.”

Dunn out vs. New Orleans: Kris Dunn will be out against the New Orleans Pelicans and it appears more likely he’ll miss Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia as well as he recovers from the concussion he suffered in a scary fall against Golden State earlier this week.

“He has no change in his symptoms,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll know more tomorrow but his symptoms haven’t changed.”

Initially the Bulls didn’t believe Dunn had a concussion but the symptoms emerged early the next morning.

“From what I understand with concussion symptoms, they can take up to 24 hours to develop. It sounds like the initial tests, he passed,” Hoiberg said. “Then he woke up the morning, had a headache, had some dizziness, was re-checked and that’s when they put him in concussion protocol. There’s been very little change since. He’s still having trouble with sleeping. The biggest thing is making sure he’s getting rest and he stays hydrated.”

The tank: One team successfully executed how to tank, and that was the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Bulls forced them into missing 37 of 48 3-point attempts, and the Bulls jumped on them early and never allowed the Hawks to take a lead, much less get too close.

“We opened with a double-digit lead right out the gate,” Hoiberg said. “Overall, really complete performance for our guys.”

“We knew we had to come out the gate with great effort.”

Robin Lopez continued his impressive play with 20 points and Justin Holiday hit a few shots late to score 13, while Bobby Portis scored 14 in 18 minutes.

But pretty, it was not.

The Bulls haven’t completely abandoned their plans for the season, as they’ll field calls for Holiday, Lopez and of course, have Nikola Mirotic’s exit being first on their docket.

But while this team is relatively whole, this is a game they should win handily.

And they did.

Yet and still, though, this applies to the 13-32 Hawks:

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is alive and well and this offseason has been further proof of that.

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't made a rivalry-altering move like inking Jake Arrieta to a megadeal, but they have proven that they are absolutely coming after the Cubs and the top of the division.

However, a move the St. Louis brass made Friday afternoon may actually be one that makes Cubs fans cheer.

The Cardinals traded outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday in exhange for a pair of right-handed pitchers: Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Leone is the main draw here as a 26-year-old reliever who posted a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 70.1 innings last year in Toronto.

But this is the second young position player the Cardinals have traded to Toronto this offseason and Grichuk is a notorious Cub Killer.

Grichuk struggled overall in 2017, posting a second straight year of empty power and not much else. But he once again hammered the Cubs to the tune of a .356 batting average and 1.240 OPS. 

He hit six homers and drove in 12 runs in just 14 games (11 starts) against Joe Maddon's squad. That's 27 percent of his 2017 homers and 20 percent of his season RBI numbers coming against just one team.

And it wasn't just one year that was an aberration. In his career, Grichuk has a .296/.335/.638 slash line against the Cubs, good for a .974 OPS. He's hit 11 homers and driven in 33 runs in 37 games, the highest ouput in either category against any opponent.

Even if Leone builds off his solid 2017 and pitches some big innings against the Cubs over the next couple seasons, it will be a sigh of relief for the Chicago pitching staff knowing they won't have to face the threat of Grichuk 18+ times a year.

Plus, getting a reliever and a low-level starting pitching prospect back for a guy (Grichuk) who was borderline untouchable a couple winters ago isn't exactly great value. The same can be said for the Cardinals' trade of Aledmys Diaz to Toronto on Dec. 1 for essentially nothing.

A year ago, St. Louis was heading into the season feeling confident about Diaz, who finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2016 after hitting .300 with an .879 OPS as a 25-year-old rookie. He wound up finishing 2017 in the minors after struggling badly to start the season and the Cardinals clearly didn't want to wait out his growing pains.

The two trades with Toronto limits the Cardinals' depth (as of right now) and leaves very few proven options behind shortstop Paul DeJong and outfielder Tommy Pham, who both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2017.