Preps Talk

Penn State makes big donation to sex-abuse groups

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Penn State makes big donation to sex-abuse groups

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State University officials on Thursday said they will donate 1.5 million in bowl proceeds to a pair of sex-crime advocacy organizations in the wake of shocking sex-abuse allegations levied against a once-revered assistant football coach. University President Rod Erickson promised the donation the morning after he and other administrators faced pointed questions at a student-organized town hall forum. Erickson told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that the Big Ten bowl revenue, which usually goes back to the athletic department, will go instead to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. "This presents an excellent opportunity for Penn State to raise the national visibility of this issue," Erickson said. "Our students and fans are focused on a cause to play for, to cheer for." Also Thursday, Jerry Sandusky's lawyer said he has not discussed pleading guilty with his client and that the former coach continues to maintain he is innocent of the charges against him. Joe Amendola said he would consider "possible alternatives" with Sandusky if new charges are filed that involve more victims than the eight boys covered by the 40 pending criminal counts, but that Sandusky has never considered a plea in his case. Sandusky, 67, is awaiting a preliminary hearing. Amendola said the topic of a guilty plea came up as a "what-if" question from a reporter about potential additional charges. "My answer to the what if' question was analogous to saying, if weather forecasters were predicting a blizzard next week, which they are not, I would have to at least consider the possibility of postponing my scheduled trip to Philadelphia," Amendola said in an email. The Wednesday night forum on Penn State's main campus came on the heels of fresh sex abuse allegations against Sandusky, who was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a young boy more than 100 times after meeting him through the charity the coach founded in the 1970s. The state police commissioner has criticized school leaders for failing to do more to alert authorities to the allegations, and Erickson told about 450 attendees at a crowded auditorium at the student union building that ethics would be raised "to a new level so that everyone at the university understands not just the legal thing to do, but the moral thing to do, so that we learn to do the right thing the first time, every time." Students appeared grateful to get answers more than three weeks after Sandusky was charged Nov. 5, hopeful it would aid in the arduous healing process. "I think this is a good start for a lot of good things that can happen at the university," said student Andrew Comes, 21, following the two-hour forum. "It's a singularly bad event, but there can still be positive repercussions and good things happening from it." Administrators sought to reassure students worried about the unintended ramifications of the scandal, such as the reputation of a Penn State degree. After several questioners mentioned they felt shamed by the scandal, vice president Henry Foley, as part of an answer about the school's top three priorities, told students to focus on academics and to "recognize that none of you are guilty. ... You may feel shame, but none of you are guilty. Just keep doing what you came here to do." The scandal has resulted in the departures of head coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down. Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failure to report to police. They also maintain their innocence and have a preliminary hearing later this month. Erickson told reporters after the forum that Spanier was currently on sabbatical, and that as a tenured faculty member would have the right to teach if he so desired. Several students also asked about the treatment of Paterno, who was the only school leader fired in the scandal's aftermath. Erickson said afterward he could not offer a detailed answer because it was the trustees' decision. He reiterated there was no truth to Internet-fueled rumors that Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium would be removed, or that the Paterno name would be removed from the campus library for which the Paterno family has donated millions. "At some appropriate time down the road, I'm sure there will be an opportunity to also reflect on the many years of service Joe and (wife Sue Paterno) provided the university and the many good things that they've done for Penn State," Erickson said, eliciting brief applause.

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995. 

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.