Bears

Pils enjoys his 'Scheyer Moment'

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Pils enjoys his 'Scheyer Moment'

Griffin Pils didn't think about it at the time. But upon reflecting back on his 35 points-in-one-half performance against Carmel on Jan. 20, Libertyville's 6-foot-3 senior guard recalled Jon Scheyer's spectacular 21 points-in-75 seconds effort in the 2005 Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

There was a difference, of course. Pils' team won in overtime. Scheyer's team lost.

But Pils' special moment was unique in its own way. He scored only five points in the first half and didn't register his first field goal until his last shot at the buzzer. He converted 19-of-19 free throws, including eight in the overtime period, and finished with a career-high 40 points.

In fact, Libertyville trailed by 10 points at halftime and six after three quarters and Pils had only 12 points. But in a 60-second span in the fourth period, he made three three-point shots in three possessions, then was fouled while making a lay-up and sank two free throws...11 points.

"That got me going," Pils said. "At halftime, the coach told me to be more aggressive and shoot more. That's what I did."

But Libertyville still trailed by 12 with two minutes to play. The Wildcats pressed. Pils made two steals and his best buddy, 6-foot-5 senior Ellis Matthews, also made two steals. With two seconds left, Pils was fouled while shooting a three and calmly converted three free throws to force overtime. He was only 8-for-20 from the field.

"I didn't realize I scored 40 points. The scoreboard said 37. I didn't think I scored that much. I didn't realize how many free throws I made," Pils said. "Afterward, I felt I could have scored more. I missed a lot of open shots. I'm a pass-first point guard. I try to get everybody involved in the first half. The coaches get mad at me because I don't shoot enough."

In his eighth season as Libertyville's head coach after spending two years at St. Ignatius and 12 years at Gordon Tech, Scott Bogumil said Pils "is a different type of guard than I have coached. He has a good floor game but he can turn it on and score when he needs to. He looks to set up others and if they don't respond, he starts scoring. That's uncanny for a high school kid today."

Pils is averaging 19 points per game for a 14-8 team that hopes to contend with North Suburban rival Warren in the Class 4A sectional at Barrington. Last week, Libertyville lost to Lake Zurich 68-62 in overtime, defeated Stevenson 62-60, then lost to Maine South 50-47 before the BullsBucks game in Milwaukee. The Wildcats play at Mundelein on Friday.

In the loss to Lake Zurich, Pils scored 22 points, including eight in the last 61 seconds to force overtime. Earlier, he scored 26 against Stevenson and Mundelein. Against Stevenson, he scored 17, including six free throws in the last 38 seconds to seal the victory. Against Maine South, he was limited to 11 points as Libertyville fell behind by 15 points in the first half, then rallied but failed to hold a 47-43 lead with 1:30 to play.

"I'm not sure why," Pils said, trying to explain why he has a knack for for scoring late in games. "I guess when my team is down, I just try to be more aggressive and get as many quick shots as I can."

Pils has come a long way. Once upon a time, he was a three-sport athlete. In fifth and sixth grade, he competed in national age-group tennis tournaments. He qualified for the state meet in singles as a sophomore. He also stood out in soccer, playing mid-field on Libertyville's state finalist as a junior. Finally, he realized he wanted to focus on one sport.

"After basketball last year, I decided not to play tennis or soccer anymore. I wanted to concentrate on basketball," he said. "Tennis was my main sport but I got sick of it. Soccer was fun in season but I didn't want to focus on it.

"I wanted to play basketball, to see how good I could be. It's an up-tempo game, fun to play, a team sport. Making a good pass is a better feeling than making a shot. That's when I really get happy."

Pils, who moved to Libertyville from Racine, Wisconsin, when he was in seventh grade, played with a couple of travel teams and began to sharpen his game. A year ago, he averaged 10 points. During the fall, he had several 40 and 50-point games. All of a sudden, colleges began to notice.

"He has been flying under the radar," Bogumil said. "He broke his foot at the end of last year and didn't play much during the summer. Nobody had a chance to see him. But he was scoring at will in the fall. He always had been a pass-first point guard. But I talked to him about being more selfish and scoring more."

Loyola has asked Pils to walk on. He also is considering three Division III schools--North Park, Hope and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. But Bogumil thinks Pils might be good enough to play at a higher level, maybe Division II or even low Division I.

Recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye said Pils has emerged as one of the biggest sleepers in the class of 2012. "A lot of colleges are missing the boat on him," they said.

"He can score in a variety of ways and do so in bunches. However, he is not only a shooter and scorer but also a playmaker, as evidenced by the fact that he has totaled eight or more assists twice this season."

"He will be a point guard in college," Bogumil said. "He is a good three-point shooter, a great passer and has great court vision. He also is an 89-percent free throw shooter. He is light years better on offense than he was last year. He has made great strides."

Speaking of strides, Pils also is into shoes...basketball shoes, lots of them. He and Matthews, who works at a shoe store, collect them. They wear every pair of Nike shoes they can find--and they wear different colors for each game.

At one point, Bogumil wanted them to wear only black-and-white shoes, the school colors, but he gave up after awhile. Now he lets them wear whatever color they want... Black and orange, black with green trim, orange, even Christmas-like green and red at the Wheeling Holiday Tournament.

"Ever since eighth grade, I have been collecting shoes and wearing them to games. I have 40 pairs of basketball shoes. I sell some on E-Bay and keep the ones I really like," Pils said. "Ellis wears the color of the team we are playing. Against Lake Forest, he wore blue shoes and blue socks. I wear whatever I feel like wearing."

Pils remains up-to-date and fashionable. When Nike debuted a new pair of Michael Jordan shoes on Dec. 23, he was standing in line. Called Air Jordan 11 Concord, they sold out in 10 minutes. He bought a pair for 175. Today, he said, they cost 350 to 400. He wore the Jordans for the first time against Stevenson on Friday.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.