Preps Talk

Wood spearheads T.F. North's title bid

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Wood spearheads T.F. North's title bid

Pressure is being told by your coach that if you average 35 points per game, your team will have a successful season.

That's what legendary coach Vergil Fletcher of Collinsville told Tom Parker in 1966-67.

Parker averaged 33 points per game and Collinsville went 24-3 and reached the sectional final.

Fast forward to 2012-13. Thornton Fractional North coach Tim Bankston, who once had 25 points and 12 rebounds in a state championship game and didn't make the all-tournament team, had a similar message for Nick Wood.

"He said I should get 20 points and 12 rebounds per game and we could win the state title," said Wood, a 6-foot-6 senior. "So I have to come out and play my A game every night, be a leader and stick their best big man.

"That's a lot of pressure. But I know I can do it. (Bankston) wouldn't put pressure on me if he didn't think I could do it. I know I have to put up more points to help my team win."

The Calumet City school has what it takes. Wood is one of five returning starters from a 15-14 squad that negotiated the toughest schedule in school history. The Meteors are 9-1, coming off an exhausting seven-games-in-nine-days marathon, and meet Normal Community on Wednesday in the opening round of the State Farm Classic in Bloomington.

"Last year wasn't indicative of how good the team was," Bankston said. "We played tough teams on the road and only a few got out of hand. Our kids had to mature. We put kids in the fire early and often. We knew we'd be good this year."

Bankston, one of the stars of Simeon's 1984 state championship team, has been preparing for this season. In 2007, his team was 29-2 but lost in the first round of the regional. In 2008, T.F. North was 19-11 but lost to state runner-up Simeon 43-40 in the supersectional.

"If we keep improving, we can be pretty good," he said. "Potentially, we can win it all. This team reminds me of 2008. We have seven players who can hurt you on any given night. On defense, they are tenacious. They have a don't quit attitude."

How's this for not giving up in the face of overwhelming odds? Trailing by four points at Plainfield North with 30 seconds to play and the home team with the ball in its hands, T.F. North was down to two sophomores, two juniors and a player who never had played basketball before. The first seven had fouled out. The Meteors won by two.

"That's the mark of this team," Bankston said. "They won't quit."

The coach said the effort is spearheaded by Wood, a Division I prospect who is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. He is complemented by two outstanding guards, 6-foot-1 senior Greg McClain (10 ppg) and 5-foot-11 senior D.J. Deere (12 ppg).

The other two starters are 6-foot-4 junior Quamaine Harris (6 ppg, 7
rpg) and 6-foot-4 senior Danye Coleman (4 ppg, 3 rpg). Punch off the bench
is provided by 6-foot-8 senior Marquise Todd (6 ppg, 3 blocks) and two
sophomores, 6-foot-1 Devante Henry and 5-foot-8 Sidqu Salazar.

"The strength of this team is defense," Bankston said. "I like the way they understand the game. They are one of the smartest teams I have coached. They know what needs to be done in certain situations. And they are unselfish."

T.F. North could get even better. Bankston hopes 6-foot-3 senior Ashanti Randolph will be declared eligible in January. An all-conference player who averaged 13 points pler game a year ago, he is battling academic issues.

"He could be our best player," the coach said. "If he is back, we are a state championship contender for sure. Without him, we'll have to see. What are the odds? Fifty-fifty."

What Bankston knows for sure is the players on the floor play hard and play together. "Sometimes that makes up for a lack of talent. We are a blue-collar team. We try to outwork you. We try to turn you over. There is no secret to what we do. If Harris and Coleman continue to get better and our sophomores don't get rattled when the pressure is on, we will do well," he said.

Wood agrees. He knows he is the team's standard-bearer, the one player who Bankston can count on every night. He averaged 14 points and seven rebounds last season. He worked hard in the off-season to prepare for the challenge, knowing more would be expected of him.

"I'm playing harder this year and being a leader," he said. "The ball comes through me a lot more. In the off-season, I got more physically and mentally tough to approach the game. All summer, I worked out and did basketball drills and spent time in the weight room. I'm a lot better now.

"People see that I can put the ball on the floor, that I'm shooting better, that I'm finishing around the basket better, that I'm stronger around the basket. In my mind, nobody can beat me around the boards even if they are 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9."

Wood acknowledges that the presence of Randolph would be a big plus and "bring a lot to the table. If he comes back, our chances are better. But even if he doesn't come back, we are contenders," he said.

"Last year, we had a new group. We were getting used to playing with each other, how to bring it all together. This year, we know all of our roles and how to play together. We have size and skill. We have role players who step in.

"What is our edge? It depends on how far Deere and I can take the team, if we can put them on our backs. We know the team looks to us to get us through. We know we have our own job to make the hard shot or be the leader. Leadership is the key to being successful."

High School Lites Podcast: Rules, regulations ... and repeat champions?

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High School Lites Podcast: Rules, regulations ... and repeat champions?

Can Prairie Ridge repeat as state champions? Will Rochester and IC Catholic Prep do the same? It’s championship weekend at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb for IHSA football.

On the latest High School Lites Podcast, Joe Collins and “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran wrap up the 2017 prep season and discuss the games on NIU’s campus this weekend.

Could some contests go down to the last play? A lot of playoffs games have done just that in recent memory. And referees are the ones who keep a continuous rundown of checks of balances as plays and game flow escalate. The guys are joined by Steve Garbaciak, the President of the Joliet Football Officials and member of the IHSA’s official advisory committee and a 25-year veteran of the IHSA. Steve chronicles how the game has changed in the last quarter century, and he details how to maintain judicial balance in games of critical importance.

It's all on the latest High School Lites Podcast. Listen to the episode below:

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2017 IHSA Football State Championships

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NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2017 IHSA Football State Championships

Network to televise LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Class 1A-8A IHSA Football State Championships from Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, IL

PLUS -- Live streaming coverage of EVERY IHSA Football State Championship telecast – including surrounding pre/postgame coverage – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app

NBCSportsChicago.com/Preps to air highlight packages of all games throughout the weekend;

“High School Lites” IHSA Football State Championships recap special to air Sat, Nov. 25 at 11:00 PM CT

Chicago, IL (November 20, 2017) -- For the seventh-straight year, NBC Sports Chicago, the home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championships, will be airing LIVE high-definition coverage of the 2017 IHSA Football State Championships on Friday, November 24 & Saturday, November 25 from Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, IL.  Illinois preps football fans can look forward to seeing every action-packed championship battle starting with the Class 1A contest on Friday morning at 10:00 AM CT, leading up to Saturday night’s highly-anticipated Class 8A match-up between two 13-0 powerhouses: Lincoln-Way East vs. Loyola Academy at 7:00 PM CT.  The 2017 IHSA Football State Championships will be produced by the IHSA & PlayOn! Sports.

In addition -- EVERY IHSA Football State Championship telecast on NBC Sports Chicago, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  Authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers can watch live IHSA Football State Championships action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Friday’s Class 4A championship between Morris and Rochester (7:00 PM start), along with Saturday’s 7A championship featuring Prairie Ridge and Nazareth Academy (4:00 PM start) & the 8A championship between Lincoln-Way East and Loyola Academy (7:00 PM start) will all air live on NBC Sports Chicago+…NBC Sports Chicago+ is located on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area and in South Bend, IN, and on ch. 285 in Comcast/Xfinity’s Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets…viewers are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s special “Channel Finder” section (http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/channel-finder ) or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for ALL games throughout the state. 
  • Fans are also strongly urged to interact via Twitter throughout the entire weekend by utilizing the hashtag #IHSA to share their comments and showcase their school spirit for their favorite teams. 
     

In addition, NBCSportsChicago.com’s IHSA Preps section (NBCSportsChicago.com/Preps) will feature highlight packages from all games throughout the weekend, along with week-long coverage & scouting reports from veteran Illinois preps sports writer “Edgy Tim” O’Halloran (@EDGYTIM).  Plus – NBC Sports Chicago viewers can look forward to a special “IHSA Football Championships” wrap-up edition of High School Lites on Saturday, Nov. 25 live at 11:00 PM for a complete rundown of every championship game, including expanded highlights and player/coaches interviews.  From an additional social media standpoint, fans are urged to follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter throughout the weekend for up-to-the-minute 2017 IHSA Football State Championship news & game updates.

IHSA TV veteran Dave Bernhard (Class 3A, 4A, 7A & 8A) and Lee Hall (Class 1A & 2A) return in 2017 to bring viewers every thrill-packed play-by-play call, which will also include the first-year pxp call from Peoria Chiefs/college/preps broadcaster Nathan Baliva (Class 5A & 6A). Color analysis will be provided by renowned Chicago Bears/NFL expert Hub Arkush (Class 7A & 8A), along with former Illinois State University football standout  Chris Highland (Class 3A & 4A), Northern Illinois University football radio color analyst Mark Lindo (Class 5A & 6A) and longtime IHSA TV contributor/Illinois High School Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jack McInerney (Class 1A & 2A).

Sideline reports throughout the IHSA Football Championships weekend will be provided by NBC Sports Chicago’s Siera Santos (@SieraSantos) (Class 5A-8A on Saturday) and Comcast Network/CBS 2 sports anchor Camron Smith (Class 1A-4A on Friday). “Edgy Tim” O’Halloran will also provide studio analysis throughout the weekend recapping and previewing every championship match-up.

The following schedule details NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage (also streaming live to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive & the NBC Sports app) of the 2017 IHSA Football State Championships airing this Thanksgiving weekend (team records & play-by-play/color analyst/sideline reporting teams are in parentheses):

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24

10:00 AM – Class 1A: LENA-WINSLOW (Lena) [13-0] vs. TUSCOLA [13-0] (Lee Hall/Jack McInerney/Camron Smith)

1:00 PM – Class 2A: GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY (Gibson City) [13-0] vs. MAROA-FORSYTH (Maroa) [12-1] (Lee Hall/Jack McInerney/Camron Smith)

4:00 PM – Class 3A: IC CATHOLIC (Elmhurst) [12-1] vs. PLEASANT PLAINS [13-0] (Dave Bernhard/Chris Highland/Camron Smith)

7:00 PM – Class 4A: MORRIS [11-2] vs. ROCHESTER [13-0] (Dave Bernhard/Chris Highland/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER  for the exact channel location in your area)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25

10:00 AM – Class 5A: PHILLIPS (Chicago) [13-0] vs. DUNLAP [13-0] (Nathan Baliva/Mark Lindo/Siera Santos)

1:00 PM – Class 6A: PRAIRIE RIDGE (Crystal Lake) [13-0] vs. NAZARETH ACADEMY (LaGrange Park) [12-1] (Nathan Baliva/Mark Lindo/Siera Santos)

4:00 PM – Class 7A: BATAVIA [12-1] vs. LAKE ZURICH [13-0] (Dave Bernhard/Hub Arkush/Siera Santos)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:00 PM – Class 8A: LINCOLN-WAY East (Frankfort) [13-0] vs. LOYOLA ACADEMY (Wilmette) [12-1] (Dave Bernhard/Hub Arkush/Siera Santos)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)