Big Ten

Simeons march towards history begins Saturday

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Simeons march towards history begins Saturday

By Bryan Crawford
CSNChicago.com
Simeon has had no problem reinforcing basketball history lessons in recent years. And school will be in session for their opponents from Saturday until possibly March.
The question is: can Simeon keep acing the tests themselves?
The Wolverines kick off their 2012-13 season Saturday night at the Chicago Elite Classic (8 p.m. vs. Milton GA) at the UIC Pavilion. It will be the team's first step in a march towards history. The South Side powerhouse has won the last three 4A state championships. Should they win it all this year, they would become the first Chicago Public League team to win four consecutive Illinois state titles.
To say that the Simeon basketball program has bulls-eye on their collective backs is an understatement. Like any elite squad with a strong tradition of winning, no matter who they play, theyll get every opponents best game. But given what theyre trying to achieve this season, opposing squads are going to come at them even harder and do whatever they can to keep the Wolverines from accomplishing their goals.
It will be an uphill climb and a tough road, for sure, but Simeon appears to be ready for the challenge. 
This years Wolverine squad is not just senior-heavy, theyre also deep. Led by All-American Jabari Parker and fellow senior standouts Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, Kendall Pollard and Ricky Norris, all of these players have tasted the ultimate victory of being the last team standing in Peoria. Each player is not only hungry to get back there, but they want to achieve an even greater goal in the process.
We want to make history by winning a city championship, another state championship and also a national championship, said Ricky Norris after a recent practice. But at the end of the day we know that we have to go out there and play just like every other team. So were just going to play hard and try to get it done.
We know what were trying to do, but we dont really talk about it that much, point guard Jaylon Tate, a University of Illinois commit, said. We just want to go out there and play each game game by game and just win. Well let everything else just fall into place. But the main goal is to win state and it would be real good to make history, too.
Saturdays contest will be Simeons first game of the season while their opponent, Milton High School (GA), already has five games under its belt. But Wolverines head coach Robert Smith isnt too concerned about his squad not having played any official games yet, and has complete confidence in his groups ability to play hard and, most importantly, win.
With this being our first game of the season, its huge for us to get off to a good start, Smith said. Milton will probably be in a little bit better rhythm that well be in since theyve played a few more games than we have, but I have a lot of confidence in these guys. I know how badly they want to get to where they want to go, so I think well pull out the victory.
Kendrick Nunn, who will join Jaylon Tate at the University of Illinois next year, echoed his coachs sentiment. 
Its definitely going to take us a little while to get our rhythm because itll be our first game, opined Nunn. We just have to get all of the jitters out. But when we do, well be fine.
Unfortunately for Simeon and for those attending the Classic as well missing in action on Saturday night will be their superstar, Parker. The senior is still sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot and has yet to be cleared by doctors to play. 
His teammates know what he brings to the team on the court, but being forced to play this weekend without him doesnt bother them one bit. Theyre a confident bunch and believe they can still win with Jabari cheering them on from the sideline.
Its not going to be tough playing without Jabari. Were used to it we played without him all summer, said senior Kendall Pollard whos committed to play his college ball at Dayton next season. But hell be on the bench to cheer us on, so itll be good to seem him there.
Said Tate, Jabari is a really good player and hes a really big help for our team. But we have other good guys on this team, too. Having Jabari is definitely a big plus, but without him, weve still got guys that can step up. Its going to show just how deep we are as a team.

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

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USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”