Preps Talk

Taylor making seamless transition from Simeon to Marquette

914563.png

Taylor making seamless transition from Simeon to Marquette

Steve Taylor is hoping to become both the latest success story to come out of Simeon's basketball program, and the newest 'switchable' to succeed under Buzz Williams at Marquette.
The 6-foot-7 forward was the top-ranked Illinois recruit in the 2012 class, and was pegged by most outlets as a top-70 recruit nationally. He signed with Marquette last November and arrived on campus this summer, ready to make an impact as an inside-out threat.
And though 2012-2013 will mark Taylor's first season with a Division-I program, but he has plenty of experience with a winning program after his time spent at Simeon Career Academy, where he won three straight state championships.
Playing under head coach Robert Smith, who said he runs his practices as close to a collegiate level as possible, Taylor said he came to Milwaukee prepared for what awaited him under Buzz Williams and Marquette.
"We worked hard at Simeon, so when I got here to Marquette it was second nature," Taylor said. "You have to work hard to get what you want. Once I got here, I realized high school practices were nothing like this."
Taylor, along with the top-ranked 2013 recruit Jabari Parker, helped lead Simeon to three straight state championships. Taylor, who called himself the leader of that team, averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game his senior season, capping a 33-1 record.
Marquette fans got their first glimpse of Taylor at Marquette Madness, held on the school's campus to unofficially open the season Friday night.
Taylor played all 24 minutes of the scrimmage in front of Parker, who took the drive to Milwaukee to watch his former teammate while wearing Taylor's No. 15 Simeon jersey.
Taylor finished with four points and four rebounds. It wasn't a dominating performance, but the 6-foot-7 Taylor more than held his own in the paint against established post scorers, notably junior Jamil Wilson and senior Chris Otule.
But one big difference Taylor is still adjusting to is the speed and size of the game.
No longer is Taylor the tallest player on the court, giving way to the 6-foot-11 Otule and 6-foot-8 Davante Gardner. Even the 6-foot-7 Wilson, who Taylor called one of his biggest mentors during the summer, poses a threat in practice that he is still getting used to.
"I need to get tougher. I know I've improved there a lot, and I've gotten stronger," Taylor said. "But I need to be able to finish around the rim a little bit more."
Part of his improved frame involved adding 15 pounds to his frame since arriving on campus in June. Now up to 234 pounds, Taylor feels confident he can compete for immediate minutes in a Marquette rotation that lost senior Jae Crowder to the NBA Draft.
Crowder, last year's Big East Player of the Year, averaged 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds while playing as an undersized power forward position.
Marquette will have size with the aforementioned bigs, but Taylor said he wants to be part of that rotation.
To do so, he has been in the video room watching film on former Marquette players referred to by Williams as switchables -- forwards with inside-out games who can guard multiple positions on the floor.
That includes Crowder, but also current Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler, who played forward for Williams from 2008 to 2011. Much like Butler, Taylor sees himself as more of an inside player at this point with an improving jump shot.
"I watch film all the time," Taylor said, "and whenever I watch I picture myself doing the same things. I feel more comfortable in the paint because I can score there."
Taylor's comfort level also increased when he came to campus in June because of a new NCAA rule that allowed head coaches to practice with their teams eight hours per week during the summer.
"It's not a lot, but it does give you an opportunity to be around them every day," Williams said. "I think it allows them to stay in some sort of routine, academically and athletically, and I think it put us on a better slope once the school year started."
Taylor is a proven winner, one of the reasons Williams wanted him, and now he's making a seamless transition to the college game. His versatility will be a key asset in Marquette's up-tempo offense, and he understands that if he follows his coach's lead that same success from Chicago will follow him to Milwaukee.
"The way Buzz explained it, I'm just a player. So whatever it is he needs me to do that's what I'm gonna do. So I don't have a set position," Taylor said." And if I do what Buzz says I'll get out there."
And based on Williams' track record with players like Taylor, the Simeon graduate will see success once he's out there, too.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

brand_new_lites.jpg

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.