Bears

Taylor making seamless transition from Simeon to Marquette

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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.

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

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USA TODAY

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

I’ve always placed great stock in the drama tenet, “Action is character.” What an actor/person does in significant part defines their character, or lack of same.

Conversely, in some situations, what someone doesn’t do can be equally defining or revealing. A couple of those involving the Bears are worth noting, because they suggest things about John Fox and and his staff, and perhaps a bit of what players think of them.

Nothing stunning, just a case of when you pull the camera back for a little wider angle, a broader picture forms out of seemingly separate or isolated incidents. Fox has never lost his teams through three generally miserable seasons, those teams consistently played hard through bad times. A handful of specific situations offer some insight into perhaps why:

The Cohen conundrum

Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains came in for scalding criticism for their recent seeming under-utilization of running back Tarik Cohen. The closest either came to laying out the real reason was a reference to concerns about the rookie’s pass-protection capabilities, no small issue against Green Bay and coordinator Dom Capers’ blitz proclivities; coaches want to see Mitch Trubisky wearing a Bears uniform, not Clay Matthews.

Cohen may be the Bears’ leading receiver, but if a back can’t present the viable option of pass protection, the offense is limited even more than it already is anyway with a rookie quarterback.

Come forward a week: Overlooked in the aftermath of the loss to Detroit, in which Cohen was not part of the hurry-up offense driving for a winning or tying score, was the fact that Cohen simply didn’t know the plays well enough in that situation. Fox didn’t say so. Neither did Loggains.

Cohen did.

Asked afterwards what he wasn’t solid with, Cohen owned it: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”

Should he have been up to a faster speed in week 10? That’s another discussion. But like it or not, his coaches were not going to be the ones to out him.

The Howard hassle

Jordan Howard finished 2016 second to only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yardage. He began the year inactive for game one and lightly used in games two and three. The reason Loggains gave from the podium was that coaches didn’t really know what they had in Howard.

Yes. They did. But Loggains didn’t cite Howard for not being in shape to carry the load the offense needed. Neither did Fox.

Howard did.

“I should’ve been in better shape,” Howard said at the outset of training camp last July. “I should’ve been playing earlier if I would’ve handled what I had to do.”

Some very effective coaches have used public embarrassment for motivation; Mike Ditka assessed that he wasn’t sure Donnell Woolford could cover anybody, and Buddy Ryan summarized that “No. 55 [Otis Wilson] killed us,” for instance.

Fox and his staff don’t do that and they’ve have taken the heat for their players, which does frustrate those tasked with accurately reporting sometimes hard information.

Medical restraint

Fox’s tenure has been awash in major injuries to pivotal players. He has made points in his locker room by shielding those players and their issues whether outsiders like it or not.

That started back with Kevin White and the infamous stress fracture that Fox was accused of knowing about and lying that he didn’t. The real situation was that medical opinions (and the Bears had gotten a bunch) were divided to the point where the Bears opted against surgery until it was conclusive that the shadow on an x-ray was indeed a fracture. Fox refused to call the injury a stress fracture with the doctors so divided, and he was pilloried for it. But not in his locker room.

The organization very much needed Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long this season for an offense that certainly wasn’t going to live on the arm of Mike Glennon. Long was testy and combative during training camp, and “honestly I’ve been champing at the bit to get back,” he conceded, “but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season.”

Small things, not necessarily connected, but as Fox’s third season winds down, what his team shows will factor into decisions on his future. The Bears right now, after the Green Bay and Detroit losses effectively ended the “hope” part of their season, are entering that dreary phase of a year when effort will be critiqued as critically as performance.

The on-field results now will say something about character, Fox’s own and the collective one he has worked to instill since January 2015.

How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

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How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

It's Thanksgiving weekend, which among other things, means the IHSA football state finals are taking place.

NBC Sports Chicago has live coverage of the finals of all eight classes and is streaming every telecast, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app.

Check out the action taking place in Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday with the Class 1A final and concluding Saturday night with the Class 8A final and a special recap edition of High School Lites following the final game. Highlights from each of the games will be available on our website throughout the weekend.

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.

Here is the full schedule for the weekend's games and broadcast coverage:

Friday, November 24

LIVE NOW: Class 1A: LENA-WINSLOW (Lena) [13-0] vs. TUSCOLA [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 2A: GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY (Gibson City) [13-0] vs. MAROA-FORSYTH (Maroa) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 3A: IC CATHOLIC (Elmhurst) [12-1] vs. PLEASANT PLAINS [10-3]

7:00 PM – Class 4A: MORRIS [11-2] vs. ROCHESTER [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our 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]

1:00 PM – Class 6A: PRAIRIE RIDGE (Crystal Lake) [13-0] vs. NAZARETH ACADEMY (LaGrange Park) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 7A: BATAVIA [12-1] vs. LAKE ZURICH [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our 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] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Further information is available at this link. Edgy Tim previewed each of the eight games here and has players to watch for the weekend.