White Sox

Three-peat for Montini girls

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Three-peat for Montini girls

By Phil Brozynski
YourSeason.com
NORMAL, Ill. Teutopolis. Bolingbrook. And now, Montini.The girls basketball powerhouse from the western suburbs joined some elite company in the IHSA Class 3A championship game Saturday at Redbird Arena. By defeating Vernon Hills 56-38, Montini became just the third school in history to win three consecutive state titles.And like Teutopolis (1988-90) and Bolingbrook (Class 4A, 2009-11) before it, Montinis third straight title was never in doubt.The Broncos held Vernon Hills scoreless from the field in the first half, building a 22-3 lead three minutes into the second quarter. Kateri Stones jumper at the buzzer her third field goal of the first half gave the Broncos a 31-10 lead at the half.It was nice to make a couple of shots early, especially since I started 0 for 12 yesterday, said Stone, one of four Broncos in double figures with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field.Montini then withstood the Cougars 14-7 run to open the second half, and extended the lead to as many as 26 points early in the fourth quarter. Stones three-pointer with 1:40 left in the third quarter put the brakes on Vernon Hills run and gave Montini an insurmountable 41-24 advantage.Montini coach Jason Nichols was flabbergasted by his teams performance this weekend, and to a large extent, this season. Im kind of speechless about it, Nichols said. To sit here and actually think were a state champwow, and thats a credit to these girls. Last nights win was so big, and then coming back and just come out with that start and that energy, it was huge.This ones pretty special because nobody really thought wed be back here, and at times I was one of them. I would never tell them that, but as a coaching staff a couple times we said. Lets get down there, see what happens, get some experience and blah, blah, blah. Stone, on the other hand, was one of those who never doubted Montini would hoist its third straight championship trophy.We worked so hard as a team and weve grown over the whole season, she said. We did have some shaky moments this season, but I think we grew together from the losses and from the struggles. We grew together so by now we could help each other and come out with a big win.Sophomore Jasmine Lumpkin led Montini with 14 points Saturday. Senior Tianna Brown had 13 points and junior Nikia Edom added 10 points and four assists.This means a lot because a lot of people didnt think wed make it down here or win, Brown said. So to come down here and win, its big. Its a great feeling.Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner was feeling better after his team came out in the second half and played like the team that defeated top-ranked Springfield in Fridays semifinal.I wasnt anticipating shooting 0-for-15 in the first half, he said. Their defense is good, but we missed some shots we typically hit, and if that was the case I would think wed be more confident and play a little better in the first half. Then our work in the second half might not have been for naught.Sophomore Sydney Smith led Vernon Hills with 17 points, including two long three-pointers to ignite the early second-half rally. Sophomore Lauren Webb added 13 points, all from the free-throw line on 14 attempts, and 6-2 junior Meri Bennett-Swanson added five points and three rebounds.With only three starters and four players overall from both sides graduating this spring, nobody would be surprised to see the same two teams in Normal in 2013.Some of our bigger scorers were young, Brettner said. It will be difficult to replace seniors Abby Springer and Julie Pecht. They brought a lot of intangibles and things on the court. But when this is all said and done, Ill start looking forward to next year.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.