Cubs

Treadwell begins his recruiting odyssey

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Treadwell begins his recruiting odyssey

It's time for spring break at Crete-Monee and a young man's fancy turns to...well, if your name is LaQuon Treadwell and you are one of the most highly sought wide receivers in the country, you are making recruiting trips to Michigan, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

But this is only the beginning for Treadwell, who also has received scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma State and USC. He also has heard from Florida and hopes to hear from Texas.

"When I was growing up, I liked Texas and USC. They were my dream schools," he said. "All of their players were usually in the Heisman Trophy race and playing in the Rose Bowl, guys like Vince Young and Reggie Bush. I hope to visit USC. I hope Texas will call."

Treadwell admits the recruiting process "blew my mind" after he received scholarship offers from Michigan, then Notre Dame, then 16 other major Division I schools. "I didn't think I'd get an offer from Oklahoma or Alabama or Oklahoma State or USC," he said.

"It said to me: 'I must have something they want.' I know I can get better. My speed can increase. I can be more aggressive going for the ball. I don't want to be an average player. They are saying I must be one of the best players in the country. This is motivation to work harder."

In recent weeks, with the help of Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde and offensive coordinator John Konecki, Treadwell and his mother have put together a game plan designed to be sure that he explores all of his options, asks the right questions, doesn't make any mistakes and doesn't have any regrets when he makes his final decision.

"My mom is the boss. Whatever she says goes," Treadwell said. "She wants to know about academics the most. That's the first thing she asks on our campus visits. She wants to see the academic center."

Grades have always been important to Treadwell. He is an academic qualifier. Since he was a freshman, his mother and coaches emphasized the importance of good grades.

"They told me that I had to get serious about my grades," he said. "My coaches told me to keep my grades up, that I would see why it was important when I was older. As a freshman, I didn't know what to think. But now I know why it was important to take my academics seriously."

Being an academic qualifier means he has lots of options. He can choose any school he wishes, any school that offers a scholarship, from Alabama to USC, from Michigan to Oklahoma. He isn't in a hurry to make a decision. After the 2012 season is over, he said he will choose the allotted five schools to make fully paid, official visits.

"What I have learned is recruiting is a business. You have to do what is best for yourself. You don't want to go to a school where the coach is leaving," Treadwell said.

"I ask a lot of questions that can help me (make an intelligent decision). A lot of coaches say the same things. I ask what I want to know. Where will I play? How many other receivers are on your depth chart? Who is leaving? What kind of offense are you running? What kind of quarterback will be there when I'm there?"

LaQuon and his mother want to know.

What do the college coaches see in Treadwell? The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder is a game-breaker, a difference-maker. Last season, he caught 75 passes for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns. This season, with quarterback Marcus Terrell, linebacker Nyles Morgan and several other Division I recruits returning, Crete-Monee could be one of the best teams in the state.

Treadwell said he has 4.5 speed for 40 yards but coach Jerry Verde isn't so sure. "I don't know. Coaches don't seem to care. He has good speed. He doesn't look that fast when he is running but once he turns it on he has long strides and pulls away," Verde said.

"What separates him from others is his toughness. He does all the things that you hope a No. 1 outside receiver can do. What separates him is what happens after he catches the ball. It isn't just one move or one duke and he takes off. He runs through people.

"He also takes pride in his blocking. He picked up cornerbacks and threw them last season. He also played defensive end for us. He can run stop and pass rush. He made an impact for us on defense. He could be recruited for his defense. He reminds me of Supo Sanni (former Homewood-Flossmoor star now at Illinois). There is a toughness and meanness about him that I haven't seen with a kid with that kind of athletic ability."

Verde, who was rated among the top 100 prospects in Illinois when he came out of Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights in 1995, marvels at how well Treadwell has handled the hoopla and pressure of the recruiting process.

"Today, with the Internet and blogs and twitter and texting, kid are really caught up in what they think is being famous. They are treated like rock stars on the Internet. Some kids lose their self-esteem if they don't get a lot of recognition," Verde said.

But Treadwell's mother keeps her son grounded. He listens to her. When he chooses a school, it will be his decision and his mother's, no one else. Verde, Konecki and the coaching staff provide input based on their experience with the recruiting process. But, in the end, they understand that the final decision will be made in the home.

"We are making sure that he makes the final decision the first time. That's what we have preached to him," Verde said. "We had a poor experience with another kid. We don't want LaQuon to to make a decision that he isn't 100 percent prepared to make.

"To his credit, he isn't being pressured to commit early. His mind is open now. Every time he makes a visit, he likes something about the school. He is in a unique situation. Wherever he wants to go, he can go. He doesn't have to have any regrets."

To improve his skills, his speed and his lateral movement, Treadwell works out with former Bears cornerback Mike Richardson. He also works out regularly with some of the leading prospects in the Chicago area, including running back Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic, offensive linemen Ethan Pocic of Lemont and Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis and Oklahoma-bound running back David Smith of Bremen, at the Core 6 training facility in Westmont.

Treadwell has come a long way since he played running back and quarterback as an eighth grader, then quarterback as a freshman. At one point, he thought he would play quarterback or cornerback on the varsity. But he always wanted to be a wide receiver and was pleased when coaches determined he wasn't cut out for cornerback and moved him to his favorite position.

"I like wide receiver because I'm able to run free and be in the open and make moves," he said. "I like to make someone miss, to embarrass someone out in the open."

But he thinks he must get a step closer to 4.4 to play as a freshman in college. So he has more work to do. This is no time to look at his press clippings and scholarship offers. So what if he has talked personally with coaches Brian Kelly of Notre Dame and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma? So what if he just missed a call from Alabama coach Nick Saban?

"I've got to get stronger and faster," he said. "People in college are as big as me so I have to get bigger and stronger and faster.

"I have to do what is best for me. I'm looking for a college that plays a pro-style or spread offense, a school that has a passing offense. And I'm looking for coaches who put players in the NFL, coaches who prepare their kids for the pros."

Because LaQuon and his mother want to know.

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

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USA TODAY

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

This became a three-ring circus on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon screaming at the umpires, the video board showing the replay of Curtis Granderson’s swing and the crowd of 42,195 booing and chanting “BULLS#$!!”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in command of this National League Championship Series, but the Cubs won’t go quietly into the offseason, unleashing All-Star closer Wade Davis for the final two innings of a 3-2 thriller that kept them alive for at least another night.

The Cubs can worry about the daunting task of winning three more elimination games in the morning. Once Davis forced Cody Bellinger into the double-play groundball that left Justin Turner stranded in the on-deck circle and this one ended at 11:16 p.m., he pulled at his right sleeve and buttoned the top of his jersey while waiting for the Cubs to start the high-five line. “Go Cubs Go” blasted from the stadium’s sound  system and fireworks erupted beyond the center-field scoreboard and Davis acted as if nothing had happened.

To put the idea of beating the Dodgers three times in a row in perspective, the Cubs blasted three homers and got a classic big-game performance out of Jake Arrieta and still needed Davis for a heart-stopping, high-wire act.

Maddon already ruled out Davis for Thursday night’s Game 5 after the closer fired 48 pitches – or four more than he did during last week’s seven-out save that eliminated the Washington Nationals. But at least the Cubs will have those decisions to make instead of cleaning out their lockers.

“I don’t know,” Davis said. “We’ll definitely come in tomorrow and get some treatment and go out and play catch and see how I feel.”

It looks like Davis doesn’t feel anything on the mound. Davis didn’t react to Turner chucking his bat and yelling into the visiting dugout after crushing a 94-mph fastball for a home run to begin the eighth inning. Davis didn’t seem bothered by Yasiel Puig flipping his bat after drawing a walk. And Davis never lost his composure while Maddon got ejected for the second time in four NLCS games.

Maddon flipped out at home plate umpire Jim Wolf – and really the entire crew – when what was initially called a swinging strike three on Granderson got overturned and ruled a foul tip.

“Wade doesn’t care about any of that,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s the right guy to have on the mound. With the mentality he has, he’s going to strike the guy out on the next pitch. Obviously with the replay, it’s not easy to keep your composure. But he’s just different. He’s a different animal.”

While the fans at Wrigley Field got loud and turned angry, Davis chatted with catcher Willson Contreras: “I was just trying to think of the next pitch I was going to throw if he ended up staying in the box.”

Davis got Granderson (0-for-4, four strikeouts) swinging at strike four, walked Yasmani Grandal and then blew away Chase Utley with a 95.1-mph fastball, needing 34 pitches to finish the eighth inning. Davis wasn’t finished, using a Kris Bryant bat to hit against Dodger lefty Tony Cingrani, fouling off five pitches before striking out looking at a 94.9-mph fastball.

“Yeah, I gave up there after a little bit,” Davis said with a look that sort of resembled a smile. “He was bringing it pretty good, and I hadn’t seen a baseball in a while coming in like that.”

If the Cubs are going to match the 2004 Boston Red Sox – the only other team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS format expanded to seven games in 1985 – they are going to need the offense to generate more runs, a great start from Jose Quintana on Thursday night and someone else to run out of the bullpen. Not that Davis is ruling himself out for Game 5.

“Go get some sleep and then come in tomorrow and start getting ready,” Davis said.

Jake Arrieta stars at Wrigley Field and doesn’t believe this is The End for Cubs: ‘Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye’

Jake Arrieta stars at Wrigley Field and doesn’t believe this is The End for Cubs: ‘Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye’

It’s not Jake Arrieta getting greedy and the Cubs being cheap when he holds up another jersey in a different city this winter, smiling for the cameras while super-agent Scott Boras watches the press conference unfold, marketing an ace to a new audience.

Even Arrieta admits that if he had Theo Epstein’s job, he would do the exact same thing, letting it play out until a 30-something pitcher hits the free-agent market. And Epstein wouldn’t have left the Boston Red Sox and taken over baseball operations at Clark and Addison if he didn’t believe in the need for change, to get outside the comfort zone and test yourself.

It’s just business, but this still felt very personal on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Arrieta probably making his last start in a Cubs uniform while the defending World Series champs survived an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Three straight trips to the National League Championship Series might have spoiled Cubs fans to the point where standing-room-only Game 4 tickets were selling for $60 on StubHub less than an hour before the 8:01 p.m. first pitch.

By 10:13 p.m., the crowd of 42,195 started booing when manager Joe Maddon popped out of the dugout in the seventh inning to take the ball from Arrieta after 111 pitches. It turned into a standing ovation as Arrieta walked off the mound and tipped his cap, his shaved head set against a mountain-man beard.

“Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye,” Arrieta said after a dramatic 3-2 win, surrounded by reporters at his locker. “It’s a thank you, obviously. I still intend to have another start in this ballpark.

“If that’s where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there. But we’ve won four in a row plenty of times this year. And there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”

So many times, Arrieta has been worth the price of admission, must-see TV through two no-hitters and those two World Series games he won on the road last year against the Cleveland Indians. None of this would have been possible without the Cubs finding a winning lottery ticket in that Scott Feldman flip deal with the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, 2013.

“I took a little bit of extra time in between pitches,” Arrieta said, “just to look around, foul pole to foul pole, behind home plate, just to relish it and take it in. You got the fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope. It breeds some added energy.

“I had that mindset of I’m going to do everything in my power to get it to tomorrow.”

Arrieta’s pitches dart and dive in directions that even he can’t always control, but he has guts, swing-and-miss stuff (nine strikeouts) and the ability to work through traffic. He gave up five walks, hit Chase Utley with a pitch and watched as Cody Bellinger hammered a ball off the video-board ribbon in right field for a third-inning homer.

But lefty reliever Brian Duensing backed Arrieta up with two outs and two runners on in the seventh inning, forcing Bellinger to lift a flyball into shallow left field, keeping it a 3-1 game and setting the stage for a two-inning Wade Davis save.

“Jake was amazing,” Davis said. “He was throwing Wiffle balls, it looked like. Guys were just swinging at balls that started in on the zone and finished a foot off the plate. He’s just got some amazing stuff.”

For perspective on how far this franchise has come, just look at the lineup from Arrieta’s first spot start as a Cub, the second game of a July 30, 2013 doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field:

David DeJesus, CF
Junior Lake, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Dioner Navarro, C
Luis Valbuena, 2B
Starlin Castro, SS
Cody Ransom, 3B
Cole Gillespie, RF

The Cubs actually sent Arrieta back to Triple-A Iowa for two more starts that summer, part of a mental/mechanical reset and the service-time calculus that would delay his free-agency clock by a year.

By 2015, Arrieta’s raw talent and natural confidence converged with a young, inexperienced team that caught fire in the second half, his Cy Young Award campaign fueling 97 wins and the momentum for chairman Tom Ricketts to authorize a spending spree on free agents that almost totaled $290 million.

"That was pretty special,” Maddon said. “I've never witnessed on the field that kind of consistent performance from a pitcher. It was other-worldly, right down to the wild-card game.

“My God, you pretty much knew if you scored one or two runs, you're going to win that night somehow. I don't know how this is going to look moving forward. But I know one thing, man, that one year of watching him play was different. It was a throwback to the ‘60s kind of pitching (I watched) as a kid.

“He's special – his work ethic and who he is and how he goes about his business. He's a very special young man.”

But Arrieta really isn’t in the mood to wonder if this is the end scene to this chapter of his life.

“There’s a little thought of that, yeah, because you never know,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, now that the game’s over, it’s out of sight, out of mind. The thought process for me now is to be ready if I’m needed.”