Bulls

Wheaton Warrenville South reloads for 2012

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Wheaton Warrenville South reloads for 2012

Looking to get a preview of the 2012 high school football season in Illinois?

Circle Wednesday, June 27, on your calendar. That's when Wheaton Warrenville South will host the 16-team Red Grange Classic, a 7-on-7 competition that will feature most of the top-rated programs in the state in Class 7A and 8A.

The participants are Wheaton Warrenville South, Montini, Bolingbrook, Maine South, Glenbard West, East St. Louis, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Wheaton North, Batavia, Elk Grove, Lincoln-Way East, Simeon, Hubbard, New Trier and Lyons.

The winner will qualify for the national 7-on-7 tournament in Hoover, Alabama, in July. Last year, Maine South defeated Montini in the inaugural event that featured eight teams.

In addition, while some of the state's leading passers, receivers and defensive backs will engage in 22-minute contests, the linemen will compete in an eight-event challenge. The 16 schools will participate in a 7-on-7 competition at Wheaton North at the sophomore level.

"Nationally, 7-on-7 is becoming a big thing competitively," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch said, noting that Illinois-bound Aaron Bailey of defending Class 8A champion Bolingbrook and Northwestern-bound Matt Alviti of Maine South will be two of the highly rated quarterbacks who will be showcased at the June 27 event. "It is good to teach the passing game and pass defense."

It will give Muhitch an opportunity to begin evaluating his stable of quarterback candidates to see if he has another Reilly O'Toole in the making. They are senior-to-be Don McKee and juniors-to-be Ryan Graham, Alex Wills, Barrett Davis and Casey Paraday, a transfer from Springdale, Arkansas.

Last year, Muhitch's quarterback corps was riddled with injuries and he was forced to bring up a sophomore to start in the state championship game. After an 0-2 start, losing to highly rated Glenbard West and Maine South, WW South rallied to finish 10-4, losing to unbeaten Rockford Boylan in the Class 7A final.

He has a knack for filling in the blanks, solving problems and finding the right players to fit into the right positions. In 10 years, he has won 84 percent (106-21) of his games. The Tigers won state titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010 and finished second in 2007 and 2011. In the last seven years, they have lost only nine games, four last year.

Muhitch expects more of the same in 2012. He returns his entire offensive line, including 6-foot-4, 265-pound tackle Frank Garcia, 6-foot-5, 250-pound tackle Kyle Joyce and 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end Brian Welch. "When I have that, life is good. The group has been together for two years. I see some good things," the coach said.

"The key is this summer we will do a lot of soul-searching to find kids for right spots. We need to find a running back (to replace Northwestern-bound Dan Vitale) and a quarterback and complementary receivers."

Muhitch doesn't plan to change his multiple offense. Once again, he will spread the field. Last year, he gave the ball to Vitale. This year, he will give the ball to senior-to-be Brandan Adams, who didn't play much last season, or 6-foot-3, 210-pound Josh Wilson, who played at Mount Carmel as a freshman and Downers Grove North as a sophomore.

The defense needs a complete overhaul. Muhitch already has shifted some offensive players to fill holes in the defense. Hollis Henry, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, has moved from left guard to rush end. Muhitch is optimistic about 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive lineman Dan Chism, who saw little playing time last year because of a knee injury, and safety Kevin Giltz. But he is looking for linebackers.

WW South's best player and best athlete is wide receiver Corey Davis, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder whose brother Titus came on strong as a senior and was Rookie of the Year in the Mid-American Conference last year at Central Michigan. Muhitch predicts the same storyline for Corey, who also returns punts and kickoffs.

"Corey should be one of the best players in the class of 2013, one of the best receivers in the Chicago area," Muhitch said. "He has been an up-and-coming athlete for the last two years. Nobody knew much about his brother but he had a great senior year for us. I see the same storyline for Corey."

Another good storyline is kicker Jesse Padalik, who follows in a line of former WW South stars Dan Conroy (Michigan State), Nick Campos (Indiana) and Nick Immekus (Illinois). "He is as good a kicker as Conroy and as good a punter as Campos," Muhitch said.

But the schedule hasn't changed. WW South opens at Glenbard West, then hosts Maine South in Week 2. It won't be easy, of course, but Muhitch is hoping to improve on last year's 0-2 start.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.