Blackhawks

Where will Jabari go? What will he do?

698758.png

Where will Jabari go? What will he do?

Simeon's Jabari Parker wants to win an NCAA championship.To do that, logic says, the best high school basketball player in the nation will have to attend either Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina or Michigan State to have the best chance in what figures to be his one-and-only year in college before opting for the NBA draft.Makes sense, doesn't it?Simeon coach Robert Smith isn't so sure. He offers another spin on the "Where will Jabari go?" scenario that surely will be a major subject of debate on many college websites in the next several months."You never know. Jabari is a different kid," Smith said. "His recruitment is wide open. He hasn't narrowed down (his list of schools). But he does want to win a national title. And he is looking at schools that have a capability to win a national title."It is speculated that Parker will follow the path taken by other celebrated players who spent only one year in college before declaring for the NBA draft; Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. Of that illustrious group, only Anthony and Davis won NCAA titles."But remember, Harrison Barnes came back for a second year. So did Jared Sullinger," Smith said. "Jabari fits their mold as well as Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis. I never would be able to say that's what he is going to do. We'll have to sit back and watch."Smith said that at some date in May or June, he will sit down with Jabari and his parents to narrow the list of schools. After the youngster makes some more unofficial campus visits this summer, Smith predicts that the nation's top-rated player will make a decision in the fall prior to his senior season.Smith, who closely observed the recruiting of Derrick Rose, marvels at how well Parker has handled his celebrity. One long-time observer of high school sports in the Chicago area said the only other athlete who handled the pressure and hoopla so well was former Thornridge star Quinn Buckner."It couldn't be me," Smith said. "I would have cracked by now if it was me. There are so many things he has to uphold at such a young age. He is mature. But his home situation is so great. His father (former NBA player Sonny Parker) has been through it. And his mother wants him to stay humble and realize that basketball can be taken away at any time."Jabari realizes he has to respect the game, that when the ball stops bouncing, he must have something else to fall back on. Now he is looking forward to the challenge of next season. He already is talking about it. It will be his team. He must be more of a leader, more vocal. He is up for the challenge. It is his turn. He wants to lead us to a fourth state title in a row."Choosing a college might be more difficult for Parker than winning a fourth state title in a row and repeating as Illinois' Mr. Basketball.He is said to adore Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. But his mother is overly impressed with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. And his father admires North Carolina coach Roy Williams.But what about the KentuckyNikeJohn Calipari influence? How can you ignore their recent track record of success? And what if, as one veteran observer of the recruiting wars speculates, Nike offers Sonny Parker a prestigious position in the giant shoe company's hierarchy?In some respects, longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye agree with Smith that Jabari is different from a majority of highly touted recruits."Like Rose, he is a very humble, quiet, respectful kid, not full of himself. Yet he is quietly confident and aggressive," the Schmidt brothers said. "But he prefers to let others get involved and ease his pressure. He knows when to take over."His passion for the game and his work ethic are unrivaled. He will put in the hours working on the little things that most people do not notice, including mechanics on his shot and ball-handling. He was born as a team player with the inside knowledge of the team aspects of the game that just cannot be taught."While it can be argued, as Smith insists, that Parker is better than Rose at the same stage of their careers, that Parker is a better all-around and more versatile player, other critics claim he has a way to go before he can be rated ahead of Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis as high school seniors.

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

1121_artem_anisimov.jpg
USA TODAY

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

Artem Anisimov wasn’t happy with his October.

The Blackhawks center struggled the first month of the season. Maybe it was adjusting to new line mates after being with the same two for two seasons. Maybe it was just a slow start. Maybe it was more than that. Regardless, Anisimov was frustrated. So as October turned to November, Anisimov told Patrick Sharp that he was going to get back on track.

“He’s scoring lots of goals and he said he was going to in the month of November,” Sharp recalled. “So he’s backing it up.”

Anisimov is doing that, recording five goals in his last three games including a hat trick against his former team, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. Since November’s start, Anisimov has seven goals.

“My start of the season was not great,” Anisimov said. “But I keep working hard and be focused and say, ‘OK, November. I’m going to step up in November and forward.’”

When told of Anisimov’s prediction to Sharp, coach Joel Quenneville said, “well, now he set a precedent. We’ll have to look for it every month now.

“Quite a standard he was looking to achieve and got off to a great start here,” Quenneville said. “When Arty’s at the net he makes good plays, takes it to the net, draws some traffic to him and opens up other lanes behind him. I still think he has a purpose defensively, which he can add to that line.”

Anisimov’s resurgence coincides with the Blackhawks doing the same thing; after an up-and-down start, both are finding their rhythm again. For the Blackhawks it could be finding some line chemistry. For Anisimov it might be the same thing; he and Kane have been back together since Nov. 12, and those two and Nick Schmaltz have combined for a dynamic second line.

Or is it that mustache that Anisimov’s growing for Movember?

“I thought when you were saying what you were saying (about Anisimov’s vow), he made that statement when he got Kaner back on his line. But I think it was right when he shaved his beard into a mustache. That’s when he took off,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “So that’s the biggest correlation right there.”

OK, teaming up with Kane again probably looms larger. The two have had great chemistry dating back to the 2015-16 season, when they first teamed with Artemi Panarin. Kane’s puck possession helps free Anisimov up to do his work at the net, and he’s been capitalizing there.

“He’s had a great month. He’s just one of those guys who gets to the front of the net and finds ways to be productive,” Kane said. “Maybe seven or eight games ago people were talking about how he was struggling and now he’s having a great start to the season. It shows how a few games can change that but he’s been great for us, not only scoring a lot of goals but a lot of big goals to get some wins.”

Still, hockey players are a superstitious lot. Players have ribbed Anisimov about the mustache — “I asked him to serve me a sparkling water on the airplane because he looks like a waiter in France or something,” Sharp said. But considering Anisimov’s mustache and the points sprouted at the same time, they’re now imploring Anisimov to keep it.

“Yep,” Anisimov said with a grin. “That’s true.”

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

The first week of the preseason Preps Power Rankings is always difficult to assess. There are plenty of teams who just missed the cut of the initial top 25. Below are a group of talented teams who should do enough to make their way into the Power Rankings at some point during the season.

Most of these teams have experience and star power, so watch for them in the next few weeks to see if they have strong starts to the season. 

DePaul Prep -- The Rams remain one of the major threats in the Catholic League this season as they return plenty of talent from a sectional finals team. Junior guard Perry Cowan and junior big man Pavle Pantovic make up a very solid one-two punch and sophomore guard Lance Mosley had some flashes of strong play during the summer. Seniors Spencer Cody and Anthony Papaioanou are steady contributors as well. The move up to Class 3A will be something to watch for with this team. Since the local Class 2A draw features Orr and Uplift, DePaul Prep might actually have an easier state tournament draw in the higher class.

St. Joseph -- There isn't one true star for the Chargers this season. Head coach Gene Pingatore has a lot of balance and experience but finding a go-to player could be the difference for St. Joseph this season. Senior Ahmad Muhammad will be asked to do a lot with the ball. Other returning seniors like Jalen and Jordan Boyd and Joffari Brown also have plenty of varsity experience. Losing junior point guard Marquise Walker to Curie definitely hurts. But not many teams in the state have four seniors who have already played in Peoria.

Geneva -- It was tough to leave the Vikings out of the preseason Power Rankings as they once again look like a major factor in the Upstate Eight River this season. New head coach Scott Hennig, a former assistant at Geneva, takes over for Phil Ralston (Glenbrook South) as he inherits a solid group of talent. Junior point guard Jack McDonald is an All-Area threat after a standout sophomore season. Another junior, guard Mitch Mascari, was one of the area's best three-point shooters last season. And Geneva also returns plenty of size, including 6-foot-6 senior Will Courter and promising 6-foot-7 sophomore Nate Santos. With the right blend of size and perimeter firepower, Geneva is a team to keep an eye on.

St. Viator -- Making the leap up to Class 4A this season, the Lions return some talented players from a team that made a surprising postseason run last season. St. Viator returns a Division I prospect in talented junior forward Jeremiah Hernandez while senior forward Peter Lambesis is also back. Finding stability at point guard could be the key to this season for the Lions as they have to replace J.R. Cison, who transferred to Lake Zurich. If junior Trey Calvin can step up, then St. Viator shouldn't miss much of a beat. The Lions already started the season with a solid win over Libertyville.

New Trier -- The most intriguing part about New Trier this season is the size on the interior as two junior big men have college aspirations. Ciaran Brayboy, a 6-foot-9 big man and Spencer Boehm a 6-foot-7 forward create one of the area's more talented frontcourts for the Trevians. The frontcourt is a plus and the backcourt, a senior-laden group, is also better and more experienced than last season. New Trier should crack the top 25 at some point this season.