Bears

Who are the future Hall of Famers?

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Who are the future Hall of Famers?

The inaugural class for the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville was inducted in November in a gala ceremony in the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

The class included 30 players from the pre-1960 era, 20 from the post-1960 era and 10 women.

Among the honorees present were La Grange's Ted Caiazza, Du Sable's Sweet Charlie Brown, Mount Vernon's Max Hooper, Proviso East's Jim Brewer, Champaign's Ted Beach, Lawrenceville's Jay Shidler, Canton's Dave Downey, West Aurora's Bill Small, West Rockford's Nolden Gentry, Springfield's Dave Robisch, Peoria Manual's Howard Nathan, Marshall's George Wilson, Marshall's Janet Harris and Kim Williams, Benton's Rich Yunkus and Tamms' Chico Vaughn.

So who will be in the second class of inductees? Who just missed the first time around? Who is most deserving? And how many should be inducted? Ten in the pre-1960 era, 10 in the post-1960 era and five women? Five in each category?

The board of directors and the selection committee agreed that the inaugural class should be inclusive while also being exclusive, not too many. After all, major league baseball's Hall of Fame enshrined only five players in its first class in 1936 -- Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. That's elusive.

In the pre-1960 era, leading candidates are Elgin's Flynn Robinson and Don Sunderlage, Princeton's Joe Ruklick, South Shore's Jake Fendley, Taylorville's Billy Ridley, Galva's Rich Falk, Champaign's Rod Fletcher, Mount Vernon's Junior Kirk, Galesburg's Bumpy Nixon, Fenger's Sammy Esposito, Carrier Mills' Catfish Rollins, Rock Island's Richard Litt, Paris'
Dick Foley, Moline's Whitey Verstraete, Herrin's John Tidwell, Peoria's Hiles Stout, Dunbar's Bernie Mills, Crane's Tim Robinson, Bloom's Homer Thurman, Wells' Abe Booker and Mount Carmel's Jack Stephens.

In the post-1960 era, leading candidates are St. Anne's Jack Sikma, Eldorado's Mike Duff, West Aurora's Kenny Battle, Thornton's Lloyd Batts and LaMarr Thomas, Westinghouse's Kiwane Garris, Hersey Hawkins and Eddie Johnson, Hirsch's Rickey Green, La Grange's Owen Brown and Marcus Washington, Fenwick's Corey Maggette, Manley's Russell Cross, Marshall's Rich Bradshaw, Galesburg's Dale Kelley and Joey Range, Hales Franciscan's Sam Puckett, Simeon's Deon Thomas, Vocational's Juwan Howard, Rockford East's Skip Thoren, East St. Louis' Darius Miles, Madison's Don Freeman, King's Rashard Griffith, Carver's Terry Cummings, Farragut's Ronnie Fields, St. Francis de Sales' Eric Anderson, Peoria Manual's Frank Williams, Gordon Tech's Tom Kleinschmidt, Providence's Walter Downing, Jacksonville's Andy Kaufmann, Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson and Moline's Steve Kuberski.

And what about Dwyane Wade? A Richards graduate of 2000, the NBA all-star is eligible. So is Eddy Curry, a Thornwood graduate of 2001 and an NBA lottery pick. Players aren't eligible to be considered for Hall of Fame recognition until 10 years after they graduate from high school.

How would you like to pick five players from that elite group?

Leading women candidates are Marshall's Jennifer Jones, Maria Christian, Kim McQuarter and Toni Foster, Phillips' Shirley Joiner, Maine West's Nancy Kennelly, Sandburg's Sarah Kustok, Whitney Young's Natasha Pointer and Cappie Pondexter, Downers Grove North's Terri Zemaitis and Immaculate Heart of Mary's Michele Savage.

Obviously, the selection committee's job will be no less difficult in choosing the second class of inductees than it was in paring down the list for the inaugural class.

If that isn't tough enough, many basketball fans from throughout the state are nominating players who previously were flying under the radar but certainly have the credentials to warrant serious consideration.

The names include Reggie Murray of Cregier, Perry Barclift of Quincy, Roger Powell of Joliet Central, Billy Lewis of Farragut, Doug Collins of Benton, Bo Ellis of Parker, Bob Guyette of Ottawa Marquette, Lynch Conway of Peoria, Doug Altenberger of Peoria Richwoods, Dean Ehlers of Trico-Campbell Hill and Scott Steagall of Stewardson.

According to veteran Quincy historian Tom Oakley, Barclift rates behind only Bruce Brothers as the top Quincy product in the pre-1960s era, ahead of Bill Kurz of Quincy Notre Dame and Gary Phillips of Quincy. Barclift led the Blue Devils to the 1934 state championship, beating Lou Boudreau and Thornton. He scored 22 points in the state final, then a tournament record. He was a charter member of the Quincy Sports Hall of Fame.

While Oakley strongly supports the candidacy of Barclift and Michael Payne of Quincy's great 1981 team, he admits his personal favorite is Quincy's Larry Moore, who averaged 27.5 points in four tournament games in 1972.

"I personally feel Larry was the most exciting of all Quincy players, particularly from an offensive standpoint," Oakley said. "He was the Pete Maravich of Quincy High and set records that may never be broken. In his senior year, he scored 910 points and averaged 27.6 per game. This was before the three-point shot which, had it been in effect, would have dramatically increased his scoring totals."

A Hall of Fame without a representative from Galesburg? Longtime Galesburg sportswriters Mike Trueblood and Jay Redfern rate Bumpy Nixon (1959), Joey Range (1998) and Dale Kelley (1966) at the top of the list. Galesburg coach John Thiel said Nixon was the best player he ever produced. And veteran coaches Jerry Leggett, Duncan Reid and Frank Dexter said Range was among the top five players in the history of the Western Big Six Conference.

"From my research on Lynch Conway (who scored 22 points while leading Peoria to the first state championship in 1908), I suspect he might be one of the few folks from a century ago with the athletic ability to adjusttranslate to the skills necessary in today's game," said retired Peoria sportswriter Bob Leavitt.

Bruce Parmenter cited Scott Steagall of Stewardson, who played in 1947. "I played against him twice. He scored 27 in one game and 39 in the other. He was one of the first jump shooters and the best on the dribble-drive that I ever saw. He was an All-American at Millikin University and led the nation in scoring in his senior year, averaging over 30 per game," he said.

While Steagall had impressive credentials, he didn't earn All-State recognition in 1947. Dean Ehlers of Trico-Campbell Hill did. He led the state in scoring as a senior with 920 points, including games of 54, 60 and 63 points. He scored over 2,000 points in his career.

Longtime coach, scout and recruiting analyst Bill "Flash" Flanagan of Bloomington cited a host of post-1960s players whom he believes are worthy of Hall of Fame recognition. No. 1 on his list is Roger Powell of Joliet Central, a three-time All-Stater who led his team to third place in the 1970 state tournament as a sophomore and was the leading scorer in the state finals.

"Can you imagine if they would have had the three-point shot when he played?" Flanagan said.

His list also includes Billy Lewis of Farragut, Doug Collins of Benton, Jeff Wilkins of Elgin, Bo Ellis of Parker, Bob Guyette of Ottawa Marquette, Corey Maggette of Fenwick and Terry Cummings of Carver.

Collins is an interesting case. He didn't receive All-State recognition while playing at Benton. Between his junior year at Benton and his freshman year at Illinois State, he grew six inches but still retained his guard skills. As a sophomore, he was a first-team All-American. As a senior, he was the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NBA draft. And he was as standout on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team.

"There are a couple of other reasons why I would give Doug heavy consideration for the Hall of Fame," Flanagan said. "He has always been very generous in giving to good causes when it comes to the world of sports. Just ask Illinois State about that."

Guyette is often overlooked because he chose to play at Kentucky. The 6-8 center was a high school All-America at tiny Ottawa Marquette in 1971 but still took his team to the No. 9 ranking in the state at the end of the regular season -- a year before the two-class system was adopted.

"One night when I was representing Eastern Carolina," Flanagan recalled, "I was scouting Guyette in Ottawa along with Adolph Rupp (Kentucky), Sam Miranda (Kansas), Sam Esposito (North Carolina State) and Harv Schmidt (Illinois), just to name a few. As we know, Rupp got his man. And Guyette went on to have a great career at Kentucky. He was a big boy who could really play."

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?