Bulls

Benet's Beneventi: Stanford's next great QB?

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Benet's Beneventi: Stanford's next great QB?

Baseball players dream about hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the World Series.

Basketball players dream about making a game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the NCAA or NBA championship.

And quarterbacks dream of completing a pass for the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining.

Jack Beneventi knows the feeling.

"Personally, that is the dream that every quarterback has," said Benet's 6-foot-6, 190-pound sophomore quarterback. "But the biggest dream I have is to take my team Downstate, to win the state title."

In last Saturday's heart-stopping 26-24 victory over Downers Grove North in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A playoff, Beneventi guided Benet on a 65-yard scoring drive with 1:24 to play.

Without the benefit of any timeouts, he completed 13-yard pass on fourth-and-five to Jack Toner at the five with four seconds left, then hit Toner in the back of the end zone to overcome a four-point deficit.

"I was trying to stay calm and make sure my teammates were calm and able to work quickly," said Beneventi, who completed 26 of 42 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. "We had to get to the line and drive down the field and not have to make a desperation play."

In his first year on the varsity, Beneventi, who turned 16 on Nov. 6, has converted a 1-8 team that scored only 46 points a year ago into an 11-1 state semifinalist. Benet will host top-ranked Lincoln-Way East (12-0) on Saturday in Lisle.

"I hate the word moxie. It bugs me. It is overused by the media," Benet coach Pat New said. "But that's what he's got. Other coaches say he has 'it,' the ability to win games. That is such a great quality for a quarterback. He has arm strength but the ability to win games is what makes him a valuable asset.

"Against Downers Grove North, he never panicked. He kept throwing the ball...no timeouts, 65 yards, 1:24 to play. It is remarkable that he has such poise and confidence for such a young guy. Success hasn't gone to his head. He maintains his humility."

Beneventi's reputation will soar to another level if he leads Benet past Lincoln-Way East. He has what it takes. In 11 games, he has completed 178 of 263 passes or 68 percent for 2,258 yards and 20 touchdowns. And the Redwings have a running threat in junior Porter Ontko.

"Lincoln-Way East is the best team we have played all year," New said. "Just look at their record. It speaks for itself. They have great team speed. What makes them dangerous is their quarterback (Northern Illinois-bound Tom Fuessel). He can beat you with his arm or feet. Our defense is good but we have to score points if we expect to play with them."

Beneventi began playing basketball and football in third grade. Because he was taller than most of his classmates, basketball was his primary sport. As he got older, however, he fell in love with football.

"I like having the weight on my shoulders, the pressure to make plays, knowing you can't make turnovers, that you have to make completions. I like that challenge," he said.

As a seventh grader, playing for the Glen Ellyn Golden Eagles, he got a good education in quarterbacking from coach Mark Kramer. "He had 100 plays in our playbook. He challenged me on different reads and pass routes. I give him credit for teaching me a lot and challenging me at a young age," Beneventi said.

He chose Benet over perennial football power Glenbard West because he felt it would be more academically challenging and he wanted to play for Pat New, Benet's new coach. But even he didn't expect to turn the program from 1-8 to 11-1 in one season.

"It is shocking to have the season we are having," he said. "But everybody worked so hard in the off-season. They were so determined, you could feel something very special was going to happen. All the seniors made it clear that they were embarrassed by 1-8. They wouldn't be 1-8 again.

"Being 11-1 is a great season for any team. For this team, it is very, very special. We have guys who make plays at every position. We don't have a lot of size but every player plays hard and makes plays for us."

It has been a surprising season for Beneventi, too. Last year, he was listed at 6-foot-5 and 150 pounds. In the off-season, he gained 40 pounds by lifting weights and boosting his calorie intake with protein shakes and consuming peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He hopes to weigh 215 as a junior.

He never ceases to improve his skills. He has worked with noted quarterback guru Jeff Christensen since seventh grade. He has polished his throwing mechanics and improved his ability to read defenses and gotten a step or two faster.

But nothing can change the fact that Beneventi is a conventional pro-style, dropback, pocket passer, not a dual threat quarterback in a spread offense.

Although his mind is focused on Lincoln-Way East and the remainder of his high school career, it isn't too early to be thinking about lies ahead at the next level. "Option schools, where quarterbacks run with the ball, wouldn't interest me. Stanford is my dream school. I love their pro-style offense. Andrew Luck is my idol. Tom Brady, too," he said.

Although he hasn't heard from Stanford coach David Shaw, Beneventi is planning to attend Stanford's camp this summer. "I want to show them what I can do," he said.

Can Beneventi be Stanford's next great quarterback? The list is long and distinguished...Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Bobby Garrett, Don Bunce, Mike Boryla, Guy Benjamin, Steve Dils, Turk Schonert, Jim Plunkett, John Elway and Andrew Luck.

"Notre Dame is very interested. Jack went to their camp last summer. Illinois called. And Northwestern is interested," New said. "After this season, we'll have a better idea of where he stands. He is the kind of kid who could get caught up with the Notre Dame mystique.

"But Brian Kelly's offense isn't what he is running here. He is more of a pro-style quarterback like Alabama or Georgia. Jack provides me with the best chance of meeting my favorite coach, Alabama's Nick Saban. I'm waiting for that call."

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: "There's no fear"

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: "There's no fear"

The Chicago sunlight followed Jabari Parker as he walked through the East Atrium doors of the United Center, facing Michael Jordan’s statue before meeting with the media, introduced as a Chicago Bull for the first time.


For his sake, the brighter days are ahead instead of to his back as he’ll challenge the perception of being the hometown kid who can’t outrun his own shadow.


Parker re-enters Chicago as the No. 2 pick in the draft that the Milwaukee Bucks allowed to walk without compensation despite holding the cards through restricted free agency, damaged goods on the floor but not giving the Bulls a discount to don that white, red and black jersey he’s always dreamed of wearing.


“There were other teams but as soon as I heard Chicago, I just jumped on it,” Parker said.


It took a two-year, $40 million deal (2019-20 team option) to get Parker home, along with the selling point that he’ll start at small forward—a position that’s tough to envision him playing with on the defensive end considering three of the game’s top six scorers occupy that space.
It was a dream come true for his father, Sonny Parker, and high school coach, Simeon Academy’s Robert Smith, who both couldn’t hide their joy following the first question-and-answer session with the media.


“This is where he wanted to be,” Sonny Parker said. “His family’s happy, the support is there. All I know is the United Center will sell out every game. He can’t wait.”


“Normally guys get drafted here. He signed to come here. He had a couple offers from other teams but he wanted to come here.”


The biggest examples of Chicagoans who arrived with outsized expectations for this franchise had varying results, but Derrick Rose and Eddy Curry both came away with scars of sorts that had many wondering why any hometown product would willingly choose to play for the Bulls.


The risk seems to far outweigh the reward; the emotional toll doesn’t seem worth the fare. And with the roster makeup not being ideal for Parker, no one could blame him for going to a better situation—or at least one more tailored to his skills rather than his heart.
“I think every situation is different. Derrick was excelling,” Bulls executive vice-president John Paxson said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “MVP of the league in his hometown before the injury. Eddy was just a young kid who didn’t have the savvy Derrick had. I think every situation is different. Jabari is such a grounded, solid person that he’s gonna be just fine.”


“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with him to figure out he’s got it together. He knows who he is. Comfortable in his own skin. A quiet guy. Hopefully he’ll thrive here. The goal is it works great for him and works great for us.”


It seemed like he was bred to be a pro—and not just any pro, but the type Chicago demands of its own when a covenant to play 82 nights a year has been reached. If the constant prodding from his father didn’t break his façade, or older brother Darryl doing everything he could to coax emotion from the most gifted of the Parker clan couldn’t do it, two ACL surgeries on his left knee may pale in comparison.


The numbers from Parker’s recent stint with the Bucks don’t bear it out, but Smith sees a player who’s back on track to being what his talent has always dictated he should become.


“Even watching him work out lately, it’s like whoa,” Smith said. “But of course, everything with Chicago period you have to be cautious. With his family and the support system he has, this thing is about winning basketball games and giving back to the community.”


“He’s had that (target) on his back since he stepped on the court at Simeon, coming behind Derrick and being one of the top five players as a freshman and No. 1 player as a junior. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, it can help him a little bit. If he has those moments if something doesn’t go right, he has someone to help him.”


Parker is more known for his restarts than his unique skill set in his young career, but even at 23 years old speaks with a sage of someone 20 years his senior, unwilling to tab this portion of his journey as a fresh start.


After all, it would be easy to envision his career beginning from the moment he left Simeon as a phenom followed by his one season at Duke—having two games where he totaled just 24 minutes with just two points to start the Bucks’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics isn’t typical of a star’s story if he sees himself that way.


“I don’t. I don’t want to forget all the hard work I had,” Parker said. “To forget I hurt myself and came back is to discredit my success. That in of itself is something outside the norm. I want to always remember the setbacks and failures I’ve had in my career so far. I want to use that as a sense of motivation.”


Bringing up his awkward pro beginnings in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascension to an unexpected strata mirrored thoughts he might’ve had of himself before his injuries, didn’t cause him to growl.


“I’ve never got jealous a day in my life. That’s why it wasn’t hard because I wasn’t jealous,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “My journey is my journey. I gotta be proud of that and be patient. I took that and I move forward.”


The mention of his defense didn’t make him defensive, either, as he definitively pointed out the truth as he saw it, that today’s game is far more offensive-minded than the bruise-fests of the previous decades. Telling by his words in subsequent interviews, the best defense is a great offense and when he’s right, there aren’t many who can get a bucket as easily and with as much diversity as himself.


The only time Parker broke serve was at the notion he’d be following in the footsteps of Rose’s perceived failures, the setbacks Rose suffered when his knees began to fail after reaching inspiring heights players like Parker wanted to emulate.


At the podium for all to see, he corrected a question formed around Rose’s “rise and fall”, a sound byte copied and pasted by a couple Chicago-bred NBA players on social media in support of Parker’s words and feelings.


“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. He still maintained. Derrick’s a legend, no matter what…no rise and falls. Injuries are part of life. Derrick is one of the best icons in Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”


And later, he wanted to set the record straight again, drawing a line from how the media has presented Rose compared to how the people of Chicago see him, and vice-versa.


“We didn’t turn on Derrick, the media (did),” Parker told NBCSportsChicago.com. “We’re hometown. I speak for everybody, we love our hometown.”


The love of Chicago meant more than the prospect of not being able to live up to a glorious prep past, even though he should be well aware wanderlust can turn to villainy in a heartbeat—or the wrong step.


“There’s no pressure for me,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “I’m just happy I get to play with some young guys, and I don’t harp on the negative. Anybody and everybody is gonna have an opinion. I value more my dreams than their opinions.”


And the dreamer steps forward, with a confident gait, eyes wide open and a city hoping it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes of its past.


“There’s no fear,” Parker said. “I haven’t faced any other pressure than bouncing back. I’m back on my feet and moving on.”


“When you struggle more, you succeed more.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: With Jabari Parker in the mix, are the Bulls playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: With Jabari Parker in the mix, are the Bulls playoff contenders?

David Haugh, Patrick Finley and KC Johnson join Kap on the panel. Jabari Parker is officially a Chicago Bull. So does that make the Bulls a playoff team? And who will play defense for Fred Hoiberg’s young team? Vincent Goodwill and Mark Schanowski drop by to discuss.

Plus with Manny Machado now a Dodger, are the Cubs no longer the best team in the NL?

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: