Bulls

Bowling Green gets a steal in McAuliffe

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Bowling Green gets a steal in McAuliffe

Lemont's Ethan Pocic and Tim McAuliffe are, in the evaluation of recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, "the two best linemen on any one team in Illinois this year."

Pocic is committed to LSU, McAuliffe to Bowling Green. In football terms, that's like comparing Waikiki to Oak Street beach.

It doesn't bother McAuliffe at all. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound guard chose Bowling Green over Toledo, Western Michigan, Western Kentucky and Ball State and didn't blink.

"Bowling Green got a steal," Lemming said. "He can play center or guard. He is very athletic, strong, active and technically sound."

McAuliffe looks forward to showing a lot of major Division I recruiters that they made a mistake when evaluating him. "You get skipped over in life and you have to make the best with the hand you are dealt," he said philosophically.

"I talked to a couple of Big Ten coaches but they didn't show too much interest. They didn't like my size. It's no big deal. I wish I had a few inches more but I'm fine with what I've got."

According to Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen, that's plenty. "He is one of the toughest kids we have ever had. Division I coaches look at people's size and make projections. In my opinion, they made a mistake. He will have a great career at Bowling Green," he said.

Michaelsen said McAuliffe reminds him of former Lemont star David Molk, who was a Remington Award winner as an All-America center at Michigan. "He plays to the whistle. He is physical. He doesn't back down from any challenge," the coach said.

"I tried to sell the big schools that he is no smaller than Molk was. He could play at a higher level. He has the edge that Molk had, a mean streak."

McAuliffe and his once-beaten teammates will face their biggest challenge of the season when they host unbeaten and offense-minded Crete-Monee (12-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday in a Class 6A semifinal in Lemont.

"We're happy to be here," Michaelsen said. "I still think we can play better. We have played some good games but we haven't played our best game yet. There still are times where we bog down offensively and times where we make mistakes on defense and special teams."

Michaelsen said his senior laden team has bounced back from its lone setback, a 21-20 overtime decision to Thornton Fractional South in Week 6.

In their last six games, the Indians have outscored their opponents by a margin of 220-40. The offense is averaging 35 points per game while the defense has allowed only 99 points.

"The kids have come together as a team," Michaelsen said. "There is more closeness, more working together, more improving. We have good senior leaders and football is real important to them. They are willing to put in the work. They want to win a state title."

The senior leaders are Pocic, McAuliffe, linebacker Connor O'Brien, defensive back Jake Lemming, running back Chris Giatras and quarterback Zack Brosseau.

They remember how it felt to lose to Peoria Richwoods in double overtime in the state semifinals last year, to see their 12-game winning streak snapped. "It was devastating. We should have won. We let them off the hook.
We had many chances to win but we didn't capitalize on them," McAuliffe said.

Losing isn't something that McAuliffe and his teammates are familiar with. Lemont has lost only one game in each of the last three years while winning 34. In the last six years, the Indians are 68-9 with second-place finishes in the state playoff in 2007 and 2008.

"We definitely can win the state title this year. We have come a long way since the season began, since we began lifting weights. We had to work hard and get faster and refuse to lose. We dont want to fall short again."

McAuliffe said the loss to T.F. South was a reality check, the first regular-season loss the seniors had experienced in their varsity careers.

"It hit me hard," McAuliffe said. "So the coaches made some changes. We went to a hurry-up offense that gave us a new pace to the game. And the defense matured a lot after the loss. Our mentality now is that we are more ready to play.

"A big part of our success over the years has been to score on the first drive. We haven't done it much this year. Now we are clicking because we are ready to play. We're playing with a chip on our shoulder. We're taking practice more seriously. We want a state title more than anything. We fell short last year. We are determined not to let it happen again."

Unlike many offensive linemen, McAuliffe doesn't count pancake blocks. To him, that isn't a true measure of his skill level.

"Our goal is to keep our offense on the field and keep the opponent's offense off the field, to run the clock down, to put long drives together," he said. "The most fun I have is to pull around and block and put someone down and have the running back run behind me. I enjoy blocking, putting people on the ground and punishing them."

That is all part of his mean streak. "Mean streak means playing to the whistle, never giving up on a play, hitting people hard on every play, not backing down from anyone, taking on any challenge and not taking any crap from anyone," he said.

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”