Bears

Can Bogan beat Simeon in the Red-South?

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Can Bogan beat Simeon in the Red-South?

Circle this date on your calendar: Jan. 25.

Bogan at Simeon. Showdown in the Public League's Red-South. The nation's top-ranked team against...well, how good is Bogan?

"This is my best team," said Bogan coach Arthur Goodwin. "We're not big but we've played together for four years. We are well-disciplined, fast and play hard-nosed man-to-man defense. We have seven good players, including four Division I players."

Bogan was 20-7 in Goodwin's first year, 19-8 in his second, including a 69-60 loss to Simeon. After Wednesday's 66-42 victory over Du Sable, the Bengals are 5-0 and rated among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area. They'll meet Rockford Guilford on Saturday at the Peoria Shootout.

"The key to our success is doing fundamental things right, make the extra pass, play tough defense, box out," Goodwin said. "And we need Buckner to control the team and be the leader."

Buckner is Ronnell Buckner, a 5-foot-10 senior whom Goodwin claims is one of the top five point guards in the state. A three-year starter, he averages nine points and four steals per game. He also carries a 4.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. He wants to be an optometrist. At the daily team study hall, he tutors other players.

"He is flying under the radar now," said Goodwin, pointing out that Buckner has scholarship offers from Southeast Louisiana and Davenport University in Iowa, an NAIA school.

Buckner played football until fifth grade. Then a friend showed him a promotional card that informed him that Michigan State star Shannon Brown and Illinois star Dee Brown would be at Foster Park Fieldhouse for a tryout for 12-year-old small fry.

"They inspired me to play basketball," Buckner said. "Football was too physical for me. I stopped playing football and began to concentrate on basketball."

His role is to demonstrate his leadership, control the team, be a coach on the floor. "I prefer passing to shooting. I make the next play look good. And I also enjoy stealing the ball and playing defense," he said.

Buckner leaves the scoring to 6-foot-3 senior DeVaughn Johnson (12 ppg), 6-foot-1 senior Kendall Wesley (15 ppg), 6-foot-5 senior Donte Jackson (10 ppg) and 5-foot-10 freshman Luwane Pipkins (7 ppg). Curiously, the team's leading scorer, 6-foot-3 senior Devonte Smith (17 ppg), comes off the bench. Johnson had 30 points and eight rebounds in the victory over Du Sable.

Goodwin believes Buckner, Johnson, Pipkins and Smith are Division I players. He insists Pipkins is one of the best freshmen in the state. He describes Johnson as a sleeper who is coming on strong.

"Two years ago, we won the regional against Morgan Park and Wayne Blackshear. It was our first regional championship ever," Goodwin said. "This team can be better."

Goodwin started at Du Sable, then played for Don Pittman at South Shore and graduated in 1985. After playing basketball at Valparaiso, he returned to Chicago to coach at Perspectives for four years. He took a new charter school that won only one game in its first year, a bunch of kids who had no basketball skills, and produced a 13-game winner in his second season. Three years ago, he moved to Bogan.

"I knew Bogan didn't have a basketball reputation," he said. "I brought in some volunteer coaches with connections to the grammar schools. And I put my handprint on the program--work hard, discipline and play together.

"I didn't think about what they had done before. I knew Bogan was a football school in the 1980s and 1990s. There are a lot of football trophies in the school. Now we want to get some basketball trophies."

Goodwin doesn't waste any words in professing that he has what it takes to build a winning program at Bogan.

"I'm a point guard, a born leader. I've been a floor leader all my life," he said. "I have a natural eye for the game. I'm a good bench coach. I always liked to scout because I had a good eye for what players could do."

Players like Buckner, who has bought into Goodwin's philosophy.

"We are together. All of the players are in the same accord. It's all about defense. We want to go Downstate," he said. "Guard play is key for us We must handle pressure. In three years on the varsity, we have handled pressure before. We know how to handle situations. We know how to make the right decisions."

Bogan never has advanced beyond the sectional. Two years ago, the Bengals lost to Mount Carmel in the sectional. Last year, they lost to St. Rita in the regional. They know Simeon, Morgan Park and Harlan await them in the Red-South.

"We have to stay focused and make good decisions down the stretch," Buckner said. "I think we have more quickness than other teams.

"We have a lot support, too. For our first game, it was sold out. Kids were making posters. There were flags on cars, things we never saw before."

Remember the date, Jan. 25.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.