Bulls

Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

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Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

The best individual performance at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, described by many observers as the premier basketball event of the summer in Illinois, wasn't recorded by Jabari Parker or Jahlil Okafor or Kendrick Nunn or Gavin Schilling or Sean O'Mara any of the usual suspects.

It was David Cohn. The 6-foot-2 junior guard from York isn't included on anybody's list of the leading major Division I prospects in the Chicago area. But he bolstered his stock by giving a five-star performance in the two-day event that concluded Sunday in Riverside.

"He plays so hard. No player in the state plays any harder from start to finish," said recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "He has the ability to get his shot against almost anybody."

As he looks ahead to playing for his fourth coach in four years at York, Cohn doesn't appear to be perplexed by the change in faces and philosophies. He emerged as the leading scorer in the 36-team tournament. He scored 41 points in one game, 40 in another and 27 in another.

Last season, Cohn led York to a 22-9 record in coach Tom Kleinschmidt's first season. Kleinschmidt left to become head coach at his alma mater, Gordon Tech. Last week, Vince Doran, who had been dismissed at Hinsdale South, was hired to become York's fourth coach in four years.

"He is an ideal mid-major combo guard," Schmidt said. "He still has to prove he is a major Division I player. He isn't a pure point guard. He is being looked at by some schools as a point guard. But big schools haven't offered. They aren't ready to jump in yet. If he blows up during the July evaluation period in front of high major coaches, it would be difficult for some not to offer, particularly Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Stanford."

Cohn has been offered by Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wright State, Valparaiso, Colorado State, Santa Clara, Drake and William & Mary. He expects more offers and hopes to play at the highest level possible.

While Cohn turned in the best performance of the tournament, Schmidt singled out Proviso East's Sterling Brown as the MVP. He scored 30 points while leading his team to a 72-69 victory over Simeon in the championship game.

"He clearly was the biggest difference-maker on the floor," Schmidt said. "He has the ability to take over games down the stretch. He has great leadership qualities, a will to win. You couldn't tell him that these were meaningless summer league games."

Schmidt said that Brown, who was 6-foot-4 last season but has grown to 6-foot-5 and is pushing 6-foot-6, will be a top 50 player nationally by the end of the summer. "He is a high major prospect. He will make some major program very happy," Schmidt said.

Brown has scholarship offers from Northwestern, DePaul, Minnesota and Nebraska. Michigan State is showing a lot of interest. He had an offer from Illinois coach Bruce Weber but hasn't been offered by new Illini coach John Groce yet.

"He figures to command attention from major Division I programs in the near future," Schmidt said. "In last year's state final (when Proviso East lost to Simeon), he showed how far he has come with his perimeter shooting. Now he is bigger and stronger and more physical."

The next best player, according to Schmidt, was Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 sophomore Okafor, who scored 38 points against Evanston and 26 against Mount Carmel. "Once again, he showed he is an unstoppable force down low when he gets the ball. He has great hands and an ability to totally dominate games in the paint," Schmidt said.

The best teams? That's easy. Proviso East and Simeon confirmed -- if there ever was any doubt -- that they clearly are the two best programs in the state at this time. And Proviso East has definitely closed the gap. Coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates are closer to Simeon than people think. They beat Simeon at R-B with all of Simeon's players on the floor.

Schmidt pointed out that Brown has two outstanding complementary players in 5-foot-11 junior point guard Paris Lee and 6-foot-4 junior Brandon Jenkins.

"Lee might be the most underrated player in the state, the best on-the-ball defender in the state," Schmidt said. "Jenkins didn't play last year. He was academically ineligible. He has a lot of upside. He is very long and athletic and has the ability to consistently get to the basket. He is another offensive threat and can take pressure off Brown and Lee. He is just scratching the surface of his potential."

But don't feel sorry for Simeon coach Robert Smith. He has added another transfer -- and more depth -- to his roster, 6-foot-5 sophomore Dante Ingram, who comes from Danville.

Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 junior Kendall Pollard has started to emerge from the shadow of more highly publicized teammates Parker and Nunn. His stock skyrocketed at R-B.

"He is becoming more assertive and more of a leader," Schmidt said. "He is a mid-major plus player, on the fringe of becoming a high major player. Skill-wise, he is showing how versatile he is in being able to play multiple positions on the floor and score from the perimeter and around the basket."

The surprise team of the tournament was St. Patrick. Coach Mike Bailey's Shamrocks made the Final Four, beating Whitney Young in the quarterfinals in the biggest upset of the event, then losing to Proviso East by five in the semifinals. "They proved they are for real, a top 20 team next season," Schmidt said.

St. Patrick was led by 6-foot-5 junior Keith Langston, a transfer from Whitney Young, and 6-foot-1 junior Royale Ewing.

The biggest sleeper? Schmidt singled out 6-foot-7 junior Josh McAuley of West Aurora. "Last year, he was a role player for coach Gordon Kerkman. But he has demonstrated vast improvement on offense and is stepping up and becoming more of a scorer and interior force on offense and defense," Schmidt said.

The tournament's hidden gem? A player who no one knows about right now but who has a chance to be very good, according to Schmidt, is 6-foot-7 sophomore Davonte Heard of Homewood-Flossmoor.

"He played some last year on the varsity as a freshman," Schmidt said. "He has very strong wing skills and an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot from three-point range. He is in the mold of (former H-F star) Julian Wright. Against St. Viator, he was the best player on the floor."

Other players who impressed were Andrew's Jubril Adekoya, Mundelein's Northern Iowa-bound Robert Knar, Morton's 6-foot-5 junior Waller Perez, Morgan Park's 6-foot-1 junior point guard Kyle Davis and Loyola's 6-foot-2 junior Jack Morrissey.

Adekoya, an All-Chicago Area selection last season, is a workhorse who is starting to show improvement on the perimeter as a shooter and ball-handler. Knar scored 30 points against St. Rita and reminds many of former Washington, Illinois, star Matt Roth, now at Indiana, but he is more multi-dimensional.

Perez is a sleeper who is very active around the basket and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and score in one-on-one situations. Davis, a transfer from Hyde Park, has established himself as a high major prospect. Morrissey, a nephew of former Chicago Bears linebacker Jim Morrissey, scored 38 points in one game.

Are kids playing too many games in too many tournaments? Are they in danger of burning out? It is recalled that former King coach Landon Cox once was roundly criticized for playing an NBA-size, 80-game summer schedule. But his teams qualified for the Final Four five times in eight years and won three state championships.

"Kids aren't playing too much basketball," Schmidt summed up. "It has reached the point where you have to play as much as possible in the summer because you always want to achieve a competitive edge. Team-wise and individually, you always want to maintain a competitive edge. To do that, you must not only play as much as possible but you also have to play against the best teams possible."

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.