Bulls

Crane's Jackson is a Hall of Famer

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Crane's Jackson is a Hall of Famer

James Jackson probably won't be able to attend the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association's annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 12 at the Hawthorne Race Track in Cicero.

He lives in Australia.

A 1974 graduate of Crane, Jackson is one of 13 former players who will be inducted in the Hall of Fame class of 2012. Others include King's Efrem Winters and Laurent Crawford, Vocational's Allen Hunt, South Shore's Bobby Joor, Carver's Ken Maxey, Hubbard's Reggie Rose and Kenwood's Donnie Von Moore.

Other inductees include coaches Mike Oliver of Curie and John Costello of Bowen, Washington's Dejeanette Flournoy, Leslie Hill and Angelina Williams, Fenger's Shujuana Shannon, Whitney Young's Cindy Connor and two boys teams, Crane 1972 and South Shore 1947.

Jackson grew up at 14th and Throop, known as "the village." From an early age, he played basketball with his brothers Thomas and Melvin. He idolized his brothers, Larry Foster and Jerome Freeman, another future Crane star. At Medill elementary school, he knew he had a gift for the game.

Crane coach Dan Davis recruited Jackson out of Medill. He spoke to Jackson's mother and promised her that her son would graduate from high school. Mount Carmel tried to lure Jackson but he never wavered in his decision to attend Crane. His older brothers went there and he was enthralled by stories of the great players who came from Crane.

He got off to a shaky start. As a sophomore, when Nate Williams led Crane to the Elite Eight and a trip to Champaign, he was unable to play because he suffered a chipped bone in his knee. He had to sit on the bench and watch all the games.

Jackson started a few games as a freshman and was paired with playground legend Arthur Sivels, who dropped out of school after his freshman year. "As a player, he was one of the best I ever played with. He passed the ball, scored and dribbled. He could have been NBA material," James said.

As a junior and senior, Jackson developed into one of the best players in the Public League. He played against Rickey Green, Bo Ellis, Sonny Parker, Billy Lewis, Andre Wakefield and Maurice Cheeks.

As his reputation grew, college coaches began to take notice. Gene Bartow, who coached at Memphis State, Illinois and UCLA, recruited Jackson as a junior (for Memphis) and a senior (for Illinois). He had several offers from Big 10 and ACC schools. He also was approached by Jerry Tarkanian of Nevada-Las Vegas.

But he ended up at Minnesota. "Jimmy Williams, the assistant coach, showed a lot of interest in me. It was a Big 10 school and I always wanted to play in the Big 10," he said.

He signed with Minnesota but left when the Gophers were placed on probation by the NCAA and transferred to Boston College. But he wasn't happy on the East Coast and returned to Minnesota. "I should have gone to Nevada-Las Vegas," he said in retrospect.

In 1979, he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls but wasn't in good physical condition and didn't perform well in training camp. He played with the Alberta Dusters of the Continental Basketball Association. After one year, he returned to Minneapolis. Then he got a call to go to Australia.

"I got a call from Dick Rymer, an American coach who had been living in Australia for a number of years," James recalled. "He ran into one of my assistant coaches at Minnesota, Jesse Evans, in an airport and the spoke about me. That's how it all came about."

From 1982 to 1991, Jackson played with several clubs in Queensland and Western Australia. He conducted basketball clinics in some of the most remote towns in the outback of Western Australia for the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Department of Western Australia. He also has worked in retail and owned his own sporting goods store.

He married Romana in 1992. In 2000, when their son Jamal was 5 years old, he reconnected with basketball. He has coached and been involved with clubs in Western Australia and Queensland ever since. They live on the Gold Coast.

For the past seven years, he has worked for a traffic control company and has served as an assistant coach on his son's Under 18 team in the Premier League.

He still marvels at how a young kid from the West Side of Chicago could end up on the Gold Coast of Australia, all because he had an extraordinary ability to play the game of basketball.

"I had never heard of Australia. 'Where is that?' I said," Jackson recalled. "How many times do you get a round-trip ticket to another country? I'm still there today. It blew me away...laidback lifestyle, friendly people, nobody in a rush about anything, great climate, nice place to bring up a family, totally different than the United States.

"Life has been pretty good for me. I have no regret that I didn't make it in the NBA. I believe in fate. I ended up in Australia. My wife is Australian. The normal temperature in Brisbane is 70 degrees. I never see snow. People think I'm crazy when I say I appreciate snow."

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

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USA TODAY

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.