Bears

Farmby provides spark for Evanston

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Farmby provides spark for Evanston

Last December, when Evanston coach Mike Ellis was talking about the players who had helped to fashion an early 7-0 record, he didn't mention Terrell Farmby. Now Ellis has plenty to say about the 6-foot-1 senior.

Farmby quit the program at Christmas time during his junior year. He was frustrated over lack of playing time. And he didn't buy into the philosophy of his new coach, who had come from Peoria Richwoods with a reputation for being a disciplinarian. "He had lessons to learn about discipline," Ellis said about the youngster.

But Farmby apparently regretted his decision. He came back for team tryouts last fall and made the 15-man roster. He started the season on the bench but got some playing time in each game and finally broke into the starting lineup against New Trier in February. He has been a fixture ever since, averaging five points per game.

"We brought him back and gave him a fresh start," Ellis said. "He is on his second strike. We never promised anything. He knew he had to walk a tight line and he has done it. He has done all we asked. He has been a solid influence on defense, one of our more vocal leaders. We needed to reward him for pushing his teammates in practice."

Farmby scored 16 points, Josh Irving had 17 and Jordan Perrin contributed 12 as fifth-seeded Evanston upset top-seeded New Trier 65-49 in a sectional semifinal on Tuesday night at Glenbrook South in Glenview. The Wildkits (20-10) will meet Niles North in Friday night's championship game.

After starting 7-0, Evanston experienced some bumpy experiences during a rugged conference schedule. Back-to-back losses to Waukegan and Maine South in late January provided a much-needed wakeup call. The starting lineup was overhauled with two new additions. The Wildkits have won five of their last six games, including two victories over arch-rival New Trier.

Irving, a 5-foot-11 senior, has been the team's leading scorer from the outset. He was averaging 19 points per game in the early going but now is averaging 14 as other players have stepped up. Evanston's only all-conference performer, he scored 16 points in Evanston's 51-48 victory over Niles Notre Dame in the regional final.

Other starters are Farmby, 6-foot-3 senior Leonard Garron (8 ppg, 6 rpg), 5-foot-7 senior point guard Jordan Perrin (7 ppg, 3 assists) and 6-foot-6 senior Matt Munro (5 ppg, 7 rpg). Munro has come off the bench to replace 6-foot-9 senior Randy Ollie, who was injured.

"At this time of year, it doesn't matter who you beat, it's just if you get another practice the next day," Ellis said. "We don't have anyone who was nominated for All-Area or All-Anything. But beating New Trier, a team with three all-conference players while we have only one, speaks volumes for our team."

Ellis still is trying to build a program at a school that knows something about tradition. Evanston won a state title under Jack Burmaster in 1968, was second in 1984 under Herb Williams, was fourth in 2004 under Paul Pryma and third in 2008 under Bobby Locke. Last year's team, Ellis' first, started 12-2 but finished 18-10.

"At times, I felt we were turning the corner," Ellis said. "It didn't seem like we were completely focused. I was reassured that it takes time to build relationships and trust and culture. It can't be done overnight, especially when I came in and first met the players on Oct. 5."

But now Ellis has had more time to put his program in place and the players are responding. "It's like raising kids. As a parent, you're trying to mold kids and teach them and form good habits. This team is cohesive and unselfish. There is more team play than last year. This is a great opportunity for these kids to model this year for future teams," he said.

"When we were playing .500 ball in January, they still believed in each other and weren't going to settle for anything else. They have a desire to get better at practice. To me, they have all stepped up and played to their strengths, not doing what they aren't capable of doing, playing smart basketball, listening to the coaches, buying into what we say."

Who are the keys to Evanston's success? Who are the difference-makers? Who has been the leader in the Wildkits' recent surge? Who does Ellis count on in the fourth quarter?

"It depends on what day of the week you call me," Ellis said. "No one dominates. It could be a different guy every day. They key is these kids are willing to get better each and every day in the gym.

"What has made a difference is the work ethic of the kids. They haven't settled for being complacent. They don't hang their hats on one or two games. We wanted to emphasize three points in the foundation of our program--playing hard, playing smart and playing together--and that's what they are doing."

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.