Bears

Foster lets his play do his talking

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Foster lets his play do his talking

Alex Foster apparently is tired of hearing from critics who claim he isn't playing up to expectations. So De La Salle's 6-8 junior, one of the top-rated prospects in the class of 2013, is letting his play on the floor do his talking for him. And he is delivering a very persuasive argument.

Foster came to De La Salle with a reputation as one of the leading eighth grade prospects in the state, even better than Simeon's Jabari Parker. But critics argue he let his hype go to his head and he began to acquire a less-than-desirable reputation as an underachiever.

No longer.

"Foster is playing well. He has had four double doubles in a row," De La Salle coach Tom White said. "Some people said he wasn't finishing but he is explosive. He is our most consistent player. He just dominates."

Longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye agree with White's assessment. "Foster has been playing much better of late and it appears that what others have said regarding his inconsistency is now motivating him. As a result, he is now letting his game do the talking," they said.

"As long as he continues to do that, there is no question that he is a high major prospect. We have always said that when he comes to play that he sports as much upside as any player in Illinois from the class of 2013 with the exception of Jabari Parker."

Not everybody is convinced, however. Veteran national recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com has dropped Foster to No. 130 on his list of the top 150 players in the class of 2013.

In fact, Coleman ranks nine Illinois products ahead of Foster -- Parker (1), Simeon's Kendrick Nunn (22), Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton (28), Morgan Park's Bill Garrett (43), Belleville East's Malcolm Hill (67), St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens (78), Proviso East's Sterling Brown (111), Simeon's Jaylon Tate (116) and Hope's Jalen James (123). Leo's Russell Woods is rated No. 142.

"I dropped Foster because of inconsistent spring and summer play and the overall development of others we observed over the spring and summer," Coleman said. "He can jump back into the top 50-75 if he shows an ability to face, score with a 15-17 footer or dribble drive.

"Foster was mostly a face up player when I watched him and since he hasn't added inches, he needs to add versatility and consistency to move back up in the rankings. Remember that Jabari Parker was about to start losing spots in the rankings when he dropped the 15-20 pounds that he had gained to re-establish himself at the top of the class of 2013."

Foster has offers from Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, Purdue, Minnesota, Texas A&M and Colorado State. He has interest from Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Indiana, USC, Butler and Harvard. He is very interested in Harvard and coach Tommy Amaker has been a frequent visitor to De La Salle's gym, along with Illinois' Bruce Weber, USC's Kevin O'Neill, Oregon State's Craig Robinson, DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Minnesota's Tubby Smith.

Foster isn't the only one they are looking at. In fact, some college coaches aren't scouting Foster. Instead, they are evaluating 6-9 junior Gavin Schilling and 6-4 junior Alvin Ellis.

They are the focal points of a 7-1 team that will meet Perspectives in the opening round of the York Holiday Tournament on Tuesday in Elmhurst. Foster is averaging 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Schilling is averaging 14 points and 8.7 rebounds. Ellis is averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 assists. He also is a 90 percent free throw shooter.

Schilling is from Germany. His family moved to the United States and he enrolled last June. He turned 16 on Nov. 10. He still is recovering from major surgery on his left wrist. He has offers from Illinois, Oregon State, USC, Colorado State, DePaul, Texas Christian, Vanderbilt, Minnesota and Wisconsin. He has visited Notre Dame.

Ellis has come on strong since the departure of Tate to Simeon. A prototype of a two guard, he is explosive, can handle the ball, can elevate and shoot from beyond three-point range. He has offers from Oregon State, Colorado State and Northwestern.

The other starters are 5-8 juniors Marcus White (8 ppg) and Demarcus Richardson (6 ppg), who already is being recruited by Marquette and several Division II schools.

The bench is headed by 6-4 senior Josh White, the coach's son, and 5-8 freshman point guard Martez Cameron. White, the only senior on the 15-man varsity, is an excellent passer who delivers the ball to Foster and Schilling. "He doesn't have to score to be noticed," the coach said.

But De La Salle would like to be noticed more in February and March. The Meteors have won the conference title two years in a row and four times in the last five years. They also have won the regional for the last six years but haven't been able to advance beyond the sectional.

"With 14 juniors, it is a process. We just have to keep getting better," said Tom White, who is in his 27th year of coaching, the last 17 as De La Salle's head coach.

"Potentially, this is the best team I've had. It is better than the Mike ShawAndre Henley team of last year and the Earl BrownMike BaileyDeon Tolliver team from my first year. The strength of this team is it plays old-school basketball...inside, crashing the boards, high percentage shooting. It is power basketball. We have shot over 50 percent for the last three games in a row.

"We have size. They share the ball. They play team ball. They are unselfish. Different people step up each night. They like each other. They eat lunch together. They hang out together. They improve every week."

But is there anything he can do about the state pairing? There is no doubt that De La Salle has the toughest route to the state finals. All of the city schools are packed into one sectional. Only one team can survive and earn a trip to Peoria.

"I haven't had a good pairing in the state in the last five years," White said. "We always have a crazy route. Before it was through Whitney Young and Proviso East. Now all city teams are in one sectional...Simeon, Young, Curie, Bogan, Hyde Park, the best teams and the best players. Only one Class 4A team can get out. Why not us?"

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: