White Sox

Glenbard West off to best start ever

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Glenbard West off to best start ever

Glenbard West is a football school, right? Like Maine South or Mount Carmel or Joliet Catholic or Montini or Loyola, right?

So what is coach Tim Hoder's basketball team doing with a 10-0 record and holding a pair of holiday tournament championship trophies going into the New Year?

Is this the same team that was picked to finish fourth in the West Suburban Silver in the preseason behind Oak Park, York and Proviso West?

Is this the same school that has qualified for the state finals only once in its history -- in 1938?

Is this the same program that has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen only twice in the last 74 years?

The same school that hasn't won a conference title in 40 years?

Maybe you've heard of John Shurna?

Yes, it's that Glenbard West.

The Hilltoppers are off to a 10-0 start, best in school history, better than the 9-0 start of the 1973 team that was led by Jim Molinari and Bob Hildebrand. They'll seek to extend their winning streak at Bolingbrook on Wednesday, then resume conference play at York on Friday.

"Depth is our biggest asset," Hoder said. "We play 10 kids regularly in the first quarter. We also have size. And we're now able to handle pressure. In the past, pressure was a problem. We got pressured and it bothered us. And we have camaraderie, a lot of togetherness as a group. We have some leaders you don't notice in the scorebook.

"But what our 10-0 start told me is we have to get to the meat of our conference schedule yet. We have a lot of getting better to do. We can compete in our league and get a good seed in the sectional. But even though we attack pressure well, we still turn the ball over too much. We need to cut down on turnovers. And, for our size, we have to be more dominant on the boards. We do well but we can do better."

One of the leaders who is noticed in the scorebook is 6-6 senior Michael Mache, who averages 23 points per game. He has been on the varsity for four years and he has noticed how the team has evolved, how it went from 11-17 a year ago to 10-0 this season.

"Our goal is to win the conference and go to the supersectional, to do some things that haven't been done before. The sky is the limit if we keep working hard and cut down on turnovers," Mache said.

"Our camaraderie is the best it has ever been. This is the tightest knit group of all. We push each other every day in practice to do our best. And we are deep at the guard position, which we haven't been in the past.

"We can get up and down the court. We thrive in the full-court and attack the basket and we're more aggressive than before. In past years, we used to slow it down and play in the half-court.

"We want to keep it rolling. We're 10-0 and we want to keep doing what we are doing. This is the first year we are keeping a fast pace going, moving at a new pace, getting clean stops, getting rebounds, getting the ball to the point guard (Jeff Levesque), getting up the floor, creating easy shots and keeping the defenders off balance."

Mache (pronounced Mackey) is surrounded by his twin brother Matthew, a 6-6 senior who averages 10 points per game, 6-8 senior Pat Mazza (8 ppg, 10 rpg), 6-1 junior point guard Jeff Levesque (8 ppg, 6 assists) and 5-10 senior Justin Taylor (6 ppg).

The second five also gets plenty of playing time--6-4 senior Mac Corbin, 6-6 senior Vernon Harris, 6-1 senior Egan Montgomery, 6-1 senior Kevin Loftus and 6-foot sophomore point guard Cory Davis.

How identical are the Mache twins? Matthew wears No. 42, Michael wears No. 41. Both weigh 205 pounds. Michael claims Matthew has a wider face and a more aggressive personality but he has a better three-point shot. Hoder said Michael is one of the team's leaders on and off the court.

"(In a recent game), to start the second half, I had a layup and the announcer said it was Matthew," Michael said.

Hoder, 43, a Lake Park graduate of 1986, knew what he was getting into when he arrived at the Glen Ellyn school 10 years ago. He had played basketball for his father, attended Augustana College, coached at Ridgewood for one year, then Maine East for eight years before being hired at Glenbard West. He is in his fifth season as head coach.

"I grew up going to a doctor in Glen Ellyn so I was familiar with the school and the tradition," he said. "I knew what I was getting into, a great football tradition. They had great success in football in the 1980s and in recent years. Any success we are having now is because we have a core group of seniors who have invested themselves in basketball."

Actually, the fact that Hoder landed at Glenbard West didn't have anything to do with football or basketball.

"After being at Maine East, it was a matter of wanting to find a place to settle down with my family and raise kids, the community we wanted to live in," he said. "That was the factor why I ended up at Glenbard West. The fact that our kids can go to a school like Glenbard West was important to us."

It has taken time to put a winning program together. When he arrived, Hoder realized there were many multi-sport athletes at the school. "It is hard to compete in basketball because kids in our league are playing basketball year-around," he said. But he also knew he had a group of 10 seniors who had stuck together through thick and thin because they wanted to succeed.

Last year's 11-17 team wasn't as bad as it seems. The Hilltoppers lost six games in overtime. And Levesque was sidelined until Christmas after undergoing thumb surgery.

"We went 10-10 with him. If we had him healthy, we wouldn't have started 1-7. He is a big part of our success," Hoder said.

There are other things in Hoder's favor. The feeder program, the Glen Ellyn Titans, hosted a 70-team tournament last weekend. Hoder's son Thomas, a fifth grader, is one of 40 players who participate in travel basketball.

"So many kids are growing up playing basketball now," the coach said.

"Coming into this year, we had high expectations," Michael Mache said. "We want to finish our four-year run. We knew this could be a great opportunity. With a lot of hard work, we feel we can do this. We want to do things that never have been done before. We want people to remember this team."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

SportsTalk Live is on location at McCormick Place to preview SoxFest 2020. Chuck Garfien and David Haugh join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - White Sox manager Rick Renteria joins the guys to talk about the team's big offseason and the expectations for the 2020 season. He also talks about how the team with handle Michael Kopech (4:00) and what Dallas Keuchel brings to the rotation. (6:00) Plus, he explains how guys who turned the corner in 2019 like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada can stay hot in 2020. (15:00)

17:00 - Steve Stone joins the guys to explain how the White Sox rebuild is going according to plan despite not landing one of the top free agents this winter. Plus, he updates his Twitter follower battle with Jason Benetti (23:00) and talks about how he would handle Michael Kopech's return. (25:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox reward for winning the offseason: They get to talk playoffs ... or bust

White Sox reward for winning the offseason: They get to talk playoffs ... or bust

The White Sox know there is no trophy for winning the offseason.

Make no mistake, they did win the offseason, Rick Hahn’s front office adding enough veteran cache to vault the 89-loss South Siders from just another rebuilding team with a bright future to a team whose future is pulling into the station.

But there was no self-congratulating at Hahn’s pre-SoxFest press conference Thursday.

“Quite candidly, we haven't accomplished anything yet, we haven't won yet,” he said. “This whole process was about winning championships, was about finishing with a parade at the end of October down Michigan Avenue. Until that happens, I don't think any of us are really in a position to feel satisfied or feel like we've accomplished anything.

“We've had a nice winter. We've had, frankly, in our opinion, a real nice three years since we started (the rebuild) with the Chris Sale trade. We think very bright days are ahead of us, and we look forward to enjoying them. But in terms of feeling like we've accomplished something or feeling satisfied, ask me after the parade.”

Give me a second while I email that last bit over to our marketing department. They might be able to conjure up a few things with “ask me after the parade.”

But in all seriousness, Hahn is right. There is no trophy for winning the offseason. The act of signing free agents does not balance out all the losing over the last three seasons. Only winning can do that.

There has been, however, a reward for winning the offseason. Rick Renteria — and presumably all his players this weekend during SoxFest — get to talk about playoff expectations. Real ones.

“I would be disappointed if we don’t make the postseason,” Renteria said during his own session Thursday. “We want to break through. We want this to be an impactful season.”

As recently as a year ago, no matter how bright the future appeared to be, that comment would have raised eyebrows. It would not have been taken seriously. Now? It is the expectation.

Renteria has not been shy about the rebuilding White Sox turning the corner in 2020. He spent the last few weeks of the 2019 campaign making similar postseason proclamations. But now Hahn has backed his manager up with all this winter’s acquisitions.

The White Sox place in the standings by the end of September still figures to have a lot more to do with Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson and Luis Robert than any of the individual newcomers, even players as talented and accomplished as Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. The core is that important. But the outsiders brought in this offseason have embodied the turning tide — and given Renteria the chance to talk seriously about these kinds of big expectations for the first time in his tenure as the South Side skipper.

“I think, man for man,” he said, “now we at least have a little bit more ammunition to be able to go out and compete hopefully on a consistent basis and put those victories on the board.

“I’m not afraid of talking about high expectations and winning. … If we do our job and we go about preparing and hopefully the actions and performances come to fruition, we should be on top of the victory column in terms of wins and losses. And there’s nothing beyond my thought that doesn’t say that I expect us to compete and be in conversation for postseason play.”

Hahn isn’t quite as willing to declare the 2020 season “playoffs or bust” because he’s still got his eye on the long term, the same place it’s been throughout this rebuilding process. That next parade down Michigan Avenue is supposed to be merely the first.

And so while the White Sox can reap the rewards of Hahn’s offseason work in the form of preseason talk, he’ll bask in nothing more than setting up his team for that long-term postseason success.

“I think the expectations are understandably high, at least when you talk to Ricky or the coaches or any of the players or anyone in uniform. Their expectation is that this team is in a position to win in the 2020 season, which is exactly where all of us in the front office would want them to be,” he said. “That said, whether you're talking Jerry (Reinsdorf) or Kenny (Williams) or myself, the entire purpose of this rebuild was to put ourselves in a multi-year position to win multiple championships.

“So the progress that we make in any given offseason has to be viewed not just about what's going to happen in that upcoming season, but what position that puts us in toward accomplishing that long-term goal. We want to make sure that we are well positioned, once that window opens, to win as many championships as possible.

“When that window opens, we're going to find out together. I certainly think the players in uniform think it's going to happen come Opening Day of this year. Whether we're blessed with good health and continued progress from our young players, we're going to find out together.

“But we look at it, in the front office, from a multi-year perspective. The guys in uniform are going to do everything in their power to make it about now, which you've got to appreciate.”

That’s going to be the theme of this weekend, as White Sox fans descend on SoxFest with more excitement than they have in years. This is a White Sox team expected to reach October, and that hasn’t exactly been common, as evidenced by the franchise’s more than decade-long postseason drought.

Hahn can talk about putting the team in good position for 2021 and 2022 and 2023 and beyond all he wants. The fans are finally — and with good reason — thinking playoffs or bust for the upcoming season.

And the manager agrees.

“I see our club, and I want to go into this season thinking I don't want to miss an opportunity,” Renteria said. “That's my goal right now, not to miss this opportunity. Expectations bread opportunities. I'm not afraid of expectations because it breads opportunity. I want to attain and complete those tasks that I think our club is going to have a chance to be able to do.

“I'm not afraid to say it.”

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