White Sox

Henry's crossover sparks R-B surge

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Henry's crossover sparks R-B surge

A year ago, Riverside-Brookfield's basketball team was 23-6 but Damonta Henry wasn't a part of it. He suffered a broken finger while leaping to block a shot in practice and was forced to sit out until the regional tournament. All he could do was look forward to the 2011-12 season.

"It was pretty frustrating. I couldn't help my teammates. I knew I could help them but I couldn't shoot or dribble," Henry said. "I wanted to work hard in the off-season to get better and help my team go Downstate."

The 5-foot-11 junior point guard dreams of playing in the Big 10. But he said his ball-handling was "kind of shaky," the result of not handling the ball for an entire year. His cross-over dribble wasn't so sharp until he began to watch NBA stars Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook on YouTube.

"I looked at their moves, then went into the gym and practiced them," Henry said. "I see if I can perfect them and use them against people when they guard me. I work on the in-and-out cross-cover dribble that Rose uses. He breaks a lot of ankles. I practice it a lot.

"I fell in love with it when I first saw it and I practice it like crazy in the gym. I watched him against Tyreke Evans in an all-star game when he was a senior at Simeon. It froze the defense. It really caught my eye. I've been working on it and I do it pretty good."

Henry, who is averaging 17 points and four assists per game, has emerged as Riverside-Brookfield's floor leader. In last Tuesday's 72-44 rout of Elmwood Park, Henry scored 14 points for the Metro Suburban leader. The Bulldogs are 17-4 going into Tuesday's game against Timothy Christian. They will play at Glenbrook South on Friday.

"He is the guy who steers the ship," coach Tom McCloskey said. "We need him to have a great last month of the season. There is a lot of pressure on him but he is capable of handling it. He is very versatile. Potentially, he is a Division I point guard."

Henry takes his playmaking and leadership responsibilities very seriously. "I'm playing pretty good in my state of mind. When I'm off, I find my teammates. It isn't about statistics. It's all about winning and finding my open teammates instead of carrying the whole load," he said.

"Each player isn't afraid to take on a challenge. Even though mistakes might happen, they keep their heads high. Our mindset is to go get it and take no one lightly. If we keep it up, we can take it past the regional and go to state."

It will take more than confidence, of course, to punch a ticket to Peoria. R-B hasn't won a sectional title since the west suburban school opened in 1907. McCloskey has won two regionals in a row. He also won in 2002, the school's first title since 1974.

In his second tour of duty at R-B, McCloskey admits he has a better handle on what it takes to win at a school that traditionally has had to battle such traditional powers as Proviso East, Lyons and St. Joseph in its own neighborhood.

A 1972 graduate of R-B, he coached four losing teams at his alma mater from 1990 to 1994. His last two teams were 4-20. He went to Downers Grove North and Hinsdale Central, then was head coach at Montini for four years before returning to R-B in 2001.

His last three teams were 22-6, 24-3 and 23-6. Last year's team lost to Crane in the sectional final. Two years ago, R-B lost to Marshall in overtime in the sectional. This year's team, which has won 10 games in a row, figures to draw a high seed in the Class 3A sectional at Glenbard South, perhaps the most competitive in the state.

"I came in and had a talented group and had an amazing first year. We beat Lyons twice and they had finished fourth in the state tournament the year before," McCloskey said. "Most of these kids have chosen R-B rather than Fenwick or St. Joseph or Nazareth. Now we're attracting good kids."

R-B doesn't have a large area to draw from--Harlem to Kenman, Ogden to 22nd Street, a few miles wide, top to bottom. But McCloskey has persuaded his players to attend summer camps and participate in the Junior Bulldog program. More kids seem to want to be a part of the success. The school has won 10 conference titles in a row.

"We've put together a nice stretch but we are young," McCloskey said. "We're playing a lot of juniors and we have to work on consistency. We don't put teams away like we should when we get leads. We hope playing the regional at R-B will give us an advantage."

With no starters returning from last year's team -- Henry would have started as a sophomore if he hadn't been injured -- McCloskey wasn't sure what to look for in 2011-12. But after winning three of four games against good competition at the York Holiday Tournament and playing a tough early schedule that included Farragut and St. Ignatius, he saw confidence growing.

Now it all seems to be coming together with Henry, 6-foot-7 junior Miki Ljuboja (14.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg), 6-foot junior Eric Loury (4 ppg), 6-foot-3 senior Luke Nortier (12.2 ppg) and 6-foot-4 senior Louis Marino (5 ppg). Top reserves are 6-foot-2 senior Andrew Hanley (5 ppg) and 6-foot-2 junior Liam Lesniak (4 ppg).

Ljuboja is a budding star who will become a real force when he gets stronger, McCloskey predicts. He is a future Division I prospect who is getting early interest from Loyola and Illinois-Chicago. He scored 12 points in the victory over Elmwood Park.

"Damonta's playmaking and Miki's inside play are the keys for us. And the others understand their roles," McCloskey said, summing up R-B's success story.

Henry also played football when he was young but he stopped playing football after his freshman year to concentrate on basketball. "I was a running back and quarterback. But I like being on the hardwood. It puts a smile on my face. Scoring and doing moves to get my teammates open or to help me get to the basket gives me a big thrill. Nothing in football was comparable," he said.

It finally dawned on Henry that he might have Division I potential when he was playing for the Illinois Hurricanes' AAU team last summer in tournaments at R-B and in Milwaukee.

"I was hitting tough shots and creating and getting through small holes. I knew I could play with the big boys," he said.

Like his coach, he realized his team also had big-time potential at the York tournament. "I didn't play that well. I had a terrible time with my shooting, only 5 of 15 threes. But my teammates picked me up. They knocked down shots when we needed them. They carried the load. I didn't need to. That told me that we are a good team," he said.

Dane Dunning left minor league start with 'moderate' elbow strain

Dane Dunning left minor league start with 'moderate' elbow strain

Dane Dunning has been nothing but consistent since joining the White Sox organization in the Adam Eaton trade before the 2017 season.

He has performed well at three different levels in the minor leagues and has stayed healthy. That second part is currently in question after he left a start for Double-A Birmingham on Saturday with elbow soreness.

Dunning left in the fourth inning in what was developing into one of his worst starts of the season. He had four strikeouts, but also walked four and gave up two runs (one earned). The four walks matched a season high.

Here is how things went down on his final pitch:

It's too early for a full diagnosis, but Dunning is expected to have an MRI in the next few days. White Sox manager Rick Renteria talked about Dunning's injury before Sunday's game against the Athletics.

"I think everybody considered it a very moderate strain," Renteria said. "Nobody is at this point too concerned. They still have to re-evaluate more. We won’t know more until they get further evaluation and at that point everybody will know where he’s at. Right now he still has to be re-evaluated."

Dunning, 23, began the season at Single-A Winston-Salem where he posted a 2.59 ERA in four starts with 31 strikeouts against three walks in 24 1/3 innings. The Florida product then was promoted to Birmingham where he has a 2.76 ERA. In 11 starts with the Barons, Dunning has 69 strikeouts and 23 walks in 62 innings.

Dunning is one of the top pitching prospects in the White Sox farm system along with Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

Chris Kuc contributed to this report.

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Maine West

Head coach: Jason Kradman

Assistant coaches: Steve Piha (Def. Coordinator), Mike O'Brill (DB/ST Coordinator), Tony Manicke (LB/Head JV Coach), Dan Wilson (OL) Russ Swenson (TE) Ryan Willett (QB) Matt Boswell (DL) Trent Greco (WR) Kyle Prater (WR) Mike Smith (Head Frosh Coach) Joe Duszynski (Frosh Asst.) and DJ Frey (Frosh Asst.).

How they fared in 2017: 7-3 (4-1 Central Suburban North Conference). Maine West made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Warriors lost to Benet Academy in opening round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Mundelein

Sept. 1 @ Fenton

Sept. 7 vs Elk Grove

Sept. 14 @ Hersey

Sept. 21 vs Glenbrook North

Sept. 28 @ Maine East

Oct. 5 vs Vernon Hills

Oct. 12 vs Highland Park

Oct. 19 @ Deerfield

[MORE: 65 Days to Kickoff - Elmwood Park]

Biggest storyline: Will history repeat itself? Can the Warriors post back-to-back IHSA state playoff appearances? If so, it'd be a first for the Des Plaines high school.

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Jake Bellizzi, FB/LB Krystian Garbicz and WR/DB Ely Grimmer

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will need to replace standout TE Matt Kentgen (now at Butler). He was a multi-year starter and team leader last fall.  

EDGY's Early Take: Maine West, coached by Jason Kradman, has been one of the area's better success stories. Kradman took over the Warriors program in 2014 and guided the Warriors to their first state playoff appearance since 2002. With 13 returning starters back from a season ago (seven offense, six defense) and a program-wide boost in overall numbers and excitement, look for the Warriors to have a good shot at playoff football once again this October.