Bears

High School Lites: Decisions, Decisions

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High School Lites: Decisions, Decisions

So what will it be: Will Sparty have a satellite campus at 81st and Vincennes? Will the Cameron Crazies become Parker's Posse? Or will the student body, athletic staffs and ticket vendors in Provo, Palo Alto or Gainesville have reason to celebrate? All of those questions will be answered next Thursday when Simeon's Jabari Parker makes his college choice.

READ: Simeon's Parker to announce college decision next week

At the very least, the Wolverines --and obviously the Parkers-- can be happy that this decision didn't linger into February (or even the IHSA playoff season). But there's still work to be done for Simeon between now and then, namely a huge road trip to Dallas and Memphis. They will take on DeSoto (TX) Thursday night and then fly to Memphis to participate in the Penny Hardaway Classic on Saturday.

MORE: Simeon's upcoming trip will focus on more than just basketball

Comcast SportsNet will also have cameras at 10 local games this week, which includes a Thursday tilt in the Central Suburban South battle between Waukegan and New Trier. Also, 13th-ranked Fenwick --with former Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach on the sidelines-- travels to Brother Rice to take on the Crusaders.

Plus, we'll make a few stops in the Public League: should Whitney Young be on notice with Westinghouse's fast start? Bogan may not have a superstar, but could they play deep into spring this year? The Bengals are in action against Julian. And third-ranked Morgan Park looks to tame Vocational in a Red South battle.

The lone Chicagoland non-conference game we highlight is at the Plainfield North Invitational, with Benet taking on Lockport. The Redwings, thanks to standout players Sean O'Mara and Pat McInerney, already have turned heads with wins over York and Curie.

Here is a snapshot of every boys basketball game we will profile on Friday's High School Lites at 10:30pm. The rankings reflect the latest CSN Top 20:

THURSDAY GAMES

Waukegan @ New Trier, 6:30 p.m.

(1) Simeon vs. Prestonwood (TX), 8:30 p.m. in Dallas

FRIDAY GAMES

(5) Benet vs. Lockport, 5:15 p.m. at Plainfield North Invitational

Vocational @ (3) Morgan Park, 5:50 p.m.

Westinghouse @ (2) Whitney Young, 6:00 p.m.

Julian @ Bogan, 6:00 p.m.

Addison Trail @ (8) Proviso East, 6:00 p.m.

(13) Fenwick @ Brother Rice, 7:00 p.m.

Eisenhower @ Richards, 7:00 p.m.

Downers Grove South @ Morton, 7:30 p.m.

Schaumburg @ Palatine, 7:30 p.m.

Given the recent football BCS buzz, the words "Notre Dame" and "championship" have been uttered around Chicagoland frequently. Could those same words be used in March? And we're not (necessarily) talking about the basketball team in South Bend. Notre Dame High School in Niles has played very well to start the year. We'll catch up with the Dons in our "Muscle Milk Team of the Week" segment.

Plus, we're going old school --as in the Ivy League-- for our Allstate High School Athlete of the Week.

Also: how is Simeon preparing for a road trip to Dallas and Memphis? Check out our Simeon "Drive" segment.

And as always, well take a drive down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment and bring you up-to-the-minute scores and highlights from across Chicagoland.

High School Lites streams live this Friday night on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: highschoollites@comcastsportsnet.com

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.