Bulls

High School Lites preview

633744.png

High School Lites preview

Chicagoland prep basketball is home on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Conference play resumes and a few teams will be looking to capitalize off the momentum from holiday tournaments. Will St. Ignatius continue their surprising run? Will a school record be broken at North Chicago on Friday? Who will be the next hero in the legendary New Trier-Evanston rivalry? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:
Thursday's games

No. 8 Elgin (12-1) @ Batavia (4-7), 7:15 pm

The Maroons continue to build off last years 22-7 squad. The last time they made a supersectional was in 2008 and they have the talent to get there again. Senior Kory Brown is their leader and hes helped by junior guard Arie Williams. But Elgin first needs to take care of business in the Upstate Eight conference, and it starts with a Batavia team that reached the semifinals of the Elgin Holiday Tournament. Senior center Cole Gardner will get a lot of work in the paint for the Bulldogs.

Marmion (8-6) @ Aurora Christian (10-3), 7:30 pm

This Suburban Christian Blue showdown features an Aurora Christian team that some thought would have a down year in 11-12. That's not the case, as the Eagles have had an impressive campaign. They won three of four at the Plano Christmas Classic. C.J. Schutt is one of the go-to guys for A-C. Marmion has benefitted of late from the play of junior guard Alex Theisen. The teams will face each other again at Marmion Feb. 10.

Friday's games

No. 6 Andrew (9-0) @ Lincoln-Way North (5-11), 6:30 pm

The Thunderbolts might be in uncharted waters but they havent been fazed by the recent success. They rolled through the Kankakee tournament, with junior forward Jubril Adekoya picking up MVP honors. Andrew is in a brutal stretch: six of the next seven games are on the road. And pardon the pun, but the Lincoln-Way North Phoenix are on the rise. Daryle Morgan led his team to three wins in four games at Lincoln-Way Easts Medieval Classic over the holidays.

No. 7 Plainfield East (11-0) @ Plainfield North (3-11), 7:00 pm

The Bengals are turning into quite a story. The school has only been in existence for 3 years and they already have a top 10 program with a nice holiday trophy (Pekin Holiday Tournament) in the hallway case. Austin Robinson, Jawan Straughter and Brian Bennett will now look to guide East through Southwestern Prairie conference play. Plainfield North competed in the Pontiac tournament over holiday break. They battled in their last game, a 69-63 loss to Waukegan.

Joliet West (8-4) @ Joliet Central (6-6), 7:00 pm

The battle for Joliet is also a jostle for position in the competitive Southwest Suburban Blue conference. West picked up a win at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and has also played well against the likes of Homewood-Flossmoor and West Aurora. Senior center Marlon Johnson figures is tough to contain on both sides of the floor. Central went 1-3 in the McDipper Tournament at Rich South. Junior guard Jalen Heath leads the Steelmen.

Evanston (11-3) @ No. 15 New Trier (12-2), 7:30 pm

One of the best rivalries in the state features a sneaky-tough Evanston team that quietly took the consolation crown at a very competitive McDipper Tournament. Leonard Garron, Josh Irving and Jordan Perrin lead the Wildkits. New Trier was equally impressive at the Proviso West tournament, taking home second place honors. David Bragiel, Austin Angel, Connor Boehm and Jordan Thomas figure to get a lot of looks on the Trevians offense. The girls teams will square off at 6 pm. New Trier features Northwestern-bound guard Maggie Lyon. Evanston has picked it up of late, winning three of their last five.

No. 9 St. Ignatius (11-1) @ St. Rita (6-5), 7:30 pm

It seems like every game in the Catholic North has Game of the Night potential and this clash is no different. St. Ignatius, CSNs Muscle Milk Team of the Week, is on a serious roll. They tamed the competition at the Jack Tosh Holiday tournament, earning victories over Downers Grove South and De La Salle in the process. St. Ritas record is deceiving. They have only lost one game to an Illinois foe. The guards (Ritas Tony Hicks and Ignatius Brian Howard) drive both offenses.

Wauconda (7-7) @ North Chicago (9-2), 7:30 pm

It could be a memorable night for Illinois State recruit Aaron Simpson and the North Chicago Warhawks. The talented guard needs 12 points to become the schools all-time leading scorer. Simpson, who contributes mightily to the Warhawks 78.8 points per game average, scored 133 points over four games at the State Farm Holiday Classic. He was named to the all-tournament team. The Bulldogs, winners of three of their last four, need to step up on defense to have a chance here. Matt Mead and Kyle Ryan are their threats on offense.

Mundelein (14-3) @ Libertyville (10-3), 7:30 pm

The Mustangs gaudy win total ranks currently ranks near the top of all Illinois teams. A marquee win on the road in the rugged North Suburban Lake could help them bust into the top 20. Their last win was a 110-79 triumph over Buhach Colony (Calif.). Robert Knar and Sean OBrien are two of the featured stars. Libertyville figures to be a good test. They took third place at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. Ellis Matthews and Griffin Pils are leaders on the Wildcats roster.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after Blackhawks hockey and SportsNet Central. We'll also have in-depth feature stories and take a look back down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment. This week, be sure to check out CSN's Muscle Milk Team of the Week, St. Ignatius. After a strong campaign last season, the Wolfpack were considered also-rans this season. How did this Chicago school get back on top? Also, we'll have the latest on the Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on csnchicago.com.

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

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues after another injury setback

porter-1210.jpg
USA TODAY

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues after another injury setback

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues, and continues to lengthen.

Porter, who has been out since Nov. 9, now will be reassessed in four weeks after visiting Dr. Bob Anderson, a noted foot and ankle specialist, Monday in Green Bay, Wis. In a release, the Bulls said Anderson confirmed Porter’s bone injury in his left foot. In a new development, the team said the “healing response (is) consistent with a small fracture that has become more clearly defined with repeated imaging over the last five weeks.”

Porter will remain in his walking boot for now. And the Bulls’ depth at small forward, which also currently features Chandler Hutchison out with a bruised shoulder, will continue to be tested.

Kris Dunn will remain in a starting role until Hutchison returns. Denzel Valentine also has taken advantage of his opportunity created by these injuries.

However, Porter’s absence is significant.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Yu Darvish's 'bargain' contract and the Cubs' pursuit of starting pitching

Yu Darvish's 'bargain' contract and the Cubs' pursuit of starting pitching

SAN DIEGO — Two offseasons ago, the Cubs inked a megadeal with one of the top pitchers on the market — a 31-year-old right-hander coming off a World Series run.

They paid $126 million over six years.

This offseason, the Nationals inked a megadeal with one of the top pitchers on the market — a 31-year-old right-hander coming off a World Series run. 

They paid $245 million over seven years.

A lot has changed in the last two winters.

Now, this isn't an argument about which pitcher was better at the time of their signing — Darvish or Strasburg. Wherever you fall in that debate, there's no denying they're at least comparable in terms of talent and production. 

Strasburg's deal also makes the Darvish contract look like a relative bargain, as the Cubs locked down their righty for roughly half the amount the Nationals paid.

It's funny we're even at the point in Darvish's tenure that we're now looking at his megadeal like a "bargain" after it looked destined for "bust" territory as recently as earlier this year. 

Darvish's first year in Chicago was a disaster, as he dealt with a bone bruise in his forearm and managed to make only 8 starts with a 4.95 ERA in those 40 innings. But he came to camp last spring in great shape physically and mentally, bonding with his teammates on a level he did not in 2018 and flashing his sense of humor from Day 1 (which has continued this offseason on social media).

That didn't immediately translate into results, as Darvish had a 5.01 ERA entering the All-Star Break after battling bouts of wildness and longball-itis. 

Then he flipped a switch, asking for the ball in the first game of the second half and going on to become one of the top pitchers in all of baseball after the All-Star Game with a 2.76 ERA and 118 strikeouts against only 7 walks in 81.2 innings. 

"The way Darvish pitched the second half of this year, any number would be a bargain," Theo Epstein said. "It's hard to pitch better than he did. I think that's where our focus is; he's in such a great place mentally and physically right now. He was dominant, he wants to go do that over the course of many years as a Chicago Cub. He's an important guy for us."

Darvish is owed $81 million over the next four years and with the price of pitching around the game right now, it's very likely he would have been able to secure more for himself on the open market. He had an opt-out in his deal, but chose instead to stay with the Cubs, where he was comfortable and grateful to the organization for their patience and support during his difficult start to his Chicago career. 

"Certainly the way the starting pitching market has moved and as quickly as it's moved, you couldn't get a guy like Yu Darvish on that kind of number now, let alone what's left on his deal," Epstein said. "You want more contracts that have surplus value than the other way around. He's a real asset for us."

Even with Darvish's contract now looking like a bargain or boasting "surplus value," the Cubs are still in a tight spot financially with a projected payroll around $6 million north of the luxury tax threshold. 

Yet Epstein's front office is still in the market for another starting pitcher to take Cole Hamels' spot in the rotation. They have internal options (Tyler Chatwood, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Collin Rea, Jharel Cotton) and could potentially slot one of those guys in that role, but Epstein and Co. always want to run their rotation depth chart eight or nine arms deep. 

Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester are locked into rotation spots and Jose Quintana will be as well, if he's not traded. The Cubs picked up Quintana's $10.5 million option for 2020, but it's the final year of his team-friendly deal and if the Cubs want to shed salary, dealing the veteran lefty might be an avenue to do so depending on what he'd fetch in a return.

If Quintana is moved, that obviously creates another hole in the rotation. Even if he remains on the North Side of Chicago, it would only be a short-term solution. Neither he nor Lester are signed beyond 2020 (Lester does have a vesting option for 2021) and the Cubs need long-term solutions for the rotation. 

So does that mean the Cubs are placing young, controllable starting pitching as a priority in trade talks as they dangle players like Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras?

"You can't force it," Epstein said. "We have a couple starting pitchers under longer-term control and then we have a couple who are up after next year and not a lot of depth behind it. So it would be nice, but you can't necessarily force it. We have a lot of needs and if we were to move a really good player, you want to get talent back. 

"It doesn't necessarily matter what position or what shape. But yeah, it'd certainly be nice over the course of this offseason and maybe the next trade deadline and maybe next offseason, we make sure we acquire impactful starting pitching at some point."

That could mean in the free agent pool, though the current budget issues would make that tough unless it's buying low on pitchers like they have the last two winters with Rea and Cotton.

It's yet another area where the Cubs' inability to draft and develop impact pitchers has come back to haunt Epstein's front office. But they can at least be grateful Darvish will return and has recouped enough value to change the conversation surrounding his signing as that of a "bargain."