Cubs

High School Lites preview: Conference showdown week

603502.png

High School Lites preview: Conference showdown week

Its Conference Showdown Week on High School Lites. Pivotal games dot the Chicago basketball landscape this weekend. The keys to the West Suburban Gold title could end up going to the Downers Grove South-Proviso East winner. In the Southwest Suburban Red, will Andrew remain undefeated after Fridays tilt at Thornwood? And who takes control of the Mid-Suburban West: Schaumburg or Barrington? 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 games

No. 1 Simeon (16-1) @ Vocational (15-6), 4:00 p.m.

Simeon head coach Robert Smith said that Mondays loss to nationally-ranked Findlay Prep woke the team up a bit. Nowhere was that more apparent than in Wednesdays victory over Urban Prep-Englewood. Jabari Parker had a game high 32 points in the 83-39 victory. That sets the stage for Thursdays game against a Vocational team that took care of Carver on Wednesday, 67-55. The Wolverines will travel to Memphis Saturday for a game against Southwind (TN) in the Penny Hardaway Hoop Fest.

GIRLS: Lincoln-Way Central (10-8) @ Bolingbrook (14-1), 7:00 p.m.

Connecticut-bound senior forward Morgan Tuck is close to unstoppable. She had 32 points and 20 rebounds Tuesday night against Lincoln-Way East (a double-double at halftime) in a 78-48 victory. Lincoln-Way Central has stayed above water this season thanks to the efforts of players like Rachel Post and Autumn Schultz. If the Knights are to improve on their 77-22 loss to Bolingbrook earlier in the season, containing Tuck is a must.

No. 2 Proviso East (14-0) @ No. 10 Downers Grove South (13-2), 7:30 p.m.

Not many teams can say that they will face two top-five opponents in one season, much less in one week. And back-to-back. Such is life for the 10th ranked Mustangs, who face the Pirates for first place in the West Suburban Gold Thursday, then turn around to battle No. 4 Warren on Saturday. Souths Jerron Wilbut and Jamall Millison comprise one of the top backcourts in the state, but Proviso Easts powerful lineup is one that could play in Peoria. Talented St. Louis-bound guard Keith Carter is every bit as good as advertised.

Friday games

No. 15 Whitney Young (8-6) @ North Lawndale (12-5), 5:30 p.m.

Both the Phoenix and the 15th-ranked Dolphins are coming off conference losses on Wednesday, which makes Fridays Red-West contest all the more important. 6-10 sophomore center Jahlil Okafor is coming off a 34 point performance for Whitney Young. Davonte Johnson, Kelvin Grayson and Alonzo Singletary are some of the key contributors for North Lawndale, who are among the teams chasing Marshall in conference play.

No. 5 Andrew (13-0) @ Thornwood (11-5), 6:30 p.m.

The weather forecasters are calling for snow Friday nightbut a thunderstorm might happen in South Holland. Cheesy references aside, the Thunderbolts and Thunderbirds tangle in a game for the outright lead in the Southwest Suburban Red. Both teams stand at 5-0 in the conference. Andrews Adekoya brothers (Jubril and Jawad) will be tested by Thornwood seniors Darrell Combs (G) and Khapri Alston (F). The two teams meet again in Tinley Park on February 21st.

No. 16 St. Ignatius (13-2) @ No. 9 De La Salle (13-2), 7:30 p.m.

Which Catholic North team will be left standing at the top of the mountain? The Wolfpack and Meteors comprise two of the three conference leaders (St. Rita being the other). The game has added significance because it represents a rematch of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament championship, won by St. Ignatius in overtime. Iggys Brian Howard hit a clutch three in that game but Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis of De La Salle are eager to answer the call this time around.

St. Patrick (7-7) @ No. 19 Notre Dame (14-4), 7:30 p.m.

Its one of the classic rivalries in the state. The visiting Shamrocks have won three of their last four, including Saturdays 62-45 triumph over Niles West. They have a pair of talented seniors in forward Ismar Seferagic and guard Royale Ewing. The Dons have won three straight and have wins this season over Crete-Monee, Brother Rice and Marist to their credit. And its all about balance with Notre Dame. No player on their roster is averaging in double figures, but keep an eye on junior guard Matt Mooney.

Niles North (12-5) @ Glenbrook North (13-3), 7:30 p.m.

The Spartans don't have to worry about Abdel Nader on the Niles North roster anymore. However, they have to be concerned about the Vikings' 5-6 point guard Malachi Nix. He is quick on both sides of the floor and has range with his shot. Niles North can tie Glenbrook North for first in the Central Suburban North with a win, but look for head coach Dave Weber and company to respond. Guard Kurt Karis and forward Mark Johnson have been on fire of late.

Glenbard West (11-2) @ Oak Park-River Forest (10-4), 7:30 p.m.

Now that Ka'Darryl Bell is back, look out. The Bradley-bound guard has returned to the OPRF lineup after missing a month with an injury to his right wrist. But this game might come down to the big men. The Huskies feature three players 6-7 and above, including Gabe Levin (16 points, 12 boards against Lyons on Saturday). The Hilltoppers boast twin towers Michael and Matthew Mache (both 6-6) and 6-8 center Pat Mazza.

No. 4 Warren (12-2) @ Lake Zurich (11-9), 7:30 p.m.

The Blue Devils continue to keep their foot on the gas in 2012. Their last two wins have been by a combined 49 points (Libertyville and Lakes). Seniors Nathan Boothe (C) and Darius Paul (F) continue to dominate opponents. But Lake Zurich has been sneaky-tough this year. They have nice wins over Barrington and Stevenson. Their go-to guy is 6-6 Mirko Grcic, a versatile player who can do damage in the paint and from beyond the arc.

Schaumburg (13-4) @ Barrington (12-6), 7:30 p.m.

First place in the Mid-Suburban West is up for grabs Friday night in Barrington, with the host Broncos coming off a 61-41 rout of Fremd. Future Western Illinois forward John Schneider is back in their lineup. He will be playing in his third game of the season after breaking his finger. The Saxons will counter with senior forward Christian Spandiary and junior point guard Kyle Bolger. Barrington took the December 16th contest at Schaumburg, 45-44.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. This week's episode will air just after the Blackhawks-Panthers game 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, Crane High School. The Condors have several college prospects, including 6-9, 230-pound sophomore Cliff Alexander. Could they play in Peoria this March? Curie has only lost to one team: the Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured 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

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

The Cubs could use a leadoff hitter and a center fielder. One player who can fill both of those holes is available is looking to sign soon.

Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama is in the U.S. with his agent, according to Sports Nippon, while the winter meetings take place in San Diego.

Akiyama is a center field option when center field options are limited this offseason. Brett Gardner is a free agent, but the 36-year-old wouldn’t be easy to pry away from his only professional organization.

Akiyama is 31 and saw a dropoff in his numbers in Japan last season, but still had a .392 on-base percentage with 20 home runs in 143 games.

Albert Almora’s struggles last season left the Cubs with uncertainty in center going forward. That saw Jason Heyward spending some time in center with Kyle Schwarber and Nicholas Castellanos on the corners. That’s not a pretty defensive outfield. Meanwhile, Akiyama has two Golden Glove awards in Japan.

He would also bring on-base skills and speed to a Cubs lineup that has resorted to having power hitter Anthony Rizzo play leadoff at times.

Akiyama would also likely not be an expensive option, which is key for a Cubs team reportedly looking to get under the luxury tax this offseason.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Report: Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies

Report: Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies

While most teams with World Series aspirations are looking to bolster their roster in free agency, the Cubs are in a precarious situation.

Theo Epstein and team need to shed payroll before being able to make any moves, and have reportedly been telling representatives of free agents as much.

And the easiest path to shedding payroll is trading away high-priced players. Two names that have come up frequently are former NL MVP Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras.

While that's all been speculation, 670 The Score's Bruce Levine reported the Cubs talked to the Phillies about a Bryant deal.

The big hold up surrounding could be Bryant his unresolved service time grievance. What the arbiter will determine is how many years of team control are left, one or two years. That would impact Bryant's value on the market and a trade partner would be foolish to not wait to see how that plays out.

But as free agents come off the board, it could make teams more desperate and create a bidding war. That market could have already been shaped by Stephen Strasburg's extension in Washington.

It's worth nothing, Bryant's friend Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies last offseason for a mega contract and he could be intrigued by the option of playing with his pal. Not to mention, former Cubs teammate Jake Arrieta is on the Phils' pitching staff.

But with Harper's massive contract on the books for another 12 seasons, would a Bryant move land him a big, long-term contract to stay in the City of Brotherly Love? Perhaps not.

The Phillies entered free agency with about $150 million in committed payroll for the 2020 season, there is a lot of room under the expected $208 million luxury tax threshold to add a player like Bryant.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.