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Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

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Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

Johnny "Red" Kerr didn't earn All-State recognition while playing at Tilden. And Jack Sikma, from tiny St. Anne near Kankakee, was the first small-school player in Illinois to take advantage of the newly adopted two-class system and make a big reputation for himself.

They are two of the 25 male and female players who will be inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville. As members of the second class of honorees, they will be recognized at the annual banquet on Nov. 3 in Champaign.

Kerr's first passion was soccer but an eight-inch growth spurt compelled him to turn his attention to basketball. At Tilden, he led coach Bill Postl's team to Chicago Public League championships in 1949 and 1950.

He starred on Tilden's 1949 team that finished 20-9 and lost to John Biever and West Aurora 34-33 in the state quarterfinals. But he was a mid-year graduate in 1950 and wasn't on the tournament roster for the 27-5 team that lost to Elgin 59-50 in the state quarterfinals.

Later, the 6-foot-9 center scored 1,299 points in three years at Illinois, helping the Illini to the Big 10 championship and the NCAA's Final Four in 1952. He was elected to Illinois' All-Century Team in 2004.

In 1954, Kerr was chosen by the Syracuse Nationals as the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft. As a rookie, he averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as the Nationals won the NBA championship. He had over 12,000 points and over 10,000 rebounds in his career and held the NBA record for most consecutive games played (844) until 1983.

He retired from competition after the 1965-66 season to become the first head coach of the new Chicago Bulls franchise. Later, he became a popular color commentator on the Bulls'television broadcasts, overseeing the Bulls' six NBA titles in the 1990s. He died in 2009.

Sikma was the Chicago Daily News' Class A Player of the Year in 1973, leading St. Anne to a 30-3 record and fourth place in the Class A tournament. He was the second-leading scorer with 100 points and 73 rebounds in the final four games.

The 6-foot-11 center went on to become the leading scorer and rebounder ever to play at Illinois Wesleyan, then was chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics as the eighth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie team, was a seven-time all-star and helped Seattle to win the NBA title in 1978-79. In his career, he scored over 17,000 points and grabbed nearly 11,000 rebounds.

One of the most accurate shooting big men in NBA history -- he led the league in free throw percentage (92.2) in 1987-88 and averaged 84.9 for his career -- Sikma had his No. 43 jersey retired by Seattle in 1992. He currently is an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA.

Kerr is one of 10 inductees from the pre-1960s era. The others are Bumpy Nixon, Galesburg; Rich Falk, Galva; Lynch Conway, Peoria Central; Joe Ruklick, Princeton; Rod Fletcher, Champaign; Jake Fendlay, South Shore; Homer Thurman, Bloom; Bob Owens, Paris; and Tom Cole, Springfield.

Sikma is one of 10 inductees from the post-1960s era. The others are Lloyd Batts, Thornton; Joey Range, Galesburg; Darius Miles, East St. Louis; Michael Payne, Quincy; Steve Kuberski, Moline; Russell Cross, Manley; Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young; Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual; and Greg Starrick, Marion.

The five women are Cappie Pondexter and Marie Christian, Marshall; Diana Vines, South Shore; Natasha Pointer, Whitney Young; and Alicia Ratay, Lake Zurich.

Legendary Galesburg coach John Thiel once described Lawrence "Bumpy" Nixon as "the best player ever to grace the halls of Galesburg High School." As a junior, he led Quincy to the Sweet Sixteen. As a senior at Galesburg, he led his team to a 29-2 record and third place in the state tournament.

Falk was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A guard at Galva, he averaged 29.8 points per game as a senior. He scored over 2,000 points in his career. He ranks second in state history for scoring more than 50 points in five games with a high of 57. Later, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection at Northwestern and was head coach at his alma mater from 1978 to 1989. In 2009, he retired as associate commissioner of the Big 10.

Conway was the leader of the Peoria Central team that won the first state championship in 1908. He scored 22 points in the state final and his mark of 11 field goals stood for 42 years. He also was the first African-American to play on Bradley University's basketball team.

Ruklick, a 6-foot-9 center, led Princeton to fourth place in the 1955 state tournament and finished as the leading scorer with 104 points in four games. He later was a standout at Northwestern. But he is best remembered as the Philadelphia 76er who passed the ball to Wilt Chamberlain for his 100th point, most ever scored in an NBA game.

Fletcher started on Champaign's 38-1 state championship team in 1946 and its 38-4 state runner-up in 1947. As a senior in 1948, he was named to the All-State team while playing for a 13-15 team that reached the Sweet Sixteen. At Illinois, the 6-foot-4 guard was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior. He led Illinois to two Big 10 titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances.

Fendley was a two-time All-Stater at Chicago South Shore in 1946 and 1947. He played on South Shore's 1944 team that finished third in the state tournament. The 6-foot-1 guard was his team's leading scorer and an all-tournament selection on the 24-3 team that lost to state champion Paris in the 1947 quarterfinals.

In the 1950s, when Bloom Township of Chicago Heights was the dominant high school sports program in Illinois, Thurman emerged as one of the best all-around athletes in state history. He was an All-Stater in basketball in 1959. As a sophomore, he started on a 22-2 team that lost in the Sweet Sixteen. He also excelled in football and track and field.

Owens was a two-time All-Stater at Paris in 1946 and 1947. In the 1940s, when Paris was one of the most dominant programs in the state, Owens was the standard-bearer. The 6-foot-2 center was the leading scorer in the 1947 tournament while leading Paris to a 40-2 record and its second state title in the decade. He scored 22 in the state final as Paris crushed Champaign 58-37.

Cole was a two-time All-Stater at Springfield in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, he led the Senators to a 24-9 record and the state quarterfinals. In 1959, he led his 33-1 team to the state championship. The 6-foot-7 center was the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 90 points, including 26 in a 60-52 victory over West Aurora in the state final.

Batts emerged as the all-time leading scorer at one of the state's most storied programs. The 6-foot-5 guardforward was a two-time All-Stater who averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior on teams that won 46 of 57 games. When he graduated from Cincinnati, he ranked behind only Oscar Robertson among the school's all-time leading scorers.

Range and Nixon are generally regarded as the two best players in Galesburg history and two of the leading players in the history of the Western Big 6 Conference. In four years, Range scored 2,390 points and averaged 21 per game. He missed only one of 114 games in his career.

Miles, a 6-foot-9 forward, was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2000. He led East St. Louis to a 24-6 record and the state quarterfinals in 1999 and to a 21-11 record and third place in the Class AA tournament in 2000. Afterward, he opted to go directly into the NBA draft and was the third player chosen, highest for a high school graduate up to that point.

Payne, a 6-foot-11 center, joined with guard Bruce Douglas, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural class, to form one of the greatest teams in state history. Payne averaged 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds and intimidated opponents at the top of the ball-press defense as Quincy went 33-0 in 1980-81. A McDonald's All-American, he later played at Iowa.

Kuberski graduated as the highest scoring player in the history of Quad-Cities basketball. As a junior, he averaged 30 points per game. As a senior, he averaged 27.7 points for a 25-3 team that lost to Chicago Marshall 75-72 in the state quarterfinals. He scored 50 points in one game.

Cross was a high school version of Bill Russell. The 6-foot-10 center put Chicago's Manley High School on the map by leading the Wildcats to a 28-3 record and the state quarterfinals in 1979. He was the state's most dominant player in 1980, leading Manley to a 31-1 record and the state championship. At Purdue, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection.

Richardson was the leader of Whitney Young's 1998 state championship team, one of the best teams in state history. The 6-foot-6 guard played only two years at DePaul but is the only player in school history to score over 1,000 points, grab over 500 rebounds and convert more than 100 three-point shots. He was the 18th pick in the 2000 NBA draft.

All you need to know about Sergio McClain is one statistic: 32-0. In four years, McClain led Peoria Manual to a 32-0 record and an unprecedented four championships in state tournament play. Recognized as a consummate floor leader and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 1997, he was selected as one of the 100 legends of Illinois high school basketball in 2007.

Starrick was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A 6-foot-2 guard at Marion, he averaged 30.3 points per game as a junior and 33.5 points as a senior. He set South Seven Conference records with 70 points in one game and 511 points or 36.5 points per game in conference play in 1966-67--all in an era before the three-point line.

Pondexter was Illinois' Player of the Year in 2001. As a sophomore in 1999, she led Marshall to the state championship. At Rutgers, she scored over 2,000 points, was Player of the Year and led her team to the NCAA tournament four times. She was voted one of the top 15 players in the 15-year history of the WNBA.

Christian was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1983. She led Marshall to the biggest upset in the history of the girls' state tournament, beating East St. Louis Lincoln with Tina Hutchinson and Toni Wallace 72-71 in overtime in the 1983 quarterfinals.

Vines was an All-Stater in 1985. She led South Shore to three straight Final Four appearances in the Public League playoff. She was the first city player to score more than 2,000 points. Later, she was a four-year starter at DePaul and until recently was the all-time leading scorer in the program.

Pointer was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1995. She led Whitney Young to a 25-4 record and the state quarterfinals in 1995. In one game, she scored 56 points. She ranks with Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, as the best players in school history.

Ratay ranks No. 13 on the state's all-time scoring list with 2,740 points in 1995-99. At Lake Zurich, she was recognized as the best three-point shooter in state history and also played on a National AAU championship team. She led Notre Dame to an NCAA title and was the nation's leading three-point shooter.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

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AP

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."