White Sox

Northwestern enters 2012-13 season with added size

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Northwestern enters 2012-13 season with added size

ROSEMONT When asked how his basketball team will improve its rebounding, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody responded with his own question.

Just throw out some raw steaks on the court? What are you going to do? he said during a press conference Thursday at Big Ten Media Day.

You can do rebounding drills forever. You gotta get the ball. The guys have to go after it. Thats all I can tell you.

The Wildcats could improve their rebounding this season after adding size and physicality through recruiting. And their frontcourt is considered a strength, despite the loss of the schools all-time leading scorer, John Shurna.

Thats exactly what we needed. We needed some rebounding and inside presence. Im the only normal-sized guy weve got now, guard Dave Sobolewski said. Its a lot of fun playing with bigger guys. Seeing the Big Ten last year as a freshman and seeing how big those other teams are, I know this is exactly what we needed to make that next step.

Northwestern added two 7-footers, 7-foot-2 Chier Ajou, who is the cousin of the Chicago Bulls Luol Deng, and 275-pound Alex Olah. Other newcomers are 6-foot-8 Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, 6-foot-7 Kale Abrahamson and 6-foot-6 Sanjay Lumpkin.

With the newcomers, the Wildcats have the potential to quality for the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, Carmody said.

As valuable as John was, when he was down in the low post, he got knocked around a lot, Carmody said. These guys are stronger, maybe not as talented, definitely not in the same way. But that interior will help our outside shooting. We wont take as many threes as weve done in the past. Itll help if our guys down there can score inside.

Carmody noted Olah, a freshman center, has been impressive in practice recently. Olah has been receptive to coaching and doesnt need to be a star right away alongside the Wildcats veterans, Carmody said.

Hell only get better, Carmody said. Hes 7 feet, he can run, hes 275 pounds. He can actually make a shot at the top.

The Wildcats also added size and experience with the arrival of Swopshire, who averaged 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds as a reserve for Louisville last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. He missed the 2010-11 season due to injury. Hes a graduate student at Northwestern.

Hes got really long arms, Sobolewski said. He moves well. He runs the floor well, and he finishes around the rim pretty well. Im fully confident hell be able to bring a new physical nature to our team, and hes already been showing that in practice.

The added size and physicality could help the Wildcats shore up their issues last season. Northwestern went 19-14, 8-10 in the Big Ten, and qualified for the NIT.

With these new guys at center, the frontcourt is looking great, Sobolewski said. Its something we didnt have last year. We have a really good backcourt and our wings are strong as well. I dont see any major weakness with our team. Last year, our weakness was our defense and rebounding, mainly rebounding. We gave up too many second and third chances, but with our size and physicality, thatll really be an advantage for us.

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

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Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

It was only a couple of months ago that Dylan Covey had an earned-run average of 2.22 and was being touted as a possible future stalwart in the White Sox rotation.

Fast forward to the present, when the 27-year-old right-hander is sitting on a four-game losing skid and sports a 6.06 ERA.

So what happened?

Location, location, location.

Covey has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and has paid the price as hitters are teeing off on the high offerings.

“I just kind of got away from trying to keep the ball down in the zone and have that be my main focus,” Covey said. “Sometimes when I’m up in the zone I’m trying to be up there, but I need to get back to my bread and butter, which is pretty much being down in the zone with everything.”

The issues have been a combination of mechanics and mentality, according to Covey.

“Having good mechanics will lead to getting the ball down into the zone but more so it’s having the focus be down in the zone,” he said.

Covey’s next attempt to right the ship will be Saturday when he’s scheduled to pitch against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. Despite his struggles, which include a 1-6 record and 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, manager Rick Renteria has continued to give Covey the ball.

“I’ve kind of been given the luxury to have a couple of opportunities and I appreciate that,” Covey said. “They see me work and they see the stuff that I have. When I can harness it and get control of it, it can be pretty good.”

Renteria said the Sox are “confident and hopeful” that Covey can turn things around.

“In real terms, he’s the one that's got to do it,” Renteria added. “He’s worked and gained a lot of experience and knowledge and had some successes this year that I think will bode well for him. Getting it down, for him is really, really important because the ball has a lot of tremendous action below the zone. We need him to do that in order to be effective and we believe he will continue to progress in that regard.”

Covey said that a stretch from May 23-June 13 when he went 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA gave him the confidence he needs to get through this difficult stretch.

“I’ve seen it this year--I’ve had the success,” Covey said. “When things are working for me I know I can be a really good pitcher. I just need to limit the mistakes and then learn to make an adjustment sooner rather than later.”

With about six weeks remaining in the Sox’s season, Covey plans to use his opportunities on the mound to secure a place on the 2019 roster.

“That’s where a lot of guys on this team are,” Covey said. “Obviously, we want to win games right now but for me, I want to finish this season strong and get some momentum going into next year and leave off on a good note. Just to have that feeling of, ‘OK, this is what I did last year and how I finished and let’s just carry on from there and pick it up from where I left off.’”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

Seth Gruen, Chris Emma and Matt Zahn join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester pitches like Jon Lester again and the offense does just enough to win in Pittsburgh. Jim Deshaies joins the guys to talk about the Cubs.

 

Should Roquan Smith make his preseason debut in Denver? Plus the Ohio State controversy takes a salacious turn. Will Urban Meyer keep his job when the investigation wraps up Sunday?

 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: