Bears

Orr makes waves in Red-West

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Orr makes waves in Red-West

To hear Louis Adams tell it, his Orr basketball team has more talent and potential than USA Basketball. That's right, Orr, which has never seriously contended for a Public League championship and never has qualified for the Sweet Sixteen in the state tournament.

But Adams might be right, after all. At least give him the benefit of a doubt. His Spartans are 16-3 going into the Public League playoffs, which includes victories over Red-West rivals Whitney Young and Marshall, highly rated Seton and perennial power Detroit Country Day. They defeated Hales Franciscan 51-36 on Saturday night.

"This is the best team I have ever had, even better than Englewood (which was 27-5 in 2007 and lost to North Lawndale in the regional final)," Adams said. "We have four Division I players. Our goal is to win the city. We know we have to get by Simeon. We know they are good but we are pretty good, too. Our guard play gives us an edge."

Adams acknowledges that Simeon's Jabari Parker and Marshall's Milton Doyle are the two best players in the Public League. But he insists he has four players who are as good or better than any comparable foursome on any other team in the state.

And Adams knows something about guards. Born and raised in Tunica, Mississippi, he was a Division III All-America point guard at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter was his roommate. He was invited to the U.S. Olympic trials in 1984.

"The strength of our team is guard play. They play with toughness and intelligence and make good decisions," Adams said. "You can go a long way if you make good decisions, who to pass to, knowing your personnel on the floor, when to slow down and when to fast break, when to pull back and when to speed it up. Good guards make the difference in the state tournament."

Competing in the Red-West, generally recognized as the most competitive basketball conference in the state, Adams believes weekly battles against the likes of Marshall, Crane, Farragut and Whitney Young will prepare his young squad for the Class 3A sectional at Glenbard South, which also includes Crane, Marshall, Farragut, North Lawndale, St. Joseph and Riverside-Brookfield.

What kind of a statement did Orr's recent 68-50 victory over Marshall mean? Durell Williams, a 6-foot-2 junior, came off the bench to lead the Spartans with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Marquise Pryor, a 6-foot-7 junior, contributed 12 points and 15 rebounds while 5-foot-9 junior point guard Jamal McDowell had 8 points and 12 assists. McDowell also limited Marshall star Milton Doyle to 10 points, 14 below his average.

"It tells us we can play with anybody in the city," Adams said. "The guards played well, like I know they can play. You have to have good guard play to succeed in the state tournament."

Adams describes Pryor as the leading rebounder in the state. He is averaging 17 points and 19 rebounds per game. "He has a knack for the ball, a Dennis Rodman type, like (former North Lawndale star) Jonathan Mills but more offense, He is relentless," the coach said.

Pryor is being recruited by Illinois, Baylor, Kansas State, Marquette and Colorado State, according to Adams. With a summer and another high school season remaining before graduation, he likely will receive much more attention from Division I programs.

So will 6-foot-7 sophomore Tyquone Greer, who is averaging 13 points per game. Greer is very versatile. He plays four positions. "He has great potential. He is just beginning to realize how good he can be," Adams said.

Adams describes McDowell (8 ppg, 7 assists) as "the toughest defender in Illinois, a better defender than I was."

And he reminds college recruiters to pay attention to 6-foot-8 sophomore Marlon Johnson, a transfer from Crane who is expected to gain eligibility for the second semester. Adams predicts Johnson will be better than former Orr star Mycheal Henry, now at Illinois. "He can be a top 25 player in the nation," Adams said.

The other starters are 5-foot-8 senior Devontay Jones (12 ppg) and 5-foot-11 senior Deshaun King, who averages 20 points per game and is the team's leading scorer. "King is the best three-point shooter in the state," Adams said. King scored 19 to lead Orr's victory over Hales Franciscan.

There is more talent on the bench with Durell Williams, 5-foot-10 senior Trashaun Jones and 6-foot-5 freshman Darnell Williams, whom Adams projects as a future star.

Adams came to Orr via a round-about route. He opted not to attend the U.S. Olympic trials. "I was a momma's boy. I didn't want to go far away from home. I thought Colorado Springs, Colorado (site of the trials) was too far," he said.

But he moved to Montana to work for the U.S. Forest Service, fighting fires in Yellowstone National Park, for five years. Then his old college roommate, Tyrone Slaughter, persuaded him to come to Chicago, where his family was from.

He worked for Slaughter at a Dominick's grocery store in Melrose Park, then went to work for Marshall Field's (now Macy's) department store. But he wanted to get into the coaching profession. He wanted to work with coach Robert Smith at Simeon. So he applied for a job with the Board of Education.

"I felt I could get my own team," said Adams, who was hired at Englewood in 1996. He spent eight years at Englewood and sent a dozen players to college. His last team almost qualified for the state finals. When Englewood closed, he moved to Orr. He was eager to plant is own roots, build his own program and establish his own identity.

His teams have gotten better each year. His first team was 10-15. Two years ago, he was 18-10. Last year's 22-8 team lost to Riverside-Brookfield in the sectional final. This year?

"We're looking to go as far as we can," Adams said.

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Chicago Bears fans are sick and tired of the quarterback conversation surrounding this team as we enter the most important two month stretch of the offseason. My Twitter timeline (and vicious replies) are evidence of that. 

Duly noted.

That said, it's an unavoidable truth that GM Ryan Pace has no choice but to do something at quarterback in free agency or the NFL Draft. The most diehard Mitch Trubisky fan has to admit that. The former second overall pick hasn't developed into a franchise player through three seasons under center, and while the optimist would argue there's still time for him to become that guy, the realist is who must prevail when it comes to roster construction.

Marcus Mariota may be the perfect compromise. He doesn't have a resume that will immediately threaten Trubisky in 2020, but his sneaky upside combined with his youth and overall skill set is an ideal combination that could make him a long-term answer if Trubisky fails in the short-term.

According to Sports Illustrated, Chicago -- and coach Matt Nagy -- would be an ideal destination for Mariota, even if there's an inherent conflict of interest because both Mariota and Trubisky are represented by the same agent.

There are coaches out there—cough, Chicago, cough—who could slide him in easily under the guise that Mariota is a high-quality backup and develop him into a weapon under center who could take over when the starter falters.

Mariota, like Trubisky, hasn't lived up to the hype that he entered the NFL with back in 2015 when he was the second overall pick of the Titans. He's logged 61 starts and a career record of 29-32. He's completed just under 63% of his 1,110 career pass attempts and has 76 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions.

His stat sheet isn't impressive. His on-field play, at times, hasn't been, either. But he'd be an ideal reclamation project that the Bears can sell as the perfect backup even if the hope is for him to emerge as a starter.

There’s an advantage for QB-needy teams here who don’t want to deal with the public courting of Tom Brady, who don’t want to sacrifice mobility by signing Philip Rivers, who don’t want to roll the dice on every snap by signing Jameis Winston, and who don’t have the trade capital or cap space to go after someone like Nick Foles or Derek Carr.

Chicago won't be able to get into a bidding war for the bigger names like Tom Brady or even Teddy Bridgewater because of their limited cap space. Mariota won't command nearly as much to sign, and he's likely to get nothing more than a one-year commitment from a team hoping he can be like the guy who replaced him, Ryan Tannehill.

Of all the quarterbacks who've been pegged as a possible option for the Bears, Mariota feels like the most logical and, more importantly, cheaper targets who realistically could be lining up as the Chicago's starter by Week 4 of the 2020 season.

Tributes to Kobe Bryant, city of Chicago highlight memorable All-Star Sunday

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USA Today

Tributes to Kobe Bryant, city of Chicago highlight memorable All-Star Sunday

The specter of Kobe Bryant was omnipresent throughout All-Star weekend. Too often, it felt that the city of Chicago was not. 

But both took center stage at the All-Star game itself on Sunday night. The result was poignant, powerful and downright enthralling.

Magic Johnson set the tone early with a eulogy to Bryant that elicited multiple, impassioned ‘Kobe!’ chants from the crowd. That gave way to South Side native Common seamlessly weaving a cadenced monologue dedicated to Chicago, Bryant and daughter Gigi, as images of city legends from Barack Obama to Michael Jordan to Hebru Brantley flashed across the screen. The United Center rippled with emotion from start to finish.

For Bryant, the homage was a culmination. For Chicago, it was an essential re-centering to cap a weekend that saw only one Bull participate in an event — Zach LaVine, who exited after round one of the 3-point shootout. After 32 years since last hosting, this city deserved its moment in the sun. That one delivered.

“Chicago held it down,” Anthony Davis said. “I think they showed the league and everyone around the world about our Chicago history, about the city. I think everyone enjoyed it and respects Chicago a little bit more.”

Of course, there was a game to play, too — and embedded within were moments of pure symbolism.

On the surface: Members of Team Giannis and Team LeBron donned No. 24 and No. 2, respectively, in honor of Bryant and Gigi. The final quarter of the game went untimed, a slog to 157 (24 points more than the 133 Team Giannis entered the period with, per the league’s new Elam-inspired format). 

Chicago charities — Chicago Scholars ($400,000) for Team LeBron, After School Matters ($100,000) for Giannis — also received a cumulative $500,000 over the course of the game. Seventy-nine assists between the two teams means $79,000 will go towards STEM research in the greater Chicago area, too.

But now, let’s get a little nebulous. 

That fourth quarter, after a familiarly lackluster previous three, was electric. The offenses were legitimately running plays, the defenses were scrapping. There was controversial officiating, sweat dripping, and charges and clutch blocks galore. By the end, you could cut the tension with a knife.

“It felt like playing in the league in a playoff game,” Davis said.

Forgive me this contrivance, but how fitting a finish to commemorate both this city and Bryant. A true grind-it-out, scratch-and-claw affair. And as epic a pickup run as you’re like to find.

Most poetic, then, was the winning bucket. Yes, it was a free-throw — an anticlimactic ending to a memorable night — but the man that took it, Davis, was both born and bred in Chicago, and currently reps the same purple and gold Bryant did for 20 seasons as a member of the Lakers. 

“It was a great feeling, to be back home,” Davis said. “And I’m happy I was able to be the one to knock down the free throw to seal the game.

“For our side to get a win, for Kob (Kobe), this whole weekend was honoring him. And I think the league did a great job of doing that.”

Davis went on to congratulate Kawhi Leonard, who tonight took home the first ever Kobe Bryant All-Star game MVP award. His 30 points led all scorers in the game.

“It’s very special,” Leonard said. “I had a relationship with him (Bryant). Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room… And just to be able to see Kobe’s name on there. It just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”

On Thursday, normalcy will return to the United Center in the form of the Bulls and Hornets. But this was a night no one will soon forget. Thank you, Chicago. Thank you, basketball.

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