Preps Talk

Barrington DE Lukas VanNess and Lemont senior WR Anthony Sambucci give verbal commits

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Barrington DE Lukas VanNess and Lemont senior WR Anthony Sambucci give verbal commits

Barrington senior three star ranked defensive end Lukas VanNess (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) wrapped up a wild last few months of his recruiting process and today gave the Iowa Hawkeyes his verbal commitment. 

"After a great official visit weekend at Iowa meeting with the entire staff incoming recruits and current players it became apparent that Iowa was the right fit and decision for me," VanNess said. "Iowa offers such a family atmosphere that it just can't be created anywhere else."

VanNess, who was offered a scholarship last week by the Iowa Hawkeye coaches didn't see his recruiting stock really begin to talk off until three weeks ago. VanNess, who had some FCS and limited lower D1 offers at the time attended and performed well at the Lindenwood Megacamp in early June. Immediately after that camp VanNess was able to come away with multiple offers from the likes of Illinois, Kansas, NIU, Wyoming and his recruiting stock took off since that camp and grew to an impressive 31 offers before pledging to the Hawkeyes today.

VanNess is also the Hawkeyes 18th known verbal commitment in the Class of 2020 and the fifth known State of Illinois pledge for Iowa. VanNess joins Decatur MacArthur S AJ Lawson who earlier this weekend also committed to the Hawkeyes along with Richards RB Leshon Williams, Byron OL Tyler Elsbury plus Lena Winslow DT Isaiah Bruce as State of Illinois pledges for Iowa. 

Lemont senior WR Anthony Sambucci (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) added an offer from Western Michigan last week and made a return visit to Western Michigan this weekend and on Sunday gave the Broncos and head coach Tim Lester his verbal commitment. 

"The offer and the opportunity from Western Michigan was just too good for me to pass up," Sambucci said. "I visited again this weekend and after getting to learn more about the coaches and the team I knew I was ready to commit to Western Michigan."

Sanbucci is the 12th known verbal commitment for Western Michigan in the Class of 2020 and the third State of Illinois pledge. Sambucci joins Phillips S Ronald Pledger along with Brother Rice S Giacomo Irace as Land of Lincoln pledges for WMU.

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.