Preps Talk

High School Lites Preview: A big week of conference matchups

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites Preview: A big week of conference matchups

High School Lites has a fun show this week as we feature a lot of unique conference battles throughout Chicagoland.

We'll check in with the boys basketball regular season as we have games from the Catholic League Blue, MSL West and CSL South to name a few. On the girls side, our Viewers' Choice checks in on a Class 3A matchup.

High School Lites airs at 11 p.m. on Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago. 

Oswego East at Plainfield North, 6:30 p.m. -- This could be a fascinating game in the Southwest Prairie West. Oswego East (18-10, 11-3) currently leads the league behind seniors Sam Schultz and Will Wolfe. But the Wolves lost to Plainfield North at home on Dec. 13 as they try to avenge that earlier loss. Plainfield North (19-7, 10-4) comes in as one of the area's hottest teams. Winners of 11 straight games -- including two in OT -- the Tigers are playing great ball down the stretch.

Andrew at Lincoln-Way Central, 6:30 p.m. -- We check out a SouthWest Suburban Red matchup here. Lincoln-Way Central (22-7, 6-0) is riding a seven-game winning streak, including a close win over Southland earlier this week. Andrew (15-10, 5-2) has three straight wins of their own as they knocked off Bradley-Bourbonnais during the week. Lincoln-Way Central won the first matchup between these two teams on Feb. 4. 

No. 13 Glenbrook South at No. 7 Evanston, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the CSL South play for the conference's top spot. Glenbrook South (26-3, 9-0) established a school record for wins with its victory over Conant on Tuesday night. The Titans are led by likely All-Area forward Dom Martinelli as they won the first matchup of these teams in the Titan Dome on January 30. Evanston (24-4, 8-1) lost a tough non-conference game to Kenwood earlier this week. But the Wildkits have a chance to bounce back and claim a share of the conference title with a win. 

Naperville Central at Waubonsie Valley, 7:00 p.m. -- High School Lites gets a glimpse of two talented DuPage Valley Conference teams in this one. Waubonsie Valley (25-4, 5-3) has won three straight games and appears to be finding its stride after dropping out of the Preps Power Rankings. Senior Marcus Skeete continues to lead the charge as the Warriors have recent strong wins over DeKalb and on the road at Oswego East. Naperville Central (19-9, 5-3) is led by seniors Chris Conway (Oakland) and Cameron Dougherty. 

Marengo at Woodstock North, 7:00 p.m. -- The two best teams in the Kishwaukee River play here. Woodstock North (17-11, 7-2) earned a win over Richmond-Burton earlier this week for a new school record. The Thunder kept it close the last time these two teams played with a 51-48 loss on Feb. 4. Marengo (25-3, 9-0) has quietly dominated that area this season, amassing a huge win total and unbeaten mark in the conference. With six straight wins, Marengo is rolling into the playoffs on a high note.

No. 20 Loyola at No. 19 Fenwick, 7:00 p.m. -- The Catholic League Blue division title is decided in this one. The Ramblers (25-4, 13-1) have already clinched at least a share of the conference title following an impressive win over DePaul Prep earlier this week. Loyola remains one of the top defensive teams in the area led by a balanced group that includes Bennett and Jordan Kwicinski. Fenwick (23-6, 12-2) beat the Rams last Friday to stay in the conference race as they need a win to tie Loyola here. The Friars are led by junior forward Bryce Hopkins (Louisville) and sophomore guard Trey Pettigrew. 

East Aurora at Streamwood, 7:00 p.m. -- Some action from the Upstate Eight here. East Aurora (20-9, 14-2) has won six of its last seven as they're in the conference title mix with Glenbard South. Streamwood (15-12, 10-6) has won three of four as they fell to the Tomcats by two points in late Janury.

Riverside-Brookfield at Aurora Christian, 7:30 p.m. -- We see two top teams in the Metro Suburban Blue as the Bulldogs try to clinch the conference title. Riverside-Brookfield (19-8, 9-2) has run off eight straight wins as the Bulldogs are getting hot at the right time. Senior Paul Zilinskas is one to watch for R-B in this one. Aurora Christian (19-6, 8-3) is trying to keep pace with R-B in the standings after a solid win over IC Catholic on Tuesday. The Eagles are led by senior guard Taaj Davis, as he just committed to junior college powerhouse Vincennes last week.  R-B won the first matchup between these two teams with a tight 63-59 win on Feb. 4.

Palatine at Schaumburg, 7:30 p.m. -- The MSL West could get decided in this one. Palatine (18-11, 7-2) has won three of their last four as the Pirates are led by junior center Julian Campbell. Schaumburg (22-6, 7-2) will attempt to match Campbell on the inside with junior big man Chris Hodges as the Wisconsin commit is having a strong season. The Saxons claimed the first game between these two teams on the road on Jan. 10 with a 69-60 road win. But Schaumburg will have to shake off a loss to Cary-Grove from earlier this week.

VIEWERS CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK

GIRLS: Noble ITW/Speer at Trinity, 7:00 p.m. -- The No. 4 and No. 5 seed in the Class 3A Fenwick Sectional battle for a regional title here. Noble ITW earned a regional quarterfinal victory with a decisive 30-point win over Lake View. Trinity won by forfeit over Senn to advance as they get homecourt advantage. 

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

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USA Today

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

UIC hired its next head coach this week as Luke Yaklich returns home to Illinois to take over the Flames.

There's a lot to like about the 43-year-old Yaklich when it comes to this hire for UIC. A native of Illinois who spent time here as a high school coach at LaSalle-Peru and Joliet West, Yaklich's basketball journey makes him the perfect candidate for UIC at this particular point in time.

Being familiar with the area as a former high school coach and assistant coach at Illinois State will certainly help with recruiting and other facets of the job. But it's Yaklich's ability to take UIC to the next level defensively that makes him the perfect hire.

Yaklich turned into a star assistant coach over the past four seasons. He was often utilized as a defensive coordinator at his various stops. Going from Illinois State, to Michigan, to Texas over the past four seasons, Yaklich was responsible for four consecutive top-25 defenses, according to KenPom.

Although Steve McClain won at least 16 games in each of the past four seasons, the Flames could never reach their ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament. UIC hasn't reached March Madness since 2004. The past four seasons, UIC's best defensive team was only No. 107 in the country. 

McClain's teams had plenty of scoring pop and talent. Getting crucial stops could be difficult for the Flames.

While it may take some time for UIC to jump into the nation's top 50 in defensive efficiency, Yaklich has a successful defensive track record at the mid- and high-major levels.

Illinois State's dominant defense in 2016-17 was No. 19 in the country as the Redbirds just missed the NCAA tournament. Yaklich was then hired away to Michigan. In Ann Arbor, Yaklich helped an offensive-minded program under John Beilein become elite defensively.

The Wolverines advanced to the national title game and Sweet 16 in Yaklich's two seasons. Michigan had the No. 3 defense and No. 2 defense, respectively. 

At Texas, the Longhorns maintained the No. 24 defense in the country this season despite a talent drain that saw freshman center Jaxson Hayes leave for the NBA Draft to be picked in the top ten by the New Orleans Pelicans. 

UIC will need to figure out some other areas if they are to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Yaklich will need to hire a staff familiar with the local recruiting landscape. A sound offensive mind or two wouldn't hurt either.

But the defensive pedigree and player development track record has been there for Yaklich at multiple stops over the past four seasons. Now with a chance to run his own program, Yaklich is an exciting hire for UIC during an offseason in which college basketball's coach carousel isn't seeing a lot of movement. 

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

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USA Today

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

Oak Park-River Forest junior three star-ranked ATH Jaden McGill (6-foot-0. 185 pounds) added an offer last week from one of his team schools when Michigan State extended him a scholarship offer. 

"The offer from them (Michigan State) means a lot," McGill said. "When I was younger they were a school that me and my friends would always dream about playing for."

McGill was set to make a spring  visit to Michigan State before the Coronavirus pandemic struck and is hoping to make up that planned visit later this spring or early this summer. 

McGill is now holding scholarship offers from Michigan State, Kansas State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State, Buffalo, Toledo and Kent State.

Oswego junior three star-ranked offensive tackle Otto Hess (6-foot-7, 285 pounds) was able to add his latest offer earlier this week from Arizona. 

"The offer from Arizona is great," Hess said. "It was pretty much unexpected but great since I've always wanted to play and go to school out West."

Hess, who also added an offer from the University of Illinois on Tuesday night, discussed his thoughts from adding an offer from the Arizona Wildcats. 

"I know that Arizona has a great business school. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin has accomplished some great things in his career. I had some limited contact with Arizona but it hasn't been a crazy amount of attention that made me feel like an offer was coming right away."

Marist sophomore offensive tackle recruit Danny "Deuce" McGuire (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) was able to add an offer on Tuesday from Michigan State. 

"I was surprised to get an offer from Michigan State," McGuire said. "I have had a few Michigan State coaches following me on Twitter for a week or so but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

McGuire, who is now holding early scholarship offers from Michigan State along with Illinois and Western Michigan is well aware of the Spartans program. 

"Michigan State is one of the top programs in the Big 10 conference. They also send a lot of offensive linemen to the NFL and they have a lot of new coaches from Colorado."

McGuire is now waiting and hoping to make college visits later this spring or early this summer, depending upon when the Corona virus pandemic comes to an end. 

"I'm just hoping that this all gets resolved soon and we can get back to school and hopefully I'll get a chance to visit some colleges in person again soon."

Ottawa Marquette junior tight end recruit Victor Mullen (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) is a name on the rise this early spring. Mullen, who is holding early scholarship offers from Iowa State, Central Florida, Louisville, Appalachian State and Central Michigan has been trying to stay busy during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. 

"It's been boring so far,"Mullen said. "I have a workout program I got from my trainer and I'm working out along with just watching TV. We started online classes and it's been going well so far."

Mullen has also remained in contact with several college coaches during the NCAA mandated dead period.

"I've stayed in touch with all of the schools who have offered me like Iowa State, Louisville, Appalachian State, Central Michigan and Central Florida. I was planning to make spring visits to Miami of Ohio, Illinois, Toledo and Bowling Green but those have all been canceled. I'm hoping to get back to visit those schools later this spring but for now who knows. I've made visits already to Iowa State, Louisville, Appalachian State, Central Michigan plus Toledo and Iowa."