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Proviso East, Carter make big statement

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Proviso East, Carter make big statement

After it was over, after unbeaten and second-ranked Proviso East had won four games by margins of 17, 8, 19 and 13 points to win its first Proviso West Holiday Tournament championship since 1991, first-year coach Donnie Boyce breathed a sigh of relief."It's an amazing feeling. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd be 11-0 and win a Christmas tournament in my first year as head coach," Boyce said. "It was exciting to win as a player (at Proviso East in 1990). But to win my first one as a coach ranks right up there with it. We made history, our 10th title at Proviso West, one more than St. Joseph."I feel very blessed to have such a great group of kids. I want them to achieve everything I achieved and more. One thing I learned is we hadn't been tested in the early part of the season but we got tested at Proviso West. I liked how we kept our composure, never panicked, kept making the right plays, key baskets, key steals, key rebounds. We really came together as a team and I believe we have a chance to do something special.""Special" is how Boyce describes Keith Carter, the 6-foot-1 senior guard who was singled out as the most valuable player at the Proviso West tournament. He scored 18 points in a 49-41 victory over Benet, scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half to key a 75-56 victory over Rockford Auburn and had 15 points and three steals in a 68-55 decision over New Trier."I didn't know if I'd be doing this well if I didn't have such a great leader as Carter," Boyce said. "He is one of the top 10 players in the state in his class, the best point guard in his class, better than (Rockford Auburn's) Fred Van Vleet and (Crete-Monee's) Michael Orris."The best point guard I ever saw was Isiah Thomas. I compare Carter to Ronnie Lester or Kiwane Garris or Tracy Webster or Howard Nathan. He is a solid floor general, willing to do anything you ask to succeed."But Boyce saw a different Keith Carter a year ago. So did Carter. It wasn't pretty. In fact, Carter experienced such an uneventful and unproductive junior season that he wasn't even ranked among the top 200 players in the class of 2012 nationally before the 2011-12 campaign began."He had an up-and-down junior year. People got down on him," Boyce said. "Watching from afar, I noticed he would over-penetrate when he should have passed and didn't make right decisions. He needed to open up the floor, improve his decision-making and show more desire to win. He needed to learn about shot selection and how to control the flow of the game."Carter also was critical of his own performance -- or lack of it. "I was disappointed in myself because I felt I let the team down. I tried to do too much. I didn't think about statistics or if I was ranked in the top 100. I wanted to show people I am better than what they think. I wanted to show them that I have an all-around game, that I could do a little bit of everything," he said.So he worked hard over the summer. He said he worked on everything, mostly his jump shot and improving his quickness and strength. It helped to earn him a scholarship to St. Louis University. But he still isn't
satisfied. "At Proviso West, I was an 8 (out of 10)," Carter said. "I had a slow start in every game but the championship game. I still wasn't consistent on my jump shot and making the right play each time. I'm having a decent year but I can get better and better. It was satisfying to be the MVP at Proviso West but I can get better."Carter is more generous when talking about his coach and his teammates. He said he was "shocked" when he learned Boyce had been hired because he didn't know the former Proviso East star was in the mix. But he thought it was a great decision by the school administration."(Boyce) knows what it takes to win championships and get Downstate," Carter said. "He is very tough on us. He demands a lot. But it's no problem for us because we know we have to do a lot to be as good as we want to be. Anything less than the state title would be a major disappointment this season, worse than flunking a math test."According to Carter, this is the best Proviso East team he has seen in his four years. In fact, he insists it can be one of the best in school history, in a class with the four state championship teams of 1969, 1974, 1990 and 1991. That's a mouthful for the usually quiet and laid-back
youngster. But he believes the Pirates can back it up."We are the fastest and most fearless team you'll see," he said. "We have a lot of guys who can go to the basket at any time, a lot of shooters, a lot of guys who are explosive off the dribble. We provide a lot of mismatches for our opponents. We make up for our lack of size with aggressiveness on defense, which is our biggest asset. The guys recognize how good we can be and are trying to accomplish the same goal I have."For his part, Carter is turning heads and changing opinions. Longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Top100Hoops.com, who didn't rank Carter among the top 200 players in the nation in the class of 2012, has been impressed by his early-season performances."He played very well at the State Farm Tournament of Champions in Peoria and will most likely have a shot at the (top 100) rankings," Coleman said.The Proviso West tournament provided what amounted to a coming-out party for Boyce's first team. Carter, who averages 16 points per game, wasn't a one-man gang. Sterling Brown, a 6-4 junior who is the younger brother of former Proviso East star and NBA player Shannon Brown, is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game."It's always fun to see when the light bulb comes on when a kid realizes he has a chance to be great," Boyce said. "Sterling is playing at a high level for us right now. He has a great floor game, inside and outside. Nationally, he should be making a big splash. He reminds me of (former Proviso East star) Sherrell Ford."Carter and Brown are ably supported by two other guards, 5-10 senior Paris Burns (14 points per game) and 5-foot-11 junior Paris Lee (12 points per game), and 6-foot-5 senior Trashaun Carroll (six points, six rebounds per game).Each player knows his role. Burns sets the tone for the defense and loves to attack the basket. Paris "really knows how to settle down the team without me calling a timeout," Boyce said. Carroll is the enforcer, the team's physical presence in the post.The bench features 6-foot senior Mike Nicholas, the team's best shooter, 6-foot-3 senior Jabari Alex and 6-foot-1 guard Deshamone "Spuddy" McCarty, the team's defensive stopper."The biggest thing that stands out," Boyce said about his experience at Proviso West, "is I am most happy that the kids understand we are all in it together. We came together as a team. They realize I care about their well-being on and off the court. They have bought into my philosophy."I have been in coaching for a few years but I learned with these kids that it is like a chess game. You want to make sure you give all the players an opportunity to play to their strengths and cover their weaknesses. If you play together and you're unselfish, good things will happen."Boyce admits he isn't a miracle worker. He credits former coach David Chatman for doing an excellent job in developing these players. But he points out that last year's team lacked discipline and sacrifice and commitment on defense. This year's team has bought into his system."I would be a fool to think it's all me," Boyce said. "You need players. We are all from the neighborhood. I watched these kids grow up. I knew their strengths and weaknesses and I wanted them to buy into my system. My biggest fear was they wouldn't do it."So what is Boyce's system? "Being together, doing it all together, win or lose, as a team," he said. He recalled how his coach, Bill Hitt, who produced the state championship teams of 1990 and 1991, preached working hard in practice. He said: "You've got to make practice harder than the game." Boyce never forgot his message."Hitt made sure we were aware of every situation in a game, what to do if we were up by five points with two minutes to play, what to do when we were down by 10 with five minutes left, how to execute last-second shots. I have a blueprint of what previous coaches did. And I added my own twist -- pressure, pressure, pressure."So Boyce is pleased where his team is at. "Proviso West is a tournament where you gauge how good you really are. We are headed in the right direction. A lot of Proviso West champions have gone on to win the state title. We have a chance to do it," he said.

Bulls finally getting with the times, putting together versatile roster

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USA TODAY

Bulls finally getting with the times, putting together versatile roster

Position-less basketball is the hot new buzzword in NBA circles, but it's also an important one.

Consider what the 2016-17 Bulls rolled out the same year the Golden State Warriors Death Lineup'd their way to an NBA title. Led by the Three Alphas of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, here's how the minutes shook out, per Basketball Reference.

Rondo played 100% of his minutes at point guard despite having played 42% of his minutes at shooting guard the year earlier for the Kings (a year in which he shot 36.5% from deep). Wade played 84% of his minutes at shooting guard. The following seasons, the last two of his career, he played 31% at point guard, 54% at shooting guard and 15% at small forward.

Butler played 93% of his minutes at small forward. The next two seasons, in Minnesota and Philadelphia, his minutes were split up at 45% shooting guard, 48% small forward and 7% power forward.

Taj Gibson played 96% of his minutes at power forward and Robin Lopez played 100% of his minutes at center. Nikola Mirotic played 88% of his minutes at power forward. Over the last two seasons, he's played 74% of his minutes at power forward and 23% at center (and 3% at small forward).

Sensing a theme here?

While the NBA zigged toward position-less basketball, the Bulls...didn't do anything. They had traditional roles, had little depth that allowed them to tinker with lineups despite that being the best way to utilize Fred Hoiberg's philosophies, and they failed. Yes, they led 2-0 on the Celtics in the first round of the postseason. No, that didn't make that entire season any less of a mess.

Fast forward two years and one rebuild later, and the Bulls enter Year 3 of the post-Jimmy Buckets era with some serious versatility.

The latest signal that this franchise is ready to move forward came on Thursday when the Bulls drafted North Carolina guard Coby White. He's not a traditional point guard, and the Bulls don't want him to be. In fact, the Bulls' entire offseason feels like it could be more about finding the right players instead of the right positional needs.

"John (Paxson) and I have had great conversations about our team during the year, at the end of the season, about what we thought we needed, where we thought we needed to go, and today is a product of that, of those meetings, those discussions, and his view," Jim Boylen said Monday. "We talked about positional size a lot, we talked about speed, quickness, athleticism. Those are the things we thought we needed with the group of guys we had, to add to them. Whether it’s vertical spacing, speed, making defenses chase people over, all those kinds of things, we discussed. And as we went into the draft process we were hoping to find players to help us with that. Thankfully we have."

Of White specifically, Boylen said the Bulls won't "put him in this box where he just has to play this way," Boylen added. For the first time arguably since Nate Robinson in 2013, the Bulls have a legitimate shooting threat at point guard. What's more, the 6-foot-5 White can play off the ball and spot up for perimeter jumpers, something that makes Zach LaVine more valuable and the offense more versatile.

The Bulls are finally looking to look like a versatile group. Otto Porter's defensive ability will give the Bulls the option of playing small, something that prior to his arrival just meant Chandler Hutchison getting abused in the post. Lauri Markkanen is a work-in-progress as a center, though his limited minutes and skill set give optimism that it's something he can do in spurts going forward. LaVine was never going to take on a full-time point guard role, but he was more than comfortable with the ball in his hands acting as an offensive initiator last season. maybe Kris Dunn, LaVine and White all share the floor together.

We could even see second round pick Daniel Gafford and Wendell Carter Jr. together in massive frontline spurts if the opposition calls for it. That's more fantasy than reality, but having the option is something they didn't have in the past.

The next step is free agency. With the Bulls, in theory, having starters at all five positions - White could move to the bench if Paxson goes after a veteran free agent - the Bulls can again get versatile and hone in on particular skill sets instead of simply trying to round out the depth chart. It doesn't feel like the Bulls will make a major splash - either giving Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon a gigantic offer sheet or finding room to sign Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell - but they'll be aggressive with their more than $22 million in cap space. They need point guard depth, more shooters on the wing and a locker room presence (Cris Felicio is a month younger than Otto Porter, the oldest player on the Bulls).

"We have a very good idea of what we want. But we’re going to have to wait until the 30th to go at it. But we know we need to add some veterans," Paxson said. "Definitely, we’re looking for a couple veteran guys that fit well with this young group – be pros, show these guys every day what it means to be a professional. Most guys that last a long time in this league, they last because they’ve been pros. They take care of themselves, they’ve played well, they’ve done all the right things. And that’s always best example for young players.”

The roster is far from a finished product. Injuries aside, the Bulls still won just 22 games a year ago, don't have max cap space, and White isn't Zion Williamson.

There's work to do. But for the first time during the rebuild, the Bulls are going to have options. The roster is beginning to look like what an group of NBA players in 2019 should look like. The Bulls are getting versatile, and it's an important step forward.

Calvin de Haan on unexpected trade to Blackhawks and what he brings to the table

Calvin de Haan on unexpected trade to Blackhawks and what he brings to the table

Calvin de Haan knew that the Carolina Hurricanes had a logjam on defense going into this summer and that somebody was going to be dealt to create a spot. The move was also driven by financial reasons as the Hurricanes look to re-sign a handful of players, most notably Sebastian Aho.

He just wasn't expecting it to be his name on the move.

"I'm still kind of in shock, to be honest," de Haan said on Tuesday's conference call. "I didn’t think it was going to be me. After Carolina signed me last summer my fiancée and I thought we were going to have some roots there, but I get it, it’s a business. Looking back on it now, it’s only been 16 hours or whatever, but it’s been a whirlwind. I’m really looking forward to it now. Obviously Stan [Bowman] and the Blackhawks made a deal for me and I feel like I’m wanted and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity with this organization."

De Haan, who signed a four-year, $18.2 million contract with Carolina last offseason, admitted that the Blackhawks didn't show any interest in him when he was an unrestricted free agent. But he's excited about being in an organization that values his services, and the feeling is mutual because he's filling an immediate need on the back end for the Blackhawks: a player who can log big minutes, is a sound stay-at-home defenseman and can play an effective role on the penalty kill.

Jeremy Colliton, who was the captain for the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers during de Haan's rookie season in the pros from 2011-12, will certainly appreciate what his former teammate brings to the table.

"I just like to think my position’s good," de Haan said of his game. "I like to think I move well on the ice. I’ve always tried to play a simple game. I saw some tweets yesterday that I might be the next best thing to Nik Hjalmarsson that the Blackhawks have had in a while, so that’s a compliment. That guy’s had a great career and that’s a player I like to play like. Nothing flashy, just kind of get the job done and I hope Blackhawk fans will really appreciate my game. It’s something I’m really looking forward to this season."  

De Haan underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in May — exactly five weeks from Tuesday — and was given a four-to-six month timeline, putting his availability for training camp and the season opener in jeopardy. But he's hoping to be cleared by the time training camp rolls around in September and be ready to go for the season opener on Oct. 4 in Prague.

"Things are progressing well," de Haan said. "I like to think I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve had shoulder surgeries in the past as well where I know how this goes and I’m gonna make sure I’m ready for camp. Then it’s going to be up to the training staff and the doctors whether they want me to play or take a few weeks here and there and just progress slowly. But my main goal is to be ready for camp. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. I want to be on the ice with the guys and out there grinding away and try to get the team back in the playoffs."

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