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Robertson stuns class of 2014

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Robertson stuns class of 2014

Curie's Cliff Alexander, Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Paul White, Normal University's Kelta Bates-Diop, Springfield Lanphier's Larry Austin, Orr's Tyquone Greer and Chatham Glenwood's Peyton Allen are the current headliners in the talented class of 2014 in Illinois.

Add Neuqua Valley's Elijah Robertson to the elite list. College coaches and recruiting analysts who attended the recent Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis were impressed by the 6-foot-5 sophomore's athleticism. Robertson, who will be 16 on May 27, has emerged as a major Division I prospect.

He saw little playing time at Neuqua Valley last season and wasn't showcased last summer while playing for Ferrari behind Okafor and White. But he joined Illinois Basketball Academy this year and, in the walk of his breakout performance in Minneapolis, is just beginning to realize how good he can be.

"I knew little about the (Best Buy) tournament. I thought it was just another tournament to showcase my talent. But it was completely different from what I expected," he said. "I didn't expect too many Division I coaches watching. I realized it was a big-time event. If I wanted to make my impact on the AAU circuit, it would be an excellent place to start.

"My motivation was how much I could run up and down the court, hustle and make plays and give up on plays. When it was over, I felt I could have done more. I have a lot to improve on. But I didn't expect it to come out like it did. So many people were impressed with what I did. Now my motivation is to keep getting better."

Robertson's eye-opening performance earned an invitation to Michigan's summer camp. He admits that Michigan, Georgetown and Tennessee are his "dream schools." He claims to be a "lifelong Michigan fan, especially of their football program." He is fascinated by Georgetown's tradition and describes former Tennessee star Wayne Chism as his favorite college player.

"Chism reminds me of me, tall and athletic," Robertson said. "He wasn't known that much, either, like me. He played under the radar.

"If I develop my skills more, improve my ball-handling, get more consistent with my jump shot, I would like to end up at one of those three schools."

Dedrick Shannon, in his first full year as coach at Naperville-based Illinois Basketball Academy, is building a solid program with Robertson, O'Mara, Czarnowski, West Aurora's Johntrell Walker, Waubonsie Valley's Jack Cordes, St. Francis de Sales' Terrell Parham and Naperville Central's Ryan Antony, son of Shannon's assistant coach Greg Antony. Last year, they won the Fab 48 championship for 15-and-under in Las Vegas.

"Robertson brings something different to our team that allows him to stand out--athleticism," Shannon said. "He was one of the best players at the Best Buy Classic. He opened eyes. He averaged nine rebounds per game. He showed his athleticism. He is great in the open floor. He is a high major Division I athlete right now."

The son of Poliss Robertson, a Detroit native who played at Wisconsin in the late 1980s, Elijah has a wingspan of a 6-foot-8 player and a 3.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.

"He is a lunch pail and hard hat type of guy in a day when that style is going out the window. He is very coachable and very competitive. He refuses to lose. He won't back down. And he's a happy kid, always smiling. He always is excited to be around the game of basketball," Shannon said.

Robertson played football from fourth to sixth grade. He played defensive tackle and wide receiver on the Naperville Patriots' team that won a national championship in the American Youth Football League. Then he stopped playing football.

"I wanted to focus on basketball. I liked basketball a lot more. I just tried out for football to see if I'd like it," he said. "But I've played basketball since I was 5 years old. I like the atmosphere of college basketball. My father was a big influence. It was my decision to stick with basketball. But he stuck by me."

Robertson and his 6-foot-6 father play a lot of one-on-one. "I just started to be able to beat him. He's getting older and I'm beating him with my quickness. The first time I beat him, I probably was 12 or 13. He was too big for me. He'd post me up all the time," Elijah said.

In the future, he projects himself as a two-guard or a wing forward. But he admits he has a lot of improving to do. On a scale of 1 to 10, he rates himself as a five or six in terms of his development.

"I'm putting in more work into doing what I have to do for college," he said. "I still have to work on my ball-handling and my jump shot. I realize I have more athleticism than many of my opponents. I'm quicker than guys who try to defend me. I beat guys up and down the court.

"If I have a more consistent jump shot, I'd be a bigger offensive threat from three-point range. The college coaches (at the Best Buy event) would have been even more impressed if I did that. My dad gave me good advice. 'Don't give up. Always work hard and you'll achieve your dreams,' he told me. My dream is getting to college."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.