Preps Talk

Rose tries to outscore Westbrook, Thunder on CSN

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Rose tries to outscore Westbrook, Thunder on CSN

Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
Updated 1:38 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Player A averages 25.7 points per game. Player B scores 24.1. Player B dishes out 8.7 assists per game. Player A averages 8.1. Both players are point guards, drafted in 2007--Player A with the No.1 overall pick, Player B fourth--with concerns about their respective outside shooting abilities dogging them, despite optimism about how their explosiveness would translate to the NBA.

The two players--Bulls (10-8) All-Star Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City Thunder (14-7) point guard Russell Westbrook, if it's not obvious by now--used their shared summer stint with USA Basketball as a springboard for what many observers regarded as MVP-candidate level beginnings to this young season. A pair linked by their athletic gifts and a friendship initially forged by summer workouts together and having the same agent, Arn Tellem, Rose and Westbrook have emerged as not just two of the better young and up-and-coming players in the league, but two of the best players in the league, period.

Rose might be slightly ahead of schedule for his coronation as one the NBA's elite talents, but his path has been in the offing since he was a sophomore at Simeon Career Academy. Westbrook, on the other hand, took a far different route.

At under 6 feet tall before his junior year of high school, the Los Angeles native, wasn't even a household name in his own city during his prep days. But a growth spurt and a strong final campaign--the season in which he first started dunking, which is hard to imagine now, as Westbrook is one of the league's best leapers--led to his recruitment by colleges on the mid-major level until hometown UCLA took an interest in him that spring.

Playing with fellow future pros like Minnesota's Kevin Love and Indiana's Darren Collison, the obscure recruit saw scant playing time as a freshman. As a sophomore, he became the team's starting shooting guard (playing alongside Collison, a true point guard) and carved out a niche for himself as a defensive stopper and one of college basketball's best dunkers en route to leading the Bruins to a Final Four appearance.

Still, despite winning the Pac-10's defensive player of the year award, Westbrook's modest scoring numbers and lack of experience playing point guard--although an sophomore-year impressive trial run when Collison was sidelined to begin the season opened some NBA scout's eyes--many observers were shocked when the Thunder drafted him so high in 2007, even taking into consideration his off-the-charts figures in pre-draft combine athletic tests. As an NBA rookie, Westbrook was thrown into the fire as Oklahoma City's starting point guard, and although his turnovers and perimeter shooting weren't optimal, his defensive mindset, exciting game and long-term potential more than justified his selection.

Last season, Westbrook's game blossomed further, as he helped lead the Thunder into the playoffs, where they put a six-game scare into the eventual champion Lakers in the first round, coming one rebound away from forcing the series to a seventh game. Then, he beat the odds to make the FIBA World Championships gold-medal winning USA Basketball squad, serving as a defensive stopper, slasher and energy player, a vital role that recalled his off-the-ball UCLA days.

Now, Westbrook has taken his game to a new level. Superstar Kevin Durant is still the team's go-to scorer, but Westbrook has established himself as a more than adequate second option, often carrying the team as Durant has suffered through nagging injuries and increased defensive attention that has resulted in lower than expected shooting numbers to start the season. Westbrook still has occasional issues with turnovers (averaging four per contest) and isn't a proficient shooter (43.9 percent from the field, 25 percent from beyond the arc), but his relentlessly attacking style has earned him individual billing alongside Durant, instead of just being a member of the supporting cast.

In this era of great young point guards--veterans Chris Paul and Deron Williams are considered the cream of the crop, but Westbrook, Rose and Boston's Rajon Rondo (Wizards rookie John Wall might soon join the club) are either right on their heels or advancing past them, depending on who one asks--Westbrook is an interesting case. Unlike Rose, Paul or Williams, he's not his team's superstar or leading scorer, while Rondo's situation is different because not only is his scoring not the focal point of his game, but he plays with three Hall of Famers.

What differentiates Westbrook, however, is his defensive ability and rebounding. Rondo is considered an elite defender for his position and is an uncanny rebounder (Westbrook averages 5.6 boards a night himself, a gaudy total for a point guard), but Westbrook's size poses a different dilemma for opposing point guards; their styles are also completely different, as the unique Rondo is more of a savvy floor general, who picks apart defenses based on his highly-acclaimed personnel. The player Westbrook is most compared with, Rose, has obviously widened the gap between the pair as a shooter (the Chicago native is shooting 35.7 percent from 3-point territory and 46.2 percent overall), but playing next to Durant, outside marksmanship isn't as key for the Thunder point guard as it is for Rose, who is his team's top scoring threat.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma City will put up with his sometimes-woeful shot selection and less-frequent out-of-control forays into multiple defenders because Westbrook has proven to be a special talent, rewarding the foresight the organization had in drafting him and the hard work of head coach Scott Brooks and top assistant Maurice Cheeks (both former NBA point guards, not to mention current Bulls assistant Ron Adams) in helping to develop his game. The benefits hoped to be reaped by their patience include advancing past the first round of the playoffs next spring, the first of many All-Star appearances by Westbrook in his hometown come February and a rock-solid foothold as one the West's--if not the league's--upper-echelon teams.

Chicago has similar goals, and Monday night's rematch of both teams' season opener (a 106-95 Thunder win in Oklahoma City, in which Westbrook recorded 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to Rose's 28 points, four boards and six assists) will be an important gauge for the team, as they look to build on Carlos Boozer's Windy City coming-out party in Saturday's exciting overtime win over Houston. But while the Bulls will likely marvel at Westbrook's similar explosiveness to Rose at the United Center--as well as the visitor's superior defense and rebounding ability--a Player A for Player B exchange, while somewhat even on paper (in theory, not an actual trade possibility), would never even cross the minds of the organization's braintrust.

Drafted a only few slots behind Rose, backing him up for USA Basketball, hopeful of equaling him as an All-Star (no small feat in the Western Conference, with Williams, Paul and an aging Steve Nash all near-locks to make the team, while Rose is most likely competing with Rondo for a starting spot in the annual classic), Westbrook still has a long way to go before he can touch Rose as his team's driving force--which might be impossible with the presence of Durant--and an orchestrator of his team's offense. There's nothing wrong with playing second fiddle, as Chicagoans well know from watching Scottie Pippen's career, but Rose has a chance to enter a rare stratosphere of players.

MVP candidate numbers and a realistic chance to be named MVP--Rose's much scoffed-at (not in Chicago, but elsewhere around the league) media day goal--are two different things and Rose, if he continues to perform at the same level and the Bulls follow his path to a top three or four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, has the opportunity to at least be in the conversation for the coveted hardware. From an Oklahoma City viewpoint, it can be debated that Westbrook could do the same thing, if not more, if put in the same position as Rose, which would surely be countered from Chicago by saying Rose would be thisclose to winning a championship if paired with the brilliance of Durant, as his true playmaking ability would better complement the reigning scoring champ more than Westbrook's shoot-first mentality.

But that is, to paraphrase an often-uttered Rose quote, "the beauty of the NBA." Instead of wondering what if, the summer workout partners will simply go head to head at the United Center in the second and final matchup of the season, as Rose will try to even the score in the win-loss column, while Westbrook will look to maintain bragging rights.

Maybe, one day in the future, they'll be able to play more than twice a year to provide a bigger sample size for all to judge--on a bigger stage, like the NBA Finals. For now, this will do.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

IHSA Preps Girls Basketball AP Poll

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AP

IHSA Preps Girls Basketball AP Poll

Here are the rankings of Illinois high school girls basketball teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters with rank, team, first-place votes, record and total points.


Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Evanston Township (5) 19-2 68 3
2. Benet (2) 21-2 61 1
3. Edwardsville 18-1 58 2
4. Maine West 20-3 45 4
5. Marist 21-3 37 6
6. (tie) Lincoln Way West 21-2 37 5
7. Whitney Young 18-6 25 7
8. Libertyville 18-4 22 8
9.  Homewood-Flossmoor 18-5 12 9
10. Hersey 20-6 6 NR

Others receiving votes: Joliet West 4. O'Fallon 3. York 3. Fremd 2. Maine South 1. Bolingbrook 1

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Morton (9) 25-0 90 1
2. Montini 22-4 70 3
3. Simeon 22-2 68 4
4. Richwoods 21-5 60 5
5. Bethalto Civic Memorial 22-3 46 2
6. Geneseo 20-3 39 T7
7. Peoria Central 19-3 35 6
8. (tie) Kankakee 22-4 32 T7
9.  Decatur MacArthur 21-2 17 9
10. Rock Island 19-7 14 NR

Others receiving votes: Kenwood 8. Riverside-Brookfield 6. Washington 3. Grayslake Central 3. Fenwick 1. Mattoon 1. Burlington Central 1. Rich South 1.

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Paris  (9) 25-0 99 1
2. Knoxville 26-1 83 2
3. (tie) Quincy Notre Dame 19-2 73 4
4. Carterville 21-2 49 3
5.  Riverdale 18-3 48 7
6. Chicago Marshall (1) 12-8 41 6
7. Harrisburg 23-3 27 5
8. Carlinville 20-3 26 10
9. Pleasant Plains 17-3 24 NR
10. Illini West (Carthage) 20-4 23 NR

Others receiving votes: Teutopolis 13. Petersburg PORTA 10. Normal University 8. Marshall 7. Lisle 6. Hamilton County 3. Rock Falls 3. Stillman Valley 2. Eureka 2. Nashville 1. Pana 1. Eldorado 1.

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Lewistown (5) 24-1 86 2
2. Amboy (4) 22-1 83 1
3.  Lanark Eastland 23-3 62 4
4.  Jacksonville Routt 20-2 61 5
5. Princeville 24-3 45 T8
6. Hope Academy 17-2 43 7
7.  Brimfield 21-3 40 3
8. Aquin 20-6 33 6
9.  (tie) Altamont 20-3 18 10
10. Aurora Christian 21-3 13 NR

Others receiving votes: Shiloh 4. Colfax Ridgeview 3. Father McGivney Catholic 2. Illini Central 1. Galena 1.

Forget a Yolmer Sanchez return to White Sox, he reportedly has deal with Giants

Forget a Yolmer Sanchez return to White Sox, he reportedly has deal with Giants

The dream many fans had of Yolmer Sanchez returning to the South Side for the 2020 season might be over.

According to reports, Sanchez has a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. Sanchez, who won an American League Gold Glove at second base last season with the White Sox, reportedly turned down a couple major league offers to compete for the everyday second baseman's job in San Francisco.

Sanchez was a fan favorite during his tenure with the White Sox, a positive clubhouse presence who earned a reputation as a fun-loving teammate through his various on-field antics, including repeated pranks involving the dugout's Gatorade bucket. He also proved himself to be one of the game's finest defensive infielders, a valuable skill even if his offensive production rarely lived up to the same standards. Last season, as the starting second baseman, Sanchez hit .252/.318/.321 with a pair of home runs and 43 RBIs.

Even after the White Sox non-tendered him earlier this offseason, team brass spoke positively of him, an indication that the door might not be closed on a reunion. But the White Sox infield is fast filling up with long-term pieces. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada had huge seasons on the left side in 2019, and Nick Madrigal, one of the top-rated prospects in baseball, is expected to reach the major leagues in the early portions of the 2020 season. Madrigal, the White Sox first-round draft pick in 2018, had an excellent offensive season in the minors last year and carries a similar defensive reputation as Sanchez. Whether Madrigal will make the Opening Day roster remains to be seen — it sounds unlikely — but he's expected to be the team's starting second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign.

Given that crunch on the infield, Sanchez, even after his Gold Glove win, seemed destined for a reserve role had he returned to the South Side. Who knows if the White Sox were one of the teams that extended a major league contract offer to Sanchez, but there didn't seem to be room for him to have a starting job with this group. He can at least compete for such a role with the Giants.

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