Bulls

Sitter, Brown follow Elgin tradition

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Sitter, Brown follow Elgin tradition

As Elgin coach Mike Sitter sees it, he is carrying a torch that he inherited from Bill Chesbrough and Jim Harrington and will pass it on to the next generation of coaches.

As Elgin star Kory Brown sees it, he is carrying a torch that he inherited from Don Sunderlage, Chuck Brandt, Flynn Robinson, Jeff Wilkins, Terry Drake, Mark Baugh, Sean Harrington and Armani Williams and will pass it on to the next generation of players.

At Elgin, it is all about tradition.

Kory Brown's father knows about tradition, too. He was a freshman at Hirsch High School when Rickey Green and John Robinson led the school from Chicago's South Side to a state championship in 1973. So he taught his son everything he could about the game he grew up to love.

"I grew up in Elgin and always looked up to Elgin basketball, knowing I was going to Elgin someday," Kory said. "I know about the tradition, the big wins, the supersectionals, the great players. But we haven't been to state in a while (since 1998). After getting to the supersectional in 2008, the excitement has died off in the past few years."

There is plenty of excitement this season. Elgin is 8-1 going into Tuesday's game against Senn in the opening round of the 37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament. Sitter claims his 2011-12 Maroons, who boast seven of the top eight players from last year's 22-7 squad, are the best team he has produced in five years.

Brown, a 6-4 senior who has offers from Ferris State and Lewis University and is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, believes this team is even better.

"We aren't a good team but a great team," he said. "If we keep playing as we are now or pick it up a notch, maybe we could be one of the best teams Elgin has ever had. I see more faith that we can do it, that we can succeed. Our goal is to get to state."

Last week, Elgin swept Burlington 73-41 as Brown had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Cortez Scott added 14 points, Arie Williams 13 and Dennis Moore 12, and St. Charles East 55-39 as Brown had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Scott scored 13 and Williams 12.

"This is a senior dominated team," Sitter said. "A lot less coaching has to be done during games because they are so experienced that they can coach themselves. The pieces fit together. They complement each other very well."

Brown is the leader. He was a unanimous all-conference and MVP selection a year ago. He is Elgin's tallest starter and sometimes initiates the offense from the point guard position. Or he establishes himself on the block and rebounds. But he is best when he explodes to the rim.

"He doesn't have to score for us to win," Sitter said. "He can do it all. He is a great athlete, our hardest worker. But if he wants to succeed at the next level, he must have guard skills. He is developing them every day."

Brown's father taught him that he needed to learn all aspects of the game, that he had to do everything well to be successful. And if Elgin is to be successful as a team, it must overcome its lack of size by doing everything else well.

"We overcome our lack of size with speed. I believe we can out-smart and out-run anybody on the court," Brown said. "Our triple overtime loss to Geneva was a great wakeup call. We didn't play smart. I'm glad it happened early rather than late or in March when it could have ended our season."

Meanwhile, Brown takes his responsibility as the team leader very seriously. "I'm a go-to guy. But I'm also the one who has to make the correct decision with the ball in my hands. In the summer, everyone said they wanted the ball in my hands, either go to the rim or take an easy jump shot or kick the ball to an open teammate for an easy basket," he said.

"I'll be a guard in college, mostly a two-guard. I was brought up to be an all-around player. I learned to dribble with my left hand as soon as I learned to dribble with my right. I want to show colleges that I can do it all, that I can do what needs to be done to win a game."

Brown has plenty of help. Arie Williams, Armani's younger brother, is a 5-10 junior guard who averages 12 points per game. Dennis Moore, a 5-10 senior, also averages 12. Cortez Scott, a 6-0 senior, averages 10. Gerardo Mojico, a 6-4 senior (6 ppg, 6 rpb), defends the tallest opponent. Matt Andres and Devin Gilliam, a pair of 6-foot seniors, come off the bench.

"I'm looking for this team to take a step to be better than last year," Sitter said. "I'm looking for a killer instinct to bury teams, to put a dagger in their heart, to put them away early and not allow them to stick around."

Sitter, an Elgin graduate of 1988, knows about the school's tradition even though he didn't play varsity basketball. Harrington cut him as a senior. He was a ballboy on Chesbrough's 1983 team that lost in the state quarterfinals. He still talks about the 1972 team that lost to West Aurora in double overtime in the state quarterfinals.

He describes himself as "a sports hound, just not good enough to compete at the highest levels," But he always wanted to be a coach. So he majored in education at Eastern Illinois, was sophomore coach at Round Lake for four years, then came to Elgin 10 years ago. After serving as freshman A and B coach and sophomore coach, he was promoted to the varsity.

"I paid my dues and worked my way up. My job is to carry on the tradition," he said. At 41, he looks back on a storied history that saw Chesbrough win 573 games in 35 years and Harrington win 290 games in 15 years. But Elgin won its only state titles in 1924 and 1925.

Brown almost didn't get to Elgin. His family almost moved out of Elgin and into Hoffman Estates' school district.

"I had a big scare," he said. "I didn't want my mother to take me out of Elgin. Our house sits on the border between Elgin and Hoffman Estates."

Tuesday's opening-round pairings pit Francis Parker vs. Buffalo Grove, Rockford East vs. Batavia, Dundee-Crown vs. Hoffman Estates, La Laumiere of Indiana vs. Walther Lutheran, defending champion Neuqua Valley vs. Rockford Guilford, Elgin Larkin vs. Harlan, Romeoville vs. Glenbard North and Elgin vs. Senn.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

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USA TODAY

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.