White Sox

Smith's goal: 4 titles in a row


Smith's goal: 4 titles in a row

Simeon basketball coach Robert Smith is running out of goals to surpass and milestones to establish.

Last season, Smith became the first high school coach in Illinois history to win five state championships. East St. Louis Lincoln's Bennie Lewis and Lawrenceville's Ron Felling won four.

In 2012-13, he will seek to become the first coach in state history to win four titles in a row. Peoria Manual's Wayne McClain also won three.

"I'm definitely resigned to coming back next year and winning another state title at Simeon," Smith said. "My name might be out there (for a college coaching position) but I'm staying at Simeon. I made the decision after the Final Four. I feel comfortable here. It is the best thing for me, to come back and win a fourth title in a row. That is the challenge for me, especially with the talent we have."

Smith, 40, said he isn't bitter about not being seriously considered for the vacancy at Illinois or any other major college position. "I'm realistic. I know it is a longshot for me to jump from high school to a major Division I school without any head coaching experience at the college level. But I felt I should pursue it as long as the opportunity was there. I love what I do at Simeon and what we have going on," he said.

In all candor, Smith didn't think the hiring process at Illinois would go as far as it did. He never was interviewed by Illini athletic director Mike Thomas but he was interviewed by the search team. "I'm glad they considered me. I did what all other candidates did. Some got interviews, some didn't," Smith said.

He said he probably wasn't as qualified as most of the candidates, especially those with head coaching experience at the college level. "But if (Thomas) is a risk-taker, I'm the one to pick. But (Thomas) made the best choice for the university for going ahead," Smith said.

But Smith has some advice for new coach John Groce and his staff as they go about the difficult task of rebuilding Illinois' program and attracting the caliber of talent necessary to put a championship contender on the floor.

"You have to reach back into the communities, not just the kids and their parents. You have to talk Illinois basketball in restaurants and barber shops. You have to promote the program. It hasn't been promoted that well lately," Smith said.

"You have to get the kids to stay home and commit to going to school here. Kids watch and see where other kids are going across the country. Kids want to play with some people. That's huge right now. If you persuade a player like Jabari Parker to come to Illinois, as DePaul did with Mark Aguirre, they can bring other good players with them."

In reassessing his 2011-12 championship team, Smith said it probably ranked as the second or third best team he has produced but admitted it had more talent than any of the others.

"Last year, we had a lot of depth, two five-man lineups," he said. "The difference between this team and others was the schedule. Last year, they went out of town two or three times and won only once. This team went out of town five times and lost only one game. They played a national schedule and were able to win. Those are things I look at when comparing teams. They went into hostile environments and were successful."

Next year? Smith returns four starters -- Parker, Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Pollard and Jaylon Tate. His fifth starter likely will be 6-foot-8 senior Quon Davis, who didn't play much as a junior because of a broken ankle. Tyree Washington, Dennis Williams, Bobby Harris, Edward Morrow and Brandon Hutton will provide depth. He looks for Parker and Tate to provide leadership.

"I can see us being No. 1 in the state and among the top five in the nation," he said. "We can repeat in city and state. I don't think we'll be the best team ever. I don't think there will be a team that will go undefeated unless they play locally. To be ranked as the best in the country, you have to go out and play a national schedule. But a traditional school (not a prep school) won't go undefeated. If you want to surpass what Thornridge did in 1972, you'd have to reach deep for that goal."

As he looks ahead to his ninth season as head coach, Smith said he benefited from last year's experience. "It was more challenging because we were ranked No. 1 from the beginning of the season. There was more pressure on us," he said.

"I learned to be more patient. I expected more out of my players and they didn't sit back and realize they were only juniors, as talented as they were. They didn't have all that much floor time except for Parker, Nunn, Pollard, Tate and (Reggie) Norris. I rushed them. I didn't realize that they needed more floor time. Then we started to roll. I think they got better coaching than previous years."

Meanwhile, Smith doesn't agree with critics who charge that the perception of recruiting in Chicago is that college coaches must deal with street agents, AAU coaches, influence peddlers, shoe companies and a lot of people with the hands out in order to land a blue chip player.

He acknowledges there have been controversial issues in the past that tainted the city, involving former Public League stars Efrem Winters, Deon Thomas, Sherron Collins, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis, but he insists the allegations of under-the-table payoffs are untrue.

"I don't know why Chicago has that perception. Guys have to come in here and work. Every college coach has come into Simeon to recruit. We don't ask for anything and we don't want anything," Smith said.

"We just want to be sure that if our kids attend their college, they should treat them as their own. We don't ask for a starting position or anything else. I can't talk about other (city) programs, only Simeon. No one can say I asked for anything. I opened up our doors and said: 'Here are our players. Watch them play.' But you have to build a relationship with a player and his parents if you're going to recruit him to your school."

In midst of no-hit bid, Reynaldo Lopez leaves game with dehydration and flu-like symptoms


In midst of no-hit bid, Reynaldo Lopez leaves game with dehydration and flu-like symptoms

Reynaldo Lopez might have thrown a no-hitter Sunday. But his body had other plans.

The White Sox pitcher completed five no-hit innings against the Texas Rangers before departing, suffering from dehydration and flu-like symptoms.

Though Lopez surely isn't feeling good about that, White Sox Twitter breathed a sigh of relief when the team provided that update in the seventh inning. Fans speculated something worse might have been bothering Lopez after he was removed in the middle of such a successful outing with just 80 pitches thrown.

Lopez finished his start with no runs and no hits allowed, six strikeouts, a pair of walks and a hit batter. The five scoreless innings dropped his second-half ERA to 2.82. His season ERA sits at 5.08.

Though Lopez left the game, ending his no-hit bid, the White Sox still had a shot at a combined no-hitter. But that dream died quickly, as the first batter Aaron Bummer faced in the top of the sixth singled.

What this might mean for Lopez's next scheduled turn in the rotation remains unknown. The White Sox will throw Lucas Giolito, Ross Detwiler and Dylan Cease in the three-game set against the Minnesota Twins next week. They then travel to take on the Atlanta Braves next weekend.

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Bears 53-man roster projection: Eddy Pineiro makes the cut 

USA Today

Bears 53-man roster projection: Eddy Pineiro makes the cut 

Not much will change in the Bears’ evaluation of their own players between Sunday afternoon and Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline to cut their roster down to 53 players. With over a month of practices and games to evaluate the guys on their team, the focus of Ryan Pace and the Bears’ decision-makers from Thursday night’s preseason finale through Saturday afternoon will be on the waiver wire feeding frenzy that comes with 31 other teams needing to trim their rosters from 90 players to 53. 

So barring an injury or a massively good or bad performance Thursday night at Solider Field, this is our projection of what the Bears’ 53-man roster will look like when its unveiled this coming Saturday. The caveat here: There can be waiver wire additions that’ll alter what it looks like when the Bears begin practicing for their opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. A few positions to watch there: Tight end, swing tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback and — yes — kicker. 

One other thing to note here: Don’t overrate players the Bears cut and fret about them making the practice squad or not. Those kind of moves rarely happen — for a team to claim a player off waivers on cut-down weekend, they must keep him on their 53-man roster. So for the Ryan Nalls or Ian Buntings or Clifton Ducks of the Bears roster, there’s a chance they lose those players by cutting them — but there’s a much greater chance they’re able to sign them to their own practice squad. 

Anyways, on to the roster: 

QUARTERBACK (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Cut: Tyler Bray

Daniel has not had a good preseason. He’s also not going anywhere, and will again be the Bears’ backup quarterback in 2019. 

RUNNING BACK (4): David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Tarik Cohen, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Cut: Ryan Nall, Josh Caldwell

Nall had an impressive 69-yard run in Saturday’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, but the Bears gave Whyte an extended look early in the game. While he didn’t stand out from a production stand point (four carries, eight yards; one catch, seven yards) his speed is evident, and that alone could be enough for him to make the team. His kickoff return ability, too, provides an extra boost for his chances of making the roster. 

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims
Cut: Marvin Hall, Thomas Ives, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Joe Walker

This group has felt decided for a little while now, with Hall fading after a strong start to training camp while Wims continued to stack good practices. No receiver stood out much during Saturday’s game. 

Notably, though: Don’t be surprised if Wims is active for the Bears’ opener against the Packers and Riley Ridley is not. Wims has averaged about 10 special teams snaps per game this preseason, while Ridley is averaging a little over five. 

TIGHT END (4): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell
Cut: Dax Raymond, Ian Bunting, Ellis Richardson, Jesper Horsted

This is a tough call here. Raymond has done some good things as a blocker during preseason play, though he hasn’t produced as a pass-catcher. Bunting has been the opposite: He had a 25-yard reception Saturday but hasn’t shown as much as a blocker. The Bears should be able to get both Bunting and Raymond to their practice squad if they don’t make the roster. 

While Sowell hasn’t shown much as a receiver, coach Matt Nagy preached patience with his move from offensive line to tight end, which felt like good news for his chances of securing a roster spot

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward, Alex Bars
Cut: TJ Clemmings (potentially to IR), Jordan McCray, Blake Blackmar, Sam Mustipher, Marquez Tucker, Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery

Clemmings might’ve been on his way to a roster spot before he suffered a serious-looking leg injury during Saturday’s game.  It’ll be interesting to see how much tackle Bars plays — and how well he plays it — during Thursday’s preseason finale (if you’re looking for something to watch for, this is it). His ability to play both guard and tackle puts him squarely on the Bears’ roster, with Coward (presuming he won’t need to go on injured reserve with the elbow injury he sustained in preseason Week 2) a backup tackle and Larsen a backup interior guy. 

So this leaves the Bears with 24 offensive players and 26 defensive players, but if general manager Ryan Pace is serious about keeping the best 53, this feels like the way to go. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Cut: Jonathan Harris, Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield

Previously, we’ve had Williams on the outside looking in of the roster. But he had a strong game Saturday against the Colts, and was on the roster a year ago despite only playing in two games. We’ll put him on for now, though if the Bears need to clear a roster spot for someone acquired on waivers — like a tackle, outside linebacker or cornerback — he could be back on the bubble given the depth ahead of him. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, James Vaughters
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Chuck Harris, Matt Betts

Vaughters notched strip-sacks in each of the Bears’ last two games, and with some flexibility in carrying only 24 offensive players, he gets a roster spot here. He’s been an active participant in special teams during the preseason, too, leading the Bears with 42 ‘teams snaps. 

Irving hasn’t flashed much and could be a mildly surprising cut, though we’ll keep him on here without a better option emerging. Still, the Bears could look to address their depth behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch on the waiver wire. 

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Kevin Pierre-Louis
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman

Tough call here. Kwiatkoski secured his spot on the roster with a standout game Saturday, but there’s murkiness behind him. Pierre-Louis paired with Kwiatkoski in the first half — not Iyiegbuniwe — so we’ll put him on the roster, given that and his expected special teams contributions (though he’s only played five special teams snaps this preseason). But no Bears player played more special teams snaps than Iyiegbuniwe last year, and the former fourth-round pick keeps his spot based on that work. Woods has played well this preseason and would be a prime practice squad candidate, and might be one of the more difficult cuts the Bears make. 

CORNERBACKS (5): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Clifton Duck, Michael Joseph

Saturday was a rough game for Franklin and Joseph, and we didn’t see Duck — who’s been productive in practice and preseasons games — until the second half. The waiver wire could produce a sixth cornerback for the Bears here, because after a promising start the Bears’ group of young, undrafted corners has slipped a bit over the last two games. Denmark hasn’t played and could be an injured reserve candidate, though the Bears probably wouldn’t have a problem getting their seventh-round developmental athletic project on their practice squad. 

SAFETIES (5): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Sherrick McManis 
Cut: Doyin Jibowu, Jonathon Mincy

Bush had a 91-yard pick six on Saturday, and has been one of the Bears’ best players during 2019’s preseason. 

SPECIALISTS (3): Eddy Pineiro (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: John Wirtel (LS)

For the first time in these roster projections, we have the Bears keeping a kicker on their roster. Pineiro’s 58-yard field goal was a standout moment in the kicking battle, and the timing of it — after a confidence-boosting chat with Nagy — was notable. Pineiro said he feels like he’s a part of the team and doesn’t have to concern himself with who’s getting field goal attempts now that he’s the only kicker on the roster. 

So viewing Pineiro’s 58-yard field goal in a vacuum would be a little unfair. If this is what he can do when he’s the only kicker on a roster, then the Bears will have no qualms about giving him a shot in the regular season. He has one more game at Soldier Field to bolster his case, but barring a disaster on Thursday night, he’ll not only survive Saturday’s cut, but Sunday’s waiver-wire frenzy as well.