Bulls

For Te'o, Notre Dame legacy isn't complete

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For Te'o, Notre Dame legacy isn't complete

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Manti Te'o could've declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year and left Notre Dame with a nice legacy, remembered as one of the better linebackers to ever play for the school.
Part of the reason why he returned, though, was to experience senior day, to run out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium one last time to be greeted by his parents.
Te'o will get that chance on Saturday afternoon, when Notre Dame plays Wake Forest in its final home game of the 2012 season. But there was another motivating factor for Te'o to return after his junior year.
"He has unfinished business as it relates to this football team," coach Brian Kelly said on the outset of fall practice in August.
Three and a half months later, a 10-0 record and about all the national hype possible for a linebacker hasn't changed that motivation.
"Just hope we're playing sometime in January, that's our goal, that's the legacy that I'm looking at right now," Te'o said Wednesday. "Whatever is written while that's happening, so be it. But I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to make sure that my team is playing in January."
Truthfully, Te'o's already done enough to accomplish that goal. As the centerpiece of the best defense Notre Dame has seen in years, Te'o has led the charge to 10-0, and even if Notre Dame doesn't win out, a bid to a BCS bowl looks like a lock.
On top of that, Te'o has a legitimate chance to go to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He's a longshot to actually win the award, but given how rare it is for a defensive player to be named a finalist for college football's most prestigious honor, that's an accomplishment in itself.
It's also one Te'o isn't very interested in.
"I think when my name is being tossed around as a national champion, that's what I'm looking for," Te'o said. "You ask any Heisman winner that wasn't a national champion what they would rather be, and I think they would rather be the latter, a national champion.
"So that's what I want. I rather be holding a crystal ball than a bronze statue. That's just me."
Te'o is fond of saying that champions at Notre Dame become legends. Notre Dame may not have a shot at a national championship this year, despite Te'o's best efforts. There exists a possibility -- one that gets better with every Kansas State and Oregon victory -- that Notre Dame finishes the regular season 12-0 and gets shut out of the BCS Championship.
But this 2012 Notre Dame team won't soon be forgotten. The throngs of students who wore leis to Notre Dame's win over Michigan in September won't forget that experience, and that's just one example of many regarding Te'o's impact.
Te'o's legacy isn't just centered around his work on the football field. It encompasses him as a person, someone who dealt with tragedy with strength, someone who is serious about his work, someone who many view as a legitimate role model.
"He lives his life the right way," Kelly said. "He goes to class. He takes great care of himself off the field. He's a college student. He can laugh and have fun and be silly. He can be tough. He's just all that you would want in a young man as a college student and a representative of Notre Dame. He's a good student, fun to be around, and one darn good football player.
"So when that guy walks in and out of here every day, there is a mirroring effect and a trickle-down effect to the other players in the program that go 'I want to be like that guy.'"
Championship or not, Te'o's impact on Notre Dame will be felt long after he matriculates to the NFL. That's his legacy, and it's a pretty remarkable one at that for the linebacker from Laie, Hawaii.
"Once I leave here," he explained, "I hope that the impact I've made not only on the football field but in people's lives will forever be remembered."

Coby White's hair is special, but it looks wild in a draft day Bulls hat

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USA TODAY

Coby White's hair is special, but it looks wild in a draft day Bulls hat

After some pre-draft trade shook up the draft order before the Bulls' pick at No. 7, the first five picks went as expected. Once Minnesota grabbed Jarrett Culver at No. 6, North Carolina point guard Coby White was there at No. 7 and the Bulls pounced on him.

When he walked up to the stage, big hair and all, and put on a Bulls hat, well, it was a moment.

White's hair is special. Maybe the best in the draft class. It doesn't fit well under a hat though.

About 50 seconds into this video you can see White hit the stage and he is handed his Bulls hat. He tries to put it on his head, but after multiple attempts, it doesn't exactly sit right. He makes it a few steps before adjusting the hat again and then sort of just gets to a point where it sat on his head good enough.

It's an all-time draft hat moment. It may not be as good as Lonnie Walker last year, but it's still up there.

It also brings another Bulls draft pick who had hair that wasn't meant to be worn with a hat, Joakim Noah.

 

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Why Cubs feel they've created the perfect situation for Adbert Alzolay to succeed

Why Cubs feel they've created the perfect situation for Adbert Alzolay to succeed

The day has finally come. The Pitcher that was Promised has actually made his way to Wrigley Field.

Adbert Alzolay's first big-league game Thursday might be the most thrilling debut for a pitching prospect for Cubs fans since Mark Prior and it represents the end of a long road for the 24-year-old right-hander and for the organization in general.

The Cubs initially signed Alzolay in 2012 as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela, but he really didn't put himself on the map until a breakout 2017 season with Advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach. He probably would've made his debut last year if not for a lat injury that ended his season in late May and he has the potential to be the first homegrown pitcher to make a real impact at the big-league level under Theo Epstein's front office.

"The stuff's really pretty good — good delivery, strike-thrower," Joe Maddon said. "All those kinds of things. He has the kind of ability that he could transform a group. Then again, you don't want to lay too much on him. He's a young man, he's just trying to make his mark.

"With the surroundings here and the other guys that are on the staff to wrap their arms around him, I think this is the perfect situation for him to morph into a team like this."

The Cubs wanted to ease Alzolay into major-league life and felt Tyler Chatwood had earned an opportunity to start Thursday's game amid a resurgent season, so Alzolay will back up Chatwood as a potential long relief option. Maddon said before the game he was aiming to get Alzolay into a clean inning and since the kid doesn't have much experience as a reliever, they want to give him plenty of time to warm up and get loose.

Maddon also wants Alzolay to enjoy himself and take in the entire experience.

The Cubs haven't made any determinations beyond Thursday's game with their rotation, so it's possible Alzolay and Chatwood could both be vying for the next turn in the order as Kyle Hendricks' return from a shoulder injury is not imminent. 

Nobody can predict the future, but Maddon said the Cubs have already been discussing "different methods" in how they can keep Alzolay here in Chicago, even when Hendricks returns. If the young pitcher performs, he could be a real weapon for the team in the second half and down the stretch.

Of course, it's all about health with Alzolay and there is no guarantee he has immediate success. But he's been on fire lately in Triple-A Iowa — 1.93 ERA, 40 strikeouts vs. only 3 walks in his last 28 innings — and with a group of veteran pitchers around him to learn from, it wouldn't be crazy to see him stick. It also helps that he has a fellow Venezuelan native as his catcher (Willson Contreras).

"Having never even seen him throw a baseball live — what I hear and what I see via video, I'm betting on him," Maddon said.

Alzolay has credited his development as a pitcher to improved production from his curveball and feels more confident in his changeup to accompany a fastball that can reach the mid-to-upper 90s.

On top of the physical attributes, Alzolay has drawn rave reviews from Cubs brass for his makeup and intangibles. He's also been making use of the times he's not on a mound by watching and studying MLB video.

"During my time off — after the games down there in Triple-A or even in spring training starting last year — I've been watching a lot of videos from all those guys to see the way they work here in the big leagues," Alzolay said. "Watching different guys that have the same kind of stuff that I have — watching and learning from that. I think it will help."

He also watched video of himself from 2017 and realize that he was too slow last year, so worked to speed up his tempo this season. 

Maddon believes life experience has helped mold Alzolay into the person and pitcher he is today, citing the 24-year-old's upbringing in Venezuela.

"He's a very mature young man," Maddon said. "...He slows things down. When you speak to him, he speaks clearly and slowly. I watch him on video and you get this sense of confidence when he throws the baseball. I think he knows exactly what he wants to do when he's out there, so he elicits confidence from that, also. He's just a very mature young man."

While Alzolay's debut is a source of excitement for the fanbase and everybody can dream on his tantalizing potential, his journey to the big leagues as a homegrown pitcher matters. This is a different situation than Kyle Hendricks or Carl Edwards Jr., since both players were drafted and partially developed in other organizations. 

At a time when the Cubs have an aging — and expensive — pitching staff, they could really use a guy like Alzolay to come up to the majors and stick...especially if it's eventually in the rotation.

"If you're running the organization, it's a big deal," Maddon said. "When you're able to draft and develop or sign and develop players, yeah there's something to that. When you have them right out of the womb, man, there's a lot of investment in that — from the scouts to the development people to the big-league staff. 

"But there's always a sense of pride of developing your own. That's just true. Whether there's a shortstop or a third baseman or whatever. And the fact that we've had a hard time developing pitchers that have arrived at the big-league level, yeah, it's good to get your feet on the ground with that and then try to recreate the template as you go along.

"I think everybody takes a strong sense of pride in watching his development."