Blackhawks

What if nobody made a commitment?

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What if nobody made a commitment?

What would happen if not a single high school athlete, football or basketball, chose to make an oral commitment until after the school year?

That's right, seven months after the NCAA's early signing date in November and two months after the April signing date for basketball and four months after the February signing date for football.

No oral commitments from sophomores or juniors. No commitments from athletes during the summer prior to their senior years. Sorry, coach, I won't be announcing my decision until after I graduate in June.

So what would happen?

"Nothing," said longtime Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. "That's what they used to do prior to the early 1990s when Penn State started to offer players after their junior year because coach Joe Paterno had lost so many prospects. Now most football recruits are committed before their senior year."

Lemming said college coaches might like the no-early-commitment proposal because they wouldn't have to worry about recruiting and could concentrate on their own season.

"Now recruiting is a year-round process. It never ends," Lemming said. "College coaches didn't have to put as much emphasis on it in the 1970s and 1980s. Now kids are more into the publicity. They take campus visits in the spring and summer, commit earlier, then switch to another school."

Glenbard West defensive lineman Tommy Schutt was all set to commit to Notre Dame before the Irish pulled his scholarship offer and gave it to another defensive lineman from Indianapolis. So he called Michigan, which wasn't even on his list of five finalists. But they had filled their quota.

So he called Penn State, which accepted him with open arms. He said it was the school he always wanted to attend. Then the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke and Schutt changed his mind. To his good fortune, he got a call from Ohio State's newly hired coach Urban Meyer. After visiting the campus, he committed as fast he could say "I'm a Buckeye."

Montini wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, whose stock soared like Google after his record pass-catching performance in his team's 70-45 victory over Joliet Catholic in the Class 5A championship game, also had second thoughts about his college destination.

Westerkamp committed to Nebraska in May. At one time, he insisted he would never change his mind, that Nebraska was the place he was destined to attend, that he loved everything about the program. That was before Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly called. Before you could say "Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame," Westerkamp was on his way for a campus visit, claiming he was doing it as a favor to his mother, a long-suffering Irish fan.

"When I went up there (to Nebraska) for the spring game, I said to myself: 'This is where I want to spend the next four years," Westerkamp said.

Later, he said he had no intention of taking any other visits other than his trips to Lincoln in the summer and fall. "My recruiting process is over. I get mail from a couple of schools but that's about it. I don't receive any more calls or anything. I don't plan on going to any other schools for any other reason," Westerkamp said.

After visiting the Notre Dame campus and receiving an offer from Kelly in December, even the most loyal Nebraska fan was conceding that Westerkamp probably was going to change his mind and opt for Notre Dame. Imagine their reaction last Monday when he announced he was honoring his pledge to Nebraska.

"I had to go out and take that visit (to Notre Dame)," Westerkamp said. "I had to see if I felt the same way about Notre Dame as I did Nebraska. I didn't get that feeling about Notre Dame. I went with my heart."

Shouldn't there be an NCAA rule hast prohibits schools from offering scholarships to athletes who already are committed to other schools? There ought to be. Such a rule could restore a degree of credibility and respectability to an organization and a process that desperately needs both.

Remember Quinn Buckner? The Thornridge footballbasketball star was one of the most widely sought athletes of the early 1970s. John Wooden dispatched one of his assistants to personally evaluate him, a rarity for Wooden, who recruited most of his players this side of Lew Alcindor from southern California.

Buckner waited and waited until his father lost his patience and, in early July, ordered his son to make a decision. Finally, Quinn chose Indiana over UCLA. One reason was because Indiana allowed him to play football as a freshman. As a sophomore, he dropped the sport to concentrate on basketball.

Could Buckner wait until July to make a decision today? Could anyone? It isn't likely. It hasn't happened. But what if it did? What if the best basketball player in the country couldn't decide between Duke or North Carolina or Kansas or Kentucky?

"The current rules still allow a player to sign a grant-in-aid letter that isn't binding to either party until the player enrolls," said longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Top100Hoops.com. "The player would have to make up the missed summer hours that most players take in June and July to get a jump on the required hours toward graduation.

"No doubt it would be a major story nationally because of the potential to affect the preseason magazines and projections as it was with Buckner. It is manageable from a schoolplayer perspective but it would drive the Internet media absolutely bonkers as they tried to be the one in the know on what that player was going to do.

"The player would be able to play in the summer because he could head to prep school if he couldn't make his decision. So he could play right up to August when he would have to make a decision and enroll either in a post-graduate prep school or a four-year college. So he would have cameras following his every move. It looks like a reality show in the making. Maybe he could date a Kardashian."

How would the college coaches adjust to such a scenario? After all, they are used to persuading most prospects into making early commitments on their own time schedule. Kids are often pressured into committing early, worried that they might be passed over for another player, that there won't be a scholarship left for them, that they won't go to the school of their choice.

"When you are dealing with the top prospect in the class, coaches like Kentucky's John Calipari are going to find a scholarship to keep in their back pocket. They will hold one or create one. Remember, a fifth-year senior pays his own say," Coleman said.

"Most schools would hold a scholarship for a player who can make that kind of impact on a program, especially is you believe you are in the hunt for a national championship. Sure, the risk is great. But the reward of landing that kind of talent outweighs it.

"After all, in basketball, one player (like Derrick Rose or John Wall or Kyrie Irving) has proven he can change a program's fortunes in the first year. So an Alcindor level talent is a no-brainer for a coach with one spot to fill to make a run at a national title or a coach who is looking to change his program's fortunes."

Coleman said the bigger question is: What does it take or what would a coach do to land a Rose or Wall or Irving? "That would be the greater scenario that has the most meat and would be where the bigger story could lie," he said.

So what would a coach do? How far would he go? What would it take to land a player who will take your program to the promised land?

"It depends on the coach," Coleman said. "Some would bend rules or stand in the gray area, like washing his car every day on the player's route to school or just happen to be eating at a local pizza parlor that the player is known to frequent.

"Some would just happen to show up at practice (in non-evaluation or contact periods) or waive any believe in other contact rules (phones). While others might do a variety of illegal things, like inviting a prospect to his house during a non-contact visit or providing girls on campus visits or making payments to AAU coaches or handlers or making payments to players or their families or hire family members or coaches. And the whole thing can escalate to offering cars, houses and lock boxes with money."

Coleman and Lemming, who have been observing and monitoring the recruiting process since the late 1970s, have been witness to the fact that all of these things -- and more -- have been done to get a great player. And they still are being done today. And no college is immune from the temptation.

4 Takeaways: Patrick Kane gets to 1K, Blackhawks win fifth straight

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AP

4 Takeaways: Patrick Kane gets to 1K, Blackhawks win fifth straight

The Blackhawks won their fifth straight game, 5-2 against the Winnipeg Jets, and Patrick Kane reached 1,000 career points on Sunday. Here are four takeaways:

Kane 1K Watch ends

He did it. Patrick Kane stepped onto the United Center ice with 999 points, one shy of the monumental milestone shared by the greatest players to skate in the NHL and left Sunday's game among them.

With 5:46 remaining in the third period, Kane passed the puck from behind the net to Ryan Carpenter, who was in front, and Carpenter passed it to Brandon Saad, who scored to put the Hawks up 4-1. 

Kane became the 90th player to reach 1,000 points in NHL history. Brian Propp is ahead of Kane at #89 (1,004). Kane has the fourth most points in Blackhawks history behind Denis Savard (1,096), Bobby Hull (1,153) and Stan Mikita (1,467).

The dynamic winger got #999 on Saturday after passing the puck to Brandon Saad, who sniped it over Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen’s stick to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead at 11:02 of the first period in a 6-2 Hawks win in Toronto.

Hawks keep streakin

The Blackhawks extended their winning streak to five games with their win over the Jets, who they jumped over in the Western Conference standings to come within three points of a Wild Card spot. 

Chicago wrapped up a perfect three-game road trip through Eastern Canada on Saturday after beating the Maple Leafs 6-2 in Toronto. The Hawks beat the Canadiens 4-1 in Montreal on Wednesday and the Senators 3-2 in Ottawa on Tuesday. 

They began the streak by winning 4-2 against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday Jan. 11.

Dominik Kubalik scored on Jets empty net for the 5-2 final score. It was the rookie's 21st goal of the season. Toews assisted on the play, bringing him to 799 career points. 

The Blackhawks have one game left: Tuesday vs. Joel Quenneville's Florida Panthers before the All-Star break.

Right on, Robin

Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner once again got the job done. Lehner made 19 saves on the Jets' 20 shots in the second period, including nine when the Blackhawks were killing off a four-minute double-minor penalty. He finished the game with 36 saves on 38 shots.

Drake! 

Drake Caggiula, who has four points in his past three games, had trouble staying out of the penalty box on Sunday. Caggiula took an interference penalty in the first period after putting a hit on Adam Lowry that knocked him out of the game, a second interference infraction tagged with unsportsmanlike conduct and a trip in the second period. The Hawks were able to kill off all eight minutes of his penalties.

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The road to Super Bowl LIV filled with plenty of intrigue for Bears fans

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USA TODAY

The road to Super Bowl LIV filled with plenty of intrigue for Bears fans

Super Bowl LIV is going to have plenty of intrigue for Bears fans. There are many connections in terms of the players in the game and each team's journey to Super Bowl LIV contained plenty of points of interest for the Chicago fan base along the way. With the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers set to faceoff on February 2, 2020, let's take a look at the most important connections for Bears fans to monitor and think back on as they prepare for the big game. 

Aaron Rodgers' big dud:

Aaron Rodgers, who has otherwise had a great season (4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns), laid an absolute dud in the first half against the 49ers, resulting in the Packers entering the half down 27-0. In Rodgers' first-half performance he threw for under 70 yards, had one interception, and two fumbles, losing one of them. 

There is no shame in playing poorly against the San Francisco defense, which is No. 1 in the league in postseason total defense (yards per game) but that being said, Rodgers and the Packers were thoroughly dominated. Rodgers pick was to Emmanuel Moseley on what appeared to be a miscommunication and his fumble was a result of a bad handoff exchange between him and center Corey Linsley. 

Rodgers capped off the game with his final turnover, an interception to Richard Sherman, as the Packers fell 37-20 to the 49ers.

Welcome to "The Show" Raheem Mostert (Remember him?)

For the most diligent of Bears fans, the name Raheem Mostert may ring a bell. For those who are drawing a blank when it comes to the connection between the explosive Mostert and the Bears, you need to go back to 2016, when Mostert was a running back on the Bears practice squad. The Bears signed Mostert in Septemeber 2016 and he actually was elevated to the Bears active roster at some point that season. Mostert appeared in two games for the Bears in 2016, not seeing much action in either contest. The Bears released the running back out of Purdue on November 24, 2016. He landed on the 49ers practice squad in 2016 and was used sparingly over the years before his big break in the 2019 season. 

Mostert lit up the Packers' defense to the tune of 220 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He had touchdown runs of 36, 9, 18, and 22 yards.

The San Francisco rushing attack is extremely potent. evidenced by the fact that they had three different players rush for over 500 yards in the 2019 regular season. Mostert led the way with eight rushing touchdowns in the regular season but Matt Breida (6) wasn't too far behind. When the Bears had Mostert, he likely wasn't running the way he is now. But the 49ers are tops in the league in postseason rushing yards per game and Mostert's play is obviously a big reason, leaving Bears fans to wonder what could have been. 

The local kid vs the 2018 NFL MVP 

He didn't have to do much on Sunday but local product Jimmy Garoppolo will be making his Super Bowl debut after going

Graoppolo, who grew up in Arlington Heights, went to Rolling Meadows High School, where he performed well enough to end up at Eastern Illinois. In his three years with the Panthers, Garoppolo broke the pass completions record that was held by former Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo on his way to becoming a New England Patriot and one of the hottest trade chips in the NFL. The Pats eventually traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in a move that many fans are still wishing the Bears would've or could've made. 

The 49ers' handpicked franchise QB had a solid 2019 regular season, throwing for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Similar to Mitchell Trubisky in 2018, "Jimmy G" is backed by a great defense that allows him to operate as stress-free as possible. While Bears fans are surely intrigued about the idea of Garoppolo as a Bear, it is no doubt Patrick Mahomes who induces the longest sighs. 

Mahomes, who the Bears and a bunch of other NFL teams now infamously passed up on in the 2017 draft, is already a league MVP who is now getting ready to play in his first Super Bowl all before the age of 25. Mahomes lit up a very physical Tennesse Titans defense, throwing for 294 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 53 yards and another touchdown. For a team that has had no trouble scoring as is, Mahomes' recent surge in rushing yards adds another dimension to an already potent attack.

Garoppolo-Trubisky comparisons could be interesting depending on how the rest of the season shakes out. But it was already unfair to compare Trubisky's solid career to what has been a meteoric rise for Mahomes in KC, and will be an even tougher comparison should Mahomes rack up some additional hardware in February. 

The Bears REALLY made an impact in this one 

We mentioned that running back Mostert was a former Chicago Bear, but with Chicago-favorite Robbie Gould still acting as the kicker for the 49ers, former Bears scored all 37 of the 49ers points on Sunday.

We told you the Bears had a strong presence in this one! Super Bowl LIV will kick off on February 2, 2020 at the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

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