Preps Talk

Whitney Young deserves more respect

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Whitney Young deserves more respect

Whitney Young's schedule is tougher than the Chicago Bulls. They'll go anywhere, anytime to play anyone in sneakers, from Myrtle Beach to Waikiki Beach. They have accumulated more frequent-flyer miles than President Obama. So why are they getting less respect than a hot dog with ketchup?

"We won the state championship in 2009, were second in the state in 2010 and lost in the sectional final last year," coach Tyrone Slaughter said. "This team is as good as any of those teams.

"This team plays a more national schedule. We have lost five games to nationally ranked teams. Wins and losses don't indicate the level of what we have done. I'm not pleased with our record. But I'm pleased about where we are. Look at the history of our teams. We have gotten better as we went along."

Whitney Young is 8-7 after losing to third-ranked Curie 59-47 on Sunday in the finale of the two-day Whitney Young Shootout.

It doesn't get any easier for the Dolphins, who start three sophomores and have lost to the Nos. 1, 5, 11 and 19 teams in the nation. They play at Louisville (Ky.) Ballard on Saturday and have a Feb. 4 date with highly rated Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in a Nike event in California.

"Our spirits aren't shaken," Slaughter said. "We're looking to cut back on turnovers and seeing our young people continue to develop. Then we will be more successful over the next month and a half. We will continue to get better."

Slaughter's 2009 and 2010 powerhouses featured outstanding guard play with Anthony Johnson, Chris Colvin, Marcus Jordan and Ahmad Starks. He insists his current squad will have as dominant a front court as any team in the state or nation "when all the parts are together."

There is one problem. All of the parts may never be together this season. Tommy Hamilton, a 6-9 junior who is rated one of the leading prospects in his class, underwent surgery for an injured patella last month and it still hasn't been determined if he will return or not. He was scheduled to be sidelined for at least four weeks.

"That's a great setback for us," Slaughter said. "We hope to get him back. If we had Tommy, we would be dramatically better right now. But others have stepped up. That's why this team will be good."

So there is more pressure on Whitney Young's other two front-line standouts to carry the load. Jahlil Okafor, a 6-foot-11, 265-pound sophomore who is rated as the No. 2 player in his class nationally, and Paul White, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, is just beginning to spread his wings.

Okafor averages 21.7 points per game but White averages only 11. He still is recovering from an injury that forced him to sit out for three months in the summer.

"He is just getting back," Slaughter said. "When he is healthy, he will be as good as anyone in the country. I compare him to (former King and Illinois star) Marcus Liberty. He is 70 to 75 percent back now. He will continue to improve."

Hamilton's starting spot has been taken by 6-foot-5 senior Nate Brooks, who scored 33 on his ACT and is going to attend the University of Chicago. An outstanding rebounder, he grabs eight per game.

In the backcourt, Slaughter is counting on the continued development of 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard Miles Reynolds, who is in his first season of varsity competition, and 6-foot-4 Gabriel Snider, who is committed to Illinois-Chicago.

"This is a new role for Reynolds. We have given him the keys to the vehicle and told him to drive it. He is learning to fly. There is a lot of pressure on him," Slaughter said, noting that Reynolds was the starting point guard on last year's sophomore team that won the city title. He was pushed into the starting point guard position when Derrick Randolph left.

The first two players off the bench are 6-foot-4 senior Jordan Smith and 6-foot-4 junior Keith Langston. Smith, who scored 34 on his ACT, also will be attending the University of Chicago.

Slaughter is in his seventh year at Whitney Young. A 1982 graduate of Fenger, he never played basketball in his life. He majored in broadcast journalism at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

"I wanted to talk about sports. I didn't know about basketball until college," he said.

He became the student manager of the women's basketball team. "The coach took me under his wing. I enjoyed it. I wanted to be more valuable than just handing out towels and water. When the team won the women's national title, I felt basketball would be something I would enjoy," he said.

Slaughter came back to Chicago and continued to coach neighborhood youth teams during the summer. He managed a Dominick's grocery store, coached an AAU team and was hired at Whitney Young 10 years ago.

"Who woulda thunk it? A manager for Dominick's coaching this basketball team?" said Slaughter, now 47. "It is a natural fit for me. Anyone who coaches the game is in it to help mold and direct young people. I enjoy the competition of sport. I enjoy the fact that we can impact their lives in ways that others wouldn't."

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. 

Week 9 is “Bubble Week” for many teams fighting to stay on the right side of the postseason bubble. Who moves on? Whose bubble will burst? Will Wauconda advance to the playoffs after finishing 2-7 last year? Or will Grant end their season on a winning note? Schaumburg and Fremd both stand at 4-4. The winner goes to the postseason. The winner stays home for November. Zion-Benton hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003. A win over Libertyville gets them there. But for the Wildcats, this ‘is’ their playoff game. Who wins in the North Suburban conference? We’ll send our cameras to one of the following:

Grant at Wauconda, 7:15 p.m.

Schaumburg at Fremd, 7:30 p.m.

Libertyville at Zion-Benton, 7:30 p.m.

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

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USA TODAY

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.