Cubs

Who's who in summer basketball?

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Who's who in summer basketball?

Simeon's Jabari Parker suffered an injury, jeopardizing his position as the No. 1 player in the nation, while some nationally respected critics said Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor lost some ground in his bid to be acknowledged as the No. 1 player in the class of 2014.
Cliff Alexander, Curie's 6-foot-9 strongman, also was injured for much of the July evaluation period. But his standing as one of the top five prospects in the class of 2014 didn't suffer. In fact, he was offered a scholarship by Kentucky coach John Calipari. Enough said.
Meanwhile, several other Illinois underclassmen made names for themselves and boosted their stock in the recruiting sweepstakes. The list includes Benet's 6-foot-9 Sean O'Mara, Normal University High's 6-foot-7 Keita Bates-Diop, Taylor-Rockridge's 6-foot-7 Ethan Happ, St. Joseph guard Glynn Watson and Trevor Stumpe, Plainfield North's 6-foot-4 guard.
"The class of 2012 was the weakest the state has seen since 1999," said veteran recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "But the class of 2013 is far more talented than 2012 even though several players haven't lived up to the hype or played up to the potential that was envisioned for them.
"However, the class of 2014 has a chance to be special, one of the best in recent memory, mentioned in the same sentence with 1979 and 1998. It has great depth and talent at every position, especially at point guard and wing forward, two of the most highly coveted positions in recruiting today."
Roy and Harv Schmidt have been evaluating high school talent for nearly 30 years. In the spring and summer, they travel from Minneapolis to Fort Wayne to Orlando to Augusta to Myrtle Beach to Las Vegas to wherever the players are lacing up their sneakers to get national exposure.
Here are their evaluations and conclusions:
-- The top 10 teams in Illinois for the 2012-13 season figure to be Simeon, Proviso East, Curie, Orr, Whitney Young, St. Joseph, St. Rita, Mundelein, Homewood-Flossmoor and Morgan Park. Downstate contenders are Belleville East and Normal University High.
-- The top 10 players are Simeon's Jabari Parker, Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, Curie's Cliff Alexander, Normal University High's Keita Bates-Diop, Simeon's Kendrick Nunn, Proviso East's Sterling Brown, Belleville East's Malcolm Hill, Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis, Simeon's D.J. Williams and Orr's Tyquone Greer.
-- Parker was sidelined with an injury but it didn't affect his ranking as the No. 1 player in the class of 2013. He narrowed his field of colleges to 10 but it is speculated that the 6-foot-8 junior will choose Michigan State or Duke. He did, however, by most accounts, fall behind class of 2014 standout Andrew Wiggins in the duel for the nation's No. 1 rankingregardless of class.
"Most kids have to play on a national stage in July in order to raise their profile. But Parker had nothing to prove," Roy Schmidt said. "However, he did fall behind Wiggins as the No. 1 player in the nation. Wiggins did everything at the Peach Jam to confirm his status. He went head-to-head with Julius Randle (who once was touted as the No. 1 player in the nation) and outplayed him decisively. You have to reward his performance."
-- Some recruiting analysts downgraded Okafor's performance. Not the Schmidt brothers. "We still think he is the best college prospect in the state next to Parker. And he still is the No. 2 player in the class of 2014 behind Wiggins. He didn't have a dominant summer in the way we envisioned. He is a victim of the fact that he plays on an AAU team where the guards don't consistently get him the ball. If he got the ball consistently, he would dominate games from start to finish," Roy Schmidt said.
-- The Schmidts conceded that Alexander "may be another one whose praise is a result of his reputation," that he played well at times but was slowed by injury at other times. However, he remains a solid choice as the No. 4 player in the class of 2014.
"He will be outstanding in college," Roy Schmidt said. "He was offered by Kentucky, his likely destination. He is enamored with (Kentucky coach) John Calipari, as (former Chicago Perspectives and Kentucky star) Anthony Davis was. Calipari puts players in the NBA. I think that is something that is on Alexander's mind."
-- Bates-Diop was the player of the summer. The versatile 6-foot-7 junior is being recruited by Illinois, Marquette, Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern, Oregon and Kansas State.
"He was the most consistent and most dominant player from start to finish in every event he participated in," Roy Schmidt said. "He was the MVP at the GRBA in Fort Wayne and the Chicago Summer Showcase at Riverside-Brookfield. He has a tremendous all-around offensive skill set. He is highly athletic. He reminds of (Chicago Bulls star) Luol Deng."
Happ was the biggest surprise of the summer. A 6-foot-7 junior wing forward from Taylor-Rockridge, a Class 1A school, he is committed to Wisconsin.
"He is a hidden gem," Roy Schmidt said. "(Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan discovered a diamond in the rough."
-- Alec Peters of Washington, Ill., a 6-foot-7 wing forward, saw his stock rise faster than Google in the class of 2013. He has firmly established himself as the best shooting wing forward in his class.
-- Biggest disappointment? Alex Foster, a 6-foot-8 senior who transferred from De La Salle to Seton Academy. As a freshman, he was touted as a future star with Parker and Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton. But he was an underachiever at De La Salle.
"He hasn't developed as people envisioned," Roy Schmidt said. "I'm not sure he has the overall work ethic to be a star. Many times he doesn't play hard. He is trying to get by too much on his reputation instead of hard work and development."
-- Team to watch: Bolingbrook. Coach Rob Brost has two of the leading prospects in the class of 2015, point guard Prentiss Nixon and 6-foot-7, 250-pound Julian Torres, and 6-foot-8 Ben Moore, one of the most improved players in the senior class. Moore, who put himself on the map with a breakout performance at Las Vegas, has been offered by Illinois State and SMU and is beginning to attract more interest from major Division I schools.
-- Player to watch: St. Joseph guard Jordan Ash is one of the leading prospects in the class of 2015 but teammate Glynn Watson, a 5-foot-10 point guard who is the younger brother of former St. Joseph and Illinois star Demetri McCamey, has developed into another star in the class of 2015.
-- Best young coach: St. Viator's Mike Howland, 27, in his third year at the Arlington Heights school, has shown to be a good coach who can develop players and get the most out of them. He took his team to the sectional last year and figures to have another strong team in 2012-13.
-- According to the Schmidt brothers, Stumpe is the most underrated player in the class of 2015. He is an outstanding shooter with good all-around scoring ability and high basketball IQ. He emerged at the Fort Wayne tournament as his Illinois Wolves 15-and-under squad won the championship.
-- Three other sleepers who figure to attract attention from college recruiters are 6-foot-4 junior John Joyce of Taft, 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard Mark Falotico of St. Viator and 6-foot-6 sophomore Edward Morrow of Simeon.
-- Best story of the summer: The emergence of a handful of unheralded and under-the-radar AAU programs that won titles and made names for themselves.
"Everybody talks about Mean Streets, the Wolves, the Fire and the Derrick Rose All-Stars," Roy Schmidt said. "But three programs emerged. They are Victor Agujapay's Bulls Premier, based in Naperville, with Brother Rice's Alex Majewski and Stagg's Sean Dwyer; Todd Wolfe's Illinois Attack, based in Oswego, with Neuqua Valley's Jabari Sandifer and Oswego East's C.J. Vaughn; and Luke Wynn's Quad-City Elite, based in the Quad Cities, with Taylor-Rockridge's Ethan Happ."

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.