WBEZ | basketball http://www.wbez.org/tags/basketball Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en As Gary charter wins basketball titles, public schools fall farther behind http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Bowman 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hoosier Hysteria will hit a fever pitch this weekend in Indianapolis.<br /><br />Not only is the city hosting the Midwest Regional for the NCAA men&rsquo;s basketball tournament, but the boys state high school basketball title games as well.<br /><br />Northwest Indiana will be well represented in the tournament with three region teams heading downstate looking for a crown in their respective classes. They include traditional programs like Lake Central in St. John and Michigan City Marquette, as well as relative newcomer Bowman Academy in Gary.<br /><br />Bowman is a charter school trying to repeat as state champions and win its third title in four years.&ndash; unheard of even in this basketball-crazed corner of Indiana. This from a school that started competing only six years ago.</p><p>But neither success nor acceptance has come easy for Bowman, a non-religious school named for African-American Roman Catholic nun Thea Bowman.</p><p>&ldquo;A couple of years, didn&rsquo;t nobody know who Bowman was. We couldn&rsquo;t play a good team for nothing,&rdquo; says Bowman&rsquo;s star guard, 6&rsquo;5 Davon Dillard, a junior who is already being pursued by the likes of Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State.</p><p>Dillard and his teammates chowed down on pizza and chicken wings before boarding two white vans early Thursday afternoon to make the two-hour trek south to practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse &ndash; home of the NBA&rsquo;s Indianapolis Pacers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gained a lot of respect by proving it on the court, you know. Coming to Bowman, I&rsquo;ve been playing in some of the biggest championship games I&rsquo;ve ever played in,&rdquo; Dillard said. &ldquo;Being able to go down to state every year, that&rsquo;s a good feeling.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Bowman&rsquo;s quick rise also reveals just how far some of the other Gary schools have fallen &ndash; and not just in basketball.<br /><br />&ldquo;We get a lot of criticism but we just stay humble you know. We focus; we play hard, you know, we&rsquo;ve got a good coach in Marvin Rae. He gets the job done,&rdquo; Dillard said.<br /><br />Head coach Marvin Rae agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, when we first started, there was some animosity, actually we didn&rsquo;t play the Gary schools, they opted not to play us,&rdquo; Rae told WBEZ. &ldquo;When we first started, we had to travel to Rushville, Illinois to get games. We had to travel around. Our first year, we literally only had eight games.&rdquo;<br /><br />Suburban schools in Northwest Indiana didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman because of its small size. And &ndash; rightly or wrongly &ndash; because of Gary&rsquo;s reputation as an unsafe place to visit.<br /><br />But the city schools didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman either.<br /><br />&ldquo;I was not going to play Bowman because I knew right away what charter schools were built for: They are built to destroy public school systems,&rdquo; said John Boyd, a former teacher and coach at Gary&rsquo;s West Side High School, a basketball powerhouse and state champion in 2003.</p><p>Despite being a much larger school than Bowman, Boyd agreed to play one game against them in 2009.</p><p>&ldquo;I had gotten sick of people telling me I was afraid to play Bowman when I had some of the best talent in the state of Indiana,&rdquo; Body said. &ldquo;So, we ended up playing them and there was a situation that occurred.&rdquo;<br /><br />What occurred, according to Boyd, was a fight that ended any further games between Bowman and Gary schools.</p><p>But now, because of dwindling finances and declining enrollment &ndash; Gary public education struggling to keep its public high schools open. Of its five public high schools, only two still have basketball teams.<br /><br />Bowman&rsquo;s success &ndash; in the classroom and on the court &ndash; is now luring most of Gary&rsquo;s top talent in basketball and academics.<br /><br />And with other charter schools having varying success in Gary, Boyd says it&rsquo;s only going to get tougher for the Steel City.<br /><br />&ldquo;These charter schools are taking away students from the Gary public schools. Gary is actually a case study in how charter schools can come in and absolutely take over a school corporation which means that yes, Gary will have to close schools until they only have one high school,&rdquo; Boyd said.<br /><br />Gary&rsquo;s charter schools are often criticized for shifting resources away from public schools. Bowman&rsquo;s Rae says while he understands that criticism, &ldquo;we just kind of keep to ourselves and do what we do best and focus on each other,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bowman&rsquo;s success now attracts top teams from all over the region that flock to Gary to play them, with most games attracting the attention of college recruiters. Because of their packed scheduled, Marvin Rae says there&rsquo;s no room to play Gary schools now even if they wanted to.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a matter of do we want to play, at this point our schedule is full,&rdquo; Rae said.<br /><br />Rae insists he&rsquo;s not gloating. As someone who used to play at Gary Roosevelt High School &ndash; a one time powerhouse &ndash; he knows Gary&rsquo;s public schools are stressed.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;If we can sit down and help the Gary community schools and anyone else, we&rsquo;re always open to help anyone with suggestions and ideas,&rdquo; Rae said.</p><p>Even rival coach John Boyd has come to terms with Bowman&rsquo;s unmatched success and called Rae recently to wish him luck in Indy this weekend.<br /><br />&ldquo;They are probably the premier basketball program in Northwest Indiana right now. When you are winning championships you have to be revered,&rdquo; Boyd said. &ldquo;The Bowmans of the world bring attention to Gary, Indiana. We need to want Bowman to be successful.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 Bracket Madness http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kpcc bracket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>March Madness is upon us.</p><p>Thursday 64 college basketball teams will begin their mad dash through the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, and the Final Four, to vy in the NCAA championship game on Sunday, April 6.</p><p>But bracket madness has been going on a lot longer. Many folks have sweated over their selections or watched office mates - or President Obama - mull, debate, and endlessly discuss their own bracket choices.</p><p>If you&rsquo;re like me though, the word brackets usually conjures something other than basketball. Like those handy crescent-moon shaped punctuation marks. Or supports for a shelf.</p><p>I know I&rsquo;m not alone here. But these days I do feel like an outlier. The President&rsquo;s annual interview with ESPN has helped turn brackets &ndash; or &ldquo;Barackatology&rdquo; -&nbsp; into the must-have spring accessory.</p><p>But used to be, if you weren&rsquo;t a sports fan, a college student or college grad, or someone subject to hard-core inter-office peer pressure, it was pretty easy to maintain your bracket blindness.</p><p>Not anymore.</p><p>Don&rsquo;t get me wrong. I haven&rsquo;t caved. I&rsquo;m not pondering shooting percentages or whether Coastal Carolina has the coolest name in the Big South conference. But these days everything seems to have a bracket. <a href="http://thisismadness.starwars.com/">Star War characters</a>, <a href="http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2014/03/bracket-day-best-fictional-president/359085/">fictional presidents from television or film</a>, <a href="http://jezebel.com/5510811/pie-vs-cake-pie-is-champion">baked goods</a> - all have been entered into those tidy little slots.</p><p>More recently, bracket-mania has hit even closer to home. Yes, public radio shows (and hosts) have a bracket.</p><p>&ldquo;We went through shows that we like from around the country, shows that are interesting and new and that people may not know as well,&rdquo; said Mike Roe, a web producer and blogger with KPCC in Southern California. &ldquo;You know, trying to have a mix of those while also having people&rsquo;s favorites like Wait Wait Don&rsquo;t Tell Me and Radio Lab.</p><p>KPCC started their <a href="http://projects.scpr.org/static/marchmadness/">Public Radio Bracket Madness!</a> last year. The bracket was such a big hit they did it again this year. Next year Roe hopes to expand it to a full 64 shows, just like the NCAA.</p><p>When I asked him why KPCC went the brackets route, Roe gave me a very public radio answer. It&rsquo;s about starting a conversation.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean that&rsquo;s part of what makes it interesting is that it&rsquo;s a thing that you can debate,&rdquo; said Roe. &ldquo;That makes it a blast to be a part of.&rdquo;</p><p>Conversation, debate, passion &ndash; sure. But it&rsquo;s also about money. Roe says his bracket drives traffic to KPCC&rsquo;s website.</p><p>That&rsquo;s exactly what the NCAA figured out &ndash; that the people who fill out brackets far outnumber the sport&rsquo;s fan base. Dave Zirin, the sports editor at the Nation Magazine has done the math countless times.</p><p>&ldquo;Ninety percent of the NCAA&rsquo;s operating budget comes from the television contract for March Madness alone,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;So everything they do except for ten percent is tied to this tournament.&rdquo;</p><p>So I get why the NCAA loves brackets. But what about the rest of us?</p><p>Zirin chalks it up to our love for underdogs. A bracket &ndash; in sports or pop culture &ndash; is designed to produce lots of upsets. Even the lowliest team can pull a game out from under a top contender when all you have to do is play them once.</p><p>Plus anyone can participate and even win, whether they study records and stats or just pick teams based on their mascots or uniform colors. Take the same model, apply it to baked goods or TV characters, and you get all the pleasures of competition with none of the downsides - like reality.</p><p>Zirin says reality - or the lack thereof - is another big driver. Most of us won&rsquo;t ever be top athletes. But thanks to brackets, we can entertainment another fantasy - about playing basketball, like a boss.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was growing my dreams were about playing for the New York Mets or playing for the Knicks,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;Basically when they&rsquo;re playing fantasy sports people are dreaming about being owners, about being the executive who sits behind the desk and through their masterwork makes their own decision. It&rsquo;s like everyone is playing risk instead of playing sports.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">Twitter</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport">Instagram</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 Phil Jackson chats about his book and the Bulls http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/phil-jackson-chats-about-his-book-and-bulls-107348 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_phil_jackson_tony_gutierrez.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Author Phil Jackson has no plans to coach again. (AP)" />It has been 15 years since Phil Jackson rode out on his motorcycle and ended his coaching career in Chicago. He continued his success after his six Bulls NBA Championships with the Lakers and earned five more rings. Now at the age of 67, he has authored a new book aptly titled, &quot;Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.&quot;</p><p>Jackson held court about his new book at the <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/secondscreen/phil-jackson-interview-with-k-c-johnson:-chicago-tribune-printers-row-live-event/index.html" target="_blank">Trib Nation&#39;s Printers Row</a> session conducted by the Chicago Tribune&#39;s beat reporter K.C. Johnson. An audience of dignitaries, including new Bears head coach Marc Trestman, and a large group of fans filled the Palmer House Hilton Ballroom. Before the event, I was privileged to be granted a one-on-one with the &ldquo;Zen master&rdquo; himself-Phil Jackson.&nbsp;</p><p>The essence of the book is found in the subtitle, The Soul of Success.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;[It&#39;s about] trusting, nurturing your spiritual side and allowing that side to be part of your business life,&rdquo; Jackson said.</p><p>What the former NBA coach found interesting was the focus of some reviewers is centered on the fact that he &ldquo;finally&rdquo; sided with one of his superstars, Michael Jordan, over another, Kobe Bryant. Jackson said he was not saying one was better or best, but different and great. He attributes it to the way our society measures success &ldquo;winners take all and losers lick their wounds&rdquo; and Jackson says some his most successful seasons came from losing.</p><p>Of course, the bulk of our conversation was about the Bulls, both past and present. Jackson appreciated the terrific play from his big time stars: Michael Jordan&rsquo;s heroics, Scottie Pippen&rsquo;s flashes of brilliances and Dennis Rodman&rsquo;s rebounding. He found a true appreciation for the &ldquo;little things&rdquo; such as Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr having the opportunity to hit a big three-pointer. Jackson pointed out the fact those two bench players and others had a high level of professionalism to play the roles they were given.</p><p>As the conversation steered towards this current Bulls team, he mentioned the team&rsquo;s injuries have been an impediment. Additionally, he believes presently the Bulls don&rsquo;t have &ldquo;all the pieces&rdquo; yet. Jackson was complimentary to the high level of play by Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli. He looks at how well his former player, now team President, John Paxson has assembled the team, especially with all the salary cap implications.</p><p>Looking at this Bulls roster, I had to ask Jackson if there are one or two players he would like to coach. The first player he mentioned was center Joakim Noah.</p><p>&ldquo;He is a player that is really good on a ball club he leads the team through his energy and his vocal capabilities,&rdquo; &nbsp;Jackson said.</p><p>There were two other Bulls he brought up: Nate Robinson and the way he could win <em>or</em> lose a game but inspire a team and Kirk Hinrich&#39;s overall play.</p><p>Needless to say, there was one other player to discuss: Derrick Rose. Jackson believes you have to trust a player&rsquo;s instincts about their physical and mental status, otherwise he could have a &ldquo;misstep&rdquo; that could be more detrimental to the player&rsquo;s career.</p><p>As to Jackson&#39;s career and a possible return as a NBA coach, he maintains that is not in his future.</p><p>&ldquo;My intention is not to coach,&rdquo; Jackson said with one caveat. &ldquo;My finance Jeanie Buss says whenever you have to answer that, say, Jeanie Buss thinks I can still coach.&rdquo;</p><p>There is no doubt he could, however, the travel and physical ailments are a huge roadblock in his mind.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a>&nbsp;and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame&nbsp;</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 24 May 2013 18:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/phil-jackson-chats-about-his-book-and-bulls-107348 Beleaguered Bulls battle both the flu and the Nets http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/beleaguered-bulls-battle-both-flu-and-nets-106966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rsz_nate_robinson_nam_y_huh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There were no vaccines strong enough to stop the Bulls from dropping Game 6 against the Brooklyn Nets 95-92. The Bulls didn&rsquo;t get defeated by only the Nets, they were wiped out by the flu bug too. Luol Deng was sent home sick, while Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson (seen vomiting during the game) suffered on the court. And with Kirk Hinrich continuing to be sidelined with his calf bruise, it was a much-depleted Bulls team. Derrick Rose continues to watch the game on the bench in street clothes.</p><p>The Bulls were in the game and had opportunities to either tie or go ahead at various times late in the contest despite their setbacks.</p><p>The Nets flexed their offensive abilities and shot 57 percent and had a 60-54 lead going into the halftime. It looked like Brooklyn was having the type of game they enjoy playing.</p><p>What has been typical of this Bulls team, especially this Tom Thibodeau-coached club is that they don&rsquo;t give up. They fought and clawed and did everything they could possibly do in the second half to make it the kind of game the Bulls prefer&mdash;a defensive struggle.</p><p>You would think without Deng and Hinrich the Bulls chances were impossible. Jimmy Butler played every minute of this game, scoring seventeen points with six assists and seven boards, and worked hard on defense too. Marco Belinelli played almost the same amount of time and played both ends of the court too. Filling in for Deng, Belinelli had a game high 22 points and seven assists. Joakim Noah also played huge minutes and was very active around the paint grabbing 15 rebounds, 9 of them on the offensive glass. The Bulls center also had 14 points in the losing effort. Nate Robinson was still able to pour in 18 points despite being ill. Boozer had another double-double, 14 points and 13 rebounds before he fouled out.</p><p>This was an opportunity to close out this best of seven game series, which has to be dissapointing for the team. They had a three games to one lead and now it is tied up with a final game seven on the road at the Barclays Center.</p><p>The big three for Brooklyn were able to establish their offense in the first half and struggled later when the Bulls tried to control the game with their defense and whatever energy they could muster. Deron Williams finished with 17 points and 11 assists, but he only had three points in the second half without Hinrich defending him.</p><p>Both Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson contributed with 17 points apiece and both had a similar scenario as Williams&rsquo; the majority of their scoring came in the first half. However, the Nets got two clutch free throws from Andray Blatche in the final nineteen seconds. Up until then, the Nets were having great difficulty at the line. The Bulls had one last attempt to knot up the game, but Marco Belinelli missed a three and Noah had a turnover and then could not control the tip of a jump ball when final horn sounded at the United Center. This could have been the final home game of this very difficult season.</p><p>Now they have to go to Brooklyn for this first round series finale and they will need every bit of energy and health to try to gut out a win in New York.&nbsp; The big question, which Bulls players will be able to return to play on Saturday, Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich? If only Derrick Rose could suit up...</p><p>And <strong><em>IF</em></strong> (it is a very big if) the Bulls can pull out a win, they would travel to Miami to play the Heat on Monday. With the team and this season anything is possible.</p><p>&nbsp;Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook Cheryl Raye Stout #<a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame">AtTheGame </a></p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/beleaguered-bulls-battle-both-flu-and-nets-106966 Chicago Bulls ready to cut down Nets http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-04/chicago-bulls-ready-cut-down-nets-106873 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_nate_game_4_vs_nets%20Ji%20m%20prisching.jpg" style="height: 485px; width: 620px;" title="Can Nate Robinson come to the Bulls' rescue again? (AP/File)" /></div><p>There&rsquo;s no time to catch your breath after the thrilling triple overtime 142-134 win by the Chicago Bulls this weekend. The Bulls are in Brooklyn Monday night trying to close out the series. They now lead the Nets three games to one in this best of seven series.</p><p>It will not be easy. Then again, the Bulls have never had it easy this season.</p><p>The Bulls showed that despite injuries and not having their biggest star they have one intangible: heart.</p><p>Coming back from a 14 point deficit (with the crazy shooting of back-up point guard Nate Robinson) elevated the battered team.</p><p>Playoffs are not just X&rsquo;s and O&rsquo;s. The raw emotion from an overtime win may be a catalyst Monday.</p><p>But the Bulls still have to overcome injuries, and on Saturday, minutes mounted up on already aching players.</p><p>Joakim Noah, with his sore foot, went way over his allotted time. He played 40 minutes even though the team&rsquo;s medical staff recommended a limit of 25.</p><p>Luol Deng was hobbled after Saturday&rsquo;s victory too. He has been active on defense and come up with a big shot here and there. There is little doubt that Deng will do everything he can to be on the court.</p><p>The biggest concern is for Kirk Hinrich. He suffered a deep thigh bruise and may not get to play. Hinrich played a team high of 59 minutes in the last game. His steady hand running the offense and gritty perimeter defense is a big reason the Bulls have an advantage in this series. If he is unable to start, that job will go to Nate Robinson.</p><p>Robinson can light up the scoreboard, but doesn&#39;t match Hinrich on defense. This void would give the Nets&#39; Deron Williams more opportunities.</p><p>There is one more advantage the Bulls have over Brooklyn: coach Tom Thibodeau.</p><p>The Bulls coach has this team well prepared and they trust him. Somehow you don&rsquo;t get that feeling with the Net&rsquo;s P.J. Carlesimo. The interim Brooklyn coach doesn&#39;t look in sync with his team. They have had clear advantages and still find themselves one game away from elimination.</p><p>Thibodeau made the choice to keep ineffective veteran Richard Hamilton on the bench Saturday. We&rsquo;ll see if that changes with the Hinrich injury.</p><p>If Marquis Teague sees playing time, Williams and Nets back-up C.J. Watson will eat the Bulls rookie alive. Thibodeau might have to use Jimmy Butler to defend Williams.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame </a></em></p></p> Sun, 28 Apr 2013 20:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-04/chicago-bulls-ready-cut-down-nets-106873 Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks and a spicy ex-Sox player in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-04/bulls-bears-blackhawks-and-spicy-ex-sox-player-chicago-106736 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_taj_lu_jo_john_raoux.jpg" style="height: 219px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Bulls need to stay healthy for the playoffs. (AP/File)" />Two Brooklyn natives on the Bulls team look forward to opening the postseason with the Nets on Saturday night.</p><p>Taj Gibson said he will be all business going home and is still trying to get used to the brace on his ailing knee.&nbsp;At Friday&rsquo;s practice, Noah admitted a reoccurrence of his foot injury and said he will not start and is likely unable to play.&nbsp;Now the work load at center will fall on Nazr Mohammed.</p><p>Coach Tom Thibodeau will almost have a full roster when this banged up crew opens the playoffs. Although the door hasn&#39;t been closed, Derrick Rose is still not expected to play.</p><p>With or without Rose, the Bulls have reasonable expectations to beat the Nets. They won three of the four regular season meetings. Noah and Gibson will be important to handle Nets center Brook Lopez.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The regular season and all the Bulls injuries allowed second year player Jimmy Butler to show his abilities. He has taken advantage of the opportunities and has given the Bulls a great option on the court. Butler is expected to continue as the team&rsquo;s starting two-guard. The Bulls offense (which can be dreadful) will likely run through Carlos Boozer. He needs to get touches early and often to get his game going.</p><h2><strong>Bears meet and greet new coach</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Bears new head man Marc Trestman just finished three days of voluntary workouts. It was fast paced, with over 200 plays/concepts practiced. It was interesting watching Devin Hester only doing special team work, after yesterday&rsquo;s practice he seemed to be fine with his concentrated role.</p><p>In six days, the NFL draft will begin and after a few days the Bears GM Phil Emery will collect some new players to add to the mix. This summer training camp will be extremely competitive for several starting jobs. Trestman would like the jobs locked when they break camp. Somehow I get the feeling there will be large, curious crowds this summer down in Bourbonnais.</p><p>Last night the new Bears coach found out he will make his NFL coaching debut September 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field. The Bears will have four prime time games and they end the regular season at home on December 29 against Green Bay. It has been nine years since the Bears have had such a transformation as a team. Every move they make and every game they play will be highly scrutinized.</p><h2><strong>Double feature for Blackhawks</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Blackhawks fans have a double treat this weekend: Friday they host Nashville and Saturday face Phoenix at the United Center. With home ice advantage for the postseason in their back pocket, the Blackhawks can use these final games to tune-up for the playoffs.</p><p>What a pleasant dilemma for coach Joel Quenneville in net: Corey Crawford or Ray Emery? Both have been terrific this season and both are deserving of their starts, but the playoffs are usually where a coach goes with just one. Who would question what Coach Q has done this season? He has changed lines and mixed younger players with the veterans. There is a very strong belief that this team is on a course to hoist the Stanley Cup in June.</p><p>That&rsquo;s right, June. Thanks to the lock out the hockey finale will be this summer in the middle of baseball season. Maybe not a bad idea after all.</p><h2><strong>Sox and Cubs</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>It has been a rough few weeks for baseball with rough weather and small crowds.&nbsp; But leave it to former White Sox player A.J. Pierzynski to make things lively. He returned to Chicago at Wrigley Field to face the Cubs this week.</p><p>Before the series opener, the Texas Ranger catcher sat down with the media and immediately noticed a change on a building on Sheffield: the Latin sign that says &ldquo;<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-23/sports/ct-talk-eamus-catuli-sign-0323-20120323_1_ricketts-family-president-theo-epstein-lakeview-baseball-club" target="_blank">Eamus Catuli</a>&rdquo; is back.</p><p>&ldquo;It was my favorite sign. I am glad they put it back,&rdquo; he said with his Dennis the Menace look.</p><p>He loved reminding the media crowd that it&rsquo;s been 104 years since the Cubs won a World Series. The Cubs-Sox series won&rsquo;t be the same without him.</p><p>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout </a>and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a></p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-04/bulls-bears-blackhawks-and-spicy-ex-sox-player-chicago-106736 The journey of NBA nomad Malcolm Thomas http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-04/journey-nba-nomad-malcolm-thomas-106626 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_thomas_charles_cherney.jpg" style="float: right; height: 415px; width: 300px;" title="After jumping from team to team, Malcolm Thomas hopes to call Chicago home. (AP/File)" />NBA fans know the pecking order of players. First you have your stars, mixed with the starters and then the bench players. There is one other type of player: the nomads. These are the players that bounce around from team to team, level to level, trying to make a NBA roster.</p><p>Due to injuries on the Bulls team, they have had to dig deep to fill the roster. Early this season, the Bulls picked up Daequan Cook. He stayed. Later it was Lou Amundsen, but he was replaced by Malcolm Thomas. The 24-year-old Thomas signed a ten-day contract March 19 that was extended for the remainder of the season.</p><p>Two years ago, Thomas was coming off a pretty good collegiate career with San Diego State University. The 6-foot-8-inch forward thought the success he had under coach Steve Fisher and his NBA workouts would give him a shot in the NBA. On draft night in 2011, Thomas gathered his friends and family to watch the two rounds of selections. Thomas did not hear his name and hung his head in disappointment. The most poignant aspect of the night came from his daughter Mikeala. The 3-year-old comforted him with a hug. At that moment, he decided to do anything to make a living playing professional ball.</p><p>Since going undrafted, he spent the last two years bouncing from the Developmental League, a short stint with San Antonio and overseas ball. It is a life of living out of suitcases, looking for opportunities to play a game you love and provide for a little girl that is miles away and communicates through Skype.</p><p>This year he has had quite the journey: he was on the Bulls summer league team, started the season with the LA D-Fenders of the Developmental League, went to Israel and played there for four months, then returned to the D-Fenders.</p><p>The Golden State Warriors brought him on board for a ten day contract. As that deal expired he was in New Orleans when the phone rang. It was the Bulls hoping to add him to the roster.</p><p>&ldquo;I got nervous, I didn&rsquo;t know what to expect,&rdquo; Thomas said. &ldquo;I knew I would work hard.&rdquo;</p><p>This summer when he played for the Bulls, Thomas developed a rapport with Jimmy Butler. He said their bond has helped him adapt to playing for head coach Tom Thibodeau.</p><p>Thomas promises he will bring a lot of energy to his play and is very aware at what is important: defense. Tuesday he was pressed into action and played 26 minutes, scored six points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two assists. Those are respectable numbers for a player who has bounced around and has had very little time in the NBA.</p><p>At this point there is no clear path for Thomas&rsquo;s future here or elsewhere in the NBA. He said he enjoyed his time in Israel and would love to return as a tourist. His goal is to stay with the Bulls. He will have to make every moment count on the court. Every game is a tryout when you are a basketball nomad.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a>&nbsp;and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 12 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-04/journey-nba-nomad-malcolm-thomas-106626 Hoops, hockey and new Bears http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/hoops-hockey-and-new-bears-106261 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rsz_david_j_phillips_illinois-miami_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was oh-so close for the only Illinois men&rsquo;s team in the NCAA tourney last night. The #7 Fighting Illini was eliminated by #2 University of Miami 63-59 in their NCAA tournament game Sunday night. With a 55-54 Illinois lead with 1:24 left, Hurricane guard Shane Larkin, hit a three pointer that gave Miami the lead for good. Larkin, son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, originally committed to DePaul. Illini senior guard Brandon Paul finished his career with a team-high 18 points.</p><p>It was one and done for DePaul&rsquo;s women in the NCAA tournament last night. The 10<sup>th</sup> seed Lady Demons lost 73-56 to #7 Oklahoma State in Durham, North Carolina.</p><p>Every time you feel like writing the Bulls off, especially with all the injuries, they make a comeback. It almost has the feel of a boxer on its last legs, bloodied and tired but not going down. On Saturday, they took down the Eastern Conference #2 seed Indiana 87-84 at the United Center. It was the Bulls first win against the Pacers this year. Besides Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton sitting out Joakim Noah was missing this weekend with his sore foot.</p><p>On Sunday, the Bulls beat the Wolves in Minnesota 104-97, Marco Bellini joined the injured group with a strained abdomen.&nbsp; Jimmy Butler got the start for Bellini against the Wolves &nbsp;</p><p>How the Bulls were able to come out ahead with all the injuries is a testament to their dogged efforts to try to stay relevant. Kirk Hinrich is back, with limited minutes, and Taj Gibson is also playing as he nurses his sore knee. It just seemed like the Bulls were going to go down for the count.</p><p>They&rsquo;ll have to keep on fighting, especially this week. After a two-day rest, the NBA&rsquo;s heavyweight champion Miami Heat will be in town. They have only won <strong><em>26 straight</em></strong> games, and if Miami wins tonight in Orlando, the Bulls will be next up to try to stop that streak. Wouldn&rsquo;t it be interesting if the challenger could knock them out, despite a depleted roster? What a circus it is going to be at the United Center. The only thing that would amp it up more is a Derrick Rose return. Expect those rumors to make the rounds.</p><p>Before the Heat steamroll into the UC, the ice will the stage tonight and tomorrow for the Blackhawks. The defending champion LA Kings are in town for the Hawks after a three-day rest. Marion Hossa remains sidelined.</p><p>After yesterday&rsquo;s practice, players savored the rest. Viktor Stalberg said it was nice to not think about hockey, and Nick Leddy is enjoying a visitor, his mom. Leddy is getting some home cooking with salmon as his favorite main course. There will be plenty of home cooking for the Hawks, since they play ten of their next fourteen at the United Center.</p><p>One week from today, we can add another to the sports menu...Baseball&#39;s Opening Day. Now if only the weather will cooperate.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout"><em>@CRayeStout</em></a><em> and Facebook </em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame"><em>Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 25 Mar 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/hoops-hockey-and-new-bears-106261 Loyola makes basketball history, part two http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/loyola-makes-basketball-history-part-two-106043 <p><p>Faced with a governor trying to stop them from playing Loyola, the Mississippi State basketball team did the honorable thing&mdash;they snuck out of the state. When the two teams faced off, security was tight. The game went off without a hitch. Loyola came from behind to win, 61-51.</p><p>Loyola&rsquo;s next game was more relaxed, with no off-court drama. They blew past Illinois, 79-64.</p><p>Next the Ramblers moved to Louisville for the Final Four. Their opening opponent was Duke, another all-white team from the South, ranked #2 in the nation. Again Loyola won easily, 94-75.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-14--NCAA%20champs.jpg" title="Coach George Ireland and his Ramblers (courtesy Loyola University Chicago)" /></div><p>Now it was Saturday, March 23, 1963. Loyola was set to meet the Cincinnati Bearcats for the NCAA championship. It was a dream match-up&mdash;college basketball&rsquo;s top offense versus college basketball&rsquo;s toughest defense. And few people gave Loyola a chance.&nbsp;</p><p>Cincinnati had won the last two NCAA tournaments. They were trying to become the first college in history to post a three-peat. The current team had an aura of invincibility. Some bookies were listing the Bearcats as 25-to-1 favorites.&nbsp;</p><p>Loyola looked nervous in the first half, missing 13 of their first 14 shots. Harkness was totally shut out. Luckily for the Ramblers, Cincinnati was having problems, too. The half ended with Cincinnati on top, but only by 29-21.&nbsp;</p><p>Cincinnati came out hard in the second half, widening their lead to 45-30. However, three players were in foul trouble. With nearly 15 minutes left, the Cincinnati coach decided to play safe and put on a stall. In 1963 there was no shot-clock.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-14--Rouse hits the winner.jpg" style="width: 255px; height: 383px; float: right;" title="Vic Rouse hits the game-winner (courtesy Loyola University Chicago)" />Loyola began to chip away at the lead. Harkness finally came to life, scored a basket, then stole the ball and followed up with another one. Before Cincinnati realized what was happening, Loyola had closed to within 3 points.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By now most of the 20,000 fans in the stands were cheering for underdog Loyola. With 12 seconds left, Loyola still trailed 54-52. Then Hunter grabbed a rebound, passed it to Miller, who passed it to Harkness&mdash;who put in a 12-footer. Regulation time ended with the score tied.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Overtime! The teams traded points back and forth.&nbsp;As the clock wound&nbsp;down with the score 58-58, now it was Loyola&rsquo;s turn to stall, playing for the last shot. In the final seconds, Hunter shot and missed. But Rouse got the ball and made the basket, just beating the buzzer. Loyola-60, Cincinnati-58.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;The greatest comeback in basketball history,&quot; one writer called it. Loyola had become the first Illinois school to win an NCAA Division I basketball championship. A half-century later, it&rsquo;s still the only one.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">There is a local post-script. The Loyola-Cincinnati game had gone out live over the radio. But the TV broadcast back to Chicago was on tape-delay. So throughout the city, many crafty radio listeners used their knowledge of Loyola&rsquo;s amazing comeback to clean up on bar-room bets.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This last story may be only an urban legend. But I wouldn&rsquo;t bet on it.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/loyola-makes-basketball-history-part-two-106043 Loyola makes basketball history, part one http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/loyola-makes-basketball-history-part-one-106039 <p><p>With the NCAA Basketball Tournament on the horizon, we look back fifty years at the remarkable--and historic--Loyola University basketball team of 1963.</p><p>The Ramblers were coached by George Ireland, then in his twelfth season at the post. Ireland&rsquo;s teams played an aggressive, high-speed game that was labeled &ldquo;organized confusion.&rdquo; Loyola led the nation in scoring during the 1961-62 season, and was doing it again in 1962-63.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-13--Loyola%20Team.jpg" title="1962-63 Loyola Ramblers (courtesy Loyola University Chicago)" /></div><p>Jerry Harkness, an All-American forward, was team captain. The rest of the starting lineup included Vic Rouse at the other forward, Ron Miller at guard, John Egan at guard, and Les Hunter at center.</p><p>Egan was the only starter from Chicago. He was also the only starter who was white. That was notable in 1963.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-13--Coach Ireland.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 375px; float: left;" title="Coach George Ireland (author's collection)" />Less than ten years had passed since the <a href="http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1952/1952_1" target="_blank"><em>Brown v. Board of Education</em></a> Supreme Court decision. Jim Crow wasn&rsquo;t yet dead. Though some&nbsp;stellar&nbsp;African-American players had already emerged, there was an unwritten rule for college basketball teams then&mdash;you played only two blacks at home, and only one on the road.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Ireland delighted in ignoring the custom. He recruited the best players he could, and used them.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">There were problems, of course.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;We would play games where guys from the other team were actually punching us on [the] court,&rdquo; Hunter remembered.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When the Ramblers went on the road, they endured vicious taunting from opposing fans. In a few cities, the black players were banned from the &ldquo;white&rdquo; hotels.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">During a game against Wyoming, Egan fouled out. Pablo Robertson replaced him. It was the first time a major college put an all-black team on the court.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Loyola won its first 21 games in a row, ranking #2 in the nation. Bowling Green finally snapped the streak with a decisive victory on its home court. The Ramblers bounced back and won three in a row before dropping their regular season finale to Wichita State.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-13--Jerry Harkness, All-American.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 375px; float: right;" title="All-American Jerry Harkness (courtesy Loyola University Chicago)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">That loss didn&rsquo;t matter. With a 24-2 record and #5 ranking, Loyola was&nbsp;in the NCAA Tournament.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In the opening game&nbsp;the Ramblers&nbsp;overwhelmed Tennessee Tech, 111-42. The second round was scheduled for East Lansing, Michigan. Sixth-ranked Mississippi State was supposed to be Loyola&rsquo;s opponent.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi didn&rsquo;t like that. The year before he&rsquo;d <a href="http://microsites.jfklibrary.org/olemiss/home/">tried to keep African-American student James Meredith out</a> of the University of Mississippi. Barnett had lost that battle&mdash;the federal government had sent in troops to put down riots, and Meredith had enrolled.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now the Mississippi State team wanted to play that &ldquo;black team&rdquo; Loyola. The governor wouldn&rsquo;t allow it. He went to a friendly local court and got an order prohibiting his team from competing in the NCAA Tournament.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>To be continued tomorrow...</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 13 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/loyola-makes-basketball-history-part-one-106039