1972 Thornridge still the best ever

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1972 Thornridge still the best ever

At the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Simeon coach Robert Smith stated that his primary goal was to finish 34-0, win the state and national championships and supplant Thornridge's 1972 powerhouse as the greatest high school basketball team in state history.

Close but no cigar.

Simeon finished 33-1, winning its third state title in a row and fifth in the last seven years, but a 75-50 loss to Fendlay Prep of Henderson, Nevada, on Jan. 16 cost the Wolverines their No. 1 national ranking and a national championship.

This was a very good but not great Simeon team, maybe the best Smith has produced. They didn't dominate all opponents, particularly Bloom and Proviso East in the state finals. Even 6-foot-8 junior Jabari Parker, the nation's top-rated player, struggled in the last two games.

But Thornridge 1972 set standards that never have been surpassed or even approached, before or since.

Check the records:

In a 33-0 season, no opponent came within 14 points.

The Falcons averaged 87.4 points per game while allowing 56.3.

In the state finals, they overwhelmed Lockport, Collinsville, Peoria Manual and Quincy by margins of 28, 29, 19 and 35 points.

They featured three All-Staters--Quinn Buckner, Boyd Batts and Mike Bonczyk. Another starter, junior Greg Rose, was an All-Stater the following year.

Four players averaged in double figures--Buckner (22.7), Batts (19.1), Rose (18.1) and senior Ernie Dunn (10.4). Bonczyk averaged 6.1 points and 8.2 assists per game.

In the state championship game, they overwhelmed Quincy 104-69, the most one-sided final in history and the gold standard by which all others are compared. In the second quarter, they outscored Quincy 32-11 to build a 57-26 halftime margin.

Coach Ron Ferguson's 1-2-1-1 zone press, often called "the Thornridge press," was devastating against all opponents. It separated the team from all others who ever hoped to be included in the "best ever" conversation.

According to a national survey published in 1994, Thornridge was ranked No. 4 among the greatest high school teams of all time--behind Baltimore Dunbar 1983, New York Power Memorial 1964 and Hyattsville, Maryland, DeMatha 1965. Oscar Robertson's Indianapolis Crispus Attucks team of 1955 was ranked No. 5 and Wilt Chamberlain's Philadelphia Overbrook team of 1955 ranked No. 6.

Other state championship teams that deserve consideration are Quincy 1981, La Grange 1953, Marshall 1958, King 1986 and 1990, East St. Louis Lincoln 1987, Collinsville 1961, Taylorville 1944, Peoria Manual 1997, Whitney Young 1998, Mount Vernon 1950, Proviso East 1991, Evanston 1967, Thornton 1966 and Simeon 2012.

Quincy's 1981 squad generally is regarded as the second best team in state history. Coach Jerry Leggett's team, led by Bruce Douglas, Michael Payne and Dennis Douglas, went 33-0 and was en route to fashioning a 64-game winning streak. The Blue Devils dominated in the state finals, winning by margins of 28, 25, 31 and 29 points.

La Grange was 29-0 in 1953 with Ted Caiazza and 31-0 in 1970 with Owen Brown and Marcus Washington. But coach Greg Sloan's 1953 squad commands most attention. The Lions ousted top-ranked Kankakee and Harv Schmidt in a memorable sectional game, then swept through the finals by margins of 17, 32, 13 and 12 points. No opponent came within nine points during the season.

George Wilson, Marshall's legendary three-time All-Stater, has always claimed that coach Spin Salario's 1960 state championship team was better than his 1958 team that historically has received more celebrity because it was unbeaten and the first all-black team and the first Chicago Public League representative ever to win a state title.

But it's hard to argue against the 1958 team led by Wilson, M.C. Thompson, Bobby Jones and Steve Thomas. They were unranked after the regular season (Public League teams weren't included in the Associated Press' weekly rankings in those days) but defeated Dunbar 68-59 for the city title, then eliminated Elgin 63-43 in the supersectional, third-rated Herrin 72-59 in the quarterfinals, West Aurora 74-62 in the semifinals and top-rated Rock Falls 70-64 in the state final to complete a 31-0 season.

Collinsville went 32-0 in 1961 with Bogie Redmon and Fred Riddle but coach Vergil Fletcher's best team had to escape a 66-64 decision over second-ranked Centralia in the supersectional. The Kahoks crushed Thornton 84-50 in the state final.

Taylorville went 45-0 in 1944, becoming the first unbeaten state champion. Coach Dolph Stanley's Tornadoes were led by Johnny Orr and Ron Bontemps. But they were tested in the semifinals, slipping past Champaign 40-36.

Mount Vernon swept state titles in 1949 and 1950, winning 46 games in a row. But coach Stan Changnon's 1950 squad was dominant. The Rams were 33-0 behind Max Hooper and Walt Moore. They overwhelmed second-ranked Danville 85-61 in the state final as Hooper scored a record 36 points.

King produced three state champions under coach Landon Cox in 1986, 1990 and 1993. Cox said his 1986 squad led by Marcus Liberty and Levertis Robinson was his best. But the 1990 team led by Jamie Brandon and Johnny Selvie was 32-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. And the 1993 team led by seven-footers Rashard Griffith and Thomas Hamilton also was 32-0.

East St. Louis Lincoln's 1987 team has been rated as the best of coach Bennie Lewis' four state championship teams of the 1980s. Led by LaPhonso Ellis, Chris Rodgers and James Harris, Lincoln went 28-1 and defeated defending Class AA champion King and Marcus Liberty by a convincing 79-62 margin in the state final despite Liberty's record 41 points.

Whitney Young's 1998 team, led by Quentin Richardson, Dennis Gates, Cordell Henry and Corey Harris, finished 30-1 and defeated Galesburg and Joey Range 61-56 for the state title. Coach George Stanton's Dolphins were dominant in a season which produced one of the most talented classes in state history.

Thornton was ranked behind two unbeaten teams, Benton and York, at the end of the regular season. But first-year coach Bob Anderson's Wildcats, led by LaMarr Thomas, Jim Ard, Rich Rateree, Paul Gilliam and Bob Landowski, finished 30-2 to win the state title. They defeated Galesburg and Dale Kelley 74-60 in the final.

Evanston finished 30-1, losing only to Proviso East and Jim Brewer, which went on to win the state title in 1969. Coach Jack Burmaster's team, led by Bob Lackey, Farrel Jones and Ron Cooper, got past second-ranked Lockport and Jeff Hickman 70-58 in the supersectional, Peoria Central and Rhea Taylor 70-48 in the quarterfinals, Crane and Jerome Freeman 70-54 in the semifinals and Galesburg and Ruben Triplett 70-51 in the state final.

Proviso East was 32-1 with Sherrell Ford, Donnie Boyce and Michael Finley in 1991 and 33-0 with Kenny Davis and Jamal Robinson in 1992. So which of coach Bill Hitt's two state champions was better? Or was Tom Millikin's 1969 team better? Or Glenn Whittenberg's 1974 state champion that featured Joe Ponsetto?

The consensus leans to 1991 with the more celebrated lineup. The Pirates dispatched a Thornwood team that featured future major league baseball star Cliff Floyd in the supersectional, ousted Carbondale in the quarterfinals and Libertyville in the semifinals, then beat highly rated Peoria Manual and Mr. Basketball Howard Nathan 68-61 in the state final.

Are any of coach Robert Smith's five state championship teams better than the late Bob Hambric's 1984 state champion that was led by Ben Wilson, Tim Bankston, Rodney Hull, Kenny Allen and Bobby Tribble, the team that defeated unbeaten and top-ranked Evanston and Everette Stephens 53-47 for the state title?

How about the 2007 team that went 33-2 with Derrick Rose and Tim Flowers and overwhelmed O'Fallon 77-54 in the state final? Or this year's 33-1 squad led by Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor and Kendrick Nunn that edged second-ranked Proviso East 50-48 for its third state title in a row.

All of the above belong in the "Who's No. 1?" conversation. Maybe a few others, including the 29-2 Hirsch team of 1973 that featured Rickey Green and John Robinson. And what about the Class A powers, including Providence-St. Mel in 1985 and the unbeaten Lawrenceville teams of 1982 and 1983 featuring Marty Simmons?

In one man's opinion, they all fall short of Thornridge 1972. If you saw them, you know why. If you didn't, you wish you had. Then you'd know why they were the best there ever was.

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

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"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."