Adekoya attracts attention at Andrew

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Adekoya attracts attention at Andrew

Andrew has won state championships in baseball, bowling and badminton.
In basketball, however, the Tinley Park school has won only one regional title in 35 years. And the Thunderbolts have never won a conference title.

Jubril Adekoya and Alex Zappavigna hope to change all of that.

"When I leave, I want to feel as though I helped to build a tradition," Adekoya said. "I want to continue to keep my head on my shoulders, stay humble and leave a legacy behind. I hope I can be remembered as a kid who stayed at his community school and helped them make a run Downstate, a humble kid who put his community on his back and helped it to get attention and notoriety."

Adekoya, a 6-foot-6 junior, is making a name for himself -- and his school, which will carry a 6-0 record into the 62nd annual Kankakee Holiday Tournament Dec. 28-30 in Kankakee. He already has scholarship offers from Loyola, Akron, Toledo and Valparaiso and is averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game.

"He is the third Division I player in 35 years at Andrew," said coach Mike O'Halloran. "The assistant coach at Valparaiso, (former Illinois star) Roger Powell, said he reminds him of himself. He is very intelligent, knowledgeable and has great leadership skills. And as good a player as he is, he is even better off the court."

Adekoya, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds in last Friday's 55-30 rout of Bradley, is supported by his older brother, 6-foot-1 senior Jawad Adekoya (12.8 ppg), 6-foot senior point guard Mike Bobek (7.6 ppg, 3.6 assists), 6-foot-1 junior Glorind Lisha (6.2 ppg) and Zappavigna, a 6-foot-3 senior (5.6 ppg). Lisha had 14 points and three steals against Bradley. Tyler Hook, a 6-foot-5 senior (8.5 ppg), is the sixth man.

Like Adekoya, Zappavigna recalls when it wasn't fun to play basketball at Andrew. "I remember going to the last football game when Andrew made the state playoff. The stands were packed. Then a few months later, we played basketball and got blown out and not many people showed up," he said.

"I always read about baseball and football at Andrew. Basketball was an afterthought. We came in as freshmen and knew we had a good group. If we all stuck with it, we felt we could be successful. We felt that we could do things that this school has never done before.

"It's fun so far. It's cool to see people more excited about coming to basketball games for once. The student cheering section, T-Bolt Storm, is really into it. For once, people are talking about basketball instead of baseball or football."

It didn't happen overnight. But it happened by design. O'Halloran, in his 25th year of coaching, the last eight as Andrew's head coach, describes himself as a student of the game. He returned the top six players from last year's 16-11 team that lost to Lockport in the regional final and recognized there was a lot of basketball ability to work with.

"I knew we had good quality kids, lunch bucket kids who would work hard," said O'Halloran, a 1980 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor. "They had a great summer. They played four nights a week. They played 40 games in two leagues. They have good chemistry. They'll intelligent and coachable.

"The community is taking notice. All of our kids are from here, freshmen through seniors. The people are getting excited about the team. The students are turning out. The kids see their peers coming out to see them. Everybody likes a winner."

Coming out of eighth grade, Jubril Adekoya had an option to go to a private school such as Marist but he chose to enroll at Andrew because his two brothers went there. He wanted to play basketball but he rationalized that education and ABCs were his priority, not basketball and X's and O's.

"It was the right decision for me and my family," he said. "Coming in as a freshman, I didn't know what to expect. After one year, I knew for a fact that we had some good players to make some noise around the area. Halfway through my sophomore year, when Lisha and I played together on the varsity, I realized how good we could be."

O'Halloran saw it, too. Last summer, Andrew defeated Morgan Park and Bloom and lost a close decision to St. Joseph. "If we could play against that caliber of team, we had something to look forward to this season," he said.

"We've had a summer camp for eight years but this group bought into it more and was more dedicated and more committed to it than any other. A lot of them are basketball players and not playing other sports. They aren't pulled in different directions. They made time to make a commitment. They juggled their schedules and balanced their time."

Jubril Adekoya saw the difference, too. "I've been on a lot of teams where one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. I was excited to come back this year. I'm not surprised to be 6-0 now. I'm blessed to be with the guys I am with. We're not satisfied with anything we've done. As well as we're playing, our ceiling is much higher," he said.

Adekoya has received a lot of interest from mid-major colleges. But he isn't hung up on recruiting. He plans to patiently bide his time while the process runs its course. "I want to prove I can play at a higher level and get their attention so they will offer me," he said.

Zappavigna believes Andrew will command more attention if it wins the Kankakee tournament. "In order to prove we are for real officially, we have to win at Kankakee," he said.

"The difference with this team is we work well together. Each person knows his place. We don't care who scores points. We won at Thornton and Jubril had only five points. We overcome our lack of size with hustle, by crashing the boards as a team and by getting second-chance points. Yes, it's cool to see people excited to come to our basketball games."

Opening-round pairings of the Kankakee Holiday Tournament will pit Momence vs. Manteno, Deer Creek-Mackinaw vs. Illiana Christian, Watseka vs. Bishop McNamara and St. Anne vs. Herscher in Class AAA and Newport Harbor (Calif.) vs Milwaukee South, Bremen vs. Bradley, Andrew vs. Carver and Kanakee vs. Peotone in Class 3A4A.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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