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.

Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

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Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

The Bears announced on Wednesday they have signed former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace.

Grace attended Bears rookie minicamp earlier this month as a tryout player. 

Grace appeared in 32 games with the Fighting Irish and notched 78 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Grace was named to the Butkus Award Watch List prior to the 2014 season, but ultimately missed the whole year while recovering from a broken leg he suffered against Arizona State in 2013.

Following the 2015 season Grace expressed interest in applying for a sixth year waiver from the NCAA, but didn't fit the league's requirements, as CSNChicago.com Notre Dame Insider JJ Stankevitz highlighted.

To make room for Grace on the 90-man roster the Bears waived linebacker Danny Mason.

Mason spent parts of the 2015 season on both the Bears and Denver Broncos practice squads, but never appeared in a regular season game.

93 Days to Kickoff: Glenbrook North

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93 Days to Kickoff: Glenbrook North

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Glenbrook North Spartans

Head coach: Bob Pieper

Assistant coaches: Matt Purdy, Dom Savino, Justin Georgacakis, Mike Standerski, Justin Weiner

How they fared in 2015: 8-2 (5-0) Central Suburban North. The Spartans made the Class 7A state playoff field. Glenbrook North lost to Bradley in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the experienced defense hold on, while an inexperienced offense gets up to speed?

Names to watch this season: QB Kevin Burnside, DE Matt Pawlowski, WR Tommy Gertner

Biggest holes to fill: The Glenbrook North offense brings back Burnside and a few other experienced names, but the Spartans will need to find answers on the line, as well in the backfield.

EDGY's early take: Year in and year out Glenbrook North is one of the top teams to watch in the Central Suburban North and that shouldn't change in 2016. If the Spartans defense can allow the offense to gain some early experience this will be a nice team to watch for in 7A.

Cubs: Can Jason Hammel sustain All-Star-level performance this time?

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Cubs: Can Jason Hammel sustain All-Star-level performance this time?

ST. LOUIS — Jason Hammel is pitching like an All-Star again — the way he did as a sign-and-flip guy in 2014 and a rotation anchor for last year’s playoff team — so the question for the Cubs now becomes: Is this sustainable?

Hammel doesn’t look at it that way, not after clearing his head during the offseason, altering his training program and refocusing for a World Series contender. He wants more.

Hammel 2.0 handled the St. Louis Cardinals during Tuesday night’s 12-3 victory at Busch Stadium, working into the eighth inning for the first time this year, allowing only one run and tying his season-high pitch count (103).

“I do feel different,” said Hammel (6-1, 2.17 ERA). “I’m definitely not happy with the walks. I know I can do better, as long as I clean that up. I still think the timing’s off with the delivery that I’ve adapted to now.

“But I’m not thinking that far down the road right now. I’m just going game by game, pitch by pitch. I think that’s going to be the right mentality for me. Instead of: ‘Don’t falter.’

“I’m not a negative thinker anymore. I’m just going to stay positive. We’re going to stay here and now and be present.”

Hammel described his outing as “effectively wild” and joked about his second three-game hitting streak: “Who’s counting?” It also helped that the Cubs built a six-run lead before he threw his first pitch, so manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t be so quick to turn the game over to the bullpen.

Hammel excelled for the Cubs in 2014, going 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in his first 17 starts before getting packaged with Jeff Samardzija in the Addison Russell blockbuster trade with the Oakland A’s. But Hammel found it difficult to uproot his family midseason and struggled to make a quick adjustment to Oakland, finishing at 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA in the American League.

Hammel got off to another hot start last season (2.86 ERA in 103-plus innings) before a leg injury messed with his mechanics and led to a breakdown after the All-Star break (5.10 ERA in 67 innings).

“I believe it’s sustainable, absolutely,” Maddon said. “The biggest thing, again, is if he knows where his fastball is going, he will pitch deeply into a lot of games, because his ball’s got great movement on it. So there’s a lot of mishits, and also his breaking ball is really good.”

Hammel understands his importance to this team, how carrying this momentum all the way through to the finish line would be huge for the 2016 Cubs.

“I don’t see why not,” catcher David Ross said. “He was our best starter last year in the first half. That says a lot with the group that’s in this room.

“He does a good job of keeping those guys off-balance and making the pitches when he needs to. He just looks a lot more sound mechanically. Even when he gets out of whack, he finds his way back into the count.”