Are Tuck, Loyd on All-Time Five Best?

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Are Tuck, Loyd on All-Time Five Best?

Steve Tucker and Derril Kipp have been close friends for years. Nobody knows more about girls high school basketball in Illinois than they do. They have been observing the game for more than 30 years, Tucker as a former high school sports writer and editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and Kipp as a basketball coach at Maine West in Des Plaines.

They agree on a lot of things but when the conversation turns to Bolingbrook's Morgan Tuck and Niles West's Jewell Loyd, two of the most prolific scorers in state history, they agree to disagree. They agree both are great high school players. But how great? All-time greats?

The subject came to a boiling point on January 16th when Tuck and Loyd were matched up in the showcase game of the annual McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook. Tuck scored 26 points as Bolingbrook crushed Niles West 67-36. Loyd scored 26 points but shot only 6-for-19.

Tuck is a 6-foot-2 senior who is committed to Connecticut. She was Illinois' Ms. Basketball in 2009, a three-time All-State selection who is a member of USA Basketball's U17 and U19 national teams. She averages 31 points per game and hopes to lead Bolingbrook to an unprecedented fourth state championship in a row.

Loyd is 5-foot-10 senior who is committed to Notre Dame. She is a two-time All-Stater and a member of USA Basketball's U17 national team. She averages 30 points per game.

According to All-Star Girls Report, Loyd and Tuck rank 3 and 4 nationally in the class of 2012. A year ago, Tuck's teammate, Ariel Massengale, now a freshman starter at Tennessee, ranked No. 3 in the class of 2011.

So where do Tuck and Loyd rank among the all-timers in Illinois?

"It is hard to compare players from different eras," Tucker said. "Tuck and Loyd don't rank on my list of the top five but they have to be in the discussion for the second five."

Tucker's first five, in no particular order, are Yolanda Griffith of Carver (1988), Candace Parker of Naperville Central (2004), Tamika Catchings of Stevenson (1995), Kim Williams of Marshall (1993) and Tina Hutchinson of East St. Louis Lincoln (1983).

Griffith emerged as one of the all-time greats in women's basketball, a future Hall of Famer who has been voted as one of the 15 best players in the history of the WNBA. Parker, one of the top five players in the WNBA today, is a likely member of the 2012 Olympic team. Catchings, another WNBA star, played only two years at Stevenson, losing only one game and winning a state title before moving to Texas. Williams won three state titles in four years at Marshall. Hutchinson was the first dominant player in state history but she was injured before her great career could be realized.

Tucker's second five would include Tuck, Loyd, Whitney Young's Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, Peoria Richwoods' Nora Lewis, Chicago Notre Dame's Carol Owens, Marshall's Kim McQuarter, Joliet East's Pam Gant, Joliet West's Kathy Boswell, South Shore's Diana Vines, Lindblom's Donna Holt, Hinsdale Central's Toni Kokenis, Senn's Bebe McBride and Maine West's Nancy Kennelly.

"Tuck has a great skill set. What amazes me is how much better she is now than last year," Tucker said. "She won state last year and was good. But she is much better now. She is playing on a team with seven other Division I players and she dominates. She has developed so much.

"The biggest difference is she has gone from more of a post player who played with her back to the basket and rebounded to a player who shoots the three. She can do everything. Is she a top five player? The others have more history. If Bolingbrook wins the state again, since no one has ever won four in a row in girls, you'd have to add that to the mix."

Kipp also rates Griffith and Catchings on his all-time first five. But he also picks Boswell (1978), Lewis (1985) and Marshall's Janet Harris (1981) to fill out his starting lineup. He singles out Lewis, who was national high school player of the year in 1985 and later was a national collegiate player of the year who won two NCAA championships at Louisiana Tech, as "maybe the best player ever."

Kipp's second five are Hutchinson, Canty, Massengale, Parker and Marshall's Marie Christian.

"Is Tuck as good as Massengale? She is good but the state titles that Bolingbrook won were precipitated by Massengale's ability. Without her, they wouldn't have won any state titles," Kipp said.

"Tuck is a player who has gotten better each year. She has the ability to play inside and outside. But she has to prove she can play at Connecticut because of her (6-foot-2) size. She can't play in the post at Connecticut. No one pushes her around in Illinois. She has to keep changing her game, depending on where they play her in college."

Tucker said Loyd is "one of the most offensive-minded players I have seen. She has no range. She can make it from half-court. It is so hard to compare the two because Tuck plays with so many Division I players. There never has been a match-up of two kids like that in one game. If she was at Bolingbrook and Tuck at Niles West, they still would be great players but maybe the whole take on this story would be different," he said.

Kipp isn't as impressed. "She will be good at Notre Dame. In high school, she is scoring a lot of points and does a lot of things because no one can guard her. She is shooting the ball extremely well from deep but she isn't being guarded by people who can guard her," he said.

"She isn't a top five player. Does she have great potential? Yes. She can handle the ball. And she scored 50 points against Maine West. But I like Tuck way better. She is more of a team player and plays harder."

The first 10 women inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville in November were Boswell, Gant, Canty, Catchings, Harris, Williams, Lewis, Hutchinson, Griffith and Hill. Parker wasn't eligible because nominees must be out of high school for 10 years before being considered.

After wild seventh, Carson Fulmer wants another big-time opportunity for White Sox

After wild seventh, Carson Fulmer wants another big-time opportunity for White Sox

The White Sox called up Carson Fulmer from Double-A Birmingham a week ago with the expectation he could add a strong, powerful arm to the back end of a bullpen that’s been taxed quite a bit this season. 

After he struggled in his first high-leverage appearance in the majors, though, the White Sox remain confident their 2015 first-round pick will be an important part of the team’s bullpen down the stretch this summer. 

Fulmer only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes and allowed three game-deciding runs in seventh inning of the White Sox 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of 22,611 at U.S. Cellular Field Friday night. The leverage indexes of Fulmer’s first two appearances on the West Coast — which spanned 2 2/3 scoreless innings — were .01 and .05 (a leverage index of 1 is average), with those coming in a 8-1 loss and a 6-1 win. On Friday, Fulmer’s leverage index was 2.98. 

Fulmer said nerves weren’t behind his erratic outing, in which plenty of those 18 balls weren’t close to the strike zone. 

“I want to be in those situations,” the 22-year-old Fulmer said. “When you go out there and don’t do your job, it’s obviously frustrating. But you have to have a quick memory and throw it over your shoulder and prepare yourself for tomorrow.”

Fulmer’s electric mid-90’s fastball and wipeout curveball were rendered ineffective by his inability to command them in his two-thirds of an inning. He walked Justin Upton, gave up a single to Tyler Collins and walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia to load the bases with nobody out, and after a pair of groundouts brought a run in, he walked Cameron Maybin to re-load the bases.

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After that walk, Fulmer was pulled in favor of Nate Jones, who surrendered a go-ahead, ultimately game-winning two-run single to Tigers All-Star first baseman Miguel Cabrera. 

At some point, the White Sox were going to have to test Fulmer. With starter Jacob Turner only lasting 3 1/3 innings, and Fulmer looking comfortable in his first two appearances in the majors, manager Robin Ventura calculated that the seventh inning Friday was a prime opportunity. 

“He’s going to have to have it sooner or later,” Ventura said. “From the way the first (two) went, we felt comfortable he was going to come in there and be able to do that. But tonight, that doesn’t happen. But you have the confidence he can come back from this and be very effective in that spot.”

Morneau, who’s provided offense for bullpens over 14 major league seasons, agreed with his manager’s confidence in Fulmer. 

“We see a lot of good things in him,” Morneau said. “It’s obviously not up to me, but hopefully we get him back out there quick and let him settle back down and get comfortable, because he can really help this team.” 

White Sox relievers entered Friday with the fifth-highest leverage index in baseball, a product of the high volume of one-, two- and three-run games this team has found itself in this season. All those stressful innings — as well as Jake Petricka’s season-ending injury and Zach Putnam’s elbow issue from which he isn’t likely to return anytime soon — have put a considerable strain on Jones, Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and David Robertson.

Fulmer, by virtue of being in the White Sox bullpen, will get another opportunity at a high-leverage inning. And while his first foray into a pressure-packed relief appearance didn’t go well, he hopes to quickly get a chance to put Friday in the rearview mirror. 

“I can’t ever use the excuse of it being my first big-time experience, especially for me being put in that situation,” Fulmer said. “Hopefully I get the opportunity to do it again. I’ll continue to stay prepared, just like I was tonight, and hopefully the odds turn in my favor. That’s all I can control.” 

Sky see winning streak snapped in loss to Connecticut Sun

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Associated Press

Sky see winning streak snapped in loss to Connecticut Sun

ROSEMONT, ILL. 

Jonquel Jones had her first-career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds — both career highs — and Alex Bentley scored 21 points to help the Connecticut Sun beat the Chicago Sky 94-89 on Friday night.

Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas added 16 points apiece and Chiney Ogwumike had 10 for the Sun (8-16).

Jones scored five consecutive points to cap a 13-4 run that gave Connecticut a 78-74 lead with 4 minutes left and the Sun led the rest of the way. Connecticut hit all eight of its free-throw attempts in the final 42 seconds to seal it.

Elena Delle Donne led Chicago (11-13) with 20 points. Cappie Pondexter added 16 points, and Tamera Young had 14.

The Sun, ranked 11th in the AP WNBA power poll, made 26 of 32 free-throw attempts — both season highs and committed a season-low seven turnovers.

The fifth-ranked Sky shot 52.3 percent (34 of 65) from the field.

Game changer: Dexter Fowler’s return fuels Cubs in Milwaukee

Game changer: Dexter Fowler’s return fuels Cubs in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Cubs fans, Dexter Fowler feels your pain: “It sucks being on the couch and watching your team struggle.”

It only took five pitches on Friday night at Miller Park before Fowler answered the questions about how much this lineup missed his presence and how long it would take him to get back into a rhythm.

“You go, we go” is what manager Joe Maddon tells Fowler, and a sellout crowd of 42,243 roared when the All-Star leadoff guy hammered a 94-mph Jimmy Nelson fastball off the black batter’s eye in center field, setting the first-inning tone in a 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I was just happy to be back around the boys,” Fowler said after going 3-for-4 with a walk, three RBI and two runs scored in his return. “It’s like being back home.”

Fowler’s strained right hamstring alone doesn’t begin to explain all this, because he had been hitting .207 in June, the rotation cooled off, the bullpen became unreliable and a 24-games-in-24-days stretch wore this team out before the All-Star break. But the Cubs were 27 games over .500 and had a 12.5-game lead in the division on June 19, the night Fowler went on the disabled list with what sounded like a minor injury.

If panic didn’t completely set in around a first-place team, underlying issues kept bubbling to the surface, the Cubs losing 15 of their last 21 games before that summer vacation.

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But the second-half Cubs (58-37) now look energized, beating the American League’s best first-half team (Texas Rangers) and the defending National League champs (New York Mets) at Wrigley Field before rolling up Interstate 94 for a virtual home game.

Now here comes Fowler, who jumpstarted the offense again with the bases loaded in the second inning, lining a two-run double down the left-field line and saying postgame that he felt no lingering issues with the hamstring.

“He’s an asset at the top of the lineup,” winning pitcher Jason Hammel said. “Tough at-bat. And he can get you. It was nice to see him run around out there again.”

Yes, Hammel (9-5, 3.35 ERA) ate a handful of potato chips to help prevent cramping in the 86-degree heat, lasting five innings before five relievers combined to hold the Brewers (40-54) scoreless the rest of the night. For all the buzz about Theo Epstein’s front office upgrading the bullpen by the Aug. 1 trade deadline, Maddon may already have a shiny new toy in Carl Edwards Jr.

The skinny right-hander entered the game in the sixth inning, with a runner on second, and cut through the heart of Milwaukee’s order, forcing Ryan Braun to ground out and striking out Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter on six pitches combined.    

Just like that, the Cubs are getting answers from within, after all the outside noise screamed: Do something! The fans chanted “Let’s go, Cubbies!” before closer Hector Rondon got the final out and his 17th save. This is again looking like the team Fowler envisioned when he turned down the Baltimore Orioles for a one-year, $13 million guarantee, shocking the industry by showing up in Arizona in late February.     

“It’s really apparent how important he is to us,” Maddon said. “It just looked right.”