Bolingbrook's Morrison aims for the top

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Bolingbrook's Morrison aims for the top

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 10:50 a.m.

By Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

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Antonio Morrison was impressed with Florida assistant coach Bryant Young, who earned All-State, All-America and All-NFL recognition at Bloom, Notre Dame and the San Francisco 49ers.

Morrison also was impressed by Florida's reputation as a national championship contender, the professionalism of the coaching staff, the campus, the 90,000-seat stadium known as the "Swamp," the warm climate, southern hospitality and down-home atmosphere.

He was also impressed with the idea of playing in the Southeastern Conference, the most competitive and most celebrated football league in college football. If he is to realize his dream of playing in the NFL, he reasons, the SEC will pave the way.

All of that happened because Bolingbrook's 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker made a commitment to work relentlessly in the off-season to be better than he was a year ago, to command the attention of college recruiters who weren't so impressed with his performance in 2010. All except Florida.

"They called me sometime in February. I don't know what they saw. They just called and offered, even before I visited the campus in July," said Morrison, who chose Florida over Oregon and Illinois. "I had a good feeling about Florida. I could see me being part of the Gator family."

Morrison had 25 scholarship offers. He could have waited for more, but he committed to Florida on Aug. 1. "I wasn't looking for any more offers. After my visit, it sealed my decision," he said.

What did Florida see that others didn't?

"He is the most underrated player in the country," said nationally respected recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports Network. "I loved him on film. He out-runs most opponents. He is capable of big plays, which is what separates the great ones from the good ones in high school. He is capable of turning games around because of his speed. He will rank among the top 100 players in the nation at the end of the season."

Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow said Morrison is the best player he has produced in 10 years. Better than former linebacking standout Kyle Williams, who was rated as the No. 1 linebacker in the nation in 2002 by Rivals.com.

But Ivlow didn't tout Morrison as highly as Williams after his junior year--in fact, he listed him as the fifth best prospect on his roster in November--because the youngster was making a transition from defensive end to linebacker and still was rounding into form.

"He had a good junior year but not a fantastic season," Ivlow said. "He had some kinks. He lacked experience at the position. But he acquired strength and muscle over the summer. He power lifts 650 pounds and dead lifts 600. He can run and hit. He plays very fast. We knew he had potential."

What convinced Ivlow and many scouts was when Morrison tackled Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook's outstanding quarterback, in the open field during a scrimmage. Bailey, a junior, has already accumulated offers from Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana.

Morrison knew it was only a matter of time before college coaches and recruiting analysts acknowledged his talent. As a junior, he was listed as 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds with 4.8 speed. Hardly the kind of numbers that excite recruiters. But now he is bigger and stronger and faster.

"It was a big transition last year," Morrison said. "As a linebacker, I have to drop back in coverage and make more reads. I have more responsibilities. It was new for me. I didn't get embarrassed but I had to learn the position. I felt it was my future."

He dedicated himself to getting stronger, faster and better over the summer. He listened to advice from his older brother Anthony, who played linebacker at Eastern Illinois. He virtually slept in the weight room and trained relentlessly to build up his bulk and muscle and improve his speed and explosiveness.

"It paid off," said Morrison, who had 11 tackles and two sacks in Bolingbrook's opening victory over Plainfield South. "The fun of playing linebacker is you get to hit people without getting a foul called on you."

While Morrison is proving he is one of the most accomplished linebackers in the country, he hopes to lead his team back to a position of prominence in the state playoff. Last year's team was 5-5, the worst record since 2004 and only the second time since 1981 that the Raiders hadn't posted a winning record.

Bolingbrook was un-ranked in the preseason but has climbed to No. 13 in the first three weeks. The Raiders smashed Joliet Central 60-6 last Friday and have a date with Joliet West on Friday night before meeting what shapes up as their toughest opponents of the regular season in the following weeks, Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln-Way East.

"We're used to being a dominant team," Morrison said. "I think people are overlooking us. We're trying to get back where we used to be."

Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov undergoes wrist surgery

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Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov undergoes wrist surgery

Artem Anisimov said last week that he and the Blackhawks had to make the most of this offseason to be prepared for 2016-17. On Tuesday, he took care of something that was apparently ailing him.

Anisimov underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair an injury to his right wrist. Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that, “the surgery went well. We anticipate his return to full hockey activities in approximately six to eight weeks.”

The 27-year-old center played in 77 regular-season and all seven postseason games for the Blackhawks. He was tied for second on the team with three postseason goals (with Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith).

During last week’s closing meetings, Anisimov said he was going to stay in the Chicago area “for a while” before returning to Russia. He also talked about finding the silver lining in the Blackhawks’ early playoff exit.

“We just need to spend our summer wisely, get prepared for the next season and move forward,” he said.

Kameron Chatman the latest to transfer away from Michigan basketball

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Kameron Chatman the latest to transfer away from Michigan basketball

Players keep leaving the Michigan basketball program.

An offseason of roster turnover continued Tuesday, when the school announced that junior-to-be Kameron Chatman has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer.

"I honestly don't think I could have had a more quality life experience than I did in Ann Arbor," Chatman said in the announcement. "I am incredibly grateful for my two years at Michigan. I would like to thank coach (John) Beilein and his entire staff for taking a chance on a small-town kid out of Portland. I know my experience has inspired others as I will take all of my lessons learned to continue my pursuit of becoming the best man and player I can. Go Blue!"

"Kam is a wonderful young man with the potential to mature into a fine college player," Beilein said. "We have enjoyed coaching him over the past two years and wish him nothing but the best."

Chatman becomes the fourth player to transfer out of the program this offseason, joining Spike Albrecht, Ricky Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins. Albrecht announced his decision to attend Purdue on Tuesday, and Dawkins is planning a move to Central Florida so he can play for his father.

Chatman started 17 games over his two seasons with the Wolverines, averaging 3.2 points and two rebounds per game.

Last season, he hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot in the Big Ten Tournament to lift Michigan to an upset of top-seeded Indiana. The shot gave the Wolverines a signature win and likely was the difference in the team making th NCAA tournament field.

Chatman was a four-star recruit out of high school, ranked as the No. 25 player in the Class of 2014. He was part of a six-man Michigan recruiting class that season, only two of which remain in Ann Arbor.

Due to NCAA rules, Chatman will have to sit out next season before playing his final two years of eligibility at his next school.

White Sox set to DFA veteran starting pitcher John Danks

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White Sox set to DFA veteran starting pitcher John Danks

The White Sox are set to designate starting pitcher John Danks for assignment on Tuesday. Erik Johnson is expected to start against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.

Danks, 31, had lost all four of his starts this season and had a 7.25 ERA in 22 1/3 innings pitched for the White Sox, who acquired him in December 2006 in a trade that sent Brandon McCarthy to the Texas Rangers. The left-hander is in the final season of a five-year, $65-million contract extension he received in December 2011. He had shoulder surgery the next August and has never rebounded to pre-surgery performance levels.

Danks, who delivered eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins on the final day of the 2008 season to pitch the White Sox into the postseason, had a 79-104 mark with the White Sox. He was 48-43 with a 3.77 ERA in the four seasons before he received his extension.