Brown sets sights on 2013 state title

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Brown sets sights on 2013 state title

If you observed Sterling Brown outplay Jabari Parker and everybody else in the finals of the Class 4A tournament in Peoria last month, you know why the 6-foot-4 junior from Proviso East is rapidly climbing up the charts as one of the leading prospects in the class of 2013.

"He is a top 25 player nationally," Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. "He had to sacrifice a lot of his game as a junior because of our guards and for the betterment of the team. That shows what type of character he has.

"But I wasn't surprised by how well he played in Peoria. I expected him to have a good game against Parker. Earlier in the season, he was outstanding against (Belleville East's) Malcolm Hill. He is willing to accept one-on-one challenges.

"Downstate, big-time players always step up and seize the moment. He got into rhythm. For us to be successful next season, he has to be a 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) type of guy as a senior. He has the capability of averaging a triple double."

Plaudits aside, Brown has several goals on his plate for the 2012-13 season. Among his priorities are improving his perimeter shooting and ball-handling and becoming more aggressive and assertive on the floor, win a national AAU championship with the Chicago Fire, become a McDonald's All-American, choose a college that will be the best fit for him and his style of play and surpass Parker as the No. 1 player in the nation.

Ambitious goals indeed. But they don't rank 1-2 on his list. First, he wants to lead Proviso East to the state championship in 2013. Second, he wants to beat his older brother Shannon in a one-on-one matchup for the first time. Shannon was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2003 and a McDonald's All-America, starred at Michigan State and has played in the NBA for the last seven years.

"What was my biggest recollection of the state final? Simeon 50, Proviso East 48. We lost. That's what sticks in my head, not how many points I scored or how well I played," Sterling said.

"We could have won the game. The difference was those two big three-point shots that Jelani Neely made. We left him wide open. We didn't respect him as a three-point shooter and he burned us. I should have taken charge more and been more aggressive in the fourth quarter. I should have shot more and made more plays for my teammates.

"Yes, I played well. I outplayed everybody. But I could have done better. I averaged nine or 10 rebounds per game but I only got five against Simeon. I could have crashed the boards more. And Jabari stole the ball from me at the top of the key in the second half. After that play, they scored and built up their lead. If it hadn't happened, it would have changed the game."

Next season? "We won't have the great guards (Keith Carter, Paris Burns) that we had this year. But we'll have more experience. We'll know what it takes to win. We won't make the same mistakes. We will know what to do in clutch time. We won't give up the lead. We will know how to finish and take care of the ball. I'll be really motivated to win the state title for my brother because he didn't win one. I'll be able to say I am one up on him."

But will Sterling be able to say he is better than Shannon?

"We go one-on-one in the gym whenever we see each other, even at 2 or 3 in the morning," Sterling said. "Yes, I think I can be a better player. At the end of the day, I'll keep working. He still beats me but not as badly as he did a few years ago. So I can see improvement in my game. He tries to bully me a little bit. He's stronger and knows more moves from his NBA experience. But I'm learning. It won't be too long before I beat him, maybe one or two more years."

Boyce, a former NBA player, said what he loves about Sterling is his hunger to be great is so high, "He will be a better player than Shannon when all is said and done. Shannon was more athletic. But Sterling can do more things, even though he isn't as athletic or as good a shooter or as good a ball-handler as Shannon. But Sterling will be better because of his vast variety of skill set and his versatility. Some kids level off when they reach a certain level of success but Sterling is greedy and wants more," he said.

Boyce, Proviso East's first-year coach, thinks one of the most satisfying things about coaching is "to see when the light bulb comes on when a kid realizes he has a chance to be great." For Sterling, that moment came during a Thanksgiving tournament in Peoria last November when, by his own admission, he held his own against Belleville East's Illinois-bound Malcolm Hill.

"It told me that my team needed me to step up if we were going to win and it told me that I was as good a player as other kids who were getting more publicity or were rated higher than me," Sterling said. "I had to step up to the plate and I did.

"Playing with Jabari (on the Chicago Fire) and against him gave me more confidence to play my game. I got a lot of exposure and a lot of college coaches and scouts were looking at me while I was playing with Jabari. He is bigger than me but I wanted it more Downstate. I was more aggressive than Jabari. He is a great player. But I'm a team player. I try to get my team involved. Whatever they need to win, I will do it. And I can do it better than others."

No sooner had Sterling returned from the state tournament, he received a scholarship offer from Northwestern. He also has offers from Illinois, DePaul, Florida State and Oregon State. He has taken an unofficial visit to Michigan State. He plans to visit Nebraska, Missouri, Marquette and Colorado.

Michigan State is his dream school. He hopes coach Tom Izzo will offer him. But he isn't disappointed that he hasn't up to now. He sees that as a sign that he still needs to work harder to improve his skills.

"Izzo is a great coach. He focuses on defense. He gets the best out of you. I want to be remembered as a winner and you have to play defense to win," Sterling said. "They aren't looking at me now. They aren't on me like other schools or like my brother. That is more motivation for me. I have to get better."

What about the elite schools? Sterling admits it would be "great" if Kentucky offered. He said he once wanted to attend North Carolina. And he likes the way Duke plays.

"But I want to establish my own identity," he said. "I want to go to a school that is aggressive and gets up and down. I want to get out of my brother's shadow. I've always been known as Shannon Brown's brother. I want people to refer to him as Sterling Brown's brother."

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 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. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."