Cappel resumes his career at Crete-Monee

600474.png

Cappel resumes his career at Crete-Monee

Tom Cappel is old enough to be Michael Orris' grandfather. So does that mean that the 64-year-old Cappel is too old to coach the Illinois-bound point guard and direct one of the state's elite programs, that the game of basketball has passed him by?

Not hardly.

Orris did his homework. In fact, he and teammate Marvie Keith served on a committee that interviewed applicants for the head coaching position at Crete-Monee. They agreed that Cappel was the best man for the job.

"He is a Hall of Fame coach. He knows what he is talking about," Orris said. "He has coached a lot of Division I athletes. He has been around for a long time. He had a lot of success at Hillcrest.

"I feel we have some Division I talent on our team and he would be good for us. He will be able to develop us. The age factor is what it is. He has kept up with the culture. I dont feel the age difference is a factor."

In 23 years at Hillcrest in Country Club Hills, Cappel won 502 games, produced two Elite Eight qualifiers and built one of the most successful high school programs in Illinois. Now he is eager to start all over again at another south suburban venue, Crete-Monee.

"I'm excited to be coaching again," he said. "I spent two years as an assistant coach at St. Xavier, at the NAIA level, but I missed the high school game."

After taking an early retirement option at Hillcrest, he left in 2007. But it wasn't so easy getting back into the high school ranks. He sent out several resumes, had a lot of interviews and, for a time, he was uncertain if he would get another coaching opportunity.

"I thought high school coaching was pure, innocent. The kids aren't tainted at that age. I found it to be exciting," Cappel said. "I was going crazy at home. You can hunt and fish and play golf, which I do a bit, but in the winter there isn't much to do. I don't like ice fishing. And you can take only so many trips. I have four grandchildren, all girls.

"There were jobs all over the Chicago area. But I turned down one school because the job wasn't what I was looking for. I interviewed at Crete-Monee the first time but didn't get it. Then, when it opened up again, I interviewed for a second time. I was looking for a job first. Now it is a dream job."

Cappel, who once studied to be a priest, was a walk-on basketball player at DePaul. After graduating in 1970, he served as an assistant at St. Rita (football star Dennis Lick was on the team) and Oak Forest before landing at Hillcrest. A resident of Orland Park, he was familiar with Crete-Monee, the old Dome, the good teams with Phil Henderson and Kenya Beach.

Crete-Monee was ranked among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason and Cappel is anxious to realize those expectations and achieve even more. He wants to win 600 games and take his team to Peoria. For the time being, he looks forward to returning to the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament at Rich South and a January 24 game against his old school, Hillcrest.

"I'm having as much fun as ever," Cappel said. "I run six miles a day and work out in the gym three days a week. This is everything I hoped it would be. The further you get into it, the more you realize you have a good time. At first, you are hesitant. It's a new school. You don't know anybody. You wonder how the kids will respond."

But he has a good group to work with and they are responding to his old-school approach. Orris is one of the best point guards in the state, Cappel's kind of floor leader, tough, gritty, a pure point guard. He is surrounded by 6-foot-3 senior Maurice Hopkins, junior guard Marvie Keith, 6-3 junior LaQuon Treadwell and 6-foot-8 sophomore Rashod Lee.

Cappel likes what he sees. And he thinks Crete-Monee fans will like what they see, too, an up-tempo trapping defense and an offense hell-bent on getting down the court as quickly as possible after grabbing the ball off the backboard. The philosophy worked at Hillcrest and Cappel sees no reason why, with the talent at his disposal, it can't succeed at Crete-Monee.

"We don't need to change anything," he said. "We have similar type of kids. You do what you are comfortable with. Will these kids respond to me? I don't see any difference with kids today. All kids have problems. All schools have kids with problems. If you don't like kids, you shouldn't be doing this. I treat them like my own kids. If I have a problem with them, I will bend an ear, ask them what they think, get it out on the table."

Cappel has a seasoned staff -- former Blue Island Eisenhower coach Mike Lyman, former Thornridge coach Danny Turner, John Cullnan and Al Hutton. He has 55 in the total program and plans to raise money for some perks -- pregame shirts and practice gear for everyone.

Orris has been through his own soap opera. The son of two ministers, he attended Palatine as a freshman and sophomore, then moved to Crete-Monee.

Cappel is his third coach in three years. On top of that, Orris committed to Creighton last spring, then de-committed in late June and chose Illinois on September 11. Now he believes he has everything in order.

"This is my team. I'm the leader," Orris said. "The state championship is our goal this year. Team first is the coach's message. This is a team game and everybody has to play their role. The bottom line is to win. It isn't about personal rewards."

Last year, Orris was surrounded by other Division I talent so he settled into a pass-first, shoot-second mentality. He averaged 10 points and seven assists for a 25-4 team that lost to Normal Community in the supersectional.

Orris knows he is a pure point guard, what Illinois coach Bruce Weber desperately needs. That means he is a quarterback on the floor. He has to know where everyone is on the offense, every play, when and where to get them the ball, how to put them in position to be successful on the court, to do whatever it takes to lead them. And, if necessary, to score.

"I'd rather make a cool pass than a basket, so long as we win," he said. "That's what I have to do at Illinois. But I'll have to score more this year, maybe 15 to 20 points per game for us to be successful. This year probably won't be pass first for me. Next year, it will be."

Orris also believes the 2011-12 Warriors will get a helpful boost from 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Perry, 6-foot-5 junior Mark Connor and 5-foot-11 senior guard T.J. Morris, a transfer from Seton Academy.

"No," he said, summing up his expectations for the upcoming season, "(Cappel) doesn't seem like a grandfather to me."

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

[SHOP: Get up for the 2016-17 season, Bulls fans!]

He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”

What’s next for Cubs and Jason Hammel?

What’s next for Cubs and Jason Hammel?

PITTSBURGH – Making a risk-reward decision, the Cubs will shut down Jason Hammel and not start him Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds, leaving his playoff status and future in the organization uncertain.

Hammel said he’s been feeling tightness in his right elbow for weeks, which may have dulled the sharpness to his slider and explained some of his second-half struggles, which have put him on the postseason-roster bubble, if not on the outside looking in. 

After Friday’s TBD, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are still scheduled to start the season’s final two games at Great American Ball Park, putting them at the front of a playoff rotation that didn’t figure to include Hammel anyway.

“That decision lays in their hands,” said Hammel, who has been playing catch and throwing off flat ground during this week's spring-training-like series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “Health-wise, I’m not stressing about it. Collectively, we talked about it. And for being available through October, is it really worth something right now happening in a game that – more or less – doesn’t really matter?”

[SHOP: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

The Hammel 2.0 reboot still has to be considered a success, with another All-Star-caliber first half, a career-high 15 wins, a 3.83 ERA and an overall resume that would look dramatically different if he didn’t have three starts allowing nine or 10 runs. 

The Cubs hold a $12 million option – with a $2 million buyout – for next season that could make Hammel an attractive trade chip given this winter’s shallow pool of free agents.   

“Obviously, not happy with the way things ended,” Hammel said. “But I would say for 9/10ths of the season, I was very good. I’ll take that into the offseason and add onto what I added (last) offseason.

“Some crazy freak incident like this can derail it, but overall my body feels good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, which was to make 30-plus starts and be competitive, save for five, six starts. Out of 30, I’d say that’s pretty good.”