Deng's cousin to join Wildcats

691098.png

Deng's cousin to join Wildcats

Steve Wojcik
CSNChicago.com

Any team that finishes 333rd in the country in rebounding and 127th in blocked shots, as Northwestern did last season, is likely in desperate need of an interior presence.

The Wildcats may have found their man today, rounding out their 2012 recruiting class with the school's biggest addition ever - and we mean that literally.

Chier Ajou, the 7-foot-2 cousin of Bulls forward Luol Deng, has decided to join the Wildcats, becoming the tallest player in the school's history.

"The addition of Chier completes a terrific freshman class that we're very excited about," Northwestern head men's basketball coach Bill Carmody told NUSports.com. "He is an outstanding young man who is athletic, has great upside and is a good fit for our program. He'll provide our team with a dimension we haven't seen in a while."

The recruiting class Carmody is referring to includes incoming freshmen Kale Abrahamson, Sanjay Lumpkin and Alex Olah, as well as, transfers Jared Swopshire from Louisville and Nikola Cerina from TCU.

Northwestern returns 4 of 5 starters, and hopes to build on a successful 2011-12 season that saw the team fall just shy of making its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

vinniehinostrozabears.jpg
AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Jamal Mayers discuss the bottom six carrying the Blackhawks to a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Later, Mayers weighs in on possible targets with the NHL trade deadline just six weeks away.

Listen to the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast below:

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."