Football or Basketball for Weishar?

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Football or Basketball for Weishar?

First, the easy question: Why is Nicholas Weishar referred to as Nic instead of Nick?

"My mom chose it and I went along with it," he said. "Nicholas is my full name. Nic stuck. Without the k. It bothers me that everybody misspells my first name. But that's the way it is."

Second, the hard question: Which sport do you prefer, football or basketball?

"I like both sports equally and I continue to work hard at both. I don't know which sport I'll play in college," he said. I don't know if I can give one of them up. I have been playing both sports all my life. I'm not ready to decide yet."

Weishar, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound sophomore at Marist, doesn't have to make an early judgment. He still has ample time to develop and improve in both sports. But he has two scholarship offers in football, none in basketball, so it would appear that his future might be in cleats, not sneakers.

Or is it?

"He is very good at both sports," said Marist basketball coach Gene Nolan. "He enjoys the high school experience. His energy never lets up. He runs like a guard. He acts and plays and listens as if he is the 15th player on a 15-man team. He is humble and down-to-earth. He could be the best athlete ever at Marist."

At the moment, Weishar is concentrating on basketball. Marist is 16-4 going into Tuesday's game at Seton. The RedHawks will play at Carmel in Mundelein on Friday. In their last three outings, the swept St. Patrick 62-57, Brother Rice 75-69 and Harlan 45-44.

"We're not real big but I like our team," Nolan said. "Our kids are committed. They are coming together. We're coming into the tough stretch of our schedule in January and we'll find out a lot about our team. Rebounding is our biggest issue. We must sustain effort on defense for entire possessions. We have a real challenge ahead. But it is a great group to coach."

In his 12th year, Nolan has three starters from last year's 19-11 squad which the coach felt was an overachiever, certainly more successful than the previous teams that were 12-17 and 15-15.

"I was excited going into this year," said Nolan, who believes his 2012 team has the potential to surpass the achievements of the 2004 (25-5), 2005 (25-4) and 2007 (23-8) squads that reached the sectional semifinals. The school's only Sweet Sixteen qualifier was coach Paul Swanson's 26-4 team in 1981.

The RedHawks are led by Weishar (13 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-foot-1 junior L.J. McIntosh (17 ppg) and 6-foot junior point guard Lexus Williams (13 ppg, 5 assists). The other starters are 5-foot-7 Tyler Oden (9 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Matt O'Reilly (8 ppg). Jack Barry, a 6-foot junior (5 ppg), provides spark off the bench.

In the victory over St. Patrick, Oden scored 16 points, Weishar 14. Against Brother Rice, all five starters scored in double figures -- McIntosh (18), Oden (14), Williams (14), Weishar (13) and O'Reilly (13). Against Harlan, despite playing with flu-like symptoms, Weishar scored 22 points, including the game-winning basket as time expired.

Weishar began playing football in second grade, basketball in fourth grade. He was a chubby offensive lineman until eighth grade, then was switched to running back. He enjoyed playing in the line because he was involved in the offense and had ball-carriers running behind him.

But Marist football coach Pat Dunne moved him up to the sophomore squad as a freshman and noticed he had "good hands and decent speed." So the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder was moved to wide receiver. The sophomore squad went 9-0 and Weishar had found a home.

"I trusted coach Dunne," Weishar said. "I liked (wide receiver) right away. I thought it was a great fit for me. I liked using my speed against smaller cornerbacks. And I enjoy contact. You can't get it in any other sport. I love hitting people even though I'm a wide receiver. And I like scoring touchdowns. There is no better feeling for your team."

College recruiters like the looks of Weishar in a football uniform, too. He has offers from Illinois and Northwestern and interest from Notre Dame, Michigan State and Minnesota. Many more offers are coming. He is rated as one of the two leading prospects in the class of 2014 in Illinois, according to recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

It isn't easy juggling a busy schedule that includes playing basketball, negotiating the recruiting process in football and maintaining a 5.42 grade point average on a 5.0 scale.

"It is challenging to do it all...balance athletics and schoolwork. I don't have much of a social life," Weishar said. "Sunday is a big homework day. It is hard to focus on both sports. I call football coaches every week while I balance football, basketball and my studies. It gets pretty difficult, a lot of late nights. But I'm getting used to it. It is an awesome experience. I'm not going to complain about it."

Academics are most important. If he gets a bad grade on a test, his parents let him hear about it. They push academics. But they want their son to be well-rounded and they recognize that sports also is an important part of the educational process.

He has visited a Northwestern practice and attended Penn StateNorthwestern, Ohio StateIllinois and NavyNotre Dame games. He also plays AAU basketball with coach Mike Mullins' Illinois Wolves in the spring and summer. In fact, he often works out in football and basketball on the same day in the summer. And he plans to attend football and basketball camps during the coming summer.

So basketball still is in the mix.

"All of my best friends play basketball. I don't want to let any of them down," he said. "I'm not interested in comparing scholarships right now. I just love basketball. I want to win a state title. In basketball, I like the crowd that is on top of you. I like to take charges. That's my favorite thing to do. It gets the team pumped up. I like the contact."

Weishar would be thrilled to receive Division I offers for basketball. "The ideal situation would be to have to decide between offers for both sports," he said. He believes basketball recruiters should take notice of his leadership skills. "That's what sets me apart in basketball. I think that's what college coaches would be interested in," he said.

No matter which sport Weishar is playing, there is a whole lot to like.

Suspended White Sox ace Chris Sale to start Thursday against Cubs

Suspended White Sox ace Chris Sale to start Thursday against Cubs

Chris Sale will return to the White Sox mound Thursday against the Cubs for the first time since being suspended five games for cutting up his team’s 1976 throwback uniforms on Saturday. 

The 27-year-old left-hander, who was issued a five-game suspension by the White Sox on Sunday for “violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment,” will remain away from the team for the first three Crosstown games this week. Manager Robin Ventura said Sale would probably throw a side session sometime this week, but due to his suspension, any work will have to come on his own. 

Ventura said he won’t necessarily have a discussion with Sale when the five-time All-Star returns to the club in the cramped confines of Wrigley Field’s visiting clubhouse later this week. 

“He’s going to pitch. That’s what he does,” Ventura said. “I don’t think there has to be a big meeting or anything. He’s pitching Thursday.”

Because of Sale’s bizarre pregame incident, the White Sox on Saturday had to use six relievers — Matt Albers, Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle, Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson — to get through eight innings before the game was suspended due to a line of heavy thunderstorms that rolled through the South Side. Robertson on Sunday pitched the ninth inning of the suspended game and the ninth of the regularly-scheduled contest against Detroit (he gave up three solo home runs to blow the save in the second game) and is likely unavailable for Monday night’s Crosstown opener against the Cubs. 

White Sox players said they moved on quickly after Sale destroyed those uniforms he didn’t want to wear, pointing to the team’s two wins on Sunday for supporting evidence. And Ventura doesn’t think a team-wide meeting is necessary to address any issues when Sale does come back on Thursday. 

“Guys have seen a lot of stuff and it’s about playing, I think they’re about playing and we’ll go with that until something needs to be addressed,” Ventura said. “As far as playing, guys are just moving on and playing.

“…  I’m sure they’ll have conversations about it. But I don’t think we need to have a whole team meeting and address it that way.”

White Sox will start Anthony Ranaudo Wednesday against Cubs

White Sox will start Anthony Ranaudo Wednesday against Cubs

The last time the White Sox saw Anthony Ranaudo pitch, they drew five walks and scored five runs without recording a hit against the 26-year-old right-hander. 

That disastrous outing — which came in a 13-11 White Sox loss to the Texas Rangers — was Ranaudo’s last major league appearance. The former LSU ace and 2010 first-round pick was traded to the White Sox May 12 for minor leaguer Matt Ball and spent the last two months with Triple-A Charlotte. 

But with Chris Sale earning a five-game suspension for destroying throwback jerseys on Saturday, the White Sox needed to bring up another arm. And with right-hander Jacob Turner struggling in two outings in place of the injured Carlos Rodon, Ranaudo will start for the White Sox Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. 

“Hopefully I get another chance to go back out there and prove that’s not who I am,” Ranaudo said before learning of his scheduled start. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo once was a big-time prospect, being ranked 67th in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season. But he’s never been able to find success in the majors and will enter his start with a 6.33 ERA and more walks (32) than strikeouts (28) in 58 1/3 innings from 2014-2016. 

In 13 starts with Triple-A Charlotte, Ranaudo posted a 3.20 ERA with 53 strikeouts, eight walks and 12 home runs allowed over 78 2/3 innings.

“I think he’s refined (things) a little bit more to be able to throw some strikes and have command,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You’re going to have to have it, especially if it’s warm. So hopefully he’s got it.”

Ranaudo can’t afford to have his command escape him, as it did in May against the White Sox, when he faces the Cubs — which lead baseball with a 10.6 percent walk rate — on Wednesday. 

If his Crosstown start goes well, Ranaudo could stick around after Sale returns on Thursday. But for now, the right-hander is happy to get another opportunity to prove himself at the major league level.

“It was a little unexpected at the time, obviously, with everything going on,” Ranaudo said of his call-up. “But it was awesome, yeah. I’m just happy to be here and whatever role I’m in, I’m excited about.” 

Former North Lawndale star Jonathan Mills killed in shooting

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Former North Lawndale star Jonathan Mills killed in shooting

Former local high school basketball star Jonathan Mills was shot to death on Monday in North Lawndale, a source confirmed to CSN.

A Class 2A state champion and city champion who played high school ball at North Lawndale and college basketball at Southern Miss, Mills was shot multiple times in the 4100 block of West Roosevelt at 1:27 p.m., police told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The 26-year-old Mills was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by two daughters. 

Mills became a West Side legend in Chicago basketball circles as one of the hardest-working rebounders the city has seen in the last decade. Taking North Lawndale to two state semifinals and winning a Class 2A state championship in 2008, the 6-foot-5 lefty wasn't particularly skilled as an undersized forward, but he was relentless in his pursuit of the ball and a rugged defender.

In his first varsity season at North Lawndale as a junior, Mills averaged 16.8 points and 13.7 rebounds per game as he led the Phoenix in rebounding 31 of 33 games during a state title run. In a Class 2A sectional title game against Englewood, Mills had a legendary performance as he had 22 points and 23 rebounds in a two-point win. 

During his senior season, Mills averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds per game in helping the Phoenix win the school's first city championship. Beating Hyde Park in overtime for the city title, Mills had 13 points and 23 rebounds in a 54-51 win as he secured the game-clinching rebound off of teammate Terry Johnson's missed free throw. 

After playing two years of junior college ball at Eastern Utah, Mills played his final two seasons of college basketball at Southern Miss in Conference USA. Mills earned third-team All-Conference USA honors as a junior while also making the All-Defensive Team as he averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. During his senior year, Mills was once again on the Conference USA All-Defensive Team as he put up 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

On Monday, Twitter was filled with memories of Mills from coaches, players and reporters that watched him play.