Glenbrook North loses McAuliffe for 4-6 weeks

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Glenbrook North loses McAuliffe for 4-6 weeks

One day, Glenbrook North coach Dave Weber was lamenting about issues he has with a lack of depth on his 2011-12 basketball team. The next day, his star player, 6-foot-8 junior Andrew McAuliffe, suffered a knee injury. On Monday, Weber learned that McAuliffe will be sidelined from four to six weeks.

"He has a fractured patella. He won't be back until mid to late January. He'll miss 10-12 games, a big chunk of the season," Weber said. "We have to get through this stretch of games without him and it will be tough because we have to go to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

"We have to totally change our whole offense, all that we have done up to this point. And everybody will have to step up. We have to get game experience and get guys off the bench to play."

Ironically, McAuliffe was injured during what Weber described as his best game of the year and his team's best game of the year. Despite suffering a knee injury, he scored 29 points and grabbed six rebounds in last Tuesday's 67-39 rout of Niles North.

"Then we played our worst game of the year," Weber said, referring to last Friday's 48-42 overtime loss to Deerfield. It was the first of several games that McAuliffe will miss.

Among the players who will be counted on to step up are 6-foot-5 senior Mark Johnson and 6-foot junior point guard Kurt Karis. Johnson scored 28 points against Niles North, then had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Deerfield. But Karis was befuddled and frustrated by Deerfield's box-and-one defense and never got untracked. It was a lesson he won't forget.

"We have to scrap more. We don't have the 6-8 presence that we had," Karis said. "We didn't make shots on Friday. And we were 5-for-13 from the free throw line. The defense packed in with a box-and-one on me. I scored only four points. It was very frustrating."

Afterward, aware that McAuliffe would miss some time, Karis texted all of his teammates. "We didn't play a good game. We have to work harder in practice. We have to work even harder and scrap harder. And I need to step up and be the player I can be, shoot more, be more confident," he said.

"One loss doesn't make a season. We need more balance. That loss shows how much harder we need to work. It is good that this happens to us early rather than later so it shows what we need to do."

Even before McAuliffe was injured, Weber complained about lack of depth. Three players already had left the program. Point guard Joe Prince moved back to California. Backup point guard Ethan Schmidt quit the team before the season began. And Cory Dolins transferred to Niles West.

Weber planned to build around McAuliffe, who was averaging 15 points and five rebounds and is being evaluated by Northwestern and other Division I schools, and Karis, who is averaging 13 points and four assists and was MVP of the Niles West Thanksgiving Tournament.

Without McAuliffe, he will count on Karis, Johnson, 6-foot-2 senior Mitchell Lev, 6-foot-1 senior Adam Chick and 6-foot-1 senior Trevor Ponticelli to fill the void. Johnson obviously got the message. He was averaging 10 points per game but scored 47 in his last two games.

They'll take a 6-1 record and debut their new lineup and revamped offense on Tuesday against Conant, then play Highland Park on Friday before meeting St. Patrick in the opening round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

"This team will be very competitive throughout the season," Weber said before McAuliffe's injury. "We won't blowout a lot of people. We have to win a lot of close games. We won't score a lot of points. We don't hit a lot of three-point shots. We play slower than we're used to playing."

Like many kids growing up in Northbrook, Karis was inspired by the spectacular play of former Glenbrook North star Jon Scheyer. His brother was on Scheyer's state championship team.

"So I went to every game. My dad played basketball and pushed me to play. Watching the state championship team made me want to play for Glenbrook North," Karis said. "Scheyer was amazing to watch. It was incredible to see what he could do. His supporting cast knew their roles. It inspired me to play my heart out to be able to play on the varsity.

"I was in Peoria when they won the state title. My brother didn't play a minute in the final game but he was the happiest he ever was. He played the last minute of the semifinal and got fouled and made two free throws at the end. It was his great moment of glory."

Now Kurt faces a big challenge if his team is to advance on the state tournament trail. "I'm the quarterback out there. My major role is to distribute the ball. We have desire. All the seniors want to win. It's a hard thing to win a state title but we haven't had a big challenge yet to see if we are the real deal. Now we do. But we think we can do it," he said.

Meanwhile, Weber has his own challenges to deal with. In his 17th season, he has won 325 games and one state championship. But he has noticed how the game has evolved and he isn't sure it is for the better.

"The high school season isn't as important to these kids as before," he said. "They play so much outside the school. The main focus used to be high school. Now it is AAU. They are tired and worn out. They play so much AAU and go to personal trainers and weight training coaches. By 3:00 in the afternoon, when they come to our practice, they are exhausted.

"And parents are into it more than ever before. The parents now are more hands on. The kids go home and tell their parents everything that happened in the day. The Internet has changed parental involvement. They want to see success. It isn't as much fun as it used to, nowhere near as much fun as when a kid came to practice and was excited to wear a Glenbrook North jersey.

"The pride and passion of playing for your high school isn't there anymore. When we used to scout five to 10 years ago, we would be exhausted. Now you scout and it's pretty much all the same...drive to the rim, not a lot of set plays. High school basketball isn't as structured as it used to be. It's all about athleticism, stopping dribble penetration, who is more athletic and who can drive and penetrate and kick. You used to have to figure out plays but not anymore."

Coaching without McAuliffe in the lineup could be his biggest challenge of all.

Jim Thome to have highway named after him in Peoria

Jim Thome to have highway named after him in Peoria

Jim Thome's name is very well-known around the baseball world, and rightfully so. 

The former White Sox slugger hit 612 home runs during his 22-year major-league career, but is equally known for being an all-around good guy.

Perhaps Thome's name is most popular in his hometown of Peoria, IL. 

Some people get a street named after them in their hometown after achieving fame. Not Jim Thome. Jim Thome gets a highway named after him.

The Peoria Journal Star reported that a portion of the Route 24 roadway at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex will be named after Thome.

Thome's portion of Route 24 will be coined 'Jim Thome Expressway.' The aforementioned section will extend from Adams Street in Bartonville to Griswold Street in Peoria.

Thome is currently serving in the White Sox front office as the Special Assistant to the Senior VP/General Manager.

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

The Summer of Jimmy Butler Answering Rumors added another chapter on Wednesday, with the Bulls' All-Star answering questions on ESPN's The Jump with Rachel Nichols.

Butler was asked a bevy of questions about his opinion on trade rumors involving himself, the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks and whether he believes he'll remain with the Bulls.

It's been a busy offseason for Butler's Bulls, which missed the playoffs last year for the first time in eight seasons. In addition to the Rose trade and drafting Michigan State's Denzel Valentine, the Bulls reportedly dangled Butler's name in trade discussions on draft night.

And though general manager Gar Forman vehemently denied the Bulls were shopping the 26-year-old Butler, the constant rumors appear to have taken a toll on Butler's belief about his future in Chicago.

"I don't think anything's for certain, I really don't," Butler responded when asked if he believed he'd be with the Bulls next season. "I love the city of Chicago, Chicago basketball, I think everybody knows that. They drafted me, I've been here my entire career, but nothing's for certain."

Butler also admitted that the Bulls' inconsistent play that resulted in a 42-40 record - their worst since 2010 - magnified the reported rift between him and Rose.

"I can't say I was surprised by (the Rose trade). I knew it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth. Obviously I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP, I got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward," Butler said.

"Because we didn't win I think everything comes up. I think if we win there's nothing to say, we're fine, we get along together, we'd probably still be teammates to tell you the truth."

Despite the rumors, and the front office's refusal to commit to Butler, the Marquette product says his relationship with Forman and the rest is "good."

"I can't say we talk about everything because we don't but I think most of the imporant things, I get a phone call or a text message and we'll talk," Butler said. "They'll take my opinion on some things, but I'm a player."

 

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

If you’re a hockey fan and were on Twitter around 3 p.m. Central time today, you probably looked skeptical as the trade news hit.

As first reported by Nick Kypreos, P.K. Subban is heading to Nashville and Shea Weber is going to Montreal.

We can imagine your reaction because we had it too. Eyes bulged. Mouths gaped. You checked the accounts of those venerable scribes tweeting the news because the accounts had to be fake, right?

Nope, it was true. And just like that, another Central Division team will have a very different look come the fall.

Sure, the Predators lost a great defenseman in Weber. He has a howitzer of a shot that has left those brave (read: crazy) enough to block it in plenty of pain. Jonathan Toews tweeted good luck to Weber, and “thanks for leaving our division.” Yeah, Weber left an impression. His shot left a bigger one, sometimes in the colors of black and blue, and Central foes won’t miss seeing it five or six games per season. But with Subban the Predators will do just fine. Subban is a great player and charismatic individual, possessing one of those personalities of which the NHL doesn’t have nearly enough.

Welcome to another Central change. St. Louis is facing some. The Blues already traded goaltender Brian Elliott. Per Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Rutherford, Kevin Shattenkirk expects the Blues to trade him. David Backes’ and Troy Brouwer’s status with the team is up in the air.

Minnesota hasn’t made any big changes player-wise (yet) but did at the top, hiring Bruce Boudreau in May. The Wild have gotten to the postseason regularly lately but haven’t gotten too far – they can thank the Blackhawks for three of those exits. Minnesota probably needed a new voice.

But does hiring Boudreau, a consistent regular-season coach who’s struggled to get the big postseason victories – again, see the Blackhawks two years ago – improve Minnesota’s chances?

The Blackhawks have gone through this makeover thing just about every year, and they’ve already done it again this offseason. Andrew Shaw’s trade to Montreal, that same Montreal that just sent Subban packing, means they’ll be missing a net-front presence that Shaw brought on a steadier basis than anyone else the past five seasons. It’s not the only void they need to fill. A veteran defenseman wouldn’t hurt. Neither would another forward with some experience. They have some cap space, but will there be enough to get both?

The Subban-Weber trade is one of those blockbusters we don’t see often anymore. It’s staggering. It’s eye-popping. There won’t be anything as big as this for a while but, with free agency opening on Friday, there will nevertheless be other changes in the NHL.

The Central is already looking a little different. Imagine what it’ll look like by September.