"Gut feeling" led Ekakitie to Iowa

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"Gut feeling" led Ekakitie to Iowa

It is a good thing that Faith Ekakitie chose to chronicle his recruiting journey on his own website. This is the son of Nigerian immigrants who left his home in Canada two years ago to enroll at Lake Forest Academy in suburban Chicago. He wanted to be a basketball player. But on Wednesday night he announced he has committed to play football at Iowa.

The 6'3, 275-pound defensive tackle is one of the last uncommitted standouts in the class of 2012. He was rated as one of the top five seniors in Illinois. He chose Iowa over Boston College, Oregon, Northwestern and Georgia Tech.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz now has 13 commitments and looks to close strong on national signing day in February, particularly in Illinois. The Hawkeyes already have Ekakitie, offensive lineman Ryan Ward of Providence, defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson of Montini and defensive back Maurice Fleming of Curie.

Ferentz has a shot at offensive lineman Jordan Diamond of Simeon, who beings his final visits this weekend with a trip to Ohio State, and there are reports that Glenbard West defensive lineman Tommy Schutt, who originally committed to Penn State, might be reconsidering his decision.

Ekakitie took his time, weighing over 30 scholarship offers. And he was brutally honest and candid while assessing his recruiting experience on his website, Faithflex.com. It was a refreshing look into the world of recruiting from an elite athlete who refused to be pressured into making an early decision.

In the end, he dropped Georgia Tech because of his mother's concerns over living in Atlanta. He fell short (by .2 of a grade point) of meeting Northwestern's admittance standard. And Oregon pulled his scholarship offer because he didn't commit soon enough.

That left Iowa and Boston College. His family pushed for BC because of its Jesuit values. But Ekakitie was turned off by what was described as "the divisive nature of BC's locker room after a loss to Florida State." Iowa boasted the largest teaching college in the nation for kinesiology, an area of study that interested Ekakitie.

"At this point, you can see where this decision would become extremely difficult for me to make," he said. "Here we have two schools that both have tremendous things to offer me. What would be the deciding factor between BC and Iowa? A gut feeling. That's all. Not the coaches, players, degrees or even football. It all really came down to where I truly felt at home. And I'm proud and extremely happy to announce that the gut feeling has led me to continue my career at the University of Iowa."

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

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

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”