H-F, Hill know how to handle publicity

963245.png

H-F, Hill know how to handle publicity

Homewood-Flossmoor coach Jim McLaughlin rolled his eyes. It was the kind of thing every coach dreads to see--two full-page stories on his team on successive days in a daily metropolitan newspaper. Too much publicity can often lead to inflated egos, petty jealousies and overconfidence. And that isn't good.

But McLaughlin, in his eighth season at H-F, thinks his 2012-13 squad is mature enough to handle it. The No. 4 ranked Vikings are 7-0 going into Friday night's game against Lincoln-Way East. Then they'll meet Ellison on Dec. 22 in the opening round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

With three starters and nine players returning from a 22-8 squad that lost to Bloom in the sectional final, McLaughlin had every reason to believe that this team could be comparable to his 27-2 team in 2008 or his 28-4 team in 2006 or former coach Roy Condotti's 31-3 powerhouse with Julian Wright that lost to Peoria Central and Shaun Livingston in the Class AA state championship in 2004.

"We have some pieces," he said. "We have size, two 6-foot-8 kids, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound power forward, big people who an move and get up and down the floor. And we have guards who are long and lanky and have speed. Size and length with quickness. Potentially, we will be very good.

"We saw it last year in practice. The junior class was a unique group. They competed and played hard. They pushed the seniors. They never backed down. When we got them together in the summer for 25 days, they won some tournaments and beat good teams. We saw they were a unique group."

The leader is 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior power forward Maurius Hill, who averages 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. "He is our hardest worker, a great competitor. He brings his lunch bucket every day," McLaughlin said.

Other starters are 6-foot-4 senior point guard Rashaan Surles (16 ppg), 6-foot-8 senior Lamar Wofford-Humphrey (8 ppg, 4 rpg), 6-foot-4 senior Ricky Bullock (5 ppg) and 6-foot-4 senior Jason Scott (7 ppg, 4 rpg). Tai Odiase, a 6-foot-8 junior, contributes eight points and five rebounds off the bench.

"I like how hard they work every day," McLaughlin said. "They are committed to defending. Even on bad nights you can find a way to win when you play good defense. We have the pieces to apply a lot of pressure on people and execute in a half-court setting."

It all revolves around Hill. McLaughlin said he had circled last Sunday's game against Curie and 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander on his calendar. H-F scored only two points in the last 5:33 but still managed to win 42-40 as Hill had 14 points and 12 rebounds. For his effort, Hill was named Athlete of the Week by the Chicago Sun-Times. Two back-to-back full-page stories with color pictures to boot.

"The players saw it. The coach mentioned it but he didn't make a big deal of it. He said to be humble and continue to play with the same intensity," Hill said. "I feel it is like taking baby steps. The bigger prize is out there. I don't want it to make my head big. I'm the Athlete of the Week. I'm handling it pretty well. I enjoy the moment but I don't let it go to my head. I feel I can do better."

Hill admits he doesn't mind the spotlight. "Some friends gave me a lot of grief. But some congratulated me. I would like to have more of those days," he said.

And fewer of the kind of days he experienced last season. "It was a disappointment. It wasn't a failure but a learning experience. Some kids didn't work as hard as they should have. The seniors had too many egos. It showed us that nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it. You can't let egos get in the way. You have to be together on and off the court," he said.

"This is my team. My role is to keep everybody together, to keep everybody on the same page. Everybody knows what is going on. Everybody has a clue. I have to make sure everyone is dedicated to working hard. My personal goal is to get my team Downstate."

Hill said what he likes most about this team is the players all get along on and off the floor and push each other in practice. Every day, they play a game called 'war,' a box-out drill designed to prevent opponents from getting rebounds.

"There is a lot of intensity," he said. "You have to box out and not foul in the drill. There is a lot of pushing and shoving, a lot of cuts and bruises, very physical. It gets us ready for games."

But McLaughlin admits it isn't all roses. There is one dandelion in the garden. His team has a shortcoming that he hopes to remedy during the two weeks his team has to prepare for the Proviso West tournament.

"We must become smarter on offense, what is a good shot for us, where to take it from, get the right guys I the right spots," he said. "We have guys who want to be coached. They are quick learners. Proviso West is a big test every year. We have touched every trophy at Proviso West but only won once (2003). Our goal is to play our best basketball when we get to March."
   
"Other teams weren't as focused to go Downstate. This group is focused," Hill said. "The last time H-F was Downstate was the Julian Wright team. This team can do it. It would be a big disappointment if we don't do it. We have the pieces to get there."

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

Preview: Loyola faces Northern Iowa on CSN

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech fires a 110 mph max velocity throw

Bears challenged to replace coaches involved in three all-rookie selections

Fire draft two Charlotte 49ers to close out draft

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

Illini dominated in ugly blowout loss at Purdue

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."