Hicks is better than advertised

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Hicks is better than advertised

OK, it's a foregone conclusion. Case closed. Everybody agrees. No debate whatsoever. All precincts have reported. Let the post-election party begin. No, this has nothing to do with the presidential race. It's all about Mr. Basketball and the winner is...Simeon's Jabari Parker.

Parker will be the first junior chosen since Illinois' player of the year award was introduced in 1981.

But what about Tony Hicks?

"Nobody in the state has had a better season than Tony Hicks, with the exception of Jabari Parker," St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. "He has meant so much to our team. He has kept our team together with all the injuries we had this year.

DeCesare may be biased, of course, but he might be right. Hicks is averaging 26 points per game against a bone-crusher schedule that includes four nationally ranked teams. He has had five 30-point games, eight 20-point games, is shooting 49-percent from the floor and 44.3 from beyond the three-point line.

In St. Rita's toughest games, the 6-foot-2 senior scored 26 points against New York's Christ the King, 31 and 17 in two victories over Catholic League rival De La Salle and 22 against St. Ignatius. On Saturday, the Mustangs (14-8) will test highly regarded New Trier.

Hicks is a good human-interest story, too. He has a 3.6 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale, scored 27 on his ACT, ranks No. 60 in a class of 165 and is committed to the University of Pennsylvania.

"I have had a lot of coaches from BCS conferences who have watched our games and said to me that they missed the boat on Hicks, that they should have recruited him," DeCesare said. "If he continues his growth, he'll have a great career in the Ivy League. He could play in the Big 10. But Penn did their homework and Tony has no regrets. He'll get a chance to play great basketball and get a great education, too."

DeCesare said Division I colleges aren't the only ones who "missed the boat" on Hicks. "Scouting services didn't do their homework, either. The system isn't right. People listen to people who don't know anything about the game. Tony still is vastly underrated. He hasn't got his props for this year," the coach said.

One scouting service doesn't rank Hicks among the top 20 seniors in Illinois. But the same service ranks Hicks' teammate, A.J. Avery, who hasn't played this season because of a broken wrist, at No. 18. Go figure.

Recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye rank Hicks among the top 15 players in the state in the class of 2012. "He is our choice as Player of the Year in the Catholic League. In our minds, he is an ideal mid-major recruit and a perfect fit for Penn. He has great scoring capability, is a tough-as-nails defender, a leader on the floor and a super young man to boot," they said.

Hicks was determined to rank among the best players in the state this season. He averaged 12 points per game as a sophomore and 16 as a junior. His goal was 20 as a senior. He didn't dream about averaging 26. But he was totally focused on basketball.

"He wanted to be one of the best players in the state this year--and he has done that," DeCesare said.

"I'm not surprised," Hicks said. "The coach preaches hard work and it is paying off. I never thought he would have as much faith in me to take as many shots as I take and get as many minutes as I have played.

"But I still think I am underrated. I try not to focus on it. But I feel if I am playing as I am, people will notice. I guess some people don't think I'm that good, until they see the statistics sheet.

"It is kind of funny to me. I know the local players real well and they give me respect. But the coaches and scouting services don't. I don't think about it. It is more important that the players think I am good and give me respect."

Hicks, who recently surpassed the 1,000-point milestone for his career, worked hard over the summer and accumulated 10 scholarship offers, including Penn, Loyola, South Florida, George Mason, Ohio and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In October, he chose Penn.

"I knew that was where I wanted to go after my first visit to the campus," he said. "The atmosphere felt like St. Rita. There was a lot of support, history and a great education."

He had a choice because more than a few college recruiters recognized his talent. "I am a completely different player from last year. Some people took me out of my game real easy last year. Now I have a feeling that no one can stop me offensively," he said.

"I took the game more seriously over the summer, knowing what I had to do to be better. I went to the recreation gym around the corner from my house every day, for 3-4 hours every day, all by myself, shooting, working on my ball-handling, working on my moves.

"I didn't have a set routine. I just picked up the ball and started working out. I didn't make any changes in my shot, just more repetitions. Everything has gotten that much better, including my pull-up jumper from 15 feet. I never worked so hard. I have a lot more confidence than last year."

Recruiting news and notes: Jeff Thomas in no rush

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Recruiting news and notes: Jeff Thomas in no rush

East St. Louis senior four-star ranked wide receiver Jeff Thomas (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) put on a show in the Flyers' 34-3 win over Providence Catholic in New Lenox.

Thomas, who hauled in 5 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns while also playing defensive back, is still uncommitted and doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make a college choice.

"Everything is the same," Thomas said. "It's all about my team and the season for right now."

Earlier this summer, Thomas listed his top schools as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Missouri. Missouri just added a recent verbal commitment from East St Louis QB Rey Estes and the Tigers many feel could have an advantage in landing Thomas. Missouri has four former East St. Louis Flyers on its current roster.

Deerfield senior three-star ranked defensive end Joshua Maize (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) recently released his list of favorites schools which includes Toledo, UConn, Indiana, Central Michigan, Miami of Ohio and Ball State. Maize however has also been drawing heavy recruiting looks from several other BCS level schools including Purdue, Syracuse, Rutgers, Illinois and Penn State and those schools plan to re-evaluate Maize early this fall. Maize plans to make official visits before making a final college choice and recently said, "my recruiting process is still very open at this time."

[RELATED - Edgy Tim's Top 25 power rankings: Week 2]

One position that is having rough recruiting ride in the Class of 2017? Quarterback. So far just three in-state Class of 2017 signal callers have given BCS level schools a verbal commitments including Jacob's Chris Katernick (Bowling Green), Marian Catholic's Cameron Thomas (Illinois) and Estes (Missouri). So far, the only FCS level in-state known verbal pledge comes from Hinsdale Central's Josh Bean (Columbia). 

This Thursday (Sept. 1st) is a big day in football recruiting circles for the Class of 2018. Thursday is the first day that prospects are allowed per the NCAA to receive recruiting materials (mail) along with unlimited electronic transmissions (text/instant/direct messages) from college coaches. 

"I've stayed in touch with a handful of college coaches and they all said that I would be hearing from them on Thursday," Lake Zurich junior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn said. "It's exciting to hear from those coaches along with hopefully some new schools as well."

Need proof that the recruiting process calendar is getting pushed up earlier and earlier? From my recently-released State of Illinois Class of 2017 Top 60 recruit rankings, 49 out of the 60 recruits have already given schools a verbal commitment. Out of the 11 uncommitted players, I would say nearly half of those players are being held up from giving a verbal commitment because of various academic questions/issues.

Injuries figure into Bears most recent roster cuts

Injuries figure into Bears most recent roster cuts

Health issues ran through the Bears’ most recent roster cuts that brought the player total to its required 75 by Tuesday.

Center Hroniss Grasu (knee) and quarterback Connor Shaw (leg) were played on injured reserve. Linebacker Roy Robertson-Harris, ill for much of training camp and forced to leave practice early Monday with sickness, was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list; and linebacker Lamin Barrow was waived/injured.

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Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace also was waived.

The Bears must cut down to 53 players by Sunday night.

Notre Dame will approach Texas game thinking four arrested players will play

Notre Dame will approach Texas game thinking four arrested players will play

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame will prepare for its season opener Sunday with the thought it’ll have linebacker Te’von Coney, running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White and receiver Kevin Stepherson available against Texas. 

Those four players were all formally charged with possession of marijuana in Fulton County on Monday, and Coney and Stepherson appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas on Tuesday. Safety Max Redfield, who was dismissed from the program two days after his arrest, was formally charged with possession of a handgun without a license and possession of marijuana, and pleaded not guilty to both charges. 

Senior cornerback Devin Butler, who was charged with resisting arrest and battery to a police officer last week, remains indefinitely suspended, coach Brian Kelly said. 

Coney, Williams, White and Stepherson have all been practicing with the team and Coney, Williams, and Stepherson are all listed on Notre Dame’s two-deep depth chart released Tuesday. Kelly said he has never suspended a player for a first-time marijuana offense, but noted that all four players still have to go through Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards and could be subject to discipline from that process.

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"We're going to work as if they're going to play," Kelly said.

Kelly said the Office of Community Standards received reports on Tuesday and expects the process to begin soon, though doesn’t know if and when those players will be cleared. 

As for Redfield, Kelly said he was dismissed from the team because he was in possession of the handgun when those five players were pulled over on U.S. about 35 miles south of South Bend Aug. 19. 

“It was the handgun that was the gamechanger,” Kelly said.