High School Lites preview

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High School Lites preview

Its hard to imagine but we are less than eight weeks away from IHSA championship time in Peoria. Could Hope Academy make some noise? Although they lost guard Jalen James to La Lumiere (IN) via transfer, they still have enough talent to make a deep playoff run. Plus, several other conferences boast pivotal games Friday night. Will Ridgewood dethrone Riverside-Brookfield this season in the Metro Suburban? Who will take control of the Catholic South? And who takes the battle of Grayslake? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

THURSDAY GAME

St. Charles North (7-12) @ 6 Elgin (16-1), 4:00pm

The Upstate Eight River conference is loaded with D-1 talent, and plenty of that will be on display Thursday night. Future Loyola Rambler Quinten Payne, a junior, leads St. Charles North. He opposes Elgins senior forward Kory Brown, whose stock is rising in college basketball circles. The sixth-ranked Maroons come into Thursdays game 5-1 in conference, the North Stars are 3-3. Keep an eye on Elgin standouts Arie Williams and Dennis Moore to complement Browns attack.

FRIDAY GAMES

1 Simeon (19-1) @ Harlan (12-6), 4:00pm

The top-ranked Wolverines have shown whos boss in Chicago, Public League playoffs notwithstanding. Simeon has already defeated two of the top challengers for city supremacy, Curie and Bogan. In Wednesdays triumph over the 7 Bengals, Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn both tallied 20 points. The newly-minted champs of Chicagos Red-South conference now face Harlan, who overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Brooks on Wednesday. Deonte Johnson has been their spark this year.

T.F. North (8-12) @ 16 Hillcrest (16-4), 6:30pm

Hillcrest is coming off another impressive win, as they took care of Crete-Monee 70-60 Tuesday night. The Hawks have three players who can be game changers at any point: Jovan Mooring, Jayon'e Troutman and Jalen Loving. T.F. North has a pair of talented junior guards: Ashanti Randolph and D.J. Deere. A win by Hillcrest moves them up to 9-0 in the South Suburban Blue. The Meteors (5-3) needs to keep pace in the jumbled midsection of the league.

T.F. South (11-7) @ Tinley Park (10-9), 7:00pm

The 11-7 Rebels are coming off their most exciting win of the season, a 56-55 triumph over Rich East, as Donald Hardaway hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. They will have momentum on their side as they go back into conference play to take on a Titans team that lost to crosstown rival Andrew Tuesday night. Tinley is 7-1 in the South Suburban Blue, while South is 5-3. Ironically, Tinley Park's senior guard Jon Calhoun already has two game-winning buzzer-beaters this year.

20 Hope Academy (17-2) @ St. Benedict (14-3), 7:00pm

What will the future hold for Hope Academyminus Jalen James? The talented guard -- and Illinois recruit -- transferred to La Lumiere (IN) earlier this month, but the Eagles havent missed a beat. Theyve won four straight in his absence, including Tuesdays double OT win over Lake Forest Academy. Alex Houston, Torrance Johnson and Tyrone Smith have played very well. As for the Bengals, they have one of the most talented freshman in the city, guard Marshawn Williams. Both teams come in undefeated in conference play.

Riverside-Brookfield (13-4) @ Ridgewood (12-5), 7:00pm

The 13-4 Bulldogs lost every starter from the 2010-11 team to graduation. And yet, they still find themselves in a first place tie in the Metro Suburban with Ridgewood going into Friday night. Thats due in large part to the efforts of their junior guard Damonta Henry. Ridgewood needs to contain him in order for a chance at winning, but the Rebels have a talented guard of their own in senior Andy Mazurczak. Fun fact: R-B has won 10 conference titles in a row.

Grayslake North (11-6) @ Grayslake Central (14-5), 7:00pm

The Fox Valley 'Fox' conference -- not to mention the town of Grayslake, of course -- figures to be up for grabs Friday. Both North and Central will have momentum, winning league games on Tuesday. The host Rams (6-0 in FVF) have size and can shoot the ball well. Look for center Casey Boyle and guard Jordan Taylor, both seniors, to cause damage. The Knights (4-1) are guided by junior guard A.J. Fish, along with seniors Zack Krupp and Mark Hall.

Evanston (13-6) @ Waukegan (9-8), 7:30pm

The Bulldogs clawed their way back to the plus-side of .500 over the weekend, beating St. Vincent (WI) for their third straight victory. Theyre also creeping near the top of the Central Suburban South conference. Akeem Springs, Jordan Johnson, and Jerome Davis are a few of the difference-makers for Waukegan. Evanston also needs this game to stay in the upper half of the CSS. Seniors Josh Irving and Leonard Garron will try to keep the Dog Pound quiet Friday night.

Seton Academy (16-3) @ Brother Rice (11-7), 7:30pm

If the Crusaders have one thing on their side come Friday, it could be anger. Brother Rice got upset by St. Francis de Sales Tuesday night, but still could gain a share of the conference lead with a win against the Sting. Rice's leader is 6-7 junior Alex Majewski. The Sting, who escaped Marist with a 64-62 win on Tuesday, will have to limit Majewski if they want to stay undefeated in the Catholic South. Forward Russell Robinson and guard Jordan Foster are two of their main weapons.

Mount Carmel (5-12) @ St. Laurence (3-16), 7:30pm

Its been a tough season for these two tenants of the Catholic South, but a little history could be made for one of the teams: Mount Carmels head coach Mike Flaherty will be going for his 700th career win. Flaherty is crediting for recharging the Thornridge basketball program in the 80s. He coached the Falcons for 21 seasons. On this years Caravan squad, his leader is standout guard Alex Austin. Jim Schick is one of the go-to guys for the Vikings.

Pending Thursdays result

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Well take a look at the Whitney Young girls basketball team, who has won 100 consecutive home games. The Dolphins, CSNs Muscle Milk Team of the Week, features two D-1 standouts and a deep roster that could make another state title run. Well also visit a former Homewood-Flossmoor star in our Flashback segment, and youll get caught up on the top-ranked Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

Bears OTA's: Observations from the first all-team practices

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Bears OTA's: Observations from the first all-team practices

The sessions are not mandatory, meaning that Alshon Jeffery’s continued absence from Halas Hall is simply disappointing for the Bears and not yet quite in the realm of Martellus Bennett’s pointed stay-away’s last year.

But as the Bears continue through their allowed quota of organized team activities (OTA’s) this week and through mid-June minicamp, it is evident already that a handful of aspects are different in 2016 from one year ago at this time.

One is a sense of urgency, a practice-speed tempo surprising for this time of year but emblematic of changes within the roster and coaching staff from even the end of last season. Coaches were driving the intensity and competitions, if not technically permitted under collective-bargaining rules, were very much in evidence, unusual for a hot day in May.

The offense is under Dowell Loggains, promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator with the exit of Adam Gase to coach the Miami Dolphins. That is involving an element of re-orientation even within an are still grounded in the same philosophies. Position changes are afoot and even with veterans, there is a learning curve that coaches and players are fast-tracking.

“It’s become clear the last few days it’s a lot different when you’re lined up in the spring and there are trash cans across from you, and then when you’ve got these big, fast D-linemen across from you,” said Kyle Long, doing his own orientation back inside from right tackle to right guard. “There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve. We’ve got to gel. You talk to a lot of guys who have been on good teams before and they’ve said, ‘We didn’t really gel until the end of training camp,’ or ‘it took us until training camp.’ So there’s going to be some time to get some of the rust off from a technical standpoint, from a live football standpoint, but I think we’ll be all right.”

Besides Jeffery, linebacker Pernell McPhee was at Halas Hall but not practicing following offseason knee surgery. Defensive lineman Will Sutton was not practicing, but fellow D-lineman Ego Ferguson was practicing after an aggressive rehab program following season-ending knee surgery of his own.

Without Jeffery, Kevin White was No. 1 through the lines for individual reps, and a scramble is developing down the wideout depth chart with rookie speed blurs Daniel Braverman (seventh-round draft choice) and Kieren Duncan (tryout player who earned a roster look with repeated highlight plays in rookie minicamp) getting looks in a group that includes nickel receiver Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani and Marquess Wilson, all with NFL experience but few anywhere close to roster locks.

“The effect [of no Jeffery] is that someone else is getting an opportunity to get some reps and that’s a good thing,” Loggains said during rookie sessions. “We all wish Alshon was here. We’re in constant communication with him. He knows how we feel about the situation and him. But it is an opportunity for some of these different receivers that we like to get opportunities and we’ll find out more about them.”

Adam Eaton's defense has forced White Sox to change plans for Avisail Garcia

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Adam Eaton's defense has forced White Sox to change plans for Avisail Garcia

Adam Eaton’s outstanding defensive play in right field has altered the team’s original plans to give Avisail Garcia some playing time there.

Through 47 games, Eaton has played at a Gold Glove-level for the White Sox. He leads all major league defenders with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), according to fangraphs.com, which has made it impossible to play Garcia in the field. That has White Sox manager Robin Ventura considering other ways to get Garcia on the field, including taking fly balls in left.

“The emergence of Adam out in right field has made it different,” Ventura said. “It’s a different spot for (Garcia). Eventually he’ll be back out there, but right now, what works for us is Adam in right field.”

“Adam has been above and beyond what we really thought he would be in right field.”

Garcia, 24, has nearly been relegated to full-time duty as the team’s designated hitter in 2016. He has a total of 16 innings played in the outfield.

Last year, Garcia started 129 games in the outfield. But his collective struggles — Garcia produced minus-11 DRS in 2015 — with Eaton’s forced the White Sox to look for a defensive-minded center fielder this offseason. Whereas last year the White Sox outfield was 26th of 30 with minus-22 DRS, this season they’re fifth overall at 7 DRS with Austin Jackson patrolling center.

The team’s defense has been a critical part to the club’s early success, which makes it nearly impossible for Eaton to sit. Garcia could see time in right field on days when Eaton needs to rest. But he’s more likely to force Melky Cabrera to the bench for a day or two and has worked to prepare for such an occasion.

“He’s getting some fly balls out there,” Ventura said. “That’s probably going to be really the rotation starts coming in for him to be able to get out there and get on the field. Or if something comes up with Adam or we want to DH. I even thought of that the other night during the DH. Again, Adam feels like he’s good enough to keep going.”

Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

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Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

The Bears announced on Wednesday they have signed former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace.

Grace attended Bears rookie minicamp earlier this month as a tryout player. 

Grace appeared in 32 games with the Fighting Irish and notched 78 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Grace was named to the Butkus Award Watch List prior to the 2014 season, but ultimately missed the whole year while recovering from a broken leg he suffered against Arizona State in 2013.

Following the 2015 season Grace expressed interest in applying for a sixth year waiver from the NCAA, but didn't fit the league's requirements, as CSNChicago.com Notre Dame Insider JJ Stankevitz highlighted.

To make room for Grace on the 90-man roster the Bears waived linebacker Danny Mason.

Mason spent parts of the 2015 season on both the Bears and Denver Broncos practice squads, but never appeared in a regular season game.