High School Lites preview: Suburban schools square off

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High School Lites preview: Suburban schools square off

With the bulk of Chicago teams on hiatus until the start of the Public League playoffs start next week, its time to showcase some key suburban battles on High School Lites. Our CSN cameras will be all over Chicagoland Friday night. The hottest team in the area might be York high school. Can they win their 12th straight game? Can Minooka get revenge on Plainfield East? And how loud will the fans be at the Illiana Christian-Timothy Christian battle royale? 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

Benet (15-4) @ St. Viator (17-3), 7:30pm

The host Lions are holding onto first place in the East Suburban Catholic conference. Nipping at their heels: Benet. The Redwings no longer have Dave Sobolewski and Frank Kaminsky, but they do have another D-1 prospect in 6-8 sophomore Sean OMara. St. Viator has a talented point guard in D.J. Morris, along with fellow senior supporting cast members of Kevin Walsh and Chris Myjak. Look for a very competitive division battle in Arlington Heights.

FRIDAY GAMES

Rich East (9-11) @ 17 Bloom (18-3), 6:30pm

Lejavious Johnson and Donald Moore are the keys to success for Bloom this season, but players like Johnny Griffin have stepped up to support the Blazing Trojans cause this year. Griffin had 10 points and six rebounds as Bloom drilled Kankakee 77-27 on Tuesday. Rich East played well against Bloom earlier in the year, falling only by nine (59-50). The Rockets, a well-balanced team, have already upset fellow Southland conference mate Rich South.

Minooka (17-6) @ 6 Plainfield East (18-1), 7:00pm

It's been a dream season so far for sixth-ranked Plainfield East, a school that has only been in existence for four years. The Bengals, who are coming off a 64-37 win over Plainfield Central Tuesday night, figure to be tested against Southwest Prairie rival Minooka. The Indians, led by guard Ben Heide, will be looking to avenge a 54-53 loss to East in December. They will match up against a talented group of Bengals, including center Brian Bennett and guard Dee Brown.

Lake Park (15-5) @ Waubonsie Valley (14-7), 7:30pm

The Lancers of Lake Park have been -- very quietly -- creeping into the fabric of upper-tier basketball program conversation in Chicagoland. It makes Fridays game at Waubonsie all the more important. LP, winners of five of six, feature a strong forward in Dominique Spencer. Waubonsie had won eight of nine but currently carry a two-game losing streak. Seniors Jared Brownridge and Demetrius Gray look to carry the load for the Warriors.

Glenbard North (13-4) @ West Aurora (16-3), 7:30pm

Friday is Senior Night at West Aurora, so it figures to be an electric atmosphere. One of those seniors, Jawan Starks, is having an exceptional season. He scored 21 points in Tuesdays 75-40 win over Naperville Central, but twisted his ankle in the second half of that game. He hopes to return Friday against a Glenbard North team featuring high-flying senior forward Josh Fleming. The Blackhawks, who defeated the Panthers 66-52 on December 16th, will look to keep pace with Naperville North in the DuPage Valley.

10 De La Salle (14-3) @ St. Rita (11-8), 7:30pm

If there was a ranking of the top 10 most thrilling games of the 2011-12 season in Chicagland, the St. Rita-De La Salle game on December 2nd have prime real estate on the list. Rita's Tony Hicks scored 31 points as the Mustangs took down the Meteors 66-64 in double overtime in the season opener for both teams. Gavin Schilling and Alex Foster power De La Salle's attack. St. Rita currently has a one game lead over DLS in the Catholic North.

Timothy Christian (11-11) @ Illiana Christian (10-10), 7:30pm

It has been said that classic rivalries are so much better when the two teams are evenly matched. Given the records, what's not to like about Timothy Christian vs. Illiana Christian? The gym in Lansing should be rocking Friday night, as usual. Illiana is coming off a 67-60 win over Fenton. Jon Zandstra is deadly from behind the arc. He had six threes against Fenton. Timothy will respond with junior guard Danny Leach. Timothy beat Illiana in Elmhurst on December 9th.

Buffalo Grove (9-12) @ Rolling Meadows (12-7)

The staff at Rolling Meadows picked a good time to have 'Pack The Place' night. The host Mustangs, first place in the Mid-Suburban East, are balanced top to bottom. Senior guard Brian Nelms is one player that will carry the offense. Buffalo Grove is on a tear. The Bison have won four straight, including Saturday's 49-39 win against Niles West. Guards Luke Potnick and Andrew Apel have contributed nicely this season.

Schaumburg (16-5) @ Fremd (13-8)

A three-way tie atop the Mid-Suburban West could be in the books Friday night if Fremd beats Schaumburg and Barrington beats Palatine. The visiting Saxons, 6-1 in the league, have won seven of their last eight. Forward Christian Spandiary and guard Kyle Bolger. Fremd is coming off a 61-30 walloping of Carmel. Adam Gorecki and Garrett Peters are two of the leaders on the Vikings, who are 5-2 in the MSW.

York (16-7) @ Lyons (8-10)

Kudos to York head coach Tom Kleinschmidt. After his team was pretty much forgotten in December, the former DePaul standout has guided his young Dukes to 11 straight wins. Junior David Cohn, one of the top point guard prospects in the state, has fueled the resurgence. Lyons is also hot, winning six of their last seven. Senior guard Kenneth Smith will lead the Lions into this West Suburban Silver showdown.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Well also take an in-depth look at Plainfield East High School, our Muscle Milk Team of the Week. Amazingly, East has only been in existence for four years and yet they boast a top-10 program. What has been the key to their success? Plus, well feature a former 6-8 Morton Mustang 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. This weeks episode will appear at 11:30pm, just after our Chicago Blackhawks hockey coverage.

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

Let's speculate: Could Les Miles come back to the Big Ten?

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Let's speculate: Could Les Miles come back to the Big Ten?

Les Miles was fired Sunday after 12 seasons as the head coach at LSU.

Miles has an awesome resume: a 114-34 record with 62 SEC wins, plus a national championship in 2007 and another trip to the national title game in 2011. Seven of his 12 seasons ended with double-digit wins, and two of them ended in SEC championships.

So he's sure to be a hot commodity when teams look to fill not-yet-existent head-coaching vacancies this offseason.

As far as we're concerned here in Big Ten Country, though, will a Big Ten program be able to land the Mad Hatter as a high-profile splash?

Miles is a Big Ten product, remember. An Ohio native, he played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and later coached under Schembechler and Gary Moeller as a Michigan assistant from 1987 to 1994. He has familiarity with the conference and the recruiting grounds.

It's all pure speculation right now, as it's quite possible there will be no openings in the conference when the regular season wraps in late November. But if we were to project which Big Ten programs might be looking for new coaches this offseason, could we find a spot for Miles?

The obvious team that might be parting ways with its current head coach is Purdue. Darrell Hazell has had almost no success running the Boilermakers, currently with a 8-31 record in three-plus seasons and a grotesque 2-22 mark in Big Ten play. That's usually enough for a tenure to come to an end, but is it too much losing to keep Purdue from being an attractive choice for the free agent Miles? Certainly we've seen high-profile coaches take jobs at less-than-power programs before, particularly after wearing out their welcome at their previous spot of employment. Lovie Smith just surprised by taking a job at Illinois after a long career as an NFL head coach. Perhaps Purdue can use similar tactics — new athletics director Mike Bobinski just started his tenure and would surely like to make a splash — and of course there's all that Big Ten TV money that should make competitive pay no problem at all.

But there will more than likely be other suitors from bigger programs and ones with more storied traditions. Could one of them be Penn State? James Franklin is only in Year 3 in Happy Valley, but the Valley isn't so happy at the moment, with the Nittany Lions getting crushed by Michigan on Saturday to show just how big the gap currently is between the top of the Big Ten East Division and Penn State. Bill O'Brien worked wonders in the immediate years after the Jerry Sandusky scandal had such a big effect on the program, but Franklin's continued reclamation effort isn't going too swimmingly in that ultra-competitive division with 7-6 records in each of his first two campaigns. There's certainly a case to be made for giving Franklin more time, but college football fans (and athletics departments) aren't famous for their patience. The tradition and profile of Penn State would have to be attractive to Miles, who dealt with a high-profile environment at LSU, and if the university is real serious about getting the Lions back to the top of college football's heap, bringing in Miles — and his track record of recruiting success — would do it, at the very least from a public-relations standpoint.

And then there's the obligatory mention of Michigan. Michigan? Jim Harbaugh is just in the second year of his tenure and seemingly has a lifelong title set up as the King of Ann Arbor. But should Harbaugh, who's had great success turning the Wolverines around in lightning-quick fashion, head back to the NFL, that would create an opening. Who better to fill that hypothetical vacancy than another Michigan Man in Miles? Miles has had his name linked to Michigan before, of course, with the obvious connection sparking speculation when the Wolverines needed to find replacements for Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. There's no indication Harbaugh's going anywhere, of course — we're in speculation land, remember? — but because it's Miles, the possibility has to be at least addressed.

It's all a guessing game at this point, and there are sure to be other high-profile openings around college football that will become speculative destinations for Miles, not to mention other job titles that aren't "head coach." But it'd be something to see him join the Big Ten's already-loaded roster of head coaches.

White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

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White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

CLEVELAND -- Whether they knew him or not, the overwhelming sentiment throughout the White Sox clubhouse on Sunday is that baseball was robbed of one of its most likeable players when Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident.

Known for his vivid celebrations on the field and his wide, endless smile, Fernandez made a strong impression, whether with his skillset or infinite love of the game. White Sox players had their eyes fixed on several televisions littered throughout the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field on Sunday during a morning press conference confirming the death of Fernandez, 24, and two others.

White Sox reliever Dan Jennings played with Fernandez for two seasons. Though he enjoyed a 3-0 White Sox win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Jennings said his happiness was muted as he mulled the death of Fernandez, who was killed when the boat he was on slammed into a jetty in Miami Beach, Fla.

“He seemed invincible is what it was,” Jennings said. “A lot of guys know what I mean when I say he was invincible on the mound. There were days he was unstoppable, and that’s how you viewed him is invincible. It’s too hard to really put into words what he meant to the game and what he meant to Miami.”

“I just hope to love the game as much as he does some day. It’s tough to do, but he did. He had fun, and he loved the game more than anything.”

Todd Frazier remembers how approachable he found Fernandez in their limited interactions. The two met in the outfield one day after they faced each other for the first time and joked around.

“I was like, ‘Dog, you don’t throw me any fastballs,’ ” Frazier said. “He was like, “Why would I throw you fastballs?’ And we just started laughing.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. You could come up and talk to him. He had an infectious smile and just had a love for the game that I hope every ballplayer could have. It’s a terrible, terrible day.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Fernandez’s death reminded him of the March 22, 1993 accident that took the lives of Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Only pitcher Bob Ojeda survived that crash and Ventura remembers the shockwaves it sent through clubhouses throughout baseball.

“I can still remember … just how sad that was,” Ventura said. “You don’t have to know them personally. But they’re within their group, and it breaks everybody up. It really does.”

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon didn’t have a chance to meet Fernandez, a pitcher he admired for his competitive style and bulldog mentality. But another reason Rodon looked up to Fernandez is for the way he seemed to play the game with such joy. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a press conference Sunday that Fernandez enjoyed the game like a Little Leaguer does.

Rodon recently spoke about rediscovering his own joy of baseball. Naturally, Rodon’s thoughts drifted toward Fernandez when he took the mound on Sunday.

“You could tell,” Rodon said. “We had a beautiful day to come out and play and sad to say that one person is never going to get to play again. He’ll be very missed. You can’t take these days for granted. Just hope you guys go home today and tell the people you love, you love them. Losing a person like that is hard.”