Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac is in an enviable position that few high school athletes ever have the privilege to experience. As the top-rated running back in the nation in the class of 2013, he is being recruited by arguably the three most storied college football programs of all time.Notre Dame, Michigan and Southern California.That's like walking into an automobile dealership and trying to choose between a Ferrari, Bentley or Rolls-Royce.Isaac isn't in a hurry to make a decision."I have no timetable," he said. "I will wait until it feels right. It could be tomorrow or Feb. 2 when I get a gut feeling, when the light bulb goes on. I haven't narrowed my list. Sometimes circumstances change. I don't want to rule out anyone. It's still early. It's April. I have until February."When he visited Notre Dame, he was struck by "all the stuff, the great intangibles, campus, nothing off the charts positive or negative. You go into the football building and see all the Heismans, national championship trophies, pictures of past All-Americans, Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian. It's a good place, a little different from anywhere else because it's Notre Dame."At Michigan, he was overwhelmed by the size of the football stadium and "the type of people, good people, big tradition." He has been to Michigan Stadium three or four times. "It's as big as they say, bigger than anyplace else. When you get in there, you know why they call it the Big House," he said.USC wasn't what he expected. "I expected maybe more white collar than blue collar but I got the opposite. I got a lot of high-profile guys, Los Angeles, a lot of Heismans and national championship trophies and retired jerseys. I said: 'I wish you guys could retire my jersey. Who has my number on the team? Will they be here when I get here?' But my number, 32, already is retired at USC. O.J. Simpson wore it," he said.Isaac also has visited Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Auburn. He said he probably will choose one of the seven. But he won't make any promises."I took unofficial visits in March, when it worked out for my parents," he said. "Now my visits are out of the way. Nothing else is planned now. To be honest, I don't know if I will visit any more schools. Some have asked me to visit. But if I don't have any interest, I don't want to waste either side's time. If the schools I have visited, I'd be perfectly fine to go to either one of them."However, he is sure of one thing at the moment. "I'm not a fan of the recruiting process at all. When I started, like everybody, I was excited. After you get the first couple of offers, you know you will have an opportunity to play at the next level. But now it gets overwhelming. It feels like it never stops," he said.So while many prospects were making unofficial visits during their recent spring breaks, Isaac stayed home. At last count, he has 23 scholarship offers. He can expect more. But he doesn't plan to make any more visits. He has no dream school. Unless he is really interested in a school, he said, he'd rather be at home."I want to make an educated decision," he said. "If I decide now, it would be a good choice. I want to be sure it is absolutely right. I feel I asked the right questions and got the answers I wanted. Sometimes people just tell you want you want to hear. Maybe it works for some. But I want to hear the truth. In general, I'm not a fan of the whole process."Isaac, rated as the No. 8 player in the nation by Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, is more interested in preparing for his senior season. He is working out a lot. He dropped baseball to concentrate on football. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder is putting on more muscle while retaining his 4.5 speed."This year is the most focused I have been for a season," he said. "I never felt like this about something going into it. I'm sitting where I want to be. I'm happy where I am. I just want to be stronger for the season. I'm not worried about getting beat up. I'm trying to take steps to get ready for the next level."His goals for 2012? Joliet Catholic's 70-45 loss to Montini in last year's Class 5A championship still leaves a sour taste in his mouth, despite the fact that he set a playoff record by rushing for 515 yards and six touchdowns. Afterward, Isaac said his sensational performance was "irrelevant" in the wake of the defeat."How disappointing was the finish? It sucked," he said. "Good things came from the game but not what I wanted. Everyone wanted to have something to show for that game rather than a second-place medal. But I feel great as a team and as an individual about the upcoming season."Isaac wants to do better than last year. Better than rushing 178 times for 2,114 yards, averaging 11.9 yards per carry and scoring 45 touchdowns? Better than that? Without 1,000-yards-plus rusher Malin Jones, who is now at Northwestern, in the same backfield? With a huge target on his back?"Ever since I was a freshman, my goal has been to be more productive than the year before," he said. "I will see how much better I got during the off-season. I know I will be a marked man. But that's the way I want it. I am confident with the guys I have in front of me."I have no problem being a prime target because I know others will make plays. I feel I have more of an edge, being able to use my vision and see things before they happen. There won't be a dropoff in carries. I will get the ball as much as last year. I handled it well. Nothing bothered me. I will be prepared for whatever for whatever I have to do."
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."