Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

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Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

Johnny "Red" Kerr didn't earn All-State recognition while playing at Tilden. And Jack Sikma, from tiny St. Anne near Kankakee, was the first small-school player in Illinois to take advantage of the newly adopted two-class system and make a big reputation for himself.

They are two of the 25 male and female players who will be inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville. As members of the second class of honorees, they will be recognized at the annual banquet on Nov. 3 in Champaign.

Kerr's first passion was soccer but an eight-inch growth spurt compelled him to turn his attention to basketball. At Tilden, he led coach Bill Postl's team to Chicago Public League championships in 1949 and 1950.

He starred on Tilden's 1949 team that finished 20-9 and lost to John Biever and West Aurora 34-33 in the state quarterfinals. But he was a mid-year graduate in 1950 and wasn't on the tournament roster for the 27-5 team that lost to Elgin 59-50 in the state quarterfinals.

Later, the 6-foot-9 center scored 1,299 points in three years at Illinois, helping the Illini to the Big 10 championship and the NCAA's Final Four in 1952. He was elected to Illinois' All-Century Team in 2004.

In 1954, Kerr was chosen by the Syracuse Nationals as the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft. As a rookie, he averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as the Nationals won the NBA championship. He had over 12,000 points and over 10,000 rebounds in his career and held the NBA record for most consecutive games played (844) until 1983.

He retired from competition after the 1965-66 season to become the first head coach of the new Chicago Bulls franchise. Later, he became a popular color commentator on the Bulls'television broadcasts, overseeing the Bulls' six NBA titles in the 1990s. He died in 2009.

Sikma was the Chicago Daily News' Class A Player of the Year in 1973, leading St. Anne to a 30-3 record and fourth place in the Class A tournament. He was the second-leading scorer with 100 points and 73 rebounds in the final four games.

The 6-foot-11 center went on to become the leading scorer and rebounder ever to play at Illinois Wesleyan, then was chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics as the eighth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie team, was a seven-time all-star and helped Seattle to win the NBA title in 1978-79. In his career, he scored over 17,000 points and grabbed nearly 11,000 rebounds.

One of the most accurate shooting big men in NBA history -- he led the league in free throw percentage (92.2) in 1987-88 and averaged 84.9 for his career -- Sikma had his No. 43 jersey retired by Seattle in 1992. He currently is an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA.

Kerr is one of 10 inductees from the pre-1960s era. The others are Bumpy Nixon, Galesburg; Rich Falk, Galva; Lynch Conway, Peoria Central; Joe Ruklick, Princeton; Rod Fletcher, Champaign; Jake Fendlay, South Shore; Homer Thurman, Bloom; Bob Owens, Paris; and Tom Cole, Springfield.

Sikma is one of 10 inductees from the post-1960s era. The others are Lloyd Batts, Thornton; Joey Range, Galesburg; Darius Miles, East St. Louis; Michael Payne, Quincy; Steve Kuberski, Moline; Russell Cross, Manley; Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young; Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual; and Greg Starrick, Marion.

The five women are Cappie Pondexter and Marie Christian, Marshall; Diana Vines, South Shore; Natasha Pointer, Whitney Young; and Alicia Ratay, Lake Zurich.

Legendary Galesburg coach John Thiel once described Lawrence "Bumpy" Nixon as "the best player ever to grace the halls of Galesburg High School." As a junior, he led Quincy to the Sweet Sixteen. As a senior at Galesburg, he led his team to a 29-2 record and third place in the state tournament.

Falk was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A guard at Galva, he averaged 29.8 points per game as a senior. He scored over 2,000 points in his career. He ranks second in state history for scoring more than 50 points in five games with a high of 57. Later, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection at Northwestern and was head coach at his alma mater from 1978 to 1989. In 2009, he retired as associate commissioner of the Big 10.

Conway was the leader of the Peoria Central team that won the first state championship in 1908. He scored 22 points in the state final and his mark of 11 field goals stood for 42 years. He also was the first African-American to play on Bradley University's basketball team.

Ruklick, a 6-foot-9 center, led Princeton to fourth place in the 1955 state tournament and finished as the leading scorer with 104 points in four games. He later was a standout at Northwestern. But he is best remembered as the Philadelphia 76er who passed the ball to Wilt Chamberlain for his 100th point, most ever scored in an NBA game.

Fletcher started on Champaign's 38-1 state championship team in 1946 and its 38-4 state runner-up in 1947. As a senior in 1948, he was named to the All-State team while playing for a 13-15 team that reached the Sweet Sixteen. At Illinois, the 6-foot-4 guard was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior. He led Illinois to two Big 10 titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances.

Fendley was a two-time All-Stater at Chicago South Shore in 1946 and 1947. He played on South Shore's 1944 team that finished third in the state tournament. The 6-foot-1 guard was his team's leading scorer and an all-tournament selection on the 24-3 team that lost to state champion Paris in the 1947 quarterfinals.

In the 1950s, when Bloom Township of Chicago Heights was the dominant high school sports program in Illinois, Thurman emerged as one of the best all-around athletes in state history. He was an All-Stater in basketball in 1959. As a sophomore, he started on a 22-2 team that lost in the Sweet Sixteen. He also excelled in football and track and field.

Owens was a two-time All-Stater at Paris in 1946 and 1947. In the 1940s, when Paris was one of the most dominant programs in the state, Owens was the standard-bearer. The 6-foot-2 center was the leading scorer in the 1947 tournament while leading Paris to a 40-2 record and its second state title in the decade. He scored 22 in the state final as Paris crushed Champaign 58-37.

Cole was a two-time All-Stater at Springfield in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, he led the Senators to a 24-9 record and the state quarterfinals. In 1959, he led his 33-1 team to the state championship. The 6-foot-7 center was the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 90 points, including 26 in a 60-52 victory over West Aurora in the state final.

Batts emerged as the all-time leading scorer at one of the state's most storied programs. The 6-foot-5 guardforward was a two-time All-Stater who averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior on teams that won 46 of 57 games. When he graduated from Cincinnati, he ranked behind only Oscar Robertson among the school's all-time leading scorers.

Range and Nixon are generally regarded as the two best players in Galesburg history and two of the leading players in the history of the Western Big 6 Conference. In four years, Range scored 2,390 points and averaged 21 per game. He missed only one of 114 games in his career.

Miles, a 6-foot-9 forward, was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2000. He led East St. Louis to a 24-6 record and the state quarterfinals in 1999 and to a 21-11 record and third place in the Class AA tournament in 2000. Afterward, he opted to go directly into the NBA draft and was the third player chosen, highest for a high school graduate up to that point.

Payne, a 6-foot-11 center, joined with guard Bruce Douglas, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural class, to form one of the greatest teams in state history. Payne averaged 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds and intimidated opponents at the top of the ball-press defense as Quincy went 33-0 in 1980-81. A McDonald's All-American, he later played at Iowa.

Kuberski graduated as the highest scoring player in the history of Quad-Cities basketball. As a junior, he averaged 30 points per game. As a senior, he averaged 27.7 points for a 25-3 team that lost to Chicago Marshall 75-72 in the state quarterfinals. He scored 50 points in one game.

Cross was a high school version of Bill Russell. The 6-foot-10 center put Chicago's Manley High School on the map by leading the Wildcats to a 28-3 record and the state quarterfinals in 1979. He was the state's most dominant player in 1980, leading Manley to a 31-1 record and the state championship. At Purdue, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection.

Richardson was the leader of Whitney Young's 1998 state championship team, one of the best teams in state history. The 6-foot-6 guard played only two years at DePaul but is the only player in school history to score over 1,000 points, grab over 500 rebounds and convert more than 100 three-point shots. He was the 18th pick in the 2000 NBA draft.

All you need to know about Sergio McClain is one statistic: 32-0. In four years, McClain led Peoria Manual to a 32-0 record and an unprecedented four championships in state tournament play. Recognized as a consummate floor leader and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 1997, he was selected as one of the 100 legends of Illinois high school basketball in 2007.

Starrick was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A 6-foot-2 guard at Marion, he averaged 30.3 points per game as a junior and 33.5 points as a senior. He set South Seven Conference records with 70 points in one game and 511 points or 36.5 points per game in conference play in 1966-67--all in an era before the three-point line.

Pondexter was Illinois' Player of the Year in 2001. As a sophomore in 1999, she led Marshall to the state championship. At Rutgers, she scored over 2,000 points, was Player of the Year and led her team to the NCAA tournament four times. She was voted one of the top 15 players in the 15-year history of the WNBA.

Christian was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1983. She led Marshall to the biggest upset in the history of the girls' state tournament, beating East St. Louis Lincoln with Tina Hutchinson and Toni Wallace 72-71 in overtime in the 1983 quarterfinals.

Vines was an All-Stater in 1985. She led South Shore to three straight Final Four appearances in the Public League playoff. She was the first city player to score more than 2,000 points. Later, she was a four-year starter at DePaul and until recently was the all-time leading scorer in the program.

Pointer was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1995. She led Whitney Young to a 25-4 record and the state quarterfinals in 1995. In one game, she scored 56 points. She ranks with Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, as the best players in school history.

Ratay ranks No. 13 on the state's all-time scoring list with 2,740 points in 1995-99. At Lake Zurich, she was recognized as the best three-point shooter in state history and also played on a National AAU championship team. She led Notre Dame to an NCAA title and was the nation's leading three-point shooter.

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Holding onto leads at home has not been a strong suit for the Fire this season.

Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy was the fifth time this season the Fire have been unable to get a win at home in a match they led. In four of those, including Wednesday, the Fire had leads in the second half.

In the previous cases, the Fire dropped deep defensively and tried to simply hold onto the lead or hope David Accam could score on a one-man counter.

“I think once we’re up in the result I think we have to make sure that we kill the game off because there’s been too many times where it’s that 1-0 or that 2-1 and we’re kind of holding there and the next thing you know they’re tying the game at the end of the game,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “We got to keep pushing for that third goal to make sure that we kill things off.”

The game against LA was different. The Fire had multiple quality chances to score a third goal and take a two-goal lead. One opportunity featuring Accam, Luis Solignac and an open net seemed like a sure goal as it was developing.

However, the Fire didn’t find that two-goal lead and LA managed to come back.

“I think we created a lot of chances,” Alvarez said. “We went up 2-1 and unfortunately that third goal didn’t want to go in at the right time and then LA got that bounce.”

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Even though the result didn’t show it, the Fire may have actually turned a corner in terms of how to play with a lead. In the win at Montreal on Saturday, the Fire scored that extra goal to take a two-goal lead, something the team hadn’t done all season in an MLS game.

Against the Galaxy, the Fire actually had more possession in the second half (56 percent) than the first half (46 percent). LA’s only shot on goal in the second half was the tying goal while the Fire put three shots on target in the second 45 minutes.

The Fire did fail to close out another match at home that they had a lead in, but the way it happened was different and maybe that’s a positive sign going forward.

“I think it’s starts from the offense,” Accam said. “If we could have scored then we could have killed the game. The defense did really well. We just need to keep finishing chances and then opponents won’t have the chance to attack us.

“I think we played one of the best games we played this season, but we need to take our chances and today I would say we are disappointed that we dropped two points at home. For me also we created so many chances that on another day we could have taken it. It’s kind of a mixed feeling for me.”

Hunter Jr., McGlinchey, Onwualu, Rochell ready to lead Notre Dame as captains

Hunter Jr., McGlinchey, Onwualu, Rochell ready to lead Notre Dame as captains

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As Notre Dame breaks up the scar tissue from a weekend that saw six players be arrested, it named four players to an official leadership role.

Coach Brian Kelly announced four captains following practice on Wednesday: Redshirt junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., redshirt junior offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, linebacker James Onwualu and defensive end Isaac Rochell. 

“I can't think of a higher honor that I've received in my life,” Rochell said. 

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Those players, plus a group of other upperclassmen that includes quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, will be counted on to lead the Irish through the fall. Those players all saw the importance of leadership last year, when Notre Dame — complete with an avalanche of leaders headlined by five team captains — was able to navigate an unprecedented string of injuries to a 10-win season and berth in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Each of these guys learned from captains and/or leaders at their position in 2015. For Hunter, that was Chris Brown. McGlinchey learned from the Martins, Nick and Zack, who combined to spend four years as Irish captains. 

“We’re going to be okay without the Martins,” McGlinchey smiled, “though it does stink without them.”

On defense, Rochell picked up plenty from Sheldon Day, a two-time captain himself who was one of the more vocal leaders on the Irish last fall. And Onwualu started alongside Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt for two consecutive years, with both of those players earning captaincies in 2015.

Onwualu is also the answer to a good trivia question, given he has the most starts at wide receiver (four) of any current Irish player. 

“I’ve been trying to convince (Kelly) to let me go back,” Onwualu quipped. “I want a couple more catches.” 

Notre Dame probably doesn’t have the leadership depth it did in 2015 or 2012, when rosters stocked with a good mix of vocal and lead-by-example players powered the two best seasons in the Kelly era. But all these captains are in Year 4 in the program and said they’re excited for the challenge ahead of them. 

“I’m definitely honored and blessed to be in this position,” Hunter said. 

Here’s what Kelly had to say about each player:

On Rochell: “He’s really taken over that room from Sheldon Day. Been the leader, there’s a lot of young players in that room, he’s been a great mentor. I love the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis. Really loves Notre Dame, understands Notre Dame and is a great, great ambassador for our football program.”

On Onwualu: “Here’s a guy that has made himself into a great player for us. Started at the wide receiver position, is well-respected by all of his peers, one of our hardest workers and now has put himself in the position to lead our football team.”

On Hunter: “A guy that walks the walk and talks the talk and backs it up both on and off the field and will be a great mentor to a lot of young receivers.”

On McGlinchey: “A guy that is not afraid to speak up, speak his mind. He’s done a great job of really growing into his leadership role.” 

Notre Dame notes: No QB starter yet, McGovern wins right guard battle

Notre Dame notes: No QB starter yet, McGovern wins right guard battle

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly doesn’t have an answer to the question that’s been on everyone’s minds, at least until it was momentarily shoved out of the spotlight by the six Irish players arrested last weekend

Kelly said Wednesday he hasn’t decided who will start at quarterback against Texas between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer, though what matters more is how the seventh-year Notre Dame coach uses each player at Darrell K. Royal Stadium Sept. 4. 

It’s been eight days since Kelly informed Kizer and Zaire they both would play against Texas, and while there was initial frustration on the part of each quarterback, Kelly said he’s seen both players warm up to the idea of splitting time in Austin. 

“Since that decision, they really have embraced knowing that both of them will play and they both have to be ready,” Kelly said. “I think what I’ve seen more than anything else is a sharpness in their practice and in particular in their preparation. They know they’re both going to play. They’ve been really sharp.”

[MORE: Notre Dame announces four captains for 2016 season]

More notes from Notre Dame’s last media availability before game week:

— Kelly said both Kizer and Zaire were under consideration to be named captains. “I’m certain that they would have made very good captains,” Kelly said. But Kelly hasn’t named a quarterback a captain while at Notre Dame, though he’s only had one good candidate (Tommy Rees in 2013) before Kizer and Zaire. Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., left tackle Mike McGlinchey, defensive end Isaac Rochell and linebacker James Onwualu were all named captains on Wednesday. 

— Redshirt junior Colin McGovern will start over redshirt freshman Tristen Hoge at right guard against Texas, Kelly said. McGlinchey offered an assessment of McGovern, who will make his first career start in Austin: “Colin came into camp ready to play and he was on his assignments, he was kicking some ass, and that’s all it’s about for offensive linemen. He was a sound football player this camp. And it’s really exciting to see Colin step up and get ready to play. He’s very capable of doing the job, a very talented kid, ready to work and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s going to do great things for us this year.”

— Redshirt sophomore defensive end Jay Hayes (ankle) practiced on Wednesday and should be ready to play against Texas provided he’s 100 percent healthy by the weekend, Kelly said. 

— Sophomore running back Josh Adams is back at practice after missing a good chunk of August with a hamstring injury. Running backs were hit in practice on Wednesday and Kelly was pleased with what he saw: “This was the first day where he looked like Josh Adams.” 

— Redshirt freshman receiver Chris Finke, who was elevated from walk-on status and earned a scholarship on Monday, is solidly the No. 2 option behind sophomore C.J. Sanders at slot receiver. Finke held off redshirt sophomore Corey Holmes for backup duties (though Holmes can be moved around to other receiver positions), as the 5-foot-9, 180 pound Kettering, Ohio native “won us over with his consistent play,” Kelly said.