McDonald's won't return in 2013


McDonald's won't return in 2013

Chicagoans who are looking forward to seeing Simeon's Jabari Parker participate in the annual McDonald's All-America basketball game in 2013 will be disappointed.

The game, which was held at the United Center last year and will be held in the same venue on March 28, won't return in 2013.

There aren't any Chicago products in this year's McDonald's boys game, one of the few times in the history of the selections that Illinois has failed to be represented.

However, there will be three local representatives in the girls game -- Connecticut-bound Morgan Tuck of Bolingbrook, Kentucky-bound Janee Thompson of Whitney Young and Notre Dame-bound Jewell Loyd of Nlles West.

And the Chicago area will be represented on the sideline with coaches Tanya Johnson of Zion-Benton, who will guide the girls West team, and Gordon Kerkman of West Aurora, who will direct the boys West team.

Both are well-qualified. Johnson coached Loyola to state championships in 1997 and 1998. Kerkman has won more than 725 games in his career, including a state title in 2000.

The nation's top-rated seniors will be on display, too. The girls are led by Breanna Stewart of Cicero, N.Y., who is committed to Connecticut, while the boys are led by Shabazz Muhammad of Las Vegas, Nevada, who is uncommitted.

But next year? The class of 2013 in Illinois is one of the best ever produced. Parker, arguably the No. 1 player in the nation regardless of class, could be accompanied by Belleville East's Malcolm Hill or Morgan Park's Billy Garrett Jr. or Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton or Kendrick Nunn, Parker's teammate at Simeon. Hill is committed to Illinois.

Illinois' only chance to land a spot on the McDonald's All-America 24-member team fell far short this year. Simeon's Steve Taylor ranks No. 52.

"Taylor is a talented player but not a McDonald's All-American," said longtime recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports, who is a member of the selection committee. "This year was a down year for talent. But next year is a different matter."

This marks the first time in the 35-year history of the McDonald's game that the same city will host in back-to-back years. Chicago was chosen to host for the second year in a row because the game drew a record crowd of 23,000 to the United Center last year. And McDonald's headquarters is based in the Chicago area. But it won't three-peat in 2013.

Gibbons has questioned the politics of the selection process for the McDonald's All-America game for many years. "The selection process is flawed. There are too many people on the committee. Some people don't see all the players," he said.

The selection process consumes six weeks, from an original list of 100 candidates to 50 to 40, then the final 24.

The selection committee, which also includes longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman of, usually picks about 22 of the players. Then Morgan Wootten, head of the selection committee, and the McDonald's sponsors or game administrators, including founder Bob Geoghan, have some leeway to choose one or two players based on position or local interest. But they normally rank among the top 30-40 players.

"Some changes have been made to help the game but most have been to appease friends or coaches or to help ticket sales," one committee member said. "That's how occasionally a player rated in the 50 to 75 range is selected."

At a recent meeting, the conversation got heated at times when some members of the selection committee pointed to problems with the process and the fact that too many people on the committee don't see all of the players, thus skewing the voting.

In fact, the issues among committee members became so heated among certain factions that Wootten announced he was going to resign, then was talked into remaining as head of the committee.

I remember my first trip to cover a national high school all-star basketball game in 1978. It was the fifth McDonald's Capital Classic in Landover, Maryland, the prelude to the first McDonald's All-America Game, and Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre had been selected as one of 12 players from across the country to participate in the elite event.

The players, McDonald's officials and the media were housed in a Sheraton hotel near the Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland. The team worked out at nearby DeMatha High School, the nationally recognized program directed by legendary coach Morgan Wootten, head of the McDonald's selection committee.

Recruiting wasn't as ballyhooed in those days and the Internet hadn't been invented yet. But there was Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, one of the smoothest operators in the business, holding court in Room 330. The players were housed on the ninth floor. Driesell lived only 10 minutes from the hotel.

Driesell, who built a reputation by recruiting Moses Malone, Tom McMillan and Albert King, passed up the NCAA finals in St. Louis to attend the McDonald's event.

But he wasn't the only coach who was walking the halls or camping out in the lobby, hoping to be noticed by the player they happened to be recruiting. DePaul assistant Joey Meyer was there, too. So were Kentucky's Joe B. Hall, Michigan's Johnny Orr, Colorado's Terry Truax, Marquette's Hank Raymonds, Louisville's Denny Crum and Michigan State's Jud Heathcote.

Meyer and Truax were zeroing in on Aguirre. It was only a few days before the national signing date and everybody was making their last pitch to impress the recruits. Truax met Aguirre's plane at the airport. But Meyer, confident that DePaul had an edge all along, kept a low profile.

Recruiting hasn't changed over the last 30 years.

"This is the most distasteful time of the season," Truax said. "Honestly, I'd rather be somewhere I could do more good. But you have to show up. A kid knows if you're there and he knows if you're not there. And you have to keep doing your homework because some schools with the big reputations and the pizzazz might come in at the last minute and steal a kid from you."

"You've got to baby-sit," Meyer said. "Recruiting is like playing a game. You measure your success by wins and losses. You spend so much time on a kid. If you lose him, it's the same kind of disappointment that you feel if you lose in overtime. You always second-guess yourself, wondering if you made a mistake, if you should have come in sooner or done something different."

The object of most of the recruiters' attention was guard Dwight Anderson. He was so good that he played in Sonny Vaccaro's Dapper Dan all-star game in Pittsburgh on Friday night, then was flown in a private plane to Washington D.C. for the Capitol Classic the next night.

Anderson wanted to go to Kentucky. Coach Joe B. Hall was in his shadow wherever he went. He played for two years at Kentucky, then transferred to USC. He was selected in the first round of the NBA draft but played for only one season.

Wootten said Aguirre reminded him of one of his former stars, Adrian Dantley...big hands, big legs, such big shoulders, so strong. As it turned out, Aguirre was the only one of the 12 who went on to have a significant career in college and the NBA.

"He's awesome," Washington State coach George Raveling said. "I think a lot of people overlooked him. And they regret it now."

The coach of one of the other players said: "Aguirre is the best player here. Nobody on the floor is more intense than he is. He's so big and strong. Nobody can handle him."

Remember the others? Dwight Anderson, Cornelius Thompson, Clarence Tillman, Carlton "Scooter" McCray, Leonel Marquetti, Jerry Eaves, Rudy Woods, Guy Morgan, Vince Taylor, Tony Guy, Devin Durrant.

Aguirre, who scored 17 points for the winning West team in the 1978 McDonald's All-America Game at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, wasn't named one of the 35 greatest McDonald's All-Americans. But four other Chicago area products were--St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas, Proviso East's Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Farragut's Kevin Garnett and Simeon's Derrick Rose.

King's Efrem Winters was MVP of the 1982 game at Rosemont, the only other time the event was held in the Chicago area. Garnett was MVP of the
1995 game in St. Louis. And Thornwood's Eddy Curry was MVP of the 2001 game at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.

That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.     

Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.

By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.

It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)

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This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.

“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.

“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”

Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.

Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.

Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.

But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.

“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.

“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller added another impressive chapter to an already legendary postseason performance on Tuesday night.

The Cleveland Indians reliever pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve a three-run lead and help his team achieve a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field.

Despite putting four men on base, Miller added two more scoreless innings to his 2016 playoff résumé. Miller also struck out more three batters, giving him 24 in 13 2/3 innings this postseason, the second most by any reliever in playoff history. Critical to the effort was the strikeout of Cubs veteran David Ross with a checked swing on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.

“You’re just trying to see the ball as long as you can and stay up the middle,” Ross said. “The 3-1, that’s the one that kinda messed me up. It didn’t break as much, so now you’re like ‘OK, let’s protect and just battle.’ ... Looking back at it, I wish I just stood there and not swung at all. If I could rewind. If it were that easy. I wish it was. And then he’d throw one right down the middle and America hates me.”

Ross has had his share of success against Miller before, though it all came when the left-hander was still a struggling starting pitcher. The veteran catcher is 3-for-5 with a walk against Miller in his career. But that wasn’t the reason Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to stay with Ross instead of pinch hit for him with either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. with two outs in the seventh inning and Miller struggling for the first time all postseason.

With a man on and nobody out, Miller took over for Corey Kluber and walked Kyle Schwarber — only Miller’s third free pass of the postseason. Javy Baez followed with a single to load the bases.

But Miller rebounded quickly and retired Willson Contreras on a fly out to shallow center before he struck out Addison Russell. Based on his experience, Maddon thought Ross was the right man for the spot.

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“I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys,” Maddon said. “David works good at-bats in that moment. So I felt good about him, actually. I felt better about him.

“I think with Soler coming off the bench or Albert they had less of a chance than David because I thought there was a two-fold opportunity to either get the hit or draw the walk.”

Ross worked the count to his favor quickly as he took a fastball for a ball, and after swinging and missing a slider, took two more balls to get ahead 3-1. But Miller dropped a slider in for a called strike and then turned to it once again, getting Ross to commit just enough for the third strike. The strikeout improved the Indians’ chances of winning by 26.5 percent, up to 94.7, according to

“I was trying to throw a really good one because if he hits it, it goes a long way,” Miller said. “That’s David Ross. I think even he would say, you can pitch to him, but if you throw something in his wheelhouse it’s going to go a long way and do some damage. Fortunate that it worked out. I threw a good one that was in a spot that he went after in the situation.”

Miller struggled again in the eighth inning as he walked Kris Bryant and allowed a Ben Zobrist single with two outs. But Miller — who allowed two hits and two walks for the first time all season in 77 appearances — struck out Kyle Schwarber to strand the pair.

The Indians’ key acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline threw 46 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since Sept. 8, 2011, when he was still a starter.

Indians manager Terry Francona wouldn’t commit to whether or not he’d use Miller in Game 2 on Wednesday. Francona cited how Miller bounced back after throwing 40 pitches in a Game 1 victory over Boston in the American League Division Series and would have been ready if needed. But any number of factors could keep Miller from pitching, and Francona is happy to have a 1-0 series lead in his pocket.

“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He was ready to come back and pitch the next night. I just think there’s a lot that can happen.

“But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”