Mooring puts the spin on Hillcrest

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Mooring puts the spin on Hillcrest

It all began on June 4 when Hillcrest senior basketball star Ryan Royall, the team's only all-conference returnee, was shot and killed during a disturbance following a birthday party in south suburban Lynwood.

"Our kids are playing the season for him," coach Don Houston said. "He would have been a starter, one of our best players. It is a credit to these kids that they are playing as well as they are. I'm not surprised. These kids are tough players."

Houston and his Hawks, who are 15-4 after beating Richards and Bremen last week but losing 59-53 to Farragut on Sunday, will experience another emotional moment on Tuesday when they play at Crete-Monee.

Crete-Monee's first-year coach is Tom Cappel, who won 504 games in 23 years at Hillcrest. Houston was Cappel's assistant for seven years, then succeeded his mentor five years ago. "There is a lot of love and respect for each other," Houston said.

Houston, 40, has picked up where Cappel left off. In fact, he has accomplished at least one thing that Cappel was unable to do, winning a state championship in 2010, in only his third season. Cappel reached the state quarterfinals twice but advanced no farther.

"Talent-wise, this team is as good as the state champion," Houston said. "Potentially, we could go pretty far (in the state tournament). This team has more depth and more athleticism. If they can buy into playing team basketball, they could be as good if not better.

"They have to realize the structure of the game, especially at the end. They have to execute to pull out close games at the end. They just like to play but there is more to it than that. They like to get up and down because of their athleticism. But it doesn't win all the games, especially the close ones. I keep preaching it a lot. I show them the value of execution."

Hillcrest returns some experienced hands from a 21-8 squad that lost to Morgan Park in last year's sectional semifinal. The leaders are 6-foot-2 junior Jovan Mooring (18 ppg), 6-foot-6 senior Jalen Loving (14 ppg), 6-foot-6 senior Jayone Troutman (13 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-foot-2 senior Virgil Fleming (8 ppg) and 5-foot-8 junior point guard Kyle Oden (8 ppg, 6 assists).

Houston describes Mooring as one of the best players in the class of 2013. "People don't know about him like they should. They will find out about him soon. He is getting some looks (from college recruiters), He is one of the best scorers around," the coach said.

"I am very underrated," Mooring said. "I want to play Division I in college. I know how good I am. Hopefully, people will realize it one day. I've always been a good player but haven't gotten the recognition I should have. I feel I should have been on the varsity last year but should have worked a lot harder to get there. I really improved my game over the summer."

His trademark is a spin move with a step back jump shot. "I drive left, spin back right, step back and shoot over the defender with my right hand. I have worked on it a lot. I've gotten it good this year. I started to notice that nobody could stop it," he said.

A pair of 6-foot-2 seniors, Brent Buchanan (8 ppg) and Chris Copeland (5 ppg), provide spark off the bench on offense and defense.

"These next few games will tell us if we have matured from the losses (to highly rated Bloom, Simeon and Rockford Auburn) that we suffered early in the season," Houston said. "If they can execute in the clutch and at the end of games, they will show they are ready to go to Peoria."

Mooring isn't surprised by the team's success. Although four returned from last year's squad, none of them started. But they have been together since sixth grade and were unbeaten as freshmen and sophomores. The tragic death of their teammate, Royall, has provided motivation and inspiration.

"He was the leader of the team," Mooring said. "When I heard about it, it didn't see real. We had just played together the day before. When I woke up and heard he was gone, it was a real shock. We helped each other to get through that time. It was motivation. We're doing this for him.

"We know he would be working just as hard as we would. He wasn't perfect at everything but he did all the right things. What we don't do, he did...get tip-ins, dive on the floor for loose balls, get offensive rebounds. He was a leader and great defender. All he talked about was winning state. Now we're all coming together."

Despite the losses, Houston felt his team learned some positive lessons that will benefit them as they prepare for the state tournament.

For example, the Hawks lost to top-ranked Simeon by 15 but got a chance to experience playing in a highly competitive environment. Against Bloom and Rockford Auburn (they led by 13 with five minutes left in the third quarter), they learned they have to execute at the end.

Mooring was a freshman when Hillcrest won the 2010 state championship. He played on the sophomore squad during the preliminary games and stuck around to observe the varsity. He knows what it takes to be a state champion.

"That team had a lot of heart," he said. "They never gave up. They played together, like we do. We aren't as athletic but I believe we can be a better team. We're a lot quicker than the 2010 team. It comes down to us doing it. Our defense gives us a lot of confidence against every team we play. As long as we move on defense, we can compete with anybody."

Northwestern to play home basketball games at Allstate Arena in 2017-18

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Northwestern to play home basketball games at Allstate Arena in 2017-18

While Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a complete facelift, the Wildcats needed somewhere to play during the 2017-18 season.

That home location was announced Tuesday. Northwestern will play its home schedule at Allstate Arena in Rosemont during the 2017-18 campaign.

The previously announced renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017 and finish up in the fall of 2018, ready for the 2018-19 season.

“We are excited to partner with Allstate Arena to host Northwestern men’s basketball games during the 2017-18 season while Welsh-Ryan Arena is undergoing its renovation,” Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips said in the announcement. “The venue has a rich college basketball tradition in the Chicagoland area. I know that our fans will enjoy cheering on our team at Allstate Arena during what will be an exciting season.”

Certainly Allstate Arena is no stranger to college hoops. It's served as the home court for DePaul for decades and famously hosted the NCAA tournament Midwest Regional in 2005, when Illinois scored a remarkable win over Arizona to advance to the Final Four.

The renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena promises a radically transformed venue for Northwestern hoops. Announced back in June, the renovation's details include new chair-back seating throughout the arena, new locker rooms and offices for the men's and women's basketball teams, new restrooms and concession areas for fans, as well as an expanded concourse, a new ticket office, an expanded lobby and an expansion of the N-Club, plus the retention of the recently installed video boards.

Spartans linebacker Jon Reschke to miss 'significant time' with ankle sprain

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Spartans linebacker Jon Reschke to miss 'significant time' with ankle sprain

The bad news keeps coming for the Michigan State linebacking corps.

A few days after Riley Bullough surprisingly sat out of the Spartans' big game against Wisconsin with an injury, fellow starter Jon Reschke will miss "significant time" with an ankle sprain, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters Tuesday.

There is better news on Bullough, who Dantonio said is day-to-day. Bullough was listed on the team's depth chart for this week's game against Indiana, though he was not listed as a starter.

Bullough surprised by walking out of the tunnel in street clothes just prior to kickoff against Wisconsin. Big Ten Network reported during the broadcast that Bullough sustained his injury even prior to Michigan State's Week 3 win over Notre Dame and that it could keep him sidelined for multiple weeks.

It remains to be seen how that will play out, but certainly the Spartans could've used him against the Badgers, who behind a first-time starting quarterback in Alex Hornibrook had a stellar performance in a 30-6 win.

Bullough and Reschke have combined for 25 tackles and three tackles for loss, with Bullough playing in the first two games of the season and Reschke appearing in the first three. Reschke also has an interception and a forced fumble to his name.

Being without Reschke for a significant amount of time will be tough for the Spartans — Dantonio said Tuesday he's optimistic that the injury isn't season-ending — though that's made much tougher the longer Bullough stays on the sideline.

Plus, Michigan State is still working Ed Davis back into action. The senior had to wait until after the start of the season to learn if he'd receive an additional season of eligibility. Davis has played just very briefly this season, though he is listed on the depth chart. His return to form could be a big help, as Dantonio mentioned.