Pocic changes his game plan


Pocic changes his game plan

When Ethan Pocic thought he had prioritized his recruiting and was about to narrow his wish list to 10 finalists, Lemont's 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle received scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Florida State, Oregon and USC.

At the same time, Michigan and Notre Dame, two schools that rated high on Pocic's list, filled their quotas for offensive linemen and no longer were interested in Pocic.

All of a sudden, as fast as Pocic could say "I can't pass up a chance to visit those schools," he revised his game plan--and his travel schedule.

"I've got to make more visits," he said. "I want to visit everywhere so when I make a decision, it will be the right one. I'm not sure of a timetable (to make a commitment), just whenever the time is right."

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Pocic plans to visit LSU and Auburn. During his spring break, he visited Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee and Ohio State.

Pocic, who has 20 offers and is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2013 in Illinois by most recruiting analysts, said he still wants to visit Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.

USC? Oregon? Oklahoma? "I'm taking it one day at a time right now. I want to take it all in. When the time is right, you'll know," he said.

What is he looking for? "A winning program, good tradition. I want to be comfortable with the coaches and players. I want to have a good relationship with them. I'm a left offensive tackle. I'm looking for a school that can prepare me for the next level," he said.

He learned about the recruiting process from his older brother Graham, the starting center at Illinois. But Graham committed early and Ethan wants to be sure he weighs all of his options before making a decision.

What if he had committed before Alabama, Florida, USC, LSU and Auburn offered?

And what if he had committed to Michigan and Notre Dame, which already were stockpiling offensive linemen? Michigan has commitments from two Illinois products, Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis and Logan Tuley-Tillman of Peoria Manual. And Notre Dame has a commitment from Colin McGovern of Lincoln-Way West.

Now Pocic is considering Wisconsin, which has commitments from two big tackles from Barrington, senior Dan Voltz and junior Jack Keeler.

"This is a good problem to have," said Pocic, acknowledging that having 20 offers is better than no offers at all. "What I learned from watching my brother go through the process is to take all your visits, as many unofficial visits as you can."

While Pocic's brother was going through the process and Graham was considering Wisconsin, Ethan got a chance to meet All-America tackle Joe Thomas. Ever since, he has been following Thomas, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns and is a five-time Pro Bowl selection, the Anthony Munoz of his era.

"I watch a lot of football. I always check out the (offensive) linemen," Pocic said. "I like Joe Thomas. I've always watched him, even when he was I college. He is perfect on pass protection. He shows up every day. If you're a left offensive tackle, that's the kind of player you want to be."

He knows that left offensive tackle is the most important position in the offensive line, the guy who protects the quarterback's blind side. He recalls watching a "Top 10 Linemen Of All Time" segment on NFL Network. Anthony Munoz was No. 1, the best there ever was.

"I don't like to brag on myself," said Pocic, who is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2013 in Illinois behind Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac. "I just want to get better. I've been working on my agility, strength and footwork."

He is missing one thing--a ring, the symbol of a state championship. Lemont has been one of the most successful programs in the state in the last decade. Coach Eric Michaelsen's team has lost only five games in the last four years. Last year's 12-1 squad lost to Peoria Richwoods 34-31 in double overtime in the Class 6A semifinals.

This year? Pocic, 6-foot-2, 265-pound offensive guard Tim McAuliffe, linebacker Connor O'Brien and defensive back Jake Lemming are the most experienced returnees that Michaelsen figures to lean on as he tries to build another state championship contender. McAuliffe has offers from Toledo, Western Michigan, Western Kentucky and North Dakota.

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.