Proviso East, Carter make big statement


Proviso East, Carter make big statement

After it was over, after unbeaten and second-ranked Proviso East had won four games by margins of 17, 8, 19 and 13 points to win its first Proviso West Holiday Tournament championship since 1991, first-year coach Donnie Boyce breathed a sigh of relief."It's an amazing feeling. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd be 11-0 and win a Christmas tournament in my first year as head coach," Boyce said. "It was exciting to win as a player (at Proviso East in 1990). But to win my first one as a coach ranks right up there with it. We made history, our 10th title at Proviso West, one more than St. Joseph."I feel very blessed to have such a great group of kids. I want them to achieve everything I achieved and more. One thing I learned is we hadn't been tested in the early part of the season but we got tested at Proviso West. I liked how we kept our composure, never panicked, kept making the right plays, key baskets, key steals, key rebounds. We really came together as a team and I believe we have a chance to do something special.""Special" is how Boyce describes Keith Carter, the 6-foot-1 senior guard who was singled out as the most valuable player at the Proviso West tournament. He scored 18 points in a 49-41 victory over Benet, scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half to key a 75-56 victory over Rockford Auburn and had 15 points and three steals in a 68-55 decision over New Trier."I didn't know if I'd be doing this well if I didn't have such a great leader as Carter," Boyce said. "He is one of the top 10 players in the state in his class, the best point guard in his class, better than (Rockford Auburn's) Fred Van Vleet and (Crete-Monee's) Michael Orris."The best point guard I ever saw was Isiah Thomas. I compare Carter to Ronnie Lester or Kiwane Garris or Tracy Webster or Howard Nathan. He is a solid floor general, willing to do anything you ask to succeed."But Boyce saw a different Keith Carter a year ago. So did Carter. It wasn't pretty. In fact, Carter experienced such an uneventful and unproductive junior season that he wasn't even ranked among the top 200 players in the class of 2012 nationally before the 2011-12 campaign began."He had an up-and-down junior year. People got down on him," Boyce said. "Watching from afar, I noticed he would over-penetrate when he should have passed and didn't make right decisions. He needed to open up the floor, improve his decision-making and show more desire to win. He needed to learn about shot selection and how to control the flow of the game."Carter also was critical of his own performance -- or lack of it. "I was disappointed in myself because I felt I let the team down. I tried to do too much. I didn't think about statistics or if I was ranked in the top 100. I wanted to show people I am better than what they think. I wanted to show them that I have an all-around game, that I could do a little bit of everything," he said.So he worked hard over the summer. He said he worked on everything, mostly his jump shot and improving his quickness and strength. It helped to earn him a scholarship to St. Louis University. But he still isn't
satisfied. "At Proviso West, I was an 8 (out of 10)," Carter said. "I had a slow start in every game but the championship game. I still wasn't consistent on my jump shot and making the right play each time. I'm having a decent year but I can get better and better. It was satisfying to be the MVP at Proviso West but I can get better."Carter is more generous when talking about his coach and his teammates. He said he was "shocked" when he learned Boyce had been hired because he didn't know the former Proviso East star was in the mix. But he thought it was a great decision by the school administration."(Boyce) knows what it takes to win championships and get Downstate," Carter said. "He is very tough on us. He demands a lot. But it's no problem for us because we know we have to do a lot to be as good as we want to be. Anything less than the state title would be a major disappointment this season, worse than flunking a math test."According to Carter, this is the best Proviso East team he has seen in his four years. In fact, he insists it can be one of the best in school history, in a class with the four state championship teams of 1969, 1974, 1990 and 1991. That's a mouthful for the usually quiet and laid-back
youngster. But he believes the Pirates can back it up."We are the fastest and most fearless team you'll see," he said. "We have a lot of guys who can go to the basket at any time, a lot of shooters, a lot of guys who are explosive off the dribble. We provide a lot of mismatches for our opponents. We make up for our lack of size with aggressiveness on defense, which is our biggest asset. The guys recognize how good we can be and are trying to accomplish the same goal I have."For his part, Carter is turning heads and changing opinions. Longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman of, who didn't rank Carter among the top 200 players in the nation in the class of 2012, has been impressed by his early-season performances."He played very well at the State Farm Tournament of Champions in Peoria and will most likely have a shot at the (top 100) rankings," Coleman said.The Proviso West tournament provided what amounted to a coming-out party for Boyce's first team. Carter, who averages 16 points per game, wasn't a one-man gang. Sterling Brown, a 6-4 junior who is the younger brother of former Proviso East star and NBA player Shannon Brown, is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game."It's always fun to see when the light bulb comes on when a kid realizes he has a chance to be great," Boyce said. "Sterling is playing at a high level for us right now. He has a great floor game, inside and outside. Nationally, he should be making a big splash. He reminds me of (former Proviso East star) Sherrell Ford."Carter and Brown are ably supported by two other guards, 5-10 senior Paris Burns (14 points per game) and 5-foot-11 junior Paris Lee (12 points per game), and 6-foot-5 senior Trashaun Carroll (six points, six rebounds per game).Each player knows his role. Burns sets the tone for the defense and loves to attack the basket. Paris "really knows how to settle down the team without me calling a timeout," Boyce said. Carroll is the enforcer, the team's physical presence in the post.The bench features 6-foot senior Mike Nicholas, the team's best shooter, 6-foot-3 senior Jabari Alex and 6-foot-1 guard Deshamone "Spuddy" McCarty, the team's defensive stopper."The biggest thing that stands out," Boyce said about his experience at Proviso West, "is I am most happy that the kids understand we are all in it together. We came together as a team. They realize I care about their well-being on and off the court. They have bought into my philosophy."I have been in coaching for a few years but I learned with these kids that it is like a chess game. You want to make sure you give all the players an opportunity to play to their strengths and cover their weaknesses. If you play together and you're unselfish, good things will happen."Boyce admits he isn't a miracle worker. He credits former coach David Chatman for doing an excellent job in developing these players. But he points out that last year's team lacked discipline and sacrifice and commitment on defense. This year's team has bought into his system."I would be a fool to think it's all me," Boyce said. "You need players. We are all from the neighborhood. I watched these kids grow up. I knew their strengths and weaknesses and I wanted them to buy into my system. My biggest fear was they wouldn't do it."So what is Boyce's system? "Being together, doing it all together, win or lose, as a team," he said. He recalled how his coach, Bill Hitt, who produced the state championship teams of 1990 and 1991, preached working hard in practice. He said: "You've got to make practice harder than the game." Boyce never forgot his message."Hitt made sure we were aware of every situation in a game, what to do if we were up by five points with two minutes to play, what to do when we were down by 10 with five minutes left, how to execute last-second shots. I have a blueprint of what previous coaches did. And I added my own twist -- pressure, pressure, pressure."So Boyce is pleased where his team is at. "Proviso West is a tournament where you gauge how good you really are. We are headed in the right direction. A lot of Proviso West champions have gone on to win the state title. We have a chance to do it," he said.

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.