Proviso East, Carter make big statement

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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 Top100Hoops.com, 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.

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon's Washington itinerary didn't include an hour-long sit-down with Chuck Todd for NBC's "Meet the Press." There would be no rehashing the manager's Game 7 decisions as he stood outside the West Wing, though the second question during the media stakeout involved "last year's team" and how the 2017 Cubs are prepared to defend a World Series title.

"You're already there, huh?" Maddon said to a CNN reporter, minutes after President Barack Obama's final official White House event ended on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

But last year's team is gone — preserved now in highlight films and the hearts and minds of generations of Cub fans — even if so many familiar faces will be in Mesa when pitchers and catchers officially report to Arizona on Valentine's Day.

It would be impossible to replicate everything that made the 2016 Cubs so special. Baseball has its own relentless pace and the dynamics are constantly shifting. (Remember when players were passive-aggressively complaining about Maddon's spring-training approach during the final week of a 103-win regular season?) The clubhouse chemistry will inevitably feel different after climbing a Mount Everest of professional sports.

"A mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form," Maddon said. "We're motivated by it. We want to do it again, of course. There's no question we're trying to do that.

"I'm really leaning on the phrase or the thought of being uncomfortable. I want us to be uncomfortable. I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is that you're going to stop growing.

"So I really want us to be uncomfortable. I really want to continue (to see) a pattern of growth and really try to get at them very quickly again."

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Can Jason Heyward recover from one of the worst offensive seasons in the majors last year? Is Willson Contreras ready to be a frontline catcher? Will Javier Baez have to adjust back to being a role player after becoming a playoff superstar? Does Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot and Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare represent an upgrade over Dexter Fowler?

If healthy, Wade Davis should be a trusted, lower-maintenance closer than Aroldis Chapman, with an advanced approach to pitching and more clubhouse presence. As a staff, the Cubs will have to bounce back from pitching into early November (or not, in the case of the relievers Maddon didn't trust during the playoffs).

As it stands, Jon Lester (33) and John Lackey (38) have already combined to throw almost 5,000 innings in The Show (including the postseason). Jake Arrieta will have to deal with the pressure of playing for his megadeal in his final season before becoming a free agent.

The drop-off after Mike Montgomery — and it's still mostly projected potential with the No. 5 starter — appears to be very steep in an organization that doesn't have any high-end pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

After painting the bull's-eye on the chest and turning "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" into viral T-shirts, a guy who hates meetings is still working on his themes for this campaign.

"I'm really rotating around the thought of authenticity," Maddon said. "I talked about it a lot last year, the fact that I think authenticity has a chance to repeat itself without even trying. It's part of who you are. It's not fabricated. It's real.

"I've talked about our guys a lot the last couple years. I think one of our strongest qualities is the authentic component of our players. So I'm really focusing on that word right now. Again, that's a great word to bring an entire message from (when) you get in front of the group that first day in spring training.

"I kind of just think like authenticity happens. And let's work it from there."

The costumes should be in midseason form with Maddon planning a house party around Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival before driving his RV from Florida to Arizona.

Maddon will turn 63 on Feb. 8 and have to keep evolving, just like his players, who might outgrow some of those gimmicks. But the Cubs are still a reflection of their future Hall of Fame manager.

Amid all the uncertainty in Washington, Maddon wouldn't touch a question about what advice he would give Donald Trump before Friday's inauguration.

"I'm not even going to go anywhere close to that," Maddon said. "I will say this: I have a lot of respect of the office.

"At the end of the day, just have a lot of respect for the office, regardless of your political persuasion. My point would be to encourage people to really respect the office and let's see what we get done here over the next four years."

Bulls' Jimmy Butler voted All-Star Game starter

Bulls' Jimmy Butler voted All-Star Game starter

Jimmy Butler is heading to his third straight All-Star Game, and for the first time he'll be in the Eastern Conference's starting lineup.

CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that Butler was voted an All-Star starter.

Butler has been sensational this season, averaging a career-best 24.8 points (tied for the 10th-best mark in the league entering Thursday's games), 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest through 41 games. He's shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range.

Butler previously made Eastern Conference All-Star squads in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, though this is his first time in the starting five.