Robertson stuns class of 2014

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Robertson stuns class of 2014

Curie's Cliff Alexander, Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Paul White, Normal University's Kelta Bates-Diop, Springfield Lanphier's Larry Austin, Orr's Tyquone Greer and Chatham Glenwood's Peyton Allen are the current headliners in the talented class of 2014 in Illinois.

Add Neuqua Valley's Elijah Robertson to the elite list. College coaches and recruiting analysts who attended the recent Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis were impressed by the 6-foot-5 sophomore's athleticism. Robertson, who will be 16 on May 27, has emerged as a major Division I prospect.

He saw little playing time at Neuqua Valley last season and wasn't showcased last summer while playing for Ferrari behind Okafor and White. But he joined Illinois Basketball Academy this year and, in the walk of his breakout performance in Minneapolis, is just beginning to realize how good he can be.

"I knew little about the (Best Buy) tournament. I thought it was just another tournament to showcase my talent. But it was completely different from what I expected," he said. "I didn't expect too many Division I coaches watching. I realized it was a big-time event. If I wanted to make my impact on the AAU circuit, it would be an excellent place to start.

"My motivation was how much I could run up and down the court, hustle and make plays and give up on plays. When it was over, I felt I could have done more. I have a lot to improve on. But I didn't expect it to come out like it did. So many people were impressed with what I did. Now my motivation is to keep getting better."

Robertson's eye-opening performance earned an invitation to Michigan's summer camp. He admits that Michigan, Georgetown and Tennessee are his "dream schools." He claims to be a "lifelong Michigan fan, especially of their football program." He is fascinated by Georgetown's tradition and describes former Tennessee star Wayne Chism as his favorite college player.

"Chism reminds me of me, tall and athletic," Robertson said. "He wasn't known that much, either, like me. He played under the radar.

"If I develop my skills more, improve my ball-handling, get more consistent with my jump shot, I would like to end up at one of those three schools."

Dedrick Shannon, in his first full year as coach at Naperville-based Illinois Basketball Academy, is building a solid program with Robertson, O'Mara, Czarnowski, West Aurora's Johntrell Walker, Waubonsie Valley's Jack Cordes, St. Francis de Sales' Terrell Parham and Naperville Central's Ryan Antony, son of Shannon's assistant coach Greg Antony. Last year, they won the Fab 48 championship for 15-and-under in Las Vegas.

"Robertson brings something different to our team that allows him to stand out--athleticism," Shannon said. "He was one of the best players at the Best Buy Classic. He opened eyes. He averaged nine rebounds per game. He showed his athleticism. He is great in the open floor. He is a high major Division I athlete right now."

The son of Poliss Robertson, a Detroit native who played at Wisconsin in the late 1980s, Elijah has a wingspan of a 6-foot-8 player and a 3.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.

"He is a lunch pail and hard hat type of guy in a day when that style is going out the window. He is very coachable and very competitive. He refuses to lose. He won't back down. And he's a happy kid, always smiling. He always is excited to be around the game of basketball," Shannon said.

Robertson played football from fourth to sixth grade. He played defensive tackle and wide receiver on the Naperville Patriots' team that won a national championship in the American Youth Football League. Then he stopped playing football.

"I wanted to focus on basketball. I liked basketball a lot more. I just tried out for football to see if I'd like it," he said. "But I've played basketball since I was 5 years old. I like the atmosphere of college basketball. My father was a big influence. It was my decision to stick with basketball. But he stuck by me."

Robertson and his 6-foot-6 father play a lot of one-on-one. "I just started to be able to beat him. He's getting older and I'm beating him with my quickness. The first time I beat him, I probably was 12 or 13. He was too big for me. He'd post me up all the time," Elijah said.

In the future, he projects himself as a two-guard or a wing forward. But he admits he has a lot of improving to do. On a scale of 1 to 10, he rates himself as a five or six in terms of his development.

"I'm putting in more work into doing what I have to do for college," he said. "I still have to work on my ball-handling and my jump shot. I realize I have more athleticism than many of my opponents. I'm quicker than guys who try to defend me. I beat guys up and down the court.

"If I have a more consistent jump shot, I'd be a bigger offensive threat from three-point range. The college coaches (at the Best Buy event) would have been even more impressed if I did that. My dad gave me good advice. 'Don't give up. Always work hard and you'll achieve your dreams,' he told me. My dream is getting to college."

Bears severly outplayed in another home preseason game

Bears severly outplayed in another home preseason game

It's easy to dismiss preseason games, but they can't be ignored when a team is severely outplayed in every sense of the word.

That was the case for the Bears on Saturday afternoon as they were dismantled by the Kansas City Chiefs, 23-7, in front of a crowd of 48, 377 at Soldier Field to remain winless on the preseason.

The Bears starting offense compiled a net of 65 yards as they couldn't find a rhythm against a Chiefs defense playing without Pro Bowlers' Justin Houston, Eric Berry and Tamba Hali.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was able to stay upright for most of the game as the starting offensive line allowed just two sacks, but Cutler was plagued by a few drops from his receivers and was off target for most of the afternoon, finishing 6/15 with 45 yards and a passer rating of 47.9. The Bears starting wide receiving tandem of Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White registered the same amount of drops (three) as they did receptions. The lone highlight from the starting offensive unit came from second-year running Jeremy Langford who twice turned broken plays into positive gains, showing a remarkable improvement in that facet from his rookie season.

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While the starting offensive unit will draw much-deserved criticism for their performance against the Chiefs, the defense didn't fare that much better.

The starting 11, playing without Pernell McPhee and Kyle Fuller, allowed 239 total yards in the first half. The starting unit also lost their only proven cornerback when eight-year veteran Tracy Porter entered the NFL's concussion protocol after taking a knee to the head by teammate Harold Jones-Quartey in the second quarter. 

Despite Saturday's mediocre play by the defense, there were some positives including the first NFL interception by Bears rookie cornerback Deiondre' Hall who looks to be squarely in the mix for a starting cornerback job with the abundance of injuries at the position. Rookie defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard also continued his strong preseason play with another sack. First-rounder Leonard Floyd suited up but didn't play due to a hamstring injury.

The Bears finally broke a near 55-minute scoring drought when third-string quarterback Connor Shaw connected with wide receiver Cameron Meredith for a 16-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Shaw suffered a left ankle injury on the next series and had to leave on a cart. He finished the game 5/6 for 65 yards and a touchdown, also adding 15 rushing yards on two carries.

In two preseason home games the Bears have been outscored 45-7. They were blanked by the Denver Broncos back in Week 1 on Aug. 15.

The Bears will look to avoid going winless for the first time in franchise history in preseason when they close out their exhibition slate against the Browns in Cleveland next Thursday.

Bears great Jay Hilgenberg to new C Cornelius Edison: “You deserve to be there”

Bears great Jay Hilgenberg to new C Cornelius Edison: “You deserve to be there”

The storyline has already been formed: If the Bears are forced to go with undrafted Cornelius Edison as their center, the 2016 season is lost.

“I mean, how ridiculous to think that an undrafted free agent could be the starting center for the Chicago Bears, and they win,” deadpanned Jay Hilgenberg, making less than no attempt to mask the irony in his voice.

With very good reason.

Because Hilgenberg himself came into the NFL as an afterthought, undrafted out of Iowa in 1981 and then going on to an 11-year career with the Bears, capped by a Super Bowl ring in 1985. Seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pro selections.

Ridiculous.

Edison may come nowhere near the heights reached by Hall of Fame nominee Hilgenberg. Or of Hall of Fame Miami center Jim Langer, also undrafted. But Hilgenberg has a strong bit of advice for Edison, who started Saturday in the Bears preseason game vs. Kansas City and could be their starter on Opening Day, depending on health elsewhere on the interior of the Bears offensive line.

“I would say to him, ‘You’re in an NFL camp because you can play football,’” Hilgenberg told CSNChicago.com. “Don’t let how you entered that camp take anything away from you. You deserve to be there. You just need to prove it a little bit more than the first-rounders.’”

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It may not always be easy, of course.

Hilgenberg, who fought his way onto the final roster in 1981, once famously turned to then-teammate Revie Sorey on the bench during a blowout of the Bears in Hilgenberg’s first season, and said, “Revie, we’re the worst team in the NFL.”

Sorey, never one to duck the truth, nodded.

Hilgenberg added, “And I’m the worst player on this team.”

Again, no disagreement from Sorey.

“So that makes me the worst player in the NFL, doesn’t it?” Hilgenberg concluded.

Silence from Sorey.

Hilgenberg turned out to not be the worst player in the NFL, but not without epic struggles, and he knows what Edison will be going through. And how the young center can make it.

[MORE BEARS: Rookie class making much-needed impact]

“To be honest there is always a little insecurity in you,” Hilgenberg recalled. “I had confidence that I belonged but I had to fight every day. And the truth is, I wanted it more than anything else in the world. I was going to make it.

“I didn’t have Plan B. I didn’t want to go back to Iowa then, so I didn’t have Plan B.

Hilgenberg used teams’ not drafting him as motivation, and Bears teammates recalled him savoring facing supposed elite defensive linemen, No. 1 picks, and handling them. Beyond his attitude, however, was a method.

“I played against a lot of big, strong guys in the NFL, and I wasn’t going to back down from anybody,” Hilgenberg said. “As soon as you learn how to play with the right fundamentals, you learn that there’s no Supermen out there. If you can play fundamentally and with good technique, you can block anybody… .

“Offensive line play is honestly all about how bad you want it. How much are you willing to do? How important is it to you? What does it mean to you?”

Edison is in the process of answering those exact questions.

Dwyane Wade's cousin shot and killed in Chicago

Dwyane Wade's cousin shot and killed in Chicago

On Thursday, Dwyane Wade appeared on an ESPN special for The Undefeated to talk about gun violence. The next day, Wade's cousin was shot and killed in Chicago.

Nykea Aldridge was pushing a baby stroller in the Chicago neighborhood of Parkway Gardens when she was shot and killed. Aldridge was 32 and a mother of four.

Police said she was not the intended target and one person was taken into custody as a result of the incident.

Wade's words during his appearance on the ESPN panel took on extra meaning after Friday's shooting.

"It's important for all of us to help each other, to go back and say 'You know what, where did this start, how did this start? Let's see how we can change there,'" Wade said on ESPN. "It's deep-rooted and this is something that didn't start today. This is something that's not going to end tomorrow. But this is something that we can start a conversation, we can start the work today and hopefully eventually we can stop it."

Wade tweeted after the shooting.