Sitter, Brown follow Elgin tradition

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Sitter, Brown follow Elgin tradition

As Elgin coach Mike Sitter sees it, he is carrying a torch that he inherited from Bill Chesbrough and Jim Harrington and will pass it on to the next generation of coaches.

As Elgin star Kory Brown sees it, he is carrying a torch that he inherited from Don Sunderlage, Chuck Brandt, Flynn Robinson, Jeff Wilkins, Terry Drake, Mark Baugh, Sean Harrington and Armani Williams and will pass it on to the next generation of players.

At Elgin, it is all about tradition.

Kory Brown's father knows about tradition, too. He was a freshman at Hirsch High School when Rickey Green and John Robinson led the school from Chicago's South Side to a state championship in 1973. So he taught his son everything he could about the game he grew up to love.

"I grew up in Elgin and always looked up to Elgin basketball, knowing I was going to Elgin someday," Kory said. "I know about the tradition, the big wins, the supersectionals, the great players. But we haven't been to state in a while (since 1998). After getting to the supersectional in 2008, the excitement has died off in the past few years."

There is plenty of excitement this season. Elgin is 8-1 going into Tuesday's game against Senn in the opening round of the 37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament. Sitter claims his 2011-12 Maroons, who boast seven of the top eight players from last year's 22-7 squad, are the best team he has produced in five years.

Brown, a 6-4 senior who has offers from Ferris State and Lewis University and is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, believes this team is even better.

"We aren't a good team but a great team," he said. "If we keep playing as we are now or pick it up a notch, maybe we could be one of the best teams Elgin has ever had. I see more faith that we can do it, that we can succeed. Our goal is to get to state."

Last week, Elgin swept Burlington 73-41 as Brown had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Cortez Scott added 14 points, Arie Williams 13 and Dennis Moore 12, and St. Charles East 55-39 as Brown had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Scott scored 13 and Williams 12.

"This is a senior dominated team," Sitter said. "A lot less coaching has to be done during games because they are so experienced that they can coach themselves. The pieces fit together. They complement each other very well."

Brown is the leader. He was a unanimous all-conference and MVP selection a year ago. He is Elgin's tallest starter and sometimes initiates the offense from the point guard position. Or he establishes himself on the block and rebounds. But he is best when he explodes to the rim.

"He doesn't have to score for us to win," Sitter said. "He can do it all. He is a great athlete, our hardest worker. But if he wants to succeed at the next level, he must have guard skills. He is developing them every day."

Brown's father taught him that he needed to learn all aspects of the game, that he had to do everything well to be successful. And if Elgin is to be successful as a team, it must overcome its lack of size by doing everything else well.

"We overcome our lack of size with speed. I believe we can out-smart and out-run anybody on the court," Brown said. "Our triple overtime loss to Geneva was a great wakeup call. We didn't play smart. I'm glad it happened early rather than late or in March when it could have ended our season."

Meanwhile, Brown takes his responsibility as the team leader very seriously. "I'm a go-to guy. But I'm also the one who has to make the correct decision with the ball in my hands. In the summer, everyone said they wanted the ball in my hands, either go to the rim or take an easy jump shot or kick the ball to an open teammate for an easy basket," he said.

"I'll be a guard in college, mostly a two-guard. I was brought up to be an all-around player. I learned to dribble with my left hand as soon as I learned to dribble with my right. I want to show colleges that I can do it all, that I can do what needs to be done to win a game."

Brown has plenty of help. Arie Williams, Armani's younger brother, is a 5-10 junior guard who averages 12 points per game. Dennis Moore, a 5-10 senior, also averages 12. Cortez Scott, a 6-0 senior, averages 10. Gerardo Mojico, a 6-4 senior (6 ppg, 6 rpb), defends the tallest opponent. Matt Andres and Devin Gilliam, a pair of 6-foot seniors, come off the bench.

"I'm looking for this team to take a step to be better than last year," Sitter said. "I'm looking for a killer instinct to bury teams, to put a dagger in their heart, to put them away early and not allow them to stick around."

Sitter, an Elgin graduate of 1988, knows about the school's tradition even though he didn't play varsity basketball. Harrington cut him as a senior. He was a ballboy on Chesbrough's 1983 team that lost in the state quarterfinals. He still talks about the 1972 team that lost to West Aurora in double overtime in the state quarterfinals.

He describes himself as "a sports hound, just not good enough to compete at the highest levels," But he always wanted to be a coach. So he majored in education at Eastern Illinois, was sophomore coach at Round Lake for four years, then came to Elgin 10 years ago. After serving as freshman A and B coach and sophomore coach, he was promoted to the varsity.

"I paid my dues and worked my way up. My job is to carry on the tradition," he said. At 41, he looks back on a storied history that saw Chesbrough win 573 games in 35 years and Harrington win 290 games in 15 years. But Elgin won its only state titles in 1924 and 1925.

Brown almost didn't get to Elgin. His family almost moved out of Elgin and into Hoffman Estates' school district.

"I had a big scare," he said. "I didn't want my mother to take me out of Elgin. Our house sits on the border between Elgin and Hoffman Estates."

Tuesday's opening-round pairings pit Francis Parker vs. Buffalo Grove, Rockford East vs. Batavia, Dundee-Crown vs. Hoffman Estates, La Laumiere of Indiana vs. Walther Lutheran, defending champion Neuqua Valley vs. Rockford Guilford, Elgin Larkin vs. Harlan, Romeoville vs. Glenbard North and Elgin vs. Senn.

Huskers, Spartans mourn the deaths of Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

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Huskers, Spartans mourn the deaths of Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident Saturday night in Wisconsin.

Both players were working at a kicking camp near Waukesha, Wisc.

Foltz, 22, was the Big Ten Punter of the Year last season and earned All-Big Ten First Team honors.

Sadler, 24, was an All-Big Ten First Team selection in both 2012 and 2013. He was the first student-athlete at Michigan State to earn Academic All-America honors four times.

Both schools mourned the losses of their respective family members.

"Last night, we lost one of the best young men who I have ever had the honor to coach and who has ever worn the Nebraska uniform," Nebraska head coach Mike Riley said in a statement. "Sam was universally loved and respected by everyone he touched and on whom he had a positive influence each and every day. His tragic loss is immeasurable to his family, his friends, his classmates, his teammates and his coaches, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of them. The young men in our football program are hurting, but I know that their strength of character and resolve will bring us together and we will honor Sam every day moving forward."

"Our prayers of love and support go out to Sam’s family during this difficult time, and we will do all that we can to help comfort them in this time of sadness," Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement. "Sam was truly a tremendous young man who represented everything that a Nebraska student, athlete, teammate and friend should strive to be. While his loss is devastating, his impact will be felt forever. Along with coach Riley, our focus is on providing Sam’s family, teammates and friends with the critical support and love that they need at this time."

"We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear the extremely tragic news about Mike Sadler's death," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sadler family, his teammates, friends, coaches and Spartan Nation. We also express our deepest sympathies to the family of Sam Foltz and the Nebraska program for their loss. Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player but also from an academic standpoint and in the community, as well. The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day. I always say to try and be a light, and he truly was a light in this world. We will all miss him dearly. Once again, we find out that life is so fragile. The world will be a sadder and lonelier place without Mike Sadler in it. May he rest in peace."

"Today is a sad day for Michigan State, Nebraska and all of college football as we mourn the loss of two exceptional young men in Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz," Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends in this time of sorrow. Mike was the epitome of a student-athlete, excelling in the classroom and on the field, while his quick wit brought a smile to everyone's face. Most importantly, he represented Spartan Nation with great class, embracing his place as a role model for both kids and adults alike. On a personal note, he was more than just a student-athlete to me; he was a friend. His ability to make everyone feel special was but just one of his many special qualities. And that's the reason his impact will be felt by everyone who knew him for years to come. By all indications, Sam was the exact same role model for the Nebraska football family. While today is filled with sadness and reminders of the fragility of life, we can take solace in knowing that we are all better for having known Mike and Sam."

After Foltz's passing, Nebraska will not participate in Big Ten Media Days this week in Chicago.

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs are in the final stages of a blockbuster deal that could bring superstar closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and would involve sending elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees, a source familiar with the situation said Sunday night.

The exact details aren’t clear, but the talks reached a point where the Cubs pulled Torres from the lineup at advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, at least sensing the strong possibility of a trade that would add a 105-mph closer to a first-place team that entered the year as World Series favorites.

Chapman began this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy after a dispute with his girlfriend in South Florida last fall. In absorbing a supremely talented player with real baggage, the Cubs would have to believe in manager Joe Maddon’s personality and a strong clubhouse culture, figuring it might only be a two-month-plus rental before Chapman cashes in as a free agent. 

That incident scared the Cubs away during the offseason, when a Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings as those police reports surfaced. The Yankees waited for the price to drop and acquired the flame-throwing closer at a discount. Chapman didn’t mind the spotlight in New York, converting 20-of-21 save opportunities and striking out 44 batters in 31-plus innings.

Torres is only 19 years old and a consensus top prospect, showing up in the midseason rankings on ESPN (No. 26), Baseball America (No. 27) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 34). The Cubs had signed Torres out of Venezuela during the summer of 2013, giving him a $1.7 million bonus and trying to stockpile enough assets to build a perennial contender. It sounds like it’s almost time to cash in one of those huge trade chips. 

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”