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.

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

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Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

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The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.