Te'o not distracted by BYU connection

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Te'o not distracted by BYU connection

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Manti Te'o had his heart set on USC. He grew up a USC fan, and said last year he was "sold" on heading to Los Angeles for college. But as Te'o will always tell it, he prayed about things and the next morning felt he was directed to go to Notre Dame.
But Te'o, who is Mormon, also had Brigham Young in his top three. A few of Te'o's friends as well as his cousin play for BYU, but the pull of USC and Notre Dame was strong enough to narrow things down to those two schools.
We wanted Manti," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We thought he was an excellent player. Heavy recruiting race. Had an official visit, saw everything that we had to offer, and he really didnt want BYU. So, certainly our evaluation of him as a player was right. Hes very good.
Te'o didn't want to delve into the details of his recruitment by BYU, instead offering his usual explanation for why he chose Notre Dame.
"I prayed about it," Te'o said. "Everything pointed towards Notre Dame. Obviously Notre Dame is where I came because I felt that I was directed to come here."
Te'o admitted before last year's USC game that the first two times he faced the Trojans, he had plenty of mixed emotions about facing a team he nearly played for and rooted for his entire life. But those feelings won't pop back up this year for the senior linebacker.
"It's just game seven," Te'o said of BYU. "I think I said this before: When you start to do things differently than you've done in the past, then bad things start to happen. I've been there before. I've made the mistake of being overly excited for a game and it hurt me. So fortunately for me, I've been there, done that. That's a mistake that won't happen again."

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

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AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).