Whitney Young prepares for 2012-13 season

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Whitney Young prepares for 2012-13 season

Even though some critics singled out Whitney Young's 2011-12 basketball team as "the biggest disappointment" of the season, coach Tyrone Slaughter weathered the storm and hasn't changed his course.

"What is our game plan for the coming season? Times two of last year. We haven't changed our approach," Slaughter said.

Last season's 16-9 squad was a disappointment, he admits, but it was largely based on high expectations. With three major Division I prospects on the front line, including 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor, perhaps the No. 1 player in the nation in the class of 2014, the Dolphins were projected to be one of the best teams in the nation.

It didn't happen. Whitney Young was hampered by injuries, including 6-foot-9, 240-pound Tommy Hamilton, one of the leading prospects in the class of 2013, the presence of three sophomore starters and, most of all, a killer schedule that featured four state champions. The Dolphins closed with an eight-point loss to Simeon in the sectional semifinal.

So there will be more of the same in 2012-13, a national schedule that will be highlighted by a Dec. 1 date with Simeon, a match-up with traditional power De Matha of Hyattsville, Maryland, a trip to the City of Palms tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, and trips to Myrtle Beach, Memphis, New York, Boston and Wheeler, West Virginia. Oh, don't forget a game against local power De La Salle in the CitySuburban Showdown.

"It's a tougher schedule that last year," Slaughter said. "This is the way to play all the time. We have kids who have a need to be on the national stage. If all things are in order, it will give us great preparation for the state tournament. But things happen..."

No one could have foreseen the "happenings" that torpedoed Whitney Young's team last season. Most of all, the injury to Hamilton that kept him off the court for most of the season. Slaughter believes he will recover and play up to his potential but he understands the skepticism of college coaches and recruiting analysts who wonder if he will be a disappointment as his highly publicized father was.

Thomas Hamilton Sr. was one of two seven-footers on King coach Landon Cox's unbeaten 1993 state championship team, along with the more ballyhooed Rashard Griffith, who played at Wisconsin and was the 38th pick in the 1995 NBA draft.

Hamilton was a 7-foot-2, 330-pounder who signed a letter-of-intent to Illinois but wasn't academically eligible. He attended Pittsburgh but didn't play basketball. He was signed by the Boston Celtics at the beginning for the 1995-96 season but didn't appear in a game until about five weeks remained in the regular season, spending most of the season on the injured or suspended lists. In 11 games, he scored 25 points.

Hamilton, whose weight was listed as high as 360, was signed by the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the 1999-2000 season. He started in seven games and played in 22 of them. But he suffered a lower back strain and was placed on the injured list for nearly two months, then was released.

At his size, he had a talent for shooting a three-point shot from the corner, so NBA scouts constantly raved about his potential, hoping he would play up to expectations. But he rarely was in shape. Even in high school, he had to get frequent rests because he couldn't run up and down the court on a consistent basis.

So what about Tommy Hamilton? Will he become the player that recruiting analysts project him to be? He is ranked as the No. 9 player in the class of 2013 nationally by respected recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com. He is being recruited by Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Purdue, Kansas, Memphis, Louisville, Indiana, Michigan State and North Carolina State.

"That's the million-dollar question. Does he want to play?" Slaughter said. "He has to ask himself how much longer he can go without maximizing his God-given ability. This is his last call. He doesn't have another year. This is it.

"He has enormous ability. Last year wasn't fair because he was doing what we asked before he was hurt. We looked for him to have a phenomenal year. We remind him of what it was like last year. His skills haven't diminished. He should be hungry to be as good as he can possibly be this year.

"Will he be as good as his skills? The ball is in his court. I think he understands. We're seeing it this spring. He has lost weight. Maybe his confidence was shaken last year. But I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. I hope he gets it. A great deal of our ability to be successful as a team lays at his feet."

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."