Who was the best of the holidays?


Who was the best of the holidays?

Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye are two of the leading recruiting analysts in the nation. For 26 years, they have provided an insightful and comprehensive evaluation of the best high school basketball players in Illinois. During the recent Christmas holidays, they attended seven tournaments from Pontiac to Wheeling. Here is what they saw and how
they saw it:Best team: Simeon. Coach Robert Smith's defense is more effective than his offense. Remember, defense wins championships. But Proviso East has closed the gap. The Pirates have almost as much depth. But do they have a clear-cut difference-maker? Will Keith Carter continue to provide the consistent spark that he did at Proviso West?Best player: Jabari Parker. Even though he didn't dominate every game at Pontiac, he stepped up when his team needed it the most. Steve Taylor was more consistent but Parker stepped up when it mattered the most in the 48-47 semifinal victory over Peoria Manual.All-Holiday Tournament Team: Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor, Kendrick Nunn, Simeon; Keith Carter, Proviso East; Donald Moore, Bloom.Best shooters: Mike Fleming, Stevenson; Mike LaTulip, Prospect. Fleming made significant strides with his game. He was MVP at Wheeling. When they went head-to-head at Wheeling, Fleming scored 28, LaTulip 18.Best rebounder: Steve Taylor, Simeon. As usual, he went to war in every game at Pontiac. He is an ideal 34 forward for Marquette's program.Best shot blocker: Cliff Alexander, Curie. More than anyone else, the 6-foot-9 sophomore has the best natural ability to block shots.Best playmaker: Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic. He is as good a ball-handler and decision-maker as any point guard in the class of 2014.Best defenders: Kendrick Nunn, Simeon; Keith Carter, Proviso East. Carter did an outstanding job against Rockford Auburn's Fred Van Vleet, limiting the Wichita State recruit to 10 points.Best free throw shooter: Mike LaTulip, Prospect. He converts 90 percent of his free throws.Most intimidating player: Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young. There isn't a more unstoppable post player at the high school level than the 6-foot-10 sophomore.Best passer: Jalen James, Hope Academy. The Illinois recruit does a tremendous job of pushing the ball up the floor.Best ball-handler: Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic. Not only does he have great ball-handling ability but has the uncanny knack for lulling defenders to sleep while exploding to the basket.Best coach: Rick Kehoe, St. Ignatius. He did an outstanding job in guiding his team to the championship at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York. He always has his teams prepared and ready to play and wins despite not always having the best talent.Best player you've never heard of: Ore Arogundade, St. Viator. The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has the potential to be a high-major college player. He was all-tournament at Wheeling. He scored 18 against Naperville Central, 25 against Prospect.Players whose stock sky-rocketed: Sean O'Mara, Benet; Juwan Starks, West Aurora. O'Mara, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, has clearly shown that he is behind only Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young and Cliff Alexander of Curie as one of the premier post players in the class of 2014. Starks, a 6-foot-4 senior, has firmly established himself as a Division I recruit for the spring signing period.Best game: Simeon 48, Peoria Manual 47, Pontiac semifinal. "The third quarter was possibly the best quarter of basketball action I've seen at Pontiac in 26 years," Roy Schmidt said. "Just non-stop action and intensity."Teams to watch in the New Year: Naperville Central, St. Ignatius, Metea Valley, Plainfield East. Naperville Central beat St. Viator, Libertyville and Stevenson to win at Wheeling. St. Ignatius upset Downers Grove South and De La Salle to win at York. Both proved they can compete against top-level competition but will continue to be tested in their respective conferences.Biggest disappointments: Cliff Alexander, Curie; Homewood-Flossmoor. Alexander wasn't a focal point on offense in any game at Pontiac and relies too much on his athletic ability instead of being a dominant presence. Time is running out on H-F to prove its worth. They have been highly touted for three years and still have trouble getting over the hump in big games.Best playincident I'm glad I saw: At the risk of being redundant, the entire third quarter of the SimeonPeoria Manual semifinal at Pontiac.Best playincident I wish I had seen: Overall good free throw shooting. Do teams even practice free throw shooting anymore? It cost several teams opportunities to win games.Best story: Marshall finished third in the Normandy tournament in St. Louis without its best player, 6-foot-4 senior Milton Doyle, who was forced to stay home with the flu. Corbin McClain, Derrick Miles and Citron Miller stepped up big for coach Henry Cotton's Commandoes, who are 11-2.Best conference: Public League's Red-West. As in the old days, every game in the section will be a war. Orr, North Lawndale, Collins, Crane, Marshall, Farragut and Whitney Young are dominant.Best act of sportsmanship: The Simeon team shaking hands with former Peoria Manual star Howard Nathan, who was sitting in a wheelchair at courtside prior to the SimeonPeoria Manual semifinal at Pontiac.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show Saturday on CSN

IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show Saturday on CSN

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to CSN for the sixth-straight year on Saturday night at 8 p.m.

The Playoff Pairing Show, also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and IHSA.tv, will reveal the brackets and first round matchups for all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes.

"The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show' continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn't be prouder to once again showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage to our on-air and online viewers on Saturday night," CSN Chicago VP/GM Phil Bedella said. "This show is the perfect precursor to kick off our IHSA Football season, which includes four live playoff battles, along with live coverage of all eight championship match-ups."

CSN's Leila Rahimi will host Saturday's show and be joined alongside IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard, Kankakee Daily Journal writer and bracketologist Steve Soucie. CSNChicago.com Preps contributor Edgy Tim and IHSA TV veteran Matt Rodewald will analyze each class with media members from around the state. 

[MORE: Complete Preps coverage

In addition, the Playoff Pairing Show will feature highlights, interviews, and team and fan reaction moments throughout the "Land of Lincoln" from numerous playoff pairing parties.

The IHSA Playoff Pairing Show is a precursor to CSN's live coverage of the 2016 IHSA football postseason. CSN will air one live playoff game during each of the first four rounds and carry all eight state championship games on Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26.

Viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com's channel finder to find the exact channel locations in their area.

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.