Is this the year for Whitney Young?

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Is this the year for Whitney Young?

Tyrone Slaughter talked for 30 minutes. The Whitney Young basketball coach talked about his team, his expectations for the 2012-13 season, what he insists is the toughest schedule his Dolphins have ever confronted, the continued development of 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor and 6-foot-9 Paul White, the arrival of highly touted transfer L.J. Peak from South Carolina, rising 6-foot-4 sophomore Joseph Toye and other things.

But he never mentioned Tommy Hamilton. Not once.

Hamilton, a 6-foot-9 senior who once was projected to be every bit as good as Okafor and Simeon's Jabari Parker, has moved to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The son of former King star Thomas Hamilton, he has offers from Illinois, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Northwestern.

An underachiever in his three years at Whitney Young, Hamilton hopes to reach his potential in a new environment. He is being coached by Loren Jackson, who once coached at Julian and Boys To Men Academy in Chicago.

But it is apparent that Whitney Young can do without him.

"This team is better than last year. That is not debatable. This team can do things that last year's team couldn't do," said Slaughter, in his ninth year at the Near West Side school.

"With three starters back, this team is talented an experienced, as good as any team we have had. We may not have the sheer numbers of the 2009 state championship team but we feel very good about the quality of this team, one through seven."

Last year's team finished 17-10, losing to state champion Simeon in the sectional semifinal. "We knew going in with the schedule we had that it would be competitive and challenging. We hoped we would do better at the end of the year," Slaughter said.

"But we played great competition. The teams we lost to won state titles and were ranked nationally. And we started three sophomores. It was a successful season when you look at it in the big picture. The benefits of a competitive schedule will pay tremendous dividends this year."

Slaughter said his team will face an even tougher schedule this season. The Dolphins will open against perennial national power DeMatha of Hyattsville, Maryland, on Dec. 1 at Illinois-Chicago's Pavilion.

Later, Whitney Young will play Chester, a Philadelphia team that has won 56 games in a row, in Boston. They will play Melrose Heights in Memphis, Tennessee. They also have dates at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, and the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, Virginia.

Not to forget a grudge match against Simeon on Jan. 26 at Loyola's Gentile Center and a game against Benet Academy in the CitySuburban Hoops event. And, of course, traditional rivals Marshall, Crane, Farragut and Orr in the Public League's Red-West Division.

"It is designed to get us ready for the state tournament," Slaughter said. "When you believe positively about yourself, it allows you to do more things. Last year, we looked at the schedule and said we improved and got more mature. This year, the schedule is more challenging."

To deal with all of that, Slaughter is looking for Okafor, who is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the class of 2014 nationally depending upon which recruiting survey you choose to believe, to be his team leader on and off the court. He also is looking for him to be a dominant force on offense and defense, particularly on defense.

"Last year, he averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds per game. I'm not looking for more than that this year. No one can match up to him. But I'm looking for him to be a defensive dominator who makes us better defensively," Slaughter said.

In the meantime, Okafor's recruiting is ongoing. There is no timetable. He has more than 20 offers, including Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke, Illinois, DePaul, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Louisville, Connecticut, Georgetown, Arizona and Missouri.

Slaughter also expects more of White this season, more than the 11 points and five rebounds per game that he produced a year ago.

"I want to see him become more aggressive on offense. He has great skills. But he must be more aggressive," Slaughter said. "I want 17 points per game and double-digit rebounds. I try to encourage him that it isn't about Okafor but about us winning and he has to produce at a level that he is capable of doing. There is more that he can do and he has got that memo."

Other starters are 6-foot-5 junior point guard Miles Reynolds, Peak and 5-foot-8 senior guard Ausar Madison, a transfer from California. The first four players off the bench will be 6-foot-4 senior Robbie Brettner, Toye, 6-foot-2 junior Erwin Henry and 6-foot-1 freshman Rodney Herenton.

Slaughter looks for more consistency from Reynolds, about 10 points and seven assists per game. "I want him to become a good defender and our floor leader," the coach said.

Peak, a 6-foot-5 junior who is ranked among the top 50 players in his class nationally, figures to average 18-19 points per game. He has offers from Clemson, Florida State, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia and North Carolina State. He figures to attract interest from Midwestern schools.

"How does he fit in? He is a very good player. He understands the game. He is a well above average defender. And he is a great scorer. We have to get him comfortable with our guys and us with him. I know he can put points on the board. And he also is an outstanding offensive rebounder," Slaughter said.

But is there too much talent on the roster? Will one basketball in the game keep everybody happy? Will the emergence of Toye, who is extremely athletic and skilled, force Slaughter to rethink his lineup?

"The challenge is to put them together, keeping the main theme the main theme, working hard, staying committed to a common cause, being the best team we can be," Slaughter said.

"They enjoy playing together. The common goal is to win and move on to play at the next level. What can they do in the next two years? Could they be one of the best teams ever? They must put it all together."

White Sox: Jake Petricka hopes DL stint is short

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White Sox: Jake Petricka hopes DL stint is short

Jake Petricka will have to resume some mechanical work with Don Cooper as soon as he’s healthy.

With hip tightness he’s experienced in the early part of the season continuing to linger, the White Sox reliever went on the 15-day disabled on Thursday. Petricka has a right-hip impingement and seems optimistic that rest and treatment should have him on the mend quickly.

“I have a little history of tight IT bands,” Petricka said. “I just thought it was part of the normal wear and tear, so I upped my other stuff to take care of it and it just kept coming back and coming back and it kinda hit a point.

“It sucks being on the DL, but I think Herm (Schneider) will take care of me and get it cleaned out and be good to go when I get back.”

Petricka described the injury as a minor ailment. With treatment, he can avoid a worse future injury. But he needs at least a week off, which forced the White Sox to place him on the DL.

Petricka has struggled with command early in the season. He has issued eight walks and allowed eight hits in eight innings, which has resulted in a 4.50 ERA. The right-hander said he and Cooper have begun to try and make some corrections and he hopes to get back to it shortly.

“I felt good,” Petricka said. “Obviously, location has been off. We were looking at mechanics and stuff with Coop and we were getting into a good groove of figuring stuff out and this kind of popped up. We’ll pick up right where we left off when we’re done with this.”

Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

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Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

John Lackey struck out 11 hitters for the second time this season Friday.

He had a slightly different way of describing it:

“We’re going to play a little country hardball and figure it out.”

The “country hardball” was working well for Lackey, who punched out nearly a dozen Washington Nationals in the Cubs’ 8-6 win at Wrigley Field, matching a season high in whiffs and earning his fourth win of the year.

After surrendering a pair of early runs, Lackey settled in nicely, allowing just two hits in his final five innings of work. Getting a ton of assistance from his offense certainly helped, the Cubs digging out of that early 2-0 hole by bashing four home runs against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Given Scherzer’s fate, Lackey’s performance on a day when the ball was soaring out of the Friendly Confines was particularly impressive. So too was his second 11-strikeout game of 2016 after not reaching that number in any game last season with the Cardinals.

“It was definitely a day for the hitters. A little warmer, wind blowing the other direction. It was a tough challenge today, for sure, with a good lineup, and I was fortunate to get a few strikeouts,” Lackey said. “You never know with the fly ball when things are like that around here.

“You’re going to have to miss some bats in this ballpark, especially later on in the summer when it warms up. Obviously it’s not a great place to pitch some days when the wind’s blowing out. It can play pretty small. Today I was fortunate.”

The Cubs’ hitters will take the headlines and make the highlight shows, an unsurprising result when Ben Zobrist hits four homers in three games and the Cubs boast a mind-boggling plus-98 run differential.

But that run differential and the Cubs’ success in general — 22 wins in their first 28 games of the season — wouldn’t be possible without elite pitching. Jake Arrieta’s credentials are well known, as are Jon Lester’s, and Jason Hammel has dazzled, too, with a 1.24 ERA.

Lackey has maybe seemed the odd man out with an ERA north of 4.00, but he’s shone in more than half his starts this season. In fact, he’s finding the confines at Wrigley to be quite friendly, owning a 2-0 record and a 2.49 ERA in three home starts. He’s gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts and has a team-high 40 strikeouts on the season.

Make no mistake, every piece of this five-man rotation is pulling his weight, and Lackey is no exception.

“I’ve been in a few rotations, I try to handle my own business,” Lackey said. “We definitely root for each other hard. Jake’s on another level right now doing his thing. It’s a great group, it’s a fun group to hang out with and we work hard in the weight room, push each other. And then whoever’s day is that day, I’m their biggest fan, and I hope everybody does well.”

Lackey also became the fifth active pitcher to reach 2,000 career strikeouts, an achievement he chalked up to being old.

“I guess it means I’m old and been around a while, done a few things.”

The truth is that Lackey has “done a few things,” and it’s why he’s here. Theo Epstein’s front office brought Lackey in this winter because of his pedigree, which includes a pair of World Series rings and a dominating performance against this very Cubs lineup in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS.

Lackey signed on for the same reason the other big-name free agents did this offseason: This Cubs team has a chance to make his jewelry collection even more impressive.

With the Cubs owning the title of baseball’s best team almost 30 games into this season, is it time to start comparing this group with Lackey’s past title-winning squads?

“It’s a little early to get too crazy,” Lackey said. “Let’s play a little baseball.”

Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

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Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

- Catchers Alex Avila (strained hamstring) and Kevan Smith (back) were sent to the 15-day disabled list on April 24. On Friday, Avila started his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte. Smith is in Glendale, Ariz. rehabbing his injury.

- Daniel Webb went to the 15-day DL on April 29 for right elbow flexor inflammation.

- Jake Petricka hit the 15-day DL with a right hip impingement.

CUBS

- Jason Heyward returned to the field mid-game on Thursday night after Dexter Fowler was ejected in the third inning against the Washington Nationals. Heyward, who missed three games due to a wrist injury, started for the first time in four contests on Friday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.

- Matt Szczur was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

- Miguel Montero is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday but Joe Maddon isn't sure if he needs a rehab stint. Montero landed on the DL on April 25 with back stiffness.