Camp chatter: Drake defends Hester, Carimi looking healthy

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Camp chatter: Drake defends Hester, Carimi looking healthy

Cleaning out the notebook from day one and looking to day two.

Brian Urlacher was wearing a brace on his left knee, which was injured in game 16. He was in every practice session and looked to be moving well. Whether he goes full on Friday is something to watch, since there could be some swelling after a return day, in addition to Saturday looming as the first big day in pads.

Receivers coach Darryl Drake is the first to get inside the facemask of his guys and get in it hard. Hes also the first to bare those sharp teeth when he thinks his boys are being unfairly criticized.

Like Devin Hester, when one reporter noted that Hester had just 26 receptions last year (after 51, 57 and 40 the preceding three seasons).

The only time he had 26 was last year, Drake declared. We didnt throw it to him. It wasnt his fault.

-- Tackle Gabe Carimi also went through a full practice on his surgically repaired knee and wasnt impaired. Neither was Julius Peppers on one snap where he accelerated on an outside route past Carimi and into a position to have turned Jay Cutler into road kill.

-- Kahlil Bell, a No. 3 running back with a 1.26 million one-year contract, put himself in some early roster jeopardy with the first fumble of camp. Fumbling was a concern with Bell last season and will be his ticket out of Chicago if there are many repeats.

-- Coordinator Mike Tice was clearly fuming about the number of drops and fumbles by members of his offense, and also about the unimpressive first showing of his offensive line.

Im not going to put up with any crap as far as turning guys free and not protecting the quarterback, Tice said.

High School Lites Week 13 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 13 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com. 

This week's show has a postseason feel to it with a lot of Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships being decided on the boys side while the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also have highlights.

We'll have highlights from the Interstate Eight as well.

And this week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is St. Rita senior wrestler Austin O'Connor as he just became the 15th wrestler in IHSA history to win four state championships. O'Connor completed his second consecutive unbeaten season last weekend and finished his IHSA career 181-4 as he's planning on going to North Carolina.

FRIDAY

Plano at Sandwich, 7:00 p.m. -- The regular season is still finishing up and this one is important in the Interstate Eight. Plano (20-6, 9-1) is trying to hold on to a one-game conference lead. Sandwich (15-11, 8-2) is only a game behind in conference play going into Senior Night, so it should be a great atmosphere. 

Luther North vs. Waldorf, 7:00 p.m. 1A St. Benedict Regional Championship -- No. 1 seed Luther North is hoping for its second regional title in three years as they take on Waldorf. Luther North (19-8, 9-2) advanced by beating North Shore Country Day in the semifinals. Waldorf (19-8, 10-0) went through the Lake Shore Athletic unscathed as they are the No. 5 seed. Waldorf beat No. 4 seed Ida Crown to advance earlier this week.

No. 21 Uplift at No. 11 Orr, 7:00 p.m. 2A Orr Regional Championship -- The game of the night features two legitimate Class 2A state title contenders -- meeting for a regional title. It's unfortunate that these two fixtures in the CSN Preps Power Rankings have to play so soon but this should be interesting. Orr (17-5, 8-2) was one of the Red-West's toughest teams this season as junior Raekwon Drake leads a balanced team. Uplift (22-5, 10-0) was bounced early from the Public League Playoffs by Farragut so they'll be motivated in this one. The Red-North champions feature the dynamic duo of brothers Demarius Jacobs (senior; Southern Illinois) and Markese Jacobs (sophomore; Kansas).

Leo at U-High, 7:00 p.m., 2A Chicago U-High Regional Championship --  Another quality matchup of city teams in Class 2A as Leo travels to U-High. The Lions (19-8, 5-2) finished second in the Catholic South this season as they move up to Class 2A after a runner-up finish in Class 1A last season. U-High won a Class 2A regional in its own gym in dramatic fashion last season as they're hoping to earn more hardware on their home floor.

Latin at DePaul Prep, 7:00 p.m. 2A DePaul Prep Regional Championship -- DePaul Prep will be favored in this one as they host Latin in another Class 2A regional final. The Rams (19-9, 7-2) were one of the top teams in the Catholic North this season as they're a state title contender in Class 2A. Latin (12-12, 6-6) has some young talent, including sophomore 

Timothy Christian at IC Catholic Prep, 7:00 p.m, 2A IC Catholic Prep Regional Championship -- This should be a good matchup in Class 2A as Timothy Christian heads to IC Catholic Prep. Timothy Christian (17-10, 8-4) finished second in the Metro Suburban Red this season while IC Catholic (20-7, 10-2) was second in the Metro Suburban Blue. These two teams played on Jan. 20 with IC Catholic winning 61-46. 

GIRLS BASKETBALL CLASS 1A & 2A SEMIFINALS

Harvest Christian Academy vs. Annawan, 11:00 a.m. -- Harvest Christian Academy (29-3) is favored in this one as they haven't lost since Dec. 9. The Lions are led by junior guard Alyssa Iverson as she averaged 19.5 points per game this season. Annawan (26-8) also hasn't lost in 2017 as they have a balanced lineup that doesn't feature one senior on the roster. 

Mendon (Unity) vs. Hardin (Calhoun), 12:45 p.m. -- The second Class 1A semifinal features Mendon against Calhoun. Mendon (23-10) got hot at the right time as they've won five straight tournament games since dropping its regular-season finale. Calhoun (27-5) is led by senior forward Grace Baalman as she's averaging 23.2 points per game.

Byron vs. Camp Point (Central ) - 5:30 p.m. -- A couple of 30-win teams matchup in the first game of the girls Class 2A semifinals. Byron (32-2) hasn't lost since Jan. 6 as they've won all but one of those games by double digits. Camp Point (Central) has bounced back nicely since losing the regular season finale as they're a balanced scoring team. 

St. Edward vs. Bloomington Central Catholic - 7:15 p.m. -- Another Elgin-area school headlines this one as St. Edward faces Bloomington Central Catholic. The Green Wave (27-5) are led by senior guard Maddie Spagnola as she's averaging 21.2 points per game. 

Why Joe Maddon sees Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff guy in Cubs lineup

Why Joe Maddon sees Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff guy in Cubs lineup

MESA, Ariz. – The analytical and emotional sides of the brain – the Big Data influence and obvious intimidation factor – are leading Joe Maddon to this conclusion: Kyle Schwarber should be the leadoff guy for a thumping Cubs lineup.  
 
"Schwarber is the frontrunner," Maddon said Thursday at the Sloan Park complex. "You could always consider (Ben) Zobrist if you wanted to. You could talk about Jon Jay. I'd say they're the leaders in the clubhouse right now. But primarily I like the idea of 'Schwarbs.'"
 
Because that would fit the Bill Jamesian ideal of lineup construction – put your best hitters at the top to get them more at-bats – as well as force the opposing pitcher to worry about Schwarber, reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant and Silver Slugger Anthony Rizzo in the first inning.     
 
"None of it's attractive," Maddon said. "There's pause involved there, because if you don't want to pitch to him, then the guys coming up behind are really pretty interesting. It's formidable, so it's uncomfortable from the other side."
 
That left-right-left balance would set up the switch-hitting Zobrist, a World Series MVP known more for his patience, clutch-time nerves and contact skills than brute force.
 
"When people say cleanup hitter or third-place hitter, everybody's applying conventional means from several years ago," Maddon said. "My thinking is more: Better hitter, get on base and then who can actually protect Rizzo. Who's going to make them pitch to Rizzo as often as possible?" 
 
The conditionals: The Cubs are a deep team built around versatile players with a seven-month marathon in mind. Schwarber is coming off a traumatic knee injury that limited him to two regular-season games and designated-hitter duties during the World Series. Daily matchups and inevitable injuries will shape the lineup.   
 
Still, Maddon said 140 games "sounds like a nice number" for Schwarber, who has five homers and a 1.178 OPS in 51 career postseason plate appearances. 
 
"He's everyday, but you have to do that with some kind of foresight," Maddon said. "You don't want to beat him up and have that knee bark on him. You give him his day off probably against a tough left-hander you just don't want him to see. And then you just do something differently. But otherwise you'll see him up there." 
 
The Geek Department still needs to send more information to Maddon, but the Cubs are toying with the idea of again hitting the pitcher eighth, in front of the Jay/Albert Almora Jr. platoon. 
 
"I'm just waiting to hear back from the boys if there's a significant bump or difference in that or not projection-wise," Maddon said. "This would be theoretically perfect, in a sense, where either like Almora or Jon to Schwarber to KB. That's kind of nice. 
 
"The only concern I have there is who's hitting seventh. We have a nice lineup, so the seven-hole hitter then would lose some benefit by having the pitcher hitting eighth. So that's the give-and-take with something like that. And it has nothing to do with the eight-hole and hitting sooner and all that. My concern is who's hitting seventh and what that's going to do to that."