Hammarlund is Mr. Intangibles for St. Viator

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Hammarlund is Mr. Intangibles for St. Viator

Kevin Hammarlund is a coach's dream and an opponent's worst nightmare. St. Viator's 6-foot-1 senior guard doesn't score points as much as he creates headaches. He wishes he were 6-foot-3, could shoot and play at Duke. But he knows that isn't to be. He is comfortable in his own skin.

"The most points I ever scored in a game was 28 as a freshman. My varsity high is 18 last year, 14 this year. I average only three to nine shots a game," he said. "I realize my role is to play defense and set screens and rebound and make steals, a little bit of everything."

Hammarlund averages nine points, five rebounds and at least one steal per game. He also takes four charges per game and usually limits the opponent's leading scorer to fewer than 10 points. He doesn't count floor burns or black-and-blue marks or bumps and bruises.

"I'm not a big statistics guy," he said. "I take pride in setting good screens for my teammates to get good shots. I've had at least one steal in every game. And my goal in every game is to help on team defense and hold the other team's good scorer under 10 points."

A two-year starter at wide receiver and free safety on the football team, Hammarlund will play football in college, probably at Washington University in St. Louis or Dayton, Butler or St. Thomas in Minnesota.

"I love both sports," he said. "Basketball is harder because I'm a shorter guard. I had a great chance to start in football last year and it led to being recruited by some schools. But I love basketball. I've been playing since I was 3. I wish I could play at Duke, but..."

But it won't happen. He will have to settle for trying to help St. Viator make history this season. The Arlington Heights school was 25-4 last year and lost to Mundelein in the sectional semifinal. The Lions have never been farther in the state tournament series. This year's goal is the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

"I've been at St. Viator for eight years and this can be the best team I have seen," two-year coach Mike Howland said. "We have five returning players who saw minutes last year. We know we are talented but we are younger than last year.

"We know we would have a learning curve. We know how to play together. Everyone knows their roles. We know who is good at what. We're starting to figure it out. We have a lot of firepower and a great group of guards. We can score in bunches. We're looking to make history this year."

St. Viator is 13-4 after losing to Lake Forest 66-53 on Tuesday. The Lions will face two severe tests when they face East Suburban Catholic rivals Marian Catholic and Tyler Ulis on Friday and Notre Dame on Saturday at the Sears Center. It won't get any easier next week when they meet Benet and New Trier.

Last week, St. Viator defeated Northridge Prep 65-55 as Ore Arogundade had 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. In an 86-81 decision over Nazareth, Arogundade had 22 points and 11 rebounds while Mark Falitico had 24 points and seven assists, Patrick McNamara scored 17 points and Hammarlund had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Against Lake Forest (12-3), one of the top teams in the North Suburban, Hammarlund scored 14 points and Ore Aragundade had 13. But St. Viator couldn't contain Lake Forest's 6-foot-7 Evan Boudreaux, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds.

"This will be a fun stretch. Our conference is as good as it gets, loaded, a battle every night," Howland said. "We played our worst week of basketball at the Wheeling tournament at Christmas (they lost to Naperville Central and Niles North to finish fourth) but played our best basketball last week (beating Glenbrook North and Carmel).

"We're really good when we play together and share the ball. We have to play to our strengths...play defense, push the tempo, get stops and rebound well. I said at the beginning of the year that if we go far (in the state tournament) we must rebound the ball and give opponents one shot. When we do, we're good. When we dont, we're pretty average."

The lineup features Hammarlund, 6-foot-3 junior guard Arogundade (16 PPG, 8 RPG), 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard Falitico (13 PPG, 5 assists), 6-foot-2 senior guard Martin (10 PPG) and 6-foot-5 senior center Hugh Masterson (6 PPG, 7 RPG). Ore's brother, Mayo Arogundade 5 PPG), a 5-foot-11 senior point guard, and 6-foot-3 sophomore McNamara come off the bench.

Howland describes Hammarlund as "our do-everything guy, a winner, our intangibles guy. He doesn't need the basketball. He took five charges in one game. He is a difference-maker. He is our best defender. He takes the opponent's best player."

"My role? I do what the coach tells me. I do what it takes for this team to win," Hammarlund said. "I like to be known as a defensive player. I pride myself at working at the defensive end, trying to take their best player out of the game.

"And I like to bring energy. I make energy plays, charges and steals, that bring us easy baskets. It gets our crowd going and gives the team momentum. I'm not a stat guy. I see how many points my man got, if I was able to hold him to a low score."

Hammarlund came off the bench last year as St. Viator went 25-4 and won its first conference championship in more than 10 years. The Lions were undefeated in the conference and on their home floor. But the loss to Mundelein in the sectional semifinal was a big disappointment, something he and his teammates haven't forgotten.

"I thought we'd go much farther than that. We should have gone to the supersectional or downstate. I felt we were that good," he said. "But we have more talent this year. We have a lot of good players and we are playing as a team. We can be better than last year."

St. Viator lacks size -- as was clearly evident in the loss to Lake Forest -- but usually makes up for it with aggressiveness, balanced scoring and lockdown defense.

"We have a lot of positive energy and leadership on and off the court," Hammarlund said. "The seniors have played together for four years. Sure, we have concern when we play a bigger team. But we have athleticism with our guards and can pressure bigger players and make it tough for them to finish."

The growing problem with high school football scheduling

The growing problem with high school football scheduling

Last Friday afternoon Joliet Catholic loaded its team and coaches into "yellow rockets" and headed to Franklin, Wis., on Opening Night. Both Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way Central headed to Indiana to play games.

Hinsdale Central hosted American Fork. American Fork, located just south of Salt Lake City, traveled to Hinsdale play the Red Devils.

Play in a conference such as the DuPage Valley, which needs to find non-conference games outside of the first two weeks of the season? Then much like Waubonsie Valley (Week 7 @ Fishers (Hamilton Southeastern), Neuqua Valley (Week 5 at Indianapolis Bishop Chartard) or Naperville Central (Week 6 at national power Lakewood Ohio St. Edward) you too will be on the road out-of-state.

Finding a few non-conference games to play is becoming an adventure.

Scheduling continues to be a growing problem for many IHSA football programs. Between the pressures of getting into the state playoffs along with a conference system that also seems to be imploding by the week state-wide, something needs to get sorted out sooner than later.

How about some possible solutions?

Some have suggested expanding the IHSA state playoff field, thus making the need to schedule "five wins to get in" less of a focus for teams across the state. Yet ask any high school coach and a large majority of them have a real issue with an "everyone-gets-in" system. Letting everyone into the IHSA state football playoffs would ease scheduling but also eliminates what many coaches feel makes the IHSA football playoffs special, which is making a regular season schedule actually count.

Conferences? These days more and more conferences, many of which have decades of history and tradition, are breaking apart. From the North and Western suburbs, which have already seen new realignments to the soon-to-be powder keg located in the South and Southwestern suburbs, expect even more scrambling for teams to find games.

How about letting the IHSA take over scheduling? Again some have suggested that the IHSA handle state-wide scheduling and make football much like other IHSA sports, such as football conferences becoming more like regionals. Yet this plan would eliminate well established conferences such as the Chicago Catholic League and others who would want to maintain its history.

Yet one thing seem to becoming much clearer these days as more and more schools head to all points to play games: something needs to change when it comes to scheduling.

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Week 1

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Week 1

Here are the preseason rankings of Illinois high school football teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters.

Class 8A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Loyola (12) 1-0 120 1
2 Lincoln-Way East 1-0 104 2
3 Glenbard West 1-0 93 3
4 Homewood-Flossmoor 1-0 84 4
5 Edwardsville 1-0 60 5
6 Brother Rice 1-0 57 NR
7 Glenbard North 1-0 45 8
8 Palatine 1-0 43 7
9 Waubonsie Valley 1-0 19 9
10 Maine South 1-0 18 NR

Other receiving votes: Huntley (13), Naperville Neuqua Valley (2), Naperville North (1), Hinsdale Central (1)

Class 7A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Chicago Mt. Carmel (11) 1-0 119 1
2 East St. Louis (1) 1-0 109 2
3 Libertyville 1-0 86 4
4 Batavia 1-0 73 3
5 Normal Community 1-0 70 5
6 Bradley-Bourbonnais 1-0 60 6
7 Fenwick 1-0 55 NR
8 St. Charles North 1-0 37 9
9 Wheaton North 1-0 15 NR
10 Machesney Park Harlem 1-0 10 NR

Other receiving votes: Lake Zurich (6), Geneva (5), Belleville West (5), St. Rita (4), Wheaton Warrenville South (2), Jacobs (1), Hononegah (1), Benet (1), Lincoln Way West (1)

Class 6A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Sacred Heart-Griffin (Spr) (11) 1-0 118 2
2 Prairie Ridge 1-0 108 4
3 Crete-Monee 1-0 84 5
4 Rockford Auburn 1-0 77 6
5 Montini (1) 0-1 66 1
6 Lemont 1-0 51 7
7 Cary-Grove 0-1 49 3
8 Belvidere North 1-0 41 9
9 St. Laurence 1-0 37 T10
10 DeKalb 1-0 11 NR

Other receiving votes: Chatham Glenwood (4), Providence (4), Oak Lawn Richards (4), Hinsdale South (2), Bloomington (2), Danville (1), Rockford Boylan (1)

Class 5A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Nazareth (13) 1-0 130 1
2 Peoria Central 1-0 114 2
3 Washington 1-0 106 3
4 Champaign Central 1-0 80 5
5 Sterling 1-0 69 7
6 Woodstock Marian 1-0 68 6
7 Joliet Catholic 0-1 44 4
8 Metamora 1-0 36 10
9 Centralia 1-0 34 T8
10 Triad 1-0 10 NR

Other receiving votes: Peoria Notre Dame (6), Sycamore (4), Kaneland (4), Decatur Eisenhower (4), LaSalle-Peru (2), Morgan Park (2), Rich Central (1), Cahokia (1)

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Althoff Catholic (11) 1-0 123 2
2 Rochester (2) 1-0 117 3
3 Breese Mater Dei 1-0 88 4
4 Phillips 0-1 83 1
5 Geneseo 1-0 82 5
6 Johnsburg 1-0 60 8
7 Marengo 1-0 57 6
8 Manteno 1-0 47 7
9 Quincy Notre Dame 1-0 15 NR
10 Columbia 1-0 14 NR

Other receiving votes: Taylorville (12), Richmond-Burton (7), Rockford Lutheran (4), Stillman Valley (3), Plano (2), Rock Island Alleman (1)

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 IC Catholic (12) 1-0   4
2 Wilmington (1) 1-0   3
3 Monticello 1-0   5
4 North-Mac 1-0   6
5 Newton 1-0   8
5 (tie) Pana 1-0   7
7 Bishop McNamara 0-1   1
8 Byron 1-0   T9
9 Paxton-Buckley-Loda 1-0   T9
10 Tolono Unity 0-1   2

Other receiving votes: Elmwood-Brimfield (13), Williamsville (6), Herscher (4), Breese Central (4), St. Joseph-Ogden (3), Carlinville (1), Winnebago (1), Mt. Carmel (1), Princeton (1)

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Auburn (8) 1-0   1
2 Downs Tri-Valley (2) 1-0   2
3 Maroa-Forsyth (1) 1-0   3
4 Deer Creek-Mackinaw 1-0   4
5 Sterling Newman (1) 1-0   5
6 Mendon Unity 1-0   9
7 Orion 1-0   10
8 Wethersfield 1-0   8
9 Eastland-Pearl City 1-0   NR
10 St. Bede 0-1   6
10 (tie) Nashville 0-1   NR

Other receiving votes: Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (7), DuQuoin (6), Fulton (4), Leo (3), El Paso-Gridley (2), Champaign St. Thomas More (1), Rushville-Industry (1), Clifton Central (1)

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Decatur St. Teresa (14) 1-0 140 2
2 Ottawa Marquette 1-0 117 3
3 Tuscola 1-0 106 5
4 Forreston 1-0 101 6
5 Dakota 1-0 68 8
6 Mt. Sterling (Brown County) 1-0 63 9
7 Athens 1-0 47 10
8 Stark County 0-1 30 1
9 Bureau Valley 1-0 26 NR
10 Stockton 1-0 23 NR

Other receiving votes: Lena-Winslow (16), Carrollton (11), LeRoy (9), Arcola (8), Camp Point Central (2), Hardin (Calhoun) (2), Chicago Hope Academy (1)

Recruiting news and notes: Jeff Thomas in no rush

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Recruiting news and notes: Jeff Thomas in no rush

East St. Louis senior four-star ranked wide receiver Jeff Thomas (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) put on a show in the Flyers' 34-3 win over Providence Catholic in New Lenox.

Thomas, who hauled in 5 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns while also playing defensive back, is still uncommitted and doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make a college choice.

"Everything is the same," Thomas said. "It's all about my team and the season for right now."

Earlier this summer, Thomas listed his top schools as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Missouri. Missouri just added a recent verbal commitment from East St Louis QB Rey Estes and the Tigers many feel could have an advantage in landing Thomas. Missouri has four former East St. Louis Flyers on its current roster.

Deerfield senior three-star ranked defensive end Joshua Maize (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) recently released his list of favorites schools which includes Toledo, UConn, Indiana, Central Michigan, Miami of Ohio and Ball State. Maize however has also been drawing heavy recruiting looks from several other BCS level schools including Purdue, Syracuse, Rutgers, Illinois and Penn State and those schools plan to re-evaluate Maize early this fall. Maize plans to make official visits before making a final college choice and recently said, "my recruiting process is still very open at this time."

[RELATED - Edgy Tim's Top 25 power rankings: Week 2]

One position that is having rough recruiting ride in the Class of 2017? Quarterback. So far just three in-state Class of 2017 signal callers have given BCS level schools a verbal commitments including Jacob's Chris Katernick (Bowling Green), Marian Catholic's Cameron Thomas (Illinois) and Estes (Missouri). So far, the only FCS level in-state known verbal pledge comes from Hinsdale Central's Josh Bean (Columbia). 

This Thursday (Sept. 1st) is a big day in football recruiting circles for the Class of 2018. Thursday is the first day that prospects are allowed per the NCAA to receive recruiting materials (mail) along with unlimited electronic transmissions (text/instant/direct messages) from college coaches. 

"I've stayed in touch with a handful of college coaches and they all said that I would be hearing from them on Thursday," Lake Zurich junior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn said. "It's exciting to hear from those coaches along with hopefully some new schools as well."

Need proof that the recruiting process calendar is getting pushed up earlier and earlier? From my recently-released State of Illinois Class of 2017 Top 60 recruit rankings, 49 out of the 60 recruits have already given schools a verbal commitment. Out of the 11 uncommitted players, I would say nearly half of those players are being held up from giving a verbal commitment because of various academic questions/issues.