St. Mel aims for rematch with Seton

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St. Mel aims for rematch with Seton

Khalil Small, Kevin King, Teadric Anderson and their Providence-St. Mel teammates were looking forward to this week's trip to the State Farm Classic in Bloomington as a "good test," a chance to measure themselves against the likes of state-rated Quincy Notre Dame, St. Joseph or Rockford Lutheran.

They opened in impressive fashion on Wednesday by storming to a 31-17 halftime lead and coasting to a 62-37 victory over Cissna Park. Small led a balanced attack by scoring 17 points.

But, to a man, they have circled Jan. 15 on their calendars. That is when Providence-St. Mel hosts Seton Academy in what is being described as a prelude to the Class 2A championship.

"That will be a signature game," St. Mel coach Tim Irvin said. "It will tell us how good we are."

A year ago, St. Mel finished 23-7, losing to Seton in the supersectional.

"We can't wait for the Seton game," King said. "Last year, I tried to prove as a sophomore that I can put a team on the map by being the best player I can be. But I was too young last year. I have another chance to prove it this year. I wasn't focused last year. My attitude was score, score, score. I wasn't focused on defense, the best part of my game."

Anderson said he still remembers the feeling in the locker room after the 61-51 loss to Seton. "We remember that supersectional every time we step on the floor. I remember the feeling of the seniors. I feel we owe it to pay them back. We felt we could have been a contender for the state title. But we didn't get it done because of small things," he said.

"It was a terrible feeling...loose balls, rebounds, mental breakdowns here and there. I'm the team leader. My job is easy. We're all on the same page. We all realize our goal is to win the state title. I just have to keep them motivated, to make sure we are having fun and have a love for the game."

St. Mel could be 11-0. The Knights, who handed highly rated North Chicago its only setback two weeks ago, lost to Hyde Park by two on a last-second tip and to Indiana power Indianapolis Brebeuf by four in overtime when King, who scored 19 points, was sidelined for the last six minutes with a knee injury.

"This is my best team in terms of how hard they play," said Ervin, noting that the top six players have returned. "They enjoy playing with each other. They have bought into the system in playing defense and being unselfish. We lack size so our two big kids have to play big for us. We must continue to be humble and hungry and not take anyone for granted."

The lineup features Small (20 ppg), a 6-foot-2 senior; King (18 ppg), a 6-foot-2 junior; Anderson (8 ppg, 5 assists), a 6-foot senior point guard; Anthony Mosley (9 ppg), a 6-foot-1 sophomore; and Donald Morgan (7 ppg), a 6-foot-2 senior.

There is plenty of punch off the bench with 6-foot-2 junior Bernard Lilly and the two bigs, 6-foot-4 sophomore Tyler Turner and 6-foot-4 junior Joshuan McNeal. Turner is a transfer from Fenwick. McNeal was academically ineligible last season.

"This year we are more hungry," Anderson said. "Our edge this year is defensive intensity. We preach defense this year. Everyone has stepped up on the defensive end. We're boxing out more and putting more pressure on the ball and talking more. It is a team effort."

Anderson said every player has improved in at least one facet of the game...King on offense, Anderson on defense, Mosley is more aggressive, McNeal and Morgan and Turner are boxing out more, Small is passing better.

Ervin, a 1991 graduate of St. Mel, has made quite a comeback at his alma mater. After playing for Gene Keady and graduating from Purdue in 1995, he worked at a financial company while serving as an assistant coach at St. Mel from 1995 to 2000.

He was named head coach in 2001 and took St. Mel to the Elite Eight in 2002. A year later, however, he went 0-26 and was fired. He was out of coaching for six years, then was rehired at St. Mel only 10 days before the 2009-10 season began.

"There was no bitterness over being fired," Ervin said. "I understood. It all worked out."

He has reminded his players of Tom Shields' 1985 state championship team that was led by Lowell Hamilton, Fernando Bunch and Joe Jackson. Small, King, Anderson and their teammates were born well after that glorious season but they have heard the stories of how it used to be and the way it was at the West Side school. And they want to write another chapter.

"Kids don't relate to the 1980s but they know about it," Ervin said. "They see the trophies in the trophy case. They want to restore that feeling in the school. Today, kids have a short shelf life. But they know the importance of tradition. They are excited about the progress we have made."

St. Mel's 1985 team might have been the best ever to compete at the small-school level in Illinois. Better than the unbeaten Lawrenceville teams of 1982 and 1983 with Marty Simmons? Better than the 1979 Providence team with Walter Downing? Maybe.

"We are aware of the state championship team of 1985," Anderson said.
"We want to bring back that winning tradition and the reputation we had. We have met the players. They were very good and played hard. They were dominant. We want to renew that."

King, who chose St. Mel over Whitney Young, Marshall and Crane "because it gave me a better opportunity to prove that I didn't have to go to a powerhouse school to make a name for myself and also academically prepare me of for life," learned about the 1985 team after he enrolled.

"We think about going back and doing what the 1985 team did," King said. "A lot of people hadn't thought about our basketball team for a while. Now there is a lot of support. When I was growing up on the West Side, I didn't know about St. Mel, only Marshall and Crane and Whitney Young. But now we know we can be something special.

"This team is more mature and more disciplined and more focused than last year. We have got in our minds that we really want to win state. Last year, we got caught up in the hype. We got too big-headed. But we got into the gym over the summer and worked together. We got to know each other better."

And they circled Jan. 15 on their calendars.

Recruiting News and Notes: Jacub Panasiuk nearing college decision

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Recruiting News and Notes: Jacub Panasiuk nearing college decision

Jacub Panasiuk (DE), Lake Park

Panasiuk (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) recently announced that he will make his college choice on June 14.

"I decided that I'm going to make my college choice on June 14th," Panasiuk said. "That's my birthday and I'm just getting closer to wrapping things up. June 14th also happens to be my birthday and I just feel like that's the right time to make my decision."

Panasiuk, along with East St. Louis junior wide receiver Jeff Thomas (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), remain the only uncommitted players in the Rivals.com Early Spring Top 20 Class of 2017 State of Illinois rankings. Panasiuk discussed what factors will help land his services.

"Over the past two years of going on visits everywhere and talking to coaches, I've realized that facilities and all the fancy stuff doesn't really matter," Panasiuk said. "Every school will end up having the same things. It will be how comfortable I am with the coaching staff at the school. I think having a close relationship with the coaches is a key factor in all of this."

Panasiuk, the older brother of Mike Panasiuk who signed with Michigan State, has offers from the Spartans along with several other Big Ten schools. Panasiuk added that he will narrow down his list of favorite schools "very soon."

Joe Spivak (DT), Montini Catholic

Spivak (6-foot-1, 292 pounds) added his second offer this week from South Dakota State. Spivak, who's father Joe played for Illinois State back in the 80's, also landed his first offer from his dad's alma matter. So is it safe to assume that the younger Spivak is a "lock" for Illinois State?

"A lot of people think that I'm a done deal for Illinois State," Spivak said. "I love Illinois State but honestly I'm looking at all of my options for now. I'm just not in a big hurry and I want to see how my recruiting shakes out."

Spivak has drawn recruiting looks from Northwestern, Miami of Ohio, Air Force, North Dakota State and Ball State, along with several Ivy League schools.

Charlie Schmidt (OG), Libertyville

Schmidt (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) was able to add his first offer late last week from Iowa State.

"I was pretty surprised," Schmidt said. "I talked to one of the assistant coaches on Thursday and they offered me the following day."

The sophomore offensive guard also has a serious connection to the Cyclones.

"My teammate Tyler Jost just committed to Iowa State. Also Coach (John) Kuceyeski is from Libertyville so we have a pretty good connection to Iowa State at our school. I know that they have good coaches and a good tradition at Iowa State The Iowa State coaches want me to come out and visit. I don't have anything set just yet but I'll get out to visit them soon."

Schmidt has also drawn recruiting interest so far this spring from Michigan State, Central Michigan and Illinois State.

Marist Notes

Marist head coach Pat Dunne has been putting in some serious time with college coaches this spring. Marist is already touring three DI recruits in junior linebacker Micah Awodiran, junior offensive guard Bill Kuduk (Central Michigan) and junior defensive back Robert Topps and you can now add junior defensive tackle Elijah Teague (6-foot-3, 292 pounds) to the FBS recruit listing as Teague was able to add his first offer from Iowa State.

"Iowa State was able to see me work out at school and they offered me a few days later," Teague said. "I don't know too much about the school but I do have family that lives in Carroll, Iowa which is like 30 to 45 minutes away from Ames. I've been to Ames before and I've seen the school and it looks nice. The Iowa State coaches want me to come out to visit and I'll try to get out to visit them this summer."

Illinois Mr. Basketball Charlie Moore down to eight schools

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Illinois Mr. Basketball Charlie Moore down to eight schools

After opening up his recruitment earlier in April, Morgan Park senior point guard and Illinois Mr. Basketball Charlie Moore is down to eight schools, he announced on Twitter.

The 5-foot-11 Moore is down to Cal, Illinois, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, SMU, UNLV and Western Kentucky. Moore opened up his previous commitment from Memphis after head coach Josh Pastner left to take the same position at Georgia Tech. It's worth noting that the Yellow Jackets is on Moore's final list.

A two-time state champion at Morgan Park, Moore averaged 28 points, seven assists and five steals per game as a senior.

Regarded as the No. 57 overall prospect in the national Class of 2016, according to Rivals, Moore is the best available senior point guard left in the country. 

 

Phillips DB Dexter Warren pledges to NIU

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Phillips DB Dexter Warren pledges to NIU

Phillips junior defensive back recruit Dexter Warren (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) already drew a handful of MAC offers and more recruiting looks this spring, yet it didn't take long for Warren to make his verbal commitment. Warren gave NIU head coach Rod Carey his verbal commitment while visiting the school last weekend for the Huskies spring game.

"NIU just feels like the right place for me," according to Warren. "I just like everything they have to offer and I was ready so I committed."

Warren, who can play either cornerback or safety at the college level, didn't choose NIU just because of its proximity to his hometown.

"I really didn't consider staying closer to home too much at first," Warren said. "I just liked everything that NIU has to offer. The school being closer to home is just another positive but it wasn't a big factor in my decision. My family and friends can come see me play, which is good."

Warren is now the second known in-state commitment for the Huskies and joins DeKalb WR Cole Tucker in the NIU Class of 2017.