Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

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Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

The best individual performance at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, described by many observers as the premier basketball event of the summer in Illinois, wasn't recorded by Jabari Parker or Jahlil Okafor or Kendrick Nunn or Gavin Schilling or Sean O'Mara any of the usual suspects.

It was David Cohn. The 6-foot-2 junior guard from York isn't included on anybody's list of the leading major Division I prospects in the Chicago area. But he bolstered his stock by giving a five-star performance in the two-day event that concluded Sunday in Riverside.

"He plays so hard. No player in the state plays any harder from start to finish," said recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "He has the ability to get his shot against almost anybody."

As he looks ahead to playing for his fourth coach in four years at York, Cohn doesn't appear to be perplexed by the change in faces and philosophies. He emerged as the leading scorer in the 36-team tournament. He scored 41 points in one game, 40 in another and 27 in another.

Last season, Cohn led York to a 22-9 record in coach Tom Kleinschmidt's first season. Kleinschmidt left to become head coach at his alma mater, Gordon Tech. Last week, Vince Doran, who had been dismissed at Hinsdale South, was hired to become York's fourth coach in four years.

"He is an ideal mid-major combo guard," Schmidt said. "He still has to prove he is a major Division I player. He isn't a pure point guard. He is being looked at by some schools as a point guard. But big schools haven't offered. They aren't ready to jump in yet. If he blows up during the July evaluation period in front of high major coaches, it would be difficult for some not to offer, particularly Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Stanford."

Cohn has been offered by Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wright State, Valparaiso, Colorado State, Santa Clara, Drake and William & Mary. He expects more offers and hopes to play at the highest level possible.

While Cohn turned in the best performance of the tournament, Schmidt singled out Proviso East's Sterling Brown as the MVP. He scored 30 points while leading his team to a 72-69 victory over Simeon in the championship game.

"He clearly was the biggest difference-maker on the floor," Schmidt said. "He has the ability to take over games down the stretch. He has great leadership qualities, a will to win. You couldn't tell him that these were meaningless summer league games."

Schmidt said that Brown, who was 6-foot-4 last season but has grown to 6-foot-5 and is pushing 6-foot-6, will be a top 50 player nationally by the end of the summer. "He is a high major prospect. He will make some major program very happy," Schmidt said.

Brown has scholarship offers from Northwestern, DePaul, Minnesota and Nebraska. Michigan State is showing a lot of interest. He had an offer from Illinois coach Bruce Weber but hasn't been offered by new Illini coach John Groce yet.

"He figures to command attention from major Division I programs in the near future," Schmidt said. "In last year's state final (when Proviso East lost to Simeon), he showed how far he has come with his perimeter shooting. Now he is bigger and stronger and more physical."

The next best player, according to Schmidt, was Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 sophomore Okafor, who scored 38 points against Evanston and 26 against Mount Carmel. "Once again, he showed he is an unstoppable force down low when he gets the ball. He has great hands and an ability to totally dominate games in the paint," Schmidt said.

The best teams? That's easy. Proviso East and Simeon confirmed -- if there ever was any doubt -- that they clearly are the two best programs in the state at this time. And Proviso East has definitely closed the gap. Coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates are closer to Simeon than people think. They beat Simeon at R-B with all of Simeon's players on the floor.

Schmidt pointed out that Brown has two outstanding complementary players in 5-foot-11 junior point guard Paris Lee and 6-foot-4 junior Brandon Jenkins.

"Lee might be the most underrated player in the state, the best on-the-ball defender in the state," Schmidt said. "Jenkins didn't play last year. He was academically ineligible. He has a lot of upside. He is very long and athletic and has the ability to consistently get to the basket. He is another offensive threat and can take pressure off Brown and Lee. He is just scratching the surface of his potential."

But don't feel sorry for Simeon coach Robert Smith. He has added another transfer -- and more depth -- to his roster, 6-foot-5 sophomore Dante Ingram, who comes from Danville.

Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 junior Kendall Pollard has started to emerge from the shadow of more highly publicized teammates Parker and Nunn. His stock skyrocketed at R-B.

"He is becoming more assertive and more of a leader," Schmidt said. "He is a mid-major plus player, on the fringe of becoming a high major player. Skill-wise, he is showing how versatile he is in being able to play multiple positions on the floor and score from the perimeter and around the basket."

The surprise team of the tournament was St. Patrick. Coach Mike Bailey's Shamrocks made the Final Four, beating Whitney Young in the quarterfinals in the biggest upset of the event, then losing to Proviso East by five in the semifinals. "They proved they are for real, a top 20 team next season," Schmidt said.

St. Patrick was led by 6-foot-5 junior Keith Langston, a transfer from Whitney Young, and 6-foot-1 junior Royale Ewing.

The biggest sleeper? Schmidt singled out 6-foot-7 junior Josh McAuley of West Aurora. "Last year, he was a role player for coach Gordon Kerkman. But he has demonstrated vast improvement on offense and is stepping up and becoming more of a scorer and interior force on offense and defense," Schmidt said.

The tournament's hidden gem? A player who no one knows about right now but who has a chance to be very good, according to Schmidt, is 6-foot-7 sophomore Davonte Heard of Homewood-Flossmoor.

"He played some last year on the varsity as a freshman," Schmidt said. "He has very strong wing skills and an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot from three-point range. He is in the mold of (former H-F star) Julian Wright. Against St. Viator, he was the best player on the floor."

Other players who impressed were Andrew's Jubril Adekoya, Mundelein's Northern Iowa-bound Robert Knar, Morton's 6-foot-5 junior Waller Perez, Morgan Park's 6-foot-1 junior point guard Kyle Davis and Loyola's 6-foot-2 junior Jack Morrissey.

Adekoya, an All-Chicago Area selection last season, is a workhorse who is starting to show improvement on the perimeter as a shooter and ball-handler. Knar scored 30 points against St. Rita and reminds many of former Washington, Illinois, star Matt Roth, now at Indiana, but he is more multi-dimensional.

Perez is a sleeper who is very active around the basket and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and score in one-on-one situations. Davis, a transfer from Hyde Park, has established himself as a high major prospect. Morrissey, a nephew of former Chicago Bears linebacker Jim Morrissey, scored 38 points in one game.

Are kids playing too many games in too many tournaments? Are they in danger of burning out? It is recalled that former King coach Landon Cox once was roundly criticized for playing an NBA-size, 80-game summer schedule. But his teams qualified for the Final Four five times in eight years and won three state championships.

"Kids aren't playing too much basketball," Schmidt summed up. "It has reached the point where you have to play as much as possible in the summer because you always want to achieve a competitive edge. Team-wise and individually, you always want to maintain a competitive edge. To do that, you must not only play as much as possible but you also have to play against the best teams possible."

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

PHOENIX – Brandon Marshall never needed a whole lot of encouragement to step before a microphone but the NFL, which sometimes wished he'd put a sock in it, has now invited the former Bears wide receiver to speak up.
 
The NFL extended an invitation for Marshall, whose time in Chicago ended in some measure because of his insistence on pursuing the media portion of his career, to address the league higher-up's ostensibly as part of a communications bridge-building. Marshall jumped at the chance.
 
"They thought it was important for a player to come up and give a player's perspective and talk about the relationship between owners and players," Marshall said on Monday at the outset of the NFL owners meetings. "I think it's evident that our relationship could be so much better."
 
Marshall has been part of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" in recent years, flying to New York to participate in taping the show, and ultimately accepting a trade from the Bears to the Jets in 2015, which obviously cut down on his commute. The Jets released Marshall earlier this month, after which Marshall signed on with the Giants.
 
He told owners this week, "If we want our game to continue to be on that [positive] track, that it's on being super successful and being a pillar in our community and being a thread in our community, we have to make sure our relationship as players and owners is good."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bears tickets right here!]
 
The immediate response was more than a little positive: Per San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York:

https://twitter.com/JedYork/status/846400103472480256
 
Marshall predictably welcomed the forum and wants to see it expanded.

"I'd like to see more players be more involved in our owners meetings," Marshall said. "And not only at the owners meetings, but any time we're talking football, we should have players at the table. Commissioner Goodell is always open-minded. He always has that open-door policy. So I think he'll continue to listen and continue to evolve this part of our business."

Raiders-to-Vegas the latest in long line of NFL relocation drama, some of which included the Bears

Raiders-to-Vegas the latest in long line of NFL relocation drama, some of which included the Bears

PHOENIX — The Bears next play a team named "Raiders" in 2019, having just played them in 2015 at Soldier Field. Whether the Bears' schedule of opponents will say Oakland Raiders or Las Vegas Raiders is still fluid, but the Raiders are leaving Oakland sometime in the next several years after the expected vote Monday at the NFL owners' meetings.

Leaving a press conference at which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Raiders owner Mark Davis and a couple other league figures formally announced the foregone conclusion of the Raiders moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, a Cleveland media counterpart fell in beside me and remarked, "Well, at least that's one story you won't have to worry about covering in Chicago."

Maybe yes, maybe no.

The NFL game presents endless spurts of the byzantine and bizarre, so my colleague — who saw his Browns bolt from their lakefront to Baltimore one dark upon-a-time — might be premature with his effort at comfort. Besides, nobody to my knowledge ever took the temperature of Decaturites when their town lost the Staleys to Chicago (at least the Bears kept a Staley as a mascot). And a deal had been worked out, later abandoned, to move the Bears to Hoffman Estates in the mid 1990s, something that had been preceded by then-chairman Michael McCaskey shopping the franchise to various suburbs, low-lighted by a flirtation with Gary, Ind., to something that concept drawings labeled "Planet Park."

Hizzone Da Mare once told George Halas that if Papa Bear took his team out of the city, the "Chicago" part of its name wasn't going with it. And son Richie blustered regarding Gary, "Let them move to Alaska."

Well, I mean, then again, hey, if Juneau or Fairbanks can come up with the requisite relocation fees.

And you can only wonder how many members of Raider Nation are feeling that way about the Raiduhs, that they can go to Alaska (or Gary) for all they care.

The vote approving the Raiders' move to Las Vegas (presumably the league toned down any anti-gambling rhetoric for the day) was believed to be 31-1, with only the Miami Dolphins saying nay. But the side issues were everywhere and somewhat more entertaining, given that the deal was a fait accompli ever since the city of Oakland failed to deliver enough of a stadium package to keep its Raiders where they'd begun under Al Davis when the AFL was formed in 1960.

It was difficult not to chuckle as Mark Davis opined that he thought his late father "would be proud" of moving the team to the self-appointed entertainment capital of the world. True that; Al moved the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982, to a second location in that market subsequently, and then back to Oakland in 1995. Definitely a legacy to be proud of.

And one for Goodell, too, who summarized, "You know that our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each of those teams and the league," meaning stable financially, not necessarily geographically. "We're all disappointed for Oakland and their fans," Goodell managed to say.

The Raiders do have one-year options on their lease in Oakland for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and Davis said that if their Las Vegas facility isn't completed for the Bears' 2019 visit (OK, he didn't say "Bears," that was me), an extension might be in order.

Some observers are waiting for a reaction statement from jilted Oakland mayor Libby Shaaf, who got a thanks-but-no-thanks public letter from Goodell this weekend and sent a last-minute one for the league to delay its vote on the Las Vegas move, which the league didn't do. Somehow the thought of the Raiders asking Oakland to do something for them in their time of need is something worth buying a ticket to.

In the meantime, the move proceeds as expected, adding another mystery to the NFL firmament: moving a team to a significantly smaller sports market from the one it already occupied; moving not one but two teams into the Los Angeles market that had been abandoned by the Rams, Raiders and even Chargers (one of the teams now returning there); those sort of things.

How viable the Las Vegas market is for NFL football is something that'll play out over the next number of years. For now, good seats still available ... in Oakland.