Doyle unknown quality at Marshall

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Doyle unknown quality at Marshall

You might not remember Milton Doyle. He had an outstanding sophomore season at Marshall but suffered a broken hand and was forced to sit out his junior year. So he fell off everybody's radar screen. Well, everybody's except Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who recruited him.

Doyle, a 6-foot-4 senior, is committed to Florida International in Miami. It is the site of Thomas' latest coaching venture and the former St. Joseph, Indiana and Detroit Pistons star is eager to turn the program into a national power. Doyle is anxious to be part of it.

"An assistant coach from Florida International came to Marshall in September. I was surprised. He told me that the head coach was Isiah Thomas. I knew who he was. I had seen highlights of him. I knew he was a legend in basketball," Doyle said.

He talked to some other schools, including Loyola, Chicago State, Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois, but he committed to Thomas in November. How could he resist playing for one of the best players ever to play the game?

"When I went for a visit, I liked the school and the team -- and I liked their offense," Doyle said. "I felt I fit in good with the program and I liked the coach. I was impressed with how much he knows about basketball and how far his career has taken him. I'm looking forward to playing for him."

Doyle averaged 22 points per game as a sophomore. "It was a breakout year for me. I was really looking forward to my junior year," he said. Then he broke his hand during a summer softball game while diving into second basket trying to stretch a single into a double. Scratch the basketball season.

"It was very disappointing to sit out the basketball season," he said. "I went to all the games and sat and watched. It was very frustrating. It was hard to watch my teammates go through the playoffs and not be able to help them."

Last summer, he played for coach Chris Head's AAU team, the Illinois Hawks. He participated in a Reebok tryout in Chicago and was so impressive that he was invited to Reebok's national camp in Philadelphia. That's when Florida International discovered him.

"I wanted to turn heads and show off my skills and show off my game," Doyle said. "I wanted to show that I can play with the best players in the country. I felt I was doing it all. I had to get used to playing with people I hadn't played with and adjusting my game to them. I was determined to play as hard as I could and make up for last year.

"After it was over, I was proud of myself. But I felt I could be even better. What I want people to know is I can play every position and guard every position. And I have scoring ability from any angle and anywhere on the floor."

Marshall coach Henry Cotton's phone started ringing off the hook. "People ask: 'Why didn't you tell us about him?' A lot of people still don't know about him. But there isn't anything he can't do on the floor. At first, I thought he'd wait until after the season to make a commitment. But...how can you turn down someone like Isiah Thomas?" Cotton said.

If Doyle is a surprise this season, so is Marshall. Only one starter returned from last year's 18-11 finisher. But the Commandoes are 9-1 going into Tuesday's game against Gateway in the opening round of the Normandy Holiday Tournament in Saint Louis.

Last week, Marshall swept Red-West rivals Raby 83-61 on Wednesday and North Lawndale 71-60 on Thursday. Doyle had 22 points and 13 rebounds against Raby and 23 points and 10 rebounds against North Lawndale.

Cotton, 44, a 1985 graduate of Austin, is in his fourth year as head coach at Marshall. He was an assistant when Courtney Hargrays guided the Commandoes to a state championship in 2008. Previously, he was an assistant under Roy Condotti, Frank Griseto and Chris Head at Westinghouse.

"Doyle is our best player. When things get tight, he can play point guard," Cotton said. "But we have several unknown kids who can play well. You can't key on one kid. We don't have a lot of size. We compensate with speed and man-to-man pressure defense."

Doyle is surrounded by 6-1 senior Korbin McClain (14 ppg), the lone returning starter; 6-foot junior Derrick Miles (11 ppg); 6-1 sophomore Citron Miller (9 ppg); and 6-foot-1 junior Chris Crieg (10 ppg). Tony Lewis, a 6-foot-3 junior, is the sixth man.

"They have shown me commitment," Cotton said. "They work hard every day. They go through a wall for me. They show up and accomplish something every day. They improve game by game. We need to get stronger on rebounding and be more consistent on defense. We need to pressure the ball for 32 minutes instead of 27 or 28. We can't take a break on defense."

Doyle is glad to be part of Marshall's tradition. He saw Darius Smith and the 2008 state championship team. He is aware of the 1958 and 1960 state champions and all of the other trophy winners. And he knows who George Wilson was. He hopes future players will remember who Milton Doyle was.

"I like everything about this team," Doyle said. "We fight hard. We have all the tools to beat anyone we face. We have speed and chemistry and
defense. Everybody goes hard. Nobody gives up."

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”

Jimmy Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Nikola Mirotic, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo

Jimmy Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Nikola Mirotic, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo

Lauri Markkanenn will be a Chicago Bull once the trade between the Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves is finalized sometime Friday when the trade call is sent to the NBA, as he’s the first domino to fall in what could be an interesting offseason to come.

A stretch-shooting big man from Arizona who shot 42 percent from 3 last season, Markkanenn is a native of Finland who’s more of an offensive threat rather than a defender and rebounder at seven-feet tall. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for Arizona and has been regarded by many scouts as the best shooter in the draft.

With the Bulls bringing up the rear in that category, one assumes he’ll add a level of versatility if he can see the floor—which brings the Bulls to some offseason decisions they’ll have to make once free agency begins and even before. Markkanenn conceivably brings Nikola Mirotic’s future into question, as Mirotic is a restricted free agent this summer and Mirotic was on the trade block by the Bulls for the better part of last season as he had an underwhelming year trying to fill the role of a stretch-shooting big man.

But officials with the Bulls say Mirotic is still a priority for the Bulls and because he’s restricted, they control the process of his free agency. Mirotic shot 41.3 percent and averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds, as the Bulls still consider him an asset for the present and future as they’ll play a new style of basketball next season.

One would think Mirotic will command a salary at least around $10 million as the NBA’s salary cap will balloon to $99 million with a luxury tax line of around $119 million.

Rajon Rondo’s future has yet to be decided, as the Bulls acquired a point guard in Kris Dunn they’ve long eyed and presumably one they feel will be their future at the position.

Bulls officials stated they’ll wait until next week before making a decision on Rondo, but one wonders if they’ll go full youth movement, especially with wanting Dunn to succeed after a rocky rookie year in Minnesota and already having Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne under contract for next season.

Rondo has a $3 million buyout the Bulls can exercise that will make Rondo a free agent or they’ll pay Rondo $13.3 million next season.

[MORE: After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Lauri Markkanen] 

And then there’s Dwyane Wade, who opted in to his deal of $23.8 million for next season. Wade came to Chicago for a number of reasons, notably the salary and chance to play with Butler. With Butler gone and the Bulls changing their direction of the franchise, one wonders how Wade sees himself next season and how the Bulls see Wade with their young players.

Unless Wade wants out, the Bulls are headed into the free agency period thinking he’ll be back next season, and considering the Bulls have to spend up to 90 percent of their salary cap, his money helps them keep their books afloat, even as Butler’s affordable max salary exits and the controlled rookie-scale salaries of LaVine, Dunn and Merkkanenn enter Chicago for a future unknown