Football or Basketball for Weishar?

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Football or Basketball for Weishar?

First, the easy question: Why is Nicholas Weishar referred to as Nic instead of Nick?

"My mom chose it and I went along with it," he said. "Nicholas is my full name. Nic stuck. Without the k. It bothers me that everybody misspells my first name. But that's the way it is."

Second, the hard question: Which sport do you prefer, football or basketball?

"I like both sports equally and I continue to work hard at both. I don't know which sport I'll play in college," he said. I don't know if I can give one of them up. I have been playing both sports all my life. I'm not ready to decide yet."

Weishar, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound sophomore at Marist, doesn't have to make an early judgment. He still has ample time to develop and improve in both sports. But he has two scholarship offers in football, none in basketball, so it would appear that his future might be in cleats, not sneakers.

Or is it?

"He is very good at both sports," said Marist basketball coach Gene Nolan. "He enjoys the high school experience. His energy never lets up. He runs like a guard. He acts and plays and listens as if he is the 15th player on a 15-man team. He is humble and down-to-earth. He could be the best athlete ever at Marist."

At the moment, Weishar is concentrating on basketball. Marist is 16-4 going into Tuesday's game at Seton. The RedHawks will play at Carmel in Mundelein on Friday. In their last three outings, the swept St. Patrick 62-57, Brother Rice 75-69 and Harlan 45-44.

"We're not real big but I like our team," Nolan said. "Our kids are committed. They are coming together. We're coming into the tough stretch of our schedule in January and we'll find out a lot about our team. Rebounding is our biggest issue. We must sustain effort on defense for entire possessions. We have a real challenge ahead. But it is a great group to coach."

In his 12th year, Nolan has three starters from last year's 19-11 squad which the coach felt was an overachiever, certainly more successful than the previous teams that were 12-17 and 15-15.

"I was excited going into this year," said Nolan, who believes his 2012 team has the potential to surpass the achievements of the 2004 (25-5), 2005 (25-4) and 2007 (23-8) squads that reached the sectional semifinals. The school's only Sweet Sixteen qualifier was coach Paul Swanson's 26-4 team in 1981.

The RedHawks are led by Weishar (13 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-foot-1 junior L.J. McIntosh (17 ppg) and 6-foot junior point guard Lexus Williams (13 ppg, 5 assists). The other starters are 5-foot-7 Tyler Oden (9 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Matt O'Reilly (8 ppg). Jack Barry, a 6-foot junior (5 ppg), provides spark off the bench.

In the victory over St. Patrick, Oden scored 16 points, Weishar 14. Against Brother Rice, all five starters scored in double figures -- McIntosh (18), Oden (14), Williams (14), Weishar (13) and O'Reilly (13). Against Harlan, despite playing with flu-like symptoms, Weishar scored 22 points, including the game-winning basket as time expired.

Weishar began playing football in second grade, basketball in fourth grade. He was a chubby offensive lineman until eighth grade, then was switched to running back. He enjoyed playing in the line because he was involved in the offense and had ball-carriers running behind him.

But Marist football coach Pat Dunne moved him up to the sophomore squad as a freshman and noticed he had "good hands and decent speed." So the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder was moved to wide receiver. The sophomore squad went 9-0 and Weishar had found a home.

"I trusted coach Dunne," Weishar said. "I liked (wide receiver) right away. I thought it was a great fit for me. I liked using my speed against smaller cornerbacks. And I enjoy contact. You can't get it in any other sport. I love hitting people even though I'm a wide receiver. And I like scoring touchdowns. There is no better feeling for your team."

College recruiters like the looks of Weishar in a football uniform, too. He has offers from Illinois and Northwestern and interest from Notre Dame, Michigan State and Minnesota. Many more offers are coming. He is rated as one of the two leading prospects in the class of 2014 in Illinois, according to recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

It isn't easy juggling a busy schedule that includes playing basketball, negotiating the recruiting process in football and maintaining a 5.42 grade point average on a 5.0 scale.

"It is challenging to do it all...balance athletics and schoolwork. I don't have much of a social life," Weishar said. "Sunday is a big homework day. It is hard to focus on both sports. I call football coaches every week while I balance football, basketball and my studies. It gets pretty difficult, a lot of late nights. But I'm getting used to it. It is an awesome experience. I'm not going to complain about it."

Academics are most important. If he gets a bad grade on a test, his parents let him hear about it. They push academics. But they want their son to be well-rounded and they recognize that sports also is an important part of the educational process.

He has visited a Northwestern practice and attended Penn StateNorthwestern, Ohio StateIllinois and NavyNotre Dame games. He also plays AAU basketball with coach Mike Mullins' Illinois Wolves in the spring and summer. In fact, he often works out in football and basketball on the same day in the summer. And he plans to attend football and basketball camps during the coming summer.

So basketball still is in the mix.

"All of my best friends play basketball. I don't want to let any of them down," he said. "I'm not interested in comparing scholarships right now. I just love basketball. I want to win a state title. In basketball, I like the crowd that is on top of you. I like to take charges. That's my favorite thing to do. It gets the team pumped up. I like the contact."

Weishar would be thrilled to receive Division I offers for basketball. "The ideal situation would be to have to decide between offers for both sports," he said. He believes basketball recruiters should take notice of his leadership skills. "That's what sets me apart in basketball. I think that's what college coaches would be interested in," he said.

No matter which sport Weishar is playing, there is a whole lot to like.

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

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"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."