Foster lets his play do his talking

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Foster lets his play do his talking

Alex Foster apparently is tired of hearing from critics who claim he isn't playing up to expectations. So De La Salle's 6-8 junior, one of the top-rated prospects in the class of 2013, is letting his play on the floor do his talking for him. And he is delivering a very persuasive argument.

Foster came to De La Salle with a reputation as one of the leading eighth grade prospects in the state, even better than Simeon's Jabari Parker. But critics argue he let his hype go to his head and he began to acquire a less-than-desirable reputation as an underachiever.

No longer.

"Foster is playing well. He has had four double doubles in a row," De La Salle coach Tom White said. "Some people said he wasn't finishing but he is explosive. He is our most consistent player. He just dominates."

Longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye agree with White's assessment. "Foster has been playing much better of late and it appears that what others have said regarding his inconsistency is now motivating him. As a result, he is now letting his game do the talking," they said.

"As long as he continues to do that, there is no question that he is a high major prospect. We have always said that when he comes to play that he sports as much upside as any player in Illinois from the class of 2013 with the exception of Jabari Parker."

Not everybody is convinced, however. Veteran national recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com has dropped Foster to No. 130 on his list of the top 150 players in the class of 2013.

In fact, Coleman ranks nine Illinois products ahead of Foster -- Parker (1), Simeon's Kendrick Nunn (22), Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton (28), Morgan Park's Bill Garrett (43), Belleville East's Malcolm Hill (67), St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens (78), Proviso East's Sterling Brown (111), Simeon's Jaylon Tate (116) and Hope's Jalen James (123). Leo's Russell Woods is rated No. 142.

"I dropped Foster because of inconsistent spring and summer play and the overall development of others we observed over the spring and summer," Coleman said. "He can jump back into the top 50-75 if he shows an ability to face, score with a 15-17 footer or dribble drive.

"Foster was mostly a face up player when I watched him and since he hasn't added inches, he needs to add versatility and consistency to move back up in the rankings. Remember that Jabari Parker was about to start losing spots in the rankings when he dropped the 15-20 pounds that he had gained to re-establish himself at the top of the class of 2013."

Foster has offers from Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, Purdue, Minnesota, Texas A&M and Colorado State. He has interest from Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Indiana, USC, Butler and Harvard. He is very interested in Harvard and coach Tommy Amaker has been a frequent visitor to De La Salle's gym, along with Illinois' Bruce Weber, USC's Kevin O'Neill, Oregon State's Craig Robinson, DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Minnesota's Tubby Smith.

Foster isn't the only one they are looking at. In fact, some college coaches aren't scouting Foster. Instead, they are evaluating 6-9 junior Gavin Schilling and 6-4 junior Alvin Ellis.

They are the focal points of a 7-1 team that will meet Perspectives in the opening round of the York Holiday Tournament on Tuesday in Elmhurst. Foster is averaging 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Schilling is averaging 14 points and 8.7 rebounds. Ellis is averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 assists. He also is a 90 percent free throw shooter.

Schilling is from Germany. His family moved to the United States and he enrolled last June. He turned 16 on Nov. 10. He still is recovering from major surgery on his left wrist. He has offers from Illinois, Oregon State, USC, Colorado State, DePaul, Texas Christian, Vanderbilt, Minnesota and Wisconsin. He has visited Notre Dame.

Ellis has come on strong since the departure of Tate to Simeon. A prototype of a two guard, he is explosive, can handle the ball, can elevate and shoot from beyond three-point range. He has offers from Oregon State, Colorado State and Northwestern.

The other starters are 5-8 juniors Marcus White (8 ppg) and Demarcus Richardson (6 ppg), who already is being recruited by Marquette and several Division II schools.

The bench is headed by 6-4 senior Josh White, the coach's son, and 5-8 freshman point guard Martez Cameron. White, the only senior on the 15-man varsity, is an excellent passer who delivers the ball to Foster and Schilling. "He doesn't have to score to be noticed," the coach said.

But De La Salle would like to be noticed more in February and March. The Meteors have won the conference title two years in a row and four times in the last five years. They also have won the regional for the last six years but haven't been able to advance beyond the sectional.

"With 14 juniors, it is a process. We just have to keep getting better," said Tom White, who is in his 27th year of coaching, the last 17 as De La Salle's head coach.

"Potentially, this is the best team I've had. It is better than the Mike ShawAndre Henley team of last year and the Earl BrownMike BaileyDeon Tolliver team from my first year. The strength of this team is it plays old-school basketball...inside, crashing the boards, high percentage shooting. It is power basketball. We have shot over 50 percent for the last three games in a row.

"We have size. They share the ball. They play team ball. They are unselfish. Different people step up each night. They like each other. They eat lunch together. They hang out together. They improve every week."

But is there anything he can do about the state pairing? There is no doubt that De La Salle has the toughest route to the state finals. All of the city schools are packed into one sectional. Only one team can survive and earn a trip to Peoria.

"I haven't had a good pairing in the state in the last five years," White said. "We always have a crazy route. Before it was through Whitney Young and Proviso East. Now all city teams are in one sectional...Simeon, Young, Curie, Bogan, Hyde Park, the best teams and the best players. Only one Class 4A team can get out. Why not us?"

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We answer those questions in the video above in the latest SportsTalk Live segment.

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

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USA TODAY

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

Michigan's March magic finally ran out.

The guy who's been so fantastic throughout his senior season, point guard Derrick Walton Jr., missed a game-winning 3-point try at the buzzer, and the Wolverines fell to the Oregon Ducks by a 69-68 final score in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was an incredibly competitive game between the Big Ten Tournament champs and the Pac-12 regular-season champs, with neither side ever leading by more than six.

But Moe Wagner, who scored a career-high 26 points in Michigan's second-round win over Louisville, was pretty much a non-factor in this one, scoring just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Still, seniors Walton and Zak Irvin kept an unusually cold-shooting group of Wolverines alive with a combined 39 points, 23 of which came after halftime. D.J. Wilson also scored in double figures with 12, all coming on 3-pointers.

But Michigan, which had been on fire offensively for much of the last month, shot just 43.1 percent from the field and missed 20 of its 31 shots from behind the arc.

The Wolverines actually shot under 40 percent over the opening 20 minutes as the two defenses did good work for these typically high-scoring squads. Michigan turned the ball over seven times before the break but trailed by just two as it went to the locker room.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued at the outset of the second half before Oregon reached its game-high six-point lead, but Michigan responded with seven straight and grabbed its first lead of the second half around the 11-minute mark. The Ducks answered that mini surge with six straight of their own, part of a larger 10-4 spurt, before Wilson and Walton hit back-to-back triples to once again give the Wolverines a narrow advantage, this time with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Oregon and Irvin traded buckets from there, and a Walton jumper was Michigan's sixth straight make from the field, putting the Wolverines up three with under two minutes to play. But Michigan didn't score again, and Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey got back-to-back layups, the latter the game-winning one ahead of Walton's missed 3-point attempt as time ran out.

Dorsey was fantastic for the Ducks, scoring 20 points, his sixth straight game with at least 20 points. Bell had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Oregon advanced to its second straight Elite Eight with the win.

Michigan's entertaining end-of-season run is over. Entering Thursday night's game in Kansas City, the Wolverines had won seven straight and 10 of their last 12. Those two losses came by a combined seven points. Add this loss in and just eight points separated Michigan from 13 consecutive wins.

Certainly this group of Wolverines will be remembered for its sensational four wins in four days at the Big Ten Tournament after that horrifying aborted takeoff, as well as for reaching the third Sweet Sixteen in the last five seasons under John Beilein.