Lemming All-Area banquet set for Soldier Field

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Lemming All-Area banquet set for Soldier Field

The Chicago Daily News and Chicago Sun-Times once sponsored gala All-Area banquets to recognize the best high school athlete in the city and suburbs in football, boys and girls basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball and baseball. But they were shuttered years ago because of the skidding economy.

They were grand events conducted at the Como Inn, which has since gone the way of the banquets it once hosted. Some of the leading college coaches in the nation were guest speakers, including Bob Knight, Pat Summitt, Ray Meyer, Lou Holtz, Lute Olson, Johnny Orr, Vivian Stringer, Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr. Isiah Thomas and Cheryl Miller also spoke.

Ironically, the last speaker at the football banquet was recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

"That was in 2000. I was so impressed with the Sun-Times banquet. I was there for the first time in 1980 when (Thornton Fractional North quarterback) Mike Tomczak was Player of the Year," Lemming said.

"All the college coaches were at there. I realized that coaches don't have a lot of time to eye-ball the kids. But they let the kids know they were there. It was good interaction. The Sun-Times always did a great job of honoring the kids. They were so excited to be there."

After the Sun-Times banquets were discontinued after 2000, Lemming decided to organize his own All-Area football banquet. "I was surprised when the Sun-Times dropped its banquet. I wanted to do something similar, to keep it going," he said.

So the Tom LemmingNCSA Underclass All-Area Banquet was founded. It is sponsored by the Chicago-based National Collegiate Scouting Association, which assists male and female student-athletes in all sports to find the right college. Chris Krause, NCSA's founder and president, was a linebacker at North Chicago in 1984 when he was evaluated by Lemming.

He also wanted to expand the event to include the top players in all classes. "I wanted to invite the best players in each class who have had great seasons or great potential. It is important that they get as much exposure to college recruiters as they can," Lemming said.

Lemming's 10th annual All-Area banquet will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Soldier Field's banquet hall. The guest speaker will be Michigan coach Brady Hoke. The event isn't open to the public.

A total of 60 players have been invited, including six seniors, 40 juniors, 10 sophomores and four freshmen. The seniors are Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti, Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac, Lemont tackle Ethan Pocic, Marian Central quarterback Chris Streveler, Crete-Monee wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey.

The junior list is headed by Hales Franciscan lineman Denzel Ward, Plainfield South linebacker Clifton Garrett, Stevenson safety Matt Morrissey, Lincoln-Way East center Nick Allegretti, Hinsdale Central center Brian Allen, Bolingbrook safety Parrker Westphal, Crete-Monee linebacker Nyles Morgan, Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson, Richards running back Tommy Mister and Marist tight end Nic Weishar.

One of the biggest players on the list is 6-foot-6, 285-pound freshman tackle Erik Swenson of Downers Grove South. He is the first freshman in 33 years to start for coach John Belskis. He was invited to the Michigan camp as a seventh grader.

"If they are starting as freshmen, they will be great players as seniors," Lemming said. "Swenson will be a national name in three years. Not too many freshmen start in big-time programs."

Last year, 70 college coaches attended Lemming's event. In past years, the list of speakers has included Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, Illinois' Ron Zook, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Nebraska's Bill Callahan, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, Purdue's Danny Hope and Minnesota's Tim Brewster.

"My main reason for doing this is to get as many colleges as possible to come to Chicago to recruit kids," Lemming said. "Our high water mark was the class of 1986, which had 141 players sign full scholarships to Division I schools.

"Of course, there are NCAA rules to follow and limitations on the amount of contact a coach can have with a player. Coaches can come and say hello but they can't talk to the kids. They sit in the back of the room and eye-ball the kids. It's a win-win situation. The kids know which colleges are represented and who is interested in them."

Lemming is determined to persuade more college coaches to recruit in Chicago, like they did in the 1980s. He hopes to attract at least 100 this year. There still are some schools that don't come to Chicago but there are some that have been making frequent visits in the last year or two, including Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Vanderbilt, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, New Mexico, New Mexico State and Miami (Fla.).

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — If Carlos Rodon starts on the disabled list as expected, the White Sox won't turn to any of their vaunted top prospects in the interim.

The news on Rodon has been encouraging so far as no structural damage has been discovered. Still, the White Sox won't clear Rodon until after he receives a second opinion on Monday. While the length of Rodon's absence won't be determined for several days, the White Sox are certain of one route they won't take — they don't want to disrupt the development of their young starting pitchers. Were a DL trip for Rodon necessary, the White Sox would likely select either Saturday's starter, Dylan Covey, or minor leaguer David Holmberg over their top prospects. Covey made a strong impression on Saturday afternoon with 3 2/3 scoreless innings pitched and the White Sox rallied for a 10-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.

"When you have an opportunity to stabilize action or movement for players it serves them better," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "They get a little more comfortable where they're at. They get comfortable with the staffs they're working with and the information they're gathering, being in a routine. It is a little disruptive going from team to team to team. It happens, but it's not the most conducive (to learning)."

The White Sox are all about development this season. Therefore, they have no plans to call upon Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer or Michael Kopech unless they're A) ready and B) throwing every fifth day in Chicago. Renteria's comments Saturday reiterated Rick Hahn's earlier message, saying the club doesn't want to disrupt the development path.

That puts Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, with a decent opportunity to make the club out of camp. Covey commanded the strike zone on Saturday only hours after Renteria said he hoped to see the young right-hander replicate an Arizona Fall League performance that initially warmed the White Sox up to him.

Aside from a two-out walk in his final inning, Covey was sharp the whole way. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

"My last couple of outings I was definitely feeling the stress," Covey said. "I was kind of pitching a little passive, pitching to not make a mistake instead of just going right after guys. So today and yesterday I just thought I'm just going to throw every pitch with conviction and see what happens. I got a lot of weak contact today and some swings and misses, so I felt good."

Covey threw 44 pitches, 27 for strikes. He potentially could stay in Arizona on Thursday and make an additional minor league start to build arm strength, which would get him to roughly 60 pitches before the regular seasons started.

The White Sox don't officially need a fifth starter until April 9 and they're off the following day. That break could allow the White Sox to start Covey as part of a bullpen day. Covey said he recently changed his mindset after lackluster results in relief this spring. The right-hander has a 6.94 ERA this spring in 11 2/3 innings.

"Obviously my last two outings out of the pen I wasn't getting crushed, but I just wasn't commanding the ball or commanding the count as much as I would like to be," Covey said. "The mistakes get hit a little harder when you're falling behind in the count. Today I wanted to have the mindset of attacking hitters, throwing everything down in the zone and going right after them, and it worked out."

The White Sox blasted six home runs in the contest, including a majestic, go-ahead grand slam by first baseman Danny Hayes in the top of the ninth inning. Hayes is hitting .351/.400/.595 with two homers and is tied for the team lead with 13 RBIs this spring. Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico, Cody Asche, Everth Cabrera and Jacob May also homered for the White Sox.