McGuire makes a difference for Marist

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McGuire makes a difference for Marist

Morris McGuire is a 5-foot-10 senior guard on Marist's basketball team. He sits on the end of the bench. He doesn't play at all during the games. But he could be the RedHawks' most valuable player.

"We couldn't win without him," said 6-foot-5 sophomore Nic Weishar, perhaps the best athlete in school history. "In practice, he is one of the scout team guys. At times, he plays the best player on the other team. He is tough-minded, a scrapper. He gets into your face."

McGuire and two senior starters, 5-foot-7 guard Tyler Oden and 6-foot-3 forward Matt O'Reilly, provide the leadership that has turned Marist into a 25-5 team that stunned top-seeded Curie 63-62 in last Friday's regional final and will meet highly rated Bogan in a Class 4A sectional semifinal on Wednesday night at Argo in Summit.

"Our seniors are great leaders. They won't let us do anything less than 100 percent. Our goal is to outwork teams," Weishar said. "In practice, the seniors make us work hard all the time and won't allow us to let up."

But did the RedHawks really think they could beat Curie, a 25-game winner whose only other losses were to top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Simeon, the No. 1 seed in the Argo sectional?

Trailing 62-57 with 50 seconds to play, Marist rallied behind Oden (20 points, five three-pointer), 6-foot-1 junior L.J. McIntosh (15), Weishar (11) and 6-foot junior Lexus Williams (10). Weishar took a pass from McIntosh, drove from the top of the key and passed to Williams on the wing. His three-pointer with two seconds left spelled the difference as Marist won its first regional since 2007.

"My friends wanted us to win but I got a vibe that some of them didn't think we'd win. To be honest, I think they thought Curie was unbeatable," Weishar said.

"But our scouting report said they liked to dribble drive and were good three-point shooters. We had to stop their dribble drive and make them shoot 15 to 17-footers. We executed our game plan well. Once we stopped their dribble drive and made them shoot from 15 to 17 feet, we thought we could win."

If coach Gene Nolan has experienced a more memorable victory in his 12-year career, he can't remember. Marist has won nine in a row and 12 of its last 13 games. So why doesn't Nolan's team get more respect? "That's a great question. But we're not too worried about it. We'd rather be under the radar. We don't mind being an underdog. We have nothing to lose," Weishar said.

After going 25-4, 25-5, 20-7 and 23-8 from 2003 to 2007, Marist slipped to 15-15 and 12-17. Last year's team was 19-11 but lost to Hinsdale South in the regional. This year's team is seeking the school's second sectional title and first since 1981.

Nolan has gone with the same starting lineup throughout the season--Weishar (13 points, 9 rebounds per game), who is better known as one of the leading football prospects in the class of 2014 who already has scholarship offers from Illinois and Northwestern, McIntosh (17 ppg), Williams (13 points, five assists per game), Oden (9 ppg) and O'Reilly (8 ppg). Juniors Jack Barry and Will Brennan come off the bench.

"It is a great group to coach," Nolan said. "We aren't real big but the kids are committed. We came through a tough stretch in January and we found out a lot about our team. We have some kids who believe in each other. They have come together. We have good chemistry."

Weishar likes what he sees and he knows what it will take to get through what is arguably the toughest sectional in the state. "This team is hungry. To keep winning, we have to continue to sustain our effort on defense. We haven't had trouble scoring all year but we must rebound and sustain our defense," he said.

And keep listening to Morris McGuire.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle might need time to process everything that took place Saturday afternoon when he was surrounded by friends, family, teammates and fans, showered with gifts and overwhelmed by emotion.

The White Sox officially retired the number of one of the most popular players in team history in front of 38,618 at Guaranteed Rate Field. A banner covering Buehrle’s No. 56 was unfurled during an afternoon ceremony that makes the left-hander one of 11 players in club history whose number has been retired. Surrounded by fellow honoree Frank Thomas among many others, the always humble Buehrle -- who won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox -- said afterward he’s not sure he belongs in the club.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Buehrle said. “It’s going to take time. I don’t know if it’s ever going to sink in and realize there it is.

“Amazing feeling. Can’t really put it into words how you feel. I wasn’t actually as nervous as I thought I would be once I was up there. But obviously glad it’s over with and it’s a special day.”

Buehrle’s list of dignitaries included Thomas, managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel, Cliff Polite, Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Jon Garland, John Danks and hitting coach Greg Walker.

White Sox play by play man Hawk Harrelson emceed a ceremony that lasted 30 minutes. Included were speeches by Thomas and White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper as well as an unveiling of a series of gifts. The team presented Buehrle with a new truck, a baseball collage put together by Ron Kittle, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle -- much to the enjoyment of his duck hunting club seated on the 400 level -- as well as the flip-through-the-legs ball from Opening Day 2010. Club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also spoke during the ceremony, dropping in a series of one-liners.

“I’ve never seen him upset,” Guillen said. “I’ve never seen him overreact. Day in and day out he was the same guy. That’s what makes him so special. His teammates loved him.

“Buehrle did something: outsmart people. People don’t have stuff like him they think I’m smart, I can do this and fake it. Buehrle just grabbed the ball and threw it.

“To survive for so many years and have your number retired, there’s not that many people up there.

“It’s amazing with the stuff he had. I’ve seen a lot of better pitchers with better stuff. You don’t see too many guys with the same heart.”

Buehrle said Friday that he anticipated he’d be an emotional wreck for the event. The man beloved by the public isn’t much for public speaking. Throw in all of his friends and family present and Buehrle just hoped to get through his own speech. He said the sight of seeing his number unfurled almost put him over the edge.

“Emotions and trying to breathe deep and don’t start crying, tearing up,” Buehrle said. “I was trying to hold my emotions together. But just looking up there and seeing that. I can’t put it into words.”

When it was his turn to say the words, Buehrle spoke the way he pitched: tidy and efficient. Wearing a suit and sunglasses in case he teared up, Buehrle spoke with his wife and children at his side. Aside from his family, Buehrle said he avoided naming names during the 4-minute, 19-second speech because he had too many people to thank for the journey from 38th round draft pick to all-time great.

Buehrle said he wouldn’t be able to pick out his favorite part until he watches the ceremony again later.

“When I watch it back in a couple hours and realize what happened and what really went on,” Buehrle said. “It’s kind of hard to hear out there, but it’s just everything. I had Frank Thomas and Jim Thome behind me. They’re here for my day. It doesn’t make sense to me.”