Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

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Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

Glenbard West tight end Nathan Marcus didn't choose Vanderbilt because he likes Nashville, the capitol of country music, or because he wants to compete in the SEC, the toughest football conference in the nation, or because it's only an hour-long plane flight from Chicago or because he wants to major in aerospace at an academic-minded institution.

No, Marcus chose Vanderbilt because he had a "gut feeling" about his decision and because his mother, who did extensive research on the recruiting process, apparently arrived at a positive feeling about the school even before her son did.

"I didn't have to think about it too much," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "It sounds like a clich but I felt it in my gut. You really have a gut feeling at what you want. I won't change my mind. If Vanderbilt recruits three tight ends who are better than me, I feel I can outwork them. I don't feel I will have any regrets."

Marcus' mother made sure her son didn't make a hasty decision, that he wouldn't regret not waiting for more scholarship offers that would be sure to come as the 2012 season goes along. He had six offers--Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Indiana, Duke, Boston College and Toledo.

"I'm glad to get it over with before it got crazy," he said. "I'm glad to get my mind made up before I get stressed out and maybe not make the right choice. In a clear head, there is no question in my mind that I made the right choice.

"I went to a lot of schools early and got a feel for other schools. When I went back to Vanderbilt a second time, I compared them all. Vanderbilt has great academics, as good as it gets for a Division I school. I know the SEC is the best conference for football but that didn't play a big factor in my decision.

"My family and coaches reminded me that I could wait for more offers. They wondered if I was holding out for a particular school. My mother made me think about it. She wanted to be sure that I wasn't making a snap decision. I think Vanderbilt was her decision for a long time. She liked the coaches, who were very honest to her, and the good education. In the end, I couldn't name another school I was interested in."

Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said Marcus was the earliest commitment he has had. But he didn't question the youngster's decision. "It is a good fit for him, the best of all worlds. He loves the academic end of it and I think he is excited to play in the SEC. Vanderbilt recruited him as good as anyone, if not better. He had no pressure to commit," Hetlet said.

Marcus is Vanderbilt's sixth commitment. The Commodores play in the SEC's East Division with South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, members of the SEC's West Division, also are on their schedule.

Growing up, he preferred basketball to football. His father persuaded him to concentrate on football. He enjoyed basketball because he was taller than other kids and able to dominate them. Then they began to grow and Marcus began to have more passion for football.

As a freshman, he was a wide receiver on a 70-man squad. On a team that was run-oriented, he mostly blocked and caught only seven passes. Then sophomore coach John Sigmund, looking for a tight end, pulled Marcus aside and suggested that he was big enough and would be a good fit at the position. As a starter, even as a blocker, he had fun.

As a sophomore on the varsity, he caught four passes in a game against York. A light bulb went on. "All of a sudden, people were talking about me and I began to think I could be going somewhere as a football player, that I was getting better," he said.

Last year, as college recruiters from coast to coast came to the Glen Ellyn school to evaluate defensive end Tommy Schutt (who went to Ohio State), Marcus began to get some attention. He hoped they took note of the film when he made two blocks against Wheaton Warrenville South in a nationally televised game on ESPN and put the defenders on their backs.

"I started to get pulled out of class to meet with coaches," he said. "I realized they were interested in me as a recruit. I met coaches from Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State. I said to myself: 'OK, if I keep working hard and performing, I can play in college. My name will get to the colleges and recruiting will take care of itself.' I was surprised but really happy about what was happening.

"Now the pressure is off me. I miss getting pulled out of class and meeting with college coaches. But it feels great to know my future is settled. I have what I want."

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Given he was almost out of baseball just two years ago, White Sox farmhand Nick Delmonico never imagined he’d be where he is now.

But the former Baltimore Orioles/Milwaukee Brewers prospect feels like he has rid himself of the off-the-field issues that stunted development early in his career.

In 2014, Delmonico served a suspension for unauthorized use of Adderall and later asked for and was granted his release by Milwaukee. Now with a fresh start with the White Sox, he heads into the final week of camp with an outside shot at the roster. Though he’s likely to start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Delmonico knows he has made tremendous progress both on and off the field the past two years.

“I definitely did not see this,” Delmonico said. “I’m very blessed to be here.

“It feels awesome. It feels like I’ve accomplished a lot just in my life to get here. Just being around my teammates is one of the biggest things I enjoy every day, just coming to the ballpark. I’m very happy and honored to be able to come here everyday.”

The White Sox weren’t sure what to expect when they signed Delmonico, 24, to a minor league deal on Feb. 11, 2015. A sixth-round pick by the Orioles in 2011, Delmonico received a $1.525 million signing bonus. He was traded to Milwaukee in July 2013 in exchange for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Delmonico received a 50-game suspension for Adderall in 2014, which he told the Charlotte News Observer he’d used since high school for attention deficit disorder (ADD). Delmonico told the Observer he informed Milwaukee that he no longer wanted to play baseball, changed his phone number and asked for his release. He was placed on the restricted list on July 28 and never played in the Brewers farm system again.

The White Sox signed Delmonico seven months after his final game with Milwaukee and he returned to the field that June.

Delmonico requested privacy when asked about switching teams but acknowledged, “I had some past issues with some stuff that I’d like to keep to myself,” he said.

Delmonico started the 2015 season at Single-A Kannapolis and was promoted a week later to Double-A Birmingham. He finished the season with a .733 OPS and made an additional 76 plate appearances at the Arizona Fall League.

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Last season, Delmonico combined to hit .279/.347/.490 with 17 homers between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 110 games. That earned him an invite to big league camp, where Delmonico has displayed a swing refined the past two seasons.

Current third-base coach and former director of player development Nick Capra said Delmonico has worked hard to go from a pull hitter to one who uses the entire field. He entered Sunday hitting .268/.328/.589 with nine extra-base hits this spring in a team-high 61 plate appearance this spring.

“This kid has made a complete turnaround from when we first got him in camp,” Capra said. “He’s done everything. He’s done probably more than we expected him to do. He’s in a really great place. He has a personality that people kind of gravitate to and it’s been a blessing to have him around and see the smile on his face when he comes to work every day.”

Originally a third baseman, the White Sox have moved Delmonico around this spring. He’s logged time at first base and also in the outfield as they try to improve his versatility. If Delmonico performs well at Charlotte, there’s no reason he couldn’t eventually find his way to Chicago and succeed in the big leagues.

“We’re continuing to try to explore his ability to play third base,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He can obviously play first. We’ve started using him in left field. He’s a young man that has a bat to carry. Can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Gives you good at-bats. There’s something to him about his personality and the way he carries himself, which is infectious, which we like.”

Delmonico praised the family-feel that has been prominent in the White Sox clubhouse this spring. He had some jitters coming into his first big league camp but hasn’t allowed them to hinder anything.

He likes how Renteria and his staff have brought a young group of players together. And best of all, he’s happy to be in the right place to enjoy the experience.

“It definitely gives you confidence what you do here,” Delmonico said. “You’ve got to keep moving forward. The biggest thing for big league camp for me is learning as much as I can from everybody. And learning from myself, I’ve been able to handle things and try to pick up as much as I can.”

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 13 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

But Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.