Alabama offense holds Irish 'D' in high esteem

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Alabama offense holds Irish 'D' in high esteem

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Barrett Jones got to know Manti Te'o last month on the awards circuit, exchanging pleasantries with the Irish linebacker while the pair were in Houston for the Lombardi Award ceremony. Even with a brief meeting, the venerable Alabama center came away with a healthy respect for Te'o, calling him a "super guy" Thursday morning.

That respect carried over to Jones' teammates regarding the entire Irish defense.

"They do a good job of just reading the offense," offensive lineman Chance Warmack said. "It doesn't take them long to process the information in terms of who has the ball or what formation we're in. It takes a really special defense to do that, and that's what they are."

RELATED: Barrett Jones returns to Alabama's offensive line

Plenty of Alabama players fielded questions Thursday asking if Notre Dame's defense was, in essence, an SEC-like unit. Notre Dame's defensive linemen and linebackers, as has been the case all year, garnered the most praise from its opponent.

"This is as good a front seven as we've seen," Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. "They do a great job jumping in and out of their odd (3-4) defense and going from an odd to a four-down front, and they've got big, physical, fast players. They run well on the back end, very well coached. They're just a really, really good defense."

Specifically, Alabama seems keen on muting Te'o's impact -- which, by extension, means limiting Louis Nix. Running back Eddie Lacy explained: "If you can somehow get him out of his game or something like that, I think we have a pretty good chance of being successful."

That's not a slight at the rest of Notre Dame's defense -- remember, Te'o was a Heisman finalist, so naturally he's the guy opponents want to shut down. Really, at this point, trash talk and bulletin board material looks like endangered species.

For the last two BCS teams to come through South Florida, plenty of the chatter surrounded brash comments made by Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch. Florida State picked up on that, and took great pleasure in pounding Lynch into the ground during the Orange Bowl Jan. 1.

That same trend doesn't appear to be materializing with Alabama and Notre Dame now occupying the area.

"They're very fundamentally sound," Jones summed up. "They rarely ever make mistakes, they know their scheme really well, you can tell they're extremely well-coached, they use their hands well, they're strong at the point of attack. They just do all the little things right."

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

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Photo at top: La Rue Martin poses for a photo at a National Basketball Retired Players Association event. (Photo courtesy of La Rue Martin)

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

By Elan Kane
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

LaRue Martin Jr. thought his future was set. The Portland Trail Blazers had drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1972 NBA draft. Money and fame awaited.

Fifteen years later, he started work as a UPS driver, struggling to find uniform pants that fit his 6-foot-11 frame.

"There is life after sports," Martin said. "Period."

It's been 45 years since the draft and Martin, a former Loyola University star, is now the UPS Illinois district public affairs and community services manager. He is labeled by many as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, but he is fine with that designation.

"I don't believe in saying anything negative, you have no control over that," Martin said. "I took care of my family, did what I had to do and I'm the type of person I can't dwell off the negatives. I can't. I kept my head up high and moved onto a positive mode of life and it has treated me very well."

Martin averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in just four seasons with the Trail Blazers. He blames his low numbers on his lack of playing time, but many believe he was just not good enough.

"He didn't get playing time because he [stunk]," said Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the NBA for decades. "[Former No. 1 overall draft pick Michael] Olowokandi didn't do much but I think he did more than that."

Martin is used to the criticism.

"As a young man, reading the papers all the time, that bothered me, I must admit that," Martin said. "But I hold my head up high now because I've been very successful in the corporate world."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.