ND Notebook: Jones hopes to add to family championship history

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ND Notebook: Jones hopes to add to family championship history

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- T.J. Jones often talked with his father, Andre, about continuing the family's championship lineage at Notre Dame. Andre Jones, an outside linebacker on Notre Dame's 1988 title team, passed away in 2011 after suffering a brain aneurysm.

"It's something me and my dad both talked about, and how cool it would be if we both played in the National Championship wearing the same number at the same school," Jones said Friday.

There have been plenty of moments over Notre Dame's 2012 season Jones wished he could've shared with his late father, most notably his game-winning touchdown catch against Stanford. And amid the delirious celebration in Los Angeles after Notre Dame beat USC, Jones wished he could've talked with his father about what was to come in January.

"I wish I could've called him and I guess talk for hours about what we were going to do, how crazy it was that we're both going to be in the National Championship and really celebrate those moments with him," Jones said.

Jones has rarely spoken about his father's death, save for one day last year. It's an understandably sensitive issue, although he was prepared for questions about it from the throngs of media circulating through the Harbor Beach Marriott on Friday. But to his credit, he handled the questions on a difficult topic with maturity.

"I feel he's here with me every day," Jones explained. "I feel like he's watching over me, he's watching over Notre Dame and my family as well."

Irish add Redfield to nation's top recruiting class

Notre Dame ascended to the top of Rivals.com's class of 2013 recruiting rankings by securing the commitment of five-star safety Max Redfield, who announced his decision Friday night at the Under Armour All-American Bowl in Tampa. The Mission Viejo, Calif., native had been committed to USC until visiting Notre Dame three weeks ago, after which he decommitted.

Redfield is the third five-star player to commit to Notre Dame for its 2013 recruiting class, joining running back Greg Bryant and linebacker Jaylon Smith. The safety said Notre Dame's success played a major role in his commitment -- and it's probably fair to say USC's 7-6 season, in which they became the first preseason No. 1 to fall out of the AP top 25 since 1964, was a factor as well.

Dispatches from practice

Members of the media were allowed to view 15 minutes of Notre Dame's practice Friday -- the final practice viewing before Monday's game -- and saw a few noteworthy plays as the Irish try to find the end zone more often.

Notre Dame ran a fake field goal and offered a few wildcat and different zone readoption looks near the goal line, signaling the team is trying some new looks to improve one of the worst red zone touchdown rates in the nation. We may not see these exact plays on Monday -- it'd be a shock if the Irish ran a fake field goal -- but the overarching theme here is that, with 43 days to prepare, Notre Dame's going to try some different stuff by the goal line.

"We needed a good day today. It was hotter today and we pushed our guys. I thought that they responded very well," coach Brian Kelly said. "We only went an hour and fifteen minutes today. Im pleased with back-to-back days where we got a lot of work done. Were ready to play. We have one more day tomorrow and well clean some things up and some situational and well get ready to play Alabama in a great game."

Alabama's Square holds connection to Notre Dame

A few players on Notre Dame and Alabama were recruited by both schools, with George Atkinson III and Jones being two on the Irish side. Damion Square is on the flip side of that, choosing Alabama over Notre Dame as a three-star defensive end out of Houston in the class of 2008.

One of Square's relatives went to Notre Dame, and he's taken a visit to South Bend for a game.

"It's a great place with great tradition similar to Alabama," Square said. "At the time Charlie Weis was the coach, and they had a great program going on at the university, I just felt like Alabama was a better fit for me. But Notre Dame is a great place. They have a lot of pride in what they're trying to do up there, and they've been trying to get to this point for a while, and they're here, and I'm pretty sure that they're going to try to come and take advantage of this opportunity."

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.