New Illini football coach making good impression

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New Illini football coach making good impression

From all indications, new Illinois football coach Tim Beckman appears to be doing most of the right things as he seeks to build firm relationships with high school coaches and media throughout the state and attract a class of prized recruits that will help to turn around the Illini program.

"He is very enthusiastic and personable, a high-energy guy who will do well in recruiting," said Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, who recently had lunch with Beckman.

"He has to establish himself in recruiting. He must make the transition from the MAC to the Big 10, where recruiting is much more intense and he is dealing with elite players, some prima donnas. He is very knowledgeable. He wants to get things going at Illinois.

"He has a game plan and a young staff that is hungry and will go after it. Personality, aggressiveness and perseverance is what recruiting is all about. It seems like he has all the tools. Now he has to sell the public. Illinois has got to get off to a good start to convince kids that the program is heading in the right direction."

For openers, Beckman has announced the highest payroll ever for an Illinois football staff, a combined 2.3 million for nine assistants, including 400,000 each for offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty and defensive coordinator Tim Banks.

"That says they mean business, that they will pay as much as it takes to get a winning program and qualified coaches who have had a good track record," Lemming said.

"You have to pay now. It isn't as much as they pay coaches in the SEC. But it's a different game in the SEC. They have helped other conferences. They keep one-upping each other and other schools in other conferences benefit. There is lots of money to go around in college football."

But Lemming is critical of schools, including Illinois, that invite 100 or more high school prospects to attend Junior Day on campus. Beckman invited 100 to an event in February and another 110 in March.

"The proper way to do it is never to have big groups on one weekend, not more than 30," Lemming said. "You don't have enough people to show special attention to every player. With 100 on campus, 70 will walk away disappointed that they didn't get special attention. It usually turns out badly for the schools.

"Instead, they should invite 20 to 30 players and have only one Junior Day a month. Make it a special weekend. It is important to have an Illinois Day for Illinois players, an Indiana Day for Indiana players and a St. Louis Day for St. Louis players. Don't invite the same kids back each time. The purpose is to get each kid acclimated to the school and learn more about the staff and academics."

At Illinois' most recent Junior Day, it was apparent that Beckman is bringing in some of the most promising prospects in the Midwest, big-timers who are on their way to receiving multiple scholarship offers. And if he fills out his first recruiting class with four-star players from Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Michigan, it won't matter if he doesn't get everybody he wants from Illinois.

"If he has a great class of out-of-state guys, it all comes down to getting guys who will help you win," Lemming said. "You've got to try to get some in-state guys. But it more important to get great players, no matter where they are from. Everyone will try to get some of the best players in Illinois. It's a good class in 2013."

Three of the top 10 players in the class of 2013 in Illinois already have spurned Beckman's offers. Offensive linemen Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis and Logan Tuley-Tillman of Peoria Manual have committed to Michigan and offensive lineman Colin McGovern of Lincoln-Way West has committed to Notre Dame.

One of the top prospects in Ohio, quarterback Malik Zaire of Kettering, chose Notre Dame over a dozen other suitors, including Illinois, Alabama, Nebraska, Northwestern, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Beckman still is hoping to land running back Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic, offensive linemen Ethan Pocic of Lemont, Colin McGovern of Lincoln-Way West and Colin Goebel of Naperville North, wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell of Crete-Monee, quarterbacks Matt Alviti of Maine South and Aaron Bailey of Bolingbrook, defensive lineman Josh Augusta of Peoria Central and defensive end Ruben Dunbar of Glenbard West.

Pocic and defensive tackler Merrick Jackson of Belleville Althoff were two of the leading Illinois products on campus last weekend. They were joined by defensive back Dillan Cazley of Charleston, who is Illinois' first commitment in the class of 2013.

"Nobody knew about Cazley," Lemming admitted. "But Illinois liked him on film and offered. They see a lot of good potential in him."

Pocic is one of the Top 10 offensive linemen in the nation, according to Lemming. He is in a class with Bosch, Tuley-Tillman and McGovern as the best offensive linemen in Illinois. "The senior season will show who is the best," Lemming said.

Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder, has offers from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri and also has interest from Kansas State.

Meanwhile, Beckman attracted an outstanding class of promising prospects from Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. Here is a look at some of them:

Jaylon Smith of Fort Wayne, Indiana, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound linebacker, is the No. 1 player in Indiana. His brother is a running back at Ohio State.
He has 18 offers, including Illinois, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State, USC, Oklahoma and Michigan. According to Lemming, Notre Dame and Ohio State have an edge.

Tim Kimbrough of Indianapolis, Indiana, a 6-foot-1, 216-pound linebacker, has 17 offers, including Illinois, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State. He is one of the top three players in Indiana and plays for the top-rated program in Indiana.

John Kenny of Carmel, Indiana, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker, has offers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Arizona and Boise State. It is a good year for linebackers in Indiana. Four of the top six prospects in the state are linebackers.

Dennis Finley of Detroit, Michigan, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive lineman, is tall and athletic and has great potential. He has offers from Illinois, Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

Alonzo Saxton, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound cornerback from Columbus, Ohio, has offers from Illinois and Toledo.

Darian Hicks of Solon, Ohio, a 5-foot-10, 172-pound cornerback, is one of the leading prospects in the Cleveland area. He has offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Boston College, Cincinnati and Akron.

Jamone Boyd of Kansas City, Missouri, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end, is one of the top five players in the Kansas City area. He has offers from Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Nick Ramirez of Lees Summit, Missouri, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker, is one of the top five prospects in the Kansas City area. He has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Purdue.

Marcus Bell of Westerville, Ohio, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback, has offers from Illinois, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Arizona State, Toledo and Bowling Green.

Hayden Biegel of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound offensive tackle, has offers from Illinois and South Dakota. His brother was the best player in Wisconsin last year and signed with Wisconsin. His father was an All-American.

Kyle Meadows of West Chester, Ohio, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound offensive tackle, has offers from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Louisville, Toledo and Pittsburgh. Florida State also is interested.

Jarrod Clements of Dayton, Ohio, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end, has offers from Illinois, Louisville, Tennessee and Toledo.

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.