Chicago Bears

Parker stars as short-handed Simeon prevails

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Parker stars as short-handed Simeon prevails

By Michael O'Brien
Yourseason.com

Unlike a lot of high-level high school basketball programs, things have been relatively calm at Simeon. The No. 1 Wolverines have not had a lot of players in trouble or suspended, especially during their high school careers.

So that made it especially surprising Sunday when five Simeon players walked out in street clothes before the Wolverines Public League quarterfinal game against No. 14 Marshall.

Kendrick Nunn, Jaleni Neely, Jaylon Tate, Lawrence Briggs and Tyre Washington were all suspended for breaking a team rule.

"Those young men made a mistake," Simeon coach Robert Smith said. "They are apologetic. It was nothing illegal, they just broke a team rule."

Neely and Nunn are starters and Tate is generally the first man in off the bench. The Wolverines weathered their absence without a second thought, beating Marshall 73-62 to advance to Wednesdays semifinals.

Simeon (23-1) opened the game with a 14-0 run. Marshall managed to cut the lead to eight early in the third quarter but the Wolverines responded with a 12-3 run to retake control.

"This team is unbelievable," Smith said. "No one was in a hurry. We had confidence that the guys playing could step in. We lost a lot (without the suspended five playing) but losing the game was not a concern."

Junior phenom Jabari Parker was sensational with 33 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. He was 10-for-16 from the field. Steve Taylor scored 11 and grabbed 14 rebounds. Kendall Pollard added 10 points and four blocks.

Seniors Dwaun Stewart (seven points, six rebounds) and Reggie Norris (nine points) started in place of Nunn and Neely. Norris started a number of games while Neely was injured earlier in the season, but Stewart had not received any significant playing time in his career.

Milton Doyle led the Commandos with 19 points, but scored just two in the second half. He appeared to injure his leg at some point in the third quarter and was limping, but stayed in the game. Korbin McClain added 13 points and 11 rebounds and Derrick Miles scored 12.

Simeon will play Orr Wednesday at DePaul. Smith didnt say whether the five suspended players will be back on the court.

"We dont know yet," Smith said. "We strive for discipline."

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

Prince Amukamara (ankle) is expected to make his 2017 regular season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday (he wasn't listed on Friday's injury report). But that leads to the question: What does defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do with Kyle Fuller?

Fuller acquitted himself well in starts against the Atlanta Falcons — in which he helped limit Julio Jones to four catches on five targets — and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears signed Amukamara to start opposite Marcus Cooper, but Fuller has at least earned the opportunity to keep his job — or a job — on Sunday. 

And it's worth noting that both Fuller and Amukamara are in contract years, so both should be motivated to not lose playing time going forward. 

“I was pleased with the waay Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”

Fangio didn’t play Fuller as a nickel corner in 2015. But if the Bears want to get their best defensive players on the field could Fuller force his way into a nickel role with Amukamara and Cooper as the outside guys? 

That’s an especially pertinent question given Pittsburgh’s explosive trio of receivers: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

“No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off,” Amukamara said. “We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

Avisail Garcia's "big head" almost cost the White Sox on Friday night. At least, that's Reynaldo Lopez's humorous theory. 

With the game on the line and the Royals' tying run dashing for the plate, Garcia slipped a bit before making a clutch recovery to nail Whit Merrifield. The craziness continued after the tag as Narvaez caught Lorenzo Cain drifting off first base to seal a win. 

"I was watching the game on the TV here," Lopez said, "and then when I saw the hit from Cain, and I saw that Avi fell down because he has a big head, I was concerned but at the same time I saw that his throw, he has a good arm and he made a very good throw." 

Just your average 9-2-4-6 double play to end a game on the South Side, right? 

"Obviously, when he slipped we took a little gasp," Renteria said. "But we were talking about his body control to be able to maintain himself enough to get up and make the throw that he did. Unbelievable. It's pretty exciting finish to a ballgame that kind of got a little ugly early on."

Ugly is an apt way to describe the first few innings. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both made errors in the Royals' six-run third inning, and Lopez capped it off with a wild pitch that allowed Eric Hosmer to score. But it went from an eyesore loss to an overzealous "we could make noise in 2019" rebuild win from there, and Garcia's defense -- of all things -- played a significant role. 

Garcia's outfield assist in the ninth was his second of the game. The first, an absolute strike to cut down Alex Gordon in the sixth, didn't involve a slip, though. 

And while much has been made of Garcia's breakout year with the bat, he believes his defense is hugely improved, too. 

"I think 100 percent," he said. "I just try to get better every day with hitting and defense. That’s baseball so get better in everything."

He has 12 outfield assists on the season, up from five a year ago. And despite his overall fielding percentage being down, his strong arm may give him a stronger defensive reputation. 

"Since last year, he's always had an excellent arm," Renteria said. "I think his accuracy is something to be pointed out too because as off balance as he was, he's made some throws to the plate that have been really spot on."

Renteria attributes Garcia's accuracy to the outfielder putting in extra time with Daryl Boston. 

"(Boston) has those guys throwing, and none of you guys are out there watching them work, but they'll throw quite a bit to the bases, especially second base," Renteria said. "They'll get deep and they'll work on doing that, so that's just a part of their routine."

The evolution of Avi carries on.