Pils enjoys his 'Scheyer Moment'

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Pils enjoys his 'Scheyer Moment'

Griffin Pils didn't think about it at the time. But upon reflecting back on his 35 points-in-one-half performance against Carmel on Jan. 20, Libertyville's 6-foot-3 senior guard recalled Jon Scheyer's spectacular 21 points-in-75 seconds effort in the 2005 Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

There was a difference, of course. Pils' team won in overtime. Scheyer's team lost.

But Pils' special moment was unique in its own way. He scored only five points in the first half and didn't register his first field goal until his last shot at the buzzer. He converted 19-of-19 free throws, including eight in the overtime period, and finished with a career-high 40 points.

In fact, Libertyville trailed by 10 points at halftime and six after three quarters and Pils had only 12 points. But in a 60-second span in the fourth period, he made three three-point shots in three possessions, then was fouled while making a lay-up and sank two free throws...11 points.

"That got me going," Pils said. "At halftime, the coach told me to be more aggressive and shoot more. That's what I did."

But Libertyville still trailed by 12 with two minutes to play. The Wildcats pressed. Pils made two steals and his best buddy, 6-foot-5 senior Ellis Matthews, also made two steals. With two seconds left, Pils was fouled while shooting a three and calmly converted three free throws to force overtime. He was only 8-for-20 from the field.

"I didn't realize I scored 40 points. The scoreboard said 37. I didn't think I scored that much. I didn't realize how many free throws I made," Pils said. "Afterward, I felt I could have scored more. I missed a lot of open shots. I'm a pass-first point guard. I try to get everybody involved in the first half. The coaches get mad at me because I don't shoot enough."

In his eighth season as Libertyville's head coach after spending two years at St. Ignatius and 12 years at Gordon Tech, Scott Bogumil said Pils "is a different type of guard than I have coached. He has a good floor game but he can turn it on and score when he needs to. He looks to set up others and if they don't respond, he starts scoring. That's uncanny for a high school kid today."

Pils is averaging 19 points per game for a 14-8 team that hopes to contend with North Suburban rival Warren in the Class 4A sectional at Barrington. Last week, Libertyville lost to Lake Zurich 68-62 in overtime, defeated Stevenson 62-60, then lost to Maine South 50-47 before the BullsBucks game in Milwaukee. The Wildcats play at Mundelein on Friday.

In the loss to Lake Zurich, Pils scored 22 points, including eight in the last 61 seconds to force overtime. Earlier, he scored 26 against Stevenson and Mundelein. Against Stevenson, he scored 17, including six free throws in the last 38 seconds to seal the victory. Against Maine South, he was limited to 11 points as Libertyville fell behind by 15 points in the first half, then rallied but failed to hold a 47-43 lead with 1:30 to play.

"I'm not sure why," Pils said, trying to explain why he has a knack for for scoring late in games. "I guess when my team is down, I just try to be more aggressive and get as many quick shots as I can."

Pils has come a long way. Once upon a time, he was a three-sport athlete. In fifth and sixth grade, he competed in national age-group tennis tournaments. He qualified for the state meet in singles as a sophomore. He also stood out in soccer, playing mid-field on Libertyville's state finalist as a junior. Finally, he realized he wanted to focus on one sport.

"After basketball last year, I decided not to play tennis or soccer anymore. I wanted to concentrate on basketball," he said. "Tennis was my main sport but I got sick of it. Soccer was fun in season but I didn't want to focus on it.

"I wanted to play basketball, to see how good I could be. It's an up-tempo game, fun to play, a team sport. Making a good pass is a better feeling than making a shot. That's when I really get happy."

Pils, who moved to Libertyville from Racine, Wisconsin, when he was in seventh grade, played with a couple of travel teams and began to sharpen his game. A year ago, he averaged 10 points. During the fall, he had several 40 and 50-point games. All of a sudden, colleges began to notice.

"He has been flying under the radar," Bogumil said. "He broke his foot at the end of last year and didn't play much during the summer. Nobody had a chance to see him. But he was scoring at will in the fall. He always had been a pass-first point guard. But I talked to him about being more selfish and scoring more."

Loyola has asked Pils to walk on. He also is considering three Division III schools--North Park, Hope and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. But Bogumil thinks Pils might be good enough to play at a higher level, maybe Division II or even low Division I.

Recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye said Pils has emerged as one of the biggest sleepers in the class of 2012. "A lot of colleges are missing the boat on him," they said.

"He can score in a variety of ways and do so in bunches. However, he is not only a shooter and scorer but also a playmaker, as evidenced by the fact that he has totaled eight or more assists twice this season."

"He will be a point guard in college," Bogumil said. "He is a good three-point shooter, a great passer and has great court vision. He also is an 89-percent free throw shooter. He is light years better on offense than he was last year. He has made great strides."

Speaking of strides, Pils also is into shoes...basketball shoes, lots of them. He and Matthews, who works at a shoe store, collect them. They wear every pair of Nike shoes they can find--and they wear different colors for each game.

At one point, Bogumil wanted them to wear only black-and-white shoes, the school colors, but he gave up after awhile. Now he lets them wear whatever color they want... Black and orange, black with green trim, orange, even Christmas-like green and red at the Wheeling Holiday Tournament.

"Ever since eighth grade, I have been collecting shoes and wearing them to games. I have 40 pairs of basketball shoes. I sell some on E-Bay and keep the ones I really like," Pils said. "Ellis wears the color of the team we are playing. Against Lake Forest, he wore blue shoes and blue socks. I wear whatever I feel like wearing."

Pils remains up-to-date and fashionable. When Nike debuted a new pair of Michael Jordan shoes on Dec. 23, he was standing in line. Called Air Jordan 11 Concord, they sold out in 10 minutes. He bought a pair for 175. Today, he said, they cost 350 to 400. He wore the Jordans for the first time against Stevenson on Friday.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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