'Terrific Trio' sparks North Chicago

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'Terrific Trio' sparks North Chicago

Jay Amos-Mays had a couple of huge Christmas wishes. It goes without saying that the No. 1 priority on his list for Santa Claus is the Class 3A championship in 2013, something that has eluded his North Chicago team for the last two years.

And the other wish? "Studio ear phones for the road trip to Peoria," he said.

North Chicago coach Gerald "King" Coleman has a New Year's resolution--to make history. He had a chance to make history in 1972. An All-State selection on coach Larry Hanzel's 26-2 team, Coleman had 24 points and 10 rebounds but North Chicago lost to Evanston 62-60 in the supersectional, one victory short of securing the school's first trip to the Elite Eight.

Now Coleman, in his eighth season as head coach at his alma mater, has another chance to make history. After qualifying for the Sweet Sixteen in four of the last five years, after finishing fourth in Class 3A in 2011 and second in Class 3A last year, his Warhawks are seeking their third consecutive trip to Peoria--and their first state championship.

"Potentially, this team can be very good. It has three Division I players," Coleman said. "A lot of people want to compare them to last year's team (that was 25-7 and finished second in Class 3A). But there is no comparison. This team has much more talent.

"But last year's team had been together since sixth grade. They were so much closer. And they had Aaron Simpson, who averaged 25 points per game and was our leader on the court. We haven't had a leader step up yet. The hunger isn't there yet. Last year, we knew the ball had to go to Simpson when we had to score. Who gets the ball this year?"

North Chicago might still be a reconstruction project in progress but the Warhawks answered most if not all of their coach's questions while winning the State Farm Classic last week in Bloomington. They boosted their record to 14-1 by sweeping Chillicothe IVC 63-49, Rockton Hononegah 81-79 in overtime, Peoria Notre Dame 62-56 and highly rated Rock Island 69-61.

Along the way, everybody got a look at North Chicago's "Terrific Trio," three multi-talented juniors who already are attracting considerable interest from Division I programs: 6-foot-3 JayQuan McCloud (19 ppg), 6-foot-4 Jay Amos-Mays (22 ppg) and 6-foot-4 Kurt Hall (17.5 ppg, 10 rpg).

Against IVC, Hall scored 28 points while Amos-Mays had 13, McCloud 12. Against Hononegah, Amos-Mays scored 25, Hall 19 and McCloud 15. Against Peoria Notre Dame, Amos-Mays scored 22, Hall 17. Against Rock Island, McCloud scored 32 while Hall had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Amos-Mays scored 10. Hall and Amos-Mays were named to the all-tournament team.

They are ably supported by 6-foot-3 senior Jarrod Coleman (12 ppg, 8 rpg), the coach's nephew, and 5-foot-10 junior Arnold Shead. Coleman, the only senior in the lineup, has been offered by Northwestern and Ohio University. Shead, a football star, broke Michael Turner's single-game rushing record with 338 yards.

North Chicago will resume its regular-season schedule against North Suburban Prairie rival Wauconda on Jan. 8, then will host Libertyville on Jan. 12.

"Once I get them to blend in as a team, they will be very successful," Coleman said. "They have made giant strides to reach that goal but they still are reaching out for it. The kids don't know each other that well yet. Once they realize the strong points and weak points in their teammates, they will be an awesome team.

"Our goal is to get to Peoria for the state final. We don't worry about tournaments or the conference. We want to work on things we aren't doing well...transition defense, playing together. I hope we are one unit on defense after the Christmas tournament. Our offense will take care of itself. We will score 80 to 90 points. But other teams score too easy on us. We must get a better grip on shutting teams down."

It has taken a while to get to know each other. McCloud is a native North Chicagoan. But Amos-Mays transferred from Zion-Benton after his sophomore year. He is just beginning to realize that his best sport is basketball, not football. And Hall moved in from Chicago as a freshman.

McCloud has been offered by Wright State. DePaul, Iowa, Northern Illinois, Colorado State, Eastern Kentucky and Indiana-Fort Wayne have expressed interest. Hall has interest from DePaul, Iowa, Indiana, Oregon State, Illinois State, Wichita State, Michigan and Michigan State but is holding out for an offer from his dream school, Kentucky. Amos-Mays, still debating between football and basketball, has basketball interest from DePaul, Iowa, Michigan State, Wright State and Xavier.

But they are juniors and still getting their feet wet. After starting 7-0, they lost to highly rated Providence-St. Mel 73-62 in a game in which they shot 3-of-25 from three-point range. Afterward, Coleman said: "I didn't know what they were doing out there. I never have seen a performance like that. In all my seven years of coaching boys basketball, they were totally unmotivated. They were outplayed, out-rebounded and out-hustled."

To say the Warhawks' only loss to date was a wake up call would be an understatement.

"We aren't as good as we think we are but we can be a great team. We have to do the little things to make each other better and have more leadership," McCloud said.

"When the three of us came together, I worried at first that it might not work. But now I see that we are bonding. We can be a great team, a team that can't be beat. We want to make history. That's our plan, our goal. Our edge is our quickness. We can get up and down the court very fast. We relied too much on Simpson last year. We put a lot of pressure on him. But we have more balanced scoring this year. Leadership on the court will bring us all together. Someone has to take the scoring role that Simpson had and take us Downstate."

Amos-Mays believes he, McCloud and Hall are more hungry, knowing they are supposed to be the team to win a state championship. "We are more of a team this year because we don't look at one person like Simpson last year. We have multiple people who can score. We can rely on three instead of one," he said.

Meanwhile, Amos-Mays is trying to figure out his true identity. He is an outstanding athletequarterback in football. And he is an outstanding but underrated shooting guard in basketball, just beginning to attract attention from major Division I schools.

"It is hard to choose which sport I like the most. It is very difficult," he admits. "I am leaning to basketball right now. But I can't make a choice. I am more successful in basketball than football. I don't feel the same about football as I used to. It isn't as much fun as it used to be, not as much fun as basketball. I have more love for basketball."

Hall has a lot of love for Kentucky. "That's where I want to play," he said. But he has received only one letter, nothing else. He likes the way Kentucky coach John Calipari handles his players. "I have time to show them what I can do. I hope they'll come and see me play," Hall said.

"The loss to Providence-St. Mel was a big wake up call for us. It showed we aren't as good as the the hype right now, that we have to keep our heads out of the limelight. We need more people to step up and prove we can be the No. 1 team in the state with the type of team we have.

"But we must play as a team and compete. It shouldn't be just one of us but all three of us should step up and be a leader. My role is to rebound, play strong, bring aggressiveness to the court, create things inside and open up shots on the outside for Amos-Mays and McCloud. They are the scorers. They can score in many ways.

"Last year, we watched Simpson. This year, any one of us can score and close out a game. We have more balance and we are hungrier this year. We want to be known as the team that took first place in state."

CSN to carry live coverage of Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

CSN to carry live coverage of Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

CSN Chicago will be carrying live coverage of the IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships beginning on Friday and Saturday with Class 1A and 2A. Each telecast will be streamed live on CSNChicago.com and IHSA.tv, and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.

CSN will also air highlights packages throughout the weekend, and live stream every postgame press conference.

Viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com's Channel finder or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for all games throughout the state. 

For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN's live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  

Here's what the schedule looks like this weekend:

Friday, Feb. 24:

11 a.m. – Class 1A Semifinal No. 1: Harvest Christian Academy (Elgin) vs. Annawan 

12:45 p.m. – Class 1A Semifinal No. 2: Unity (Mendon) vs. Calhoun (Hardin)

5:30 p.m. – Class 2A Semifinal No. 1: Byron vs. Central [Coop] (Camp Point)

7:15 p.m. – Class 2A Semifinal No. 2: St. Edward (Elgin) vs. Central Catholic (Bloomington) 

Ssaturday, Feb. 25:

11 a.m. – Class 1A: Consolation game (Teams TBD)

12:45 p.m. – Class 1A: Championship game (Teams TBD)

5:30 p.m. – Class 2A: Consolation game (Teams TBD)

7:15 p.m. – Class 2A: Championship game (Teams TBD)

High School Lites Week 13 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 13 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com. 

This week's show has a postseason feel to it with a lot of Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships being decided on the boys side while the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also have highlights.

We'll have highlights from the Interstate Eight as well.

And this week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is St. Rita senior wrestler Austin O'Connor as he just became the 15th wrestler in IHSA history to win four state championships. O'Connor completed his second consecutive unbeaten season last weekend and finished his IHSA career 181-4 as he's planning on going to North Carolina.

FRIDAY

Plano at Sandwich, 7:00 p.m. -- The regular season is still finishing up and this one is important in the Interstate Eight. Plano (20-6, 9-1) is trying to hold on to a one-game conference lead. Sandwich (15-11, 8-2) is only a game behind in conference play going into Senior Night, so it should be a great atmosphere. 

Luther North vs. Waldorf, 7:00 p.m. 1A St. Benedict Regional Championship -- No. 1 seed Luther North is hoping for its second regional title in three years as they take on Waldorf. Luther North (19-8, 9-2) advanced by beating North Shore Country Day in the semifinals. Waldorf (19-8, 10-0) went through the Lake Shore Athletic unscathed as they are the No. 5 seed. Waldorf beat No. 4 seed Ida Crown to advance earlier this week.

No. 21 Uplift at No. 11 Orr, 7:00 p.m. 2A Orr Regional Championship -- The game of the night features two legitimate Class 2A state title contenders -- meeting for a regional title. It's unfortunate that these two fixtures in the CSN Preps Power Rankings have to play so soon but this should be interesting. Orr (17-5, 8-2) was one of the Red-West's toughest teams this season as junior Raekwon Drake leads a balanced team. Uplift (22-5, 10-0) was bounced early from the Public League Playoffs by Farragut so they'll be motivated in this one. The Red-North champions feature the dynamic duo of brothers Demarius Jacobs (senior; Southern Illinois) and Markese Jacobs (sophomore; Kansas).

Leo at U-High, 7:00 p.m., 2A Chicago U-High Regional Championship --  Another quality matchup of city teams in Class 2A as Leo travels to U-High. The Lions (19-8, 5-2) finished second in the Catholic South this season as they move up to Class 2A after a runner-up finish in Class 1A last season. U-High won a Class 2A regional in its own gym in dramatic fashion last season as they're hoping to earn more hardware on their home floor.

Latin at DePaul Prep, 7:00 p.m. 2A DePaul Prep Regional Championship -- DePaul Prep will be favored in this one as they host Latin in another Class 2A regional final. The Rams (19-9, 7-2) were one of the top teams in the Catholic North this season as they're a state title contender in Class 2A. Latin (12-12, 6-6) has some young talent, including sophomore 

Timothy Christian at IC Catholic Prep, 7:00 p.m, 2A IC Catholic Prep Regional Championship -- This should be a good matchup in Class 2A as Timothy Christian heads to IC Catholic Prep. Timothy Christian (17-10, 8-4) finished second in the Metro Suburban Red this season while IC Catholic (20-7, 10-2) was second in the Metro Suburban Blue. These two teams played on Jan. 20 with IC Catholic winning 61-46. 

GIRLS BASKETBALL CLASS 1A & 2A SEMIFINALS

Harvest Christian Academy vs. Annawan, 11:00 a.m. -- Harvest Christian Academy (29-3) is favored in this one as they haven't lost since Dec. 9. The Lions are led by junior guard Alyssa Iverson as she averaged 19.5 points per game this season. Annawan (26-8) also hasn't lost in 2017 as they have a balanced lineup that doesn't feature one senior on the roster. 

Mendon (Unity) vs. Hardin (Calhoun), 12:45 p.m. -- The second Class 1A semifinal features Mendon against Calhoun. Mendon (23-10) got hot at the right time as they've won five straight tournament games since dropping its regular-season finale. Calhoun (27-5) is led by senior forward Grace Baalman as she's averaging 23.2 points per game.

Byron vs. Camp Point (Central ) - 5:30 p.m. -- A couple of 30-win teams matchup in the first game of the girls Class 2A semifinals. Byron (32-2) hasn't lost since Jan. 6 as they've won all but one of those games by double digits. Camp Point (Central) has bounced back nicely since losing the regular season finale as they're a balanced scoring team. 

St. Edward vs. Bloomington Central Catholic - 7:15 p.m. -- Another Elgin-area school headlines this one as St. Edward faces Bloomington Central Catholic. The Green Wave (27-5) are led by senior guard Maddie Spagnola as she's averaging 21.2 points per game.