Will Williams choose to stay at Bloom?


Will Williams choose to stay at Bloom?

This is Jasper Williams' 10th year as head basketball coach at Bloom in Chicago Heights. And it could be his last...unless someone or something comes along to persuade him to remain on the job.

"I'm retiring from teaching after 35 years. This is it," Williams said. "I probably won't coach next year. I just want to do other things, spend time with my family, do some traveling. If the administration asks me to stick around, I might consider another year or two."

Williams is a 1972 graduate of Parker (now Robeson), where he played with Bo Ellis and Steve Washington. He joined Bob Sullivan's staff at Thornridge in 1982, then served as Mike Flaherty's assistant for 20 years before moving to Bloom.

Last year, his 28-5 team finished fourth in Class 4A. This year's team might be better. And next year? Williams describes 6-foot-3 junior Jared Johnson as "the next great player at Bloom."

That might be enough to persuade Williams to stick around for a year or two.

The Blazing Trojans, led by 6-foot-4 senior Johnny Griffin and 6-foot senior Dejahown Freeman, are 13-3 going into Friday night's game against Kankakee.

Last Friday, they crushed highly regarded Crete-Monee 61-45 in a game that Williams said "will show us how good we are." Griffin scored 22 points and 6-foot-3 senior Nhyree Mitchell had 12. "For four quarters, this was our best game. We just need to keep building on this," the coach said.

On Tuesday, they dismantled Joliet Central 55-34 as Zerrell Jackson had 11 points and four steals, James Coleman had 10 points and five rebounds and Griffin had eight points and nine rebounds.

"This team has the potential to be as good or better than last year," Williams said. "We only have one starter back but four kids saw quality playing time. If we come together and accept our roles. We could do well like last year. We had no ego problems last year. We haven't got to that point yet this season but I see improvement.

"I expected us to be further along this year at this point. The strength of this team is we defend well and we have the potential to be an exceptional rebounding team with no one taller than 6-foot-5. This team has more guys who can score quality points. Last year, only three guys scored."

Last year's powerhouse was led by Donald Moore and Lejavius Johnson, who combined for 25 points per game. This year's squad features Griffin (12 ppg, 9 rpg), Freeman (14 ppg), Mitchell (7 ppg), 5-foot-10 junior point guard Zerrell Jackson (7 ppg, 5 assists) and 6-foot-3 junior center James Coleman (5 ppg, 5 rpg). Johnson (5 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Jateryn Dejareaux come off the bench.

"Freeman should have more assists and Jackson must be better on defense," Williams said. "I knew they would be Johnson and Moore offensively but I thought they'd be better on defense."

At tradition-rich Bloom, there is always someone waiting to step up. Job security always is at stake. Freeman backed up Moore and Johnson last year Dejareaux was the starting center a year go but struggled early this season and Coleman took his spot.

"At Bloom, we like to keep underclassmen in the starting lineup to build for next year," Williams said.

Griffin knows all about the tradition. "What I think about is the earlier teams and how good they used to be, the great players they used to have and the conference and Thornton," he said.

As the leader of this year's team, he thinks last year's experience will be a big plus as they prepare to make a return trip to Peoria.

"Last year, everybody had a role on the team and knew what it was," Griffin said. "We jelled, had good chemistry and started 13-0. Everyone knew who the scorers were and who to get the ball to at the end of a game. And the main thing was to play defense.

"It was a good experience at Peoria. Now we know what it takes to get back down there. I'm the leader this year and I have to push my teammates.

"We know our roles now. It took this team some time to find them out. But in the second half of the season, we know what is expected of everyone."

Bloom has some advantages that give Griffin & Co. an edge over most opponents. "We have the most athletic team in the suburbs and one of the best rebounding teams in the suburbs. Everyone is over 6-foot tall and everyone plays hard and defends," Griffin said.

The leadership role isn't new to Griffin. A year ago, he was the team captain. But he said he was ready to handle it when Williams approached him with the important assignment which is usually given to a point guard.

"As the leader, I have to be the finisher. I have to be aggressive and rebound on both ends of the court," he said. "I have to keep my teammates going and be an example for the team by working hard every day."

64 Days To Kickoff: Crystal Lake South


64 Days To Kickoff: Crystal Lake South

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we'll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Crystal Lake South

Head Coach: Rob Fontana

How they fared in 2016: 3-6 (2-6 Fox Valley conference), failed to qualify for the 2016 IHSA state playoffs.

[MORE: 65 Days To Kickoff: Taft]

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 25 – @ McHenry

Sept. 1 – vs Crystal Lake Central

Sept. 8 – @ Jacobs

Sept. 15 - vs Prairie Ridge

Sept. 22 - @ Dundee-Crown

Sept. 29 – vs Hampshire

Oct. 6 - @ Cary-Grove

Oct. 13 - vs Huntley

Oct. 20 - vs West Chicago

Biggest storyline: Can the Gators get out of the gate quicker in 2017?

Names to watch this season: Junior OL Trevor Keegan and Senior RB/LB Kyle Leva

Biggest holes to fill: The Gators will need plenty of guys to step up, especially in the offensive skills department. Senior RB Kyle Leva the only returning starter back from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: With an offensive line that --at least size-wise-- could double as a major college line, it's safe to say that Crystal lake South will look to run the football a bit in 2017. If the newer offensive skills players can develop and help the Gators avoid a slow start (0-4 out of the gate in 2016), this team has the potential to be as strong as the upper tier FVC teams this fall. 

NIU picks up seventh in-state commitment for 2018 class with Palatine linebacker Cortez Hogans


NIU picks up seventh in-state commitment for 2018 class with Palatine linebacker Cortez Hogans

Rod Carey's staff has been putting in overtime on the recruiting front over the past few weeks and Wednesday night added its seventh known in-state verbal commitment when Palatine outside linebacker Cortez Hogans pledged to the Huskies.

"NIU just has a lot to offer," Hogans said. "I really like all of the coaches at NIU. They all seem like good guys and guys who can help me grow and develop. NIU is also close to home, and my family and friends can get to see me play in college. I was also really impressed at how hard they work at NIU. I was able to go see a few practices in person, and they just really go hard and get after it every day. NIU also offers strong academics, and everything just seemed to come together for me at NIU."

Hogans is the seventh known in-state verbal commitment in NIU's Class of 2018. Hogans joins Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Decatur MacArthur wide receiver Amir Brummett, Rich Central wide receiver Jyran Mitchell, Plainfield East defensive end Jack Sullivan, Phillips defensive tackle Queneil Morrison and Maine South running back Fotis Kokosioulis.