Proviso East, Carter make big statement

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Proviso East, Carter make big statement

After it was over, after unbeaten and second-ranked Proviso East had won four games by margins of 17, 8, 19 and 13 points to win its first Proviso West Holiday Tournament championship since 1991, first-year coach Donnie Boyce breathed a sigh of relief."It's an amazing feeling. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd be 11-0 and win a Christmas tournament in my first year as head coach," Boyce said. "It was exciting to win as a player (at Proviso East in 1990). But to win my first one as a coach ranks right up there with it. We made history, our 10th title at Proviso West, one more than St. Joseph."I feel very blessed to have such a great group of kids. I want them to achieve everything I achieved and more. One thing I learned is we hadn't been tested in the early part of the season but we got tested at Proviso West. I liked how we kept our composure, never panicked, kept making the right plays, key baskets, key steals, key rebounds. We really came together as a team and I believe we have a chance to do something special.""Special" is how Boyce describes Keith Carter, the 6-foot-1 senior guard who was singled out as the most valuable player at the Proviso West tournament. He scored 18 points in a 49-41 victory over Benet, scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half to key a 75-56 victory over Rockford Auburn and had 15 points and three steals in a 68-55 decision over New Trier."I didn't know if I'd be doing this well if I didn't have such a great leader as Carter," Boyce said. "He is one of the top 10 players in the state in his class, the best point guard in his class, better than (Rockford Auburn's) Fred Van Vleet and (Crete-Monee's) Michael Orris."The best point guard I ever saw was Isiah Thomas. I compare Carter to Ronnie Lester or Kiwane Garris or Tracy Webster or Howard Nathan. He is a solid floor general, willing to do anything you ask to succeed."But Boyce saw a different Keith Carter a year ago. So did Carter. It wasn't pretty. In fact, Carter experienced such an uneventful and unproductive junior season that he wasn't even ranked among the top 200 players in the class of 2012 nationally before the 2011-12 campaign began."He had an up-and-down junior year. People got down on him," Boyce said. "Watching from afar, I noticed he would over-penetrate when he should have passed and didn't make right decisions. He needed to open up the floor, improve his decision-making and show more desire to win. He needed to learn about shot selection and how to control the flow of the game."Carter also was critical of his own performance -- or lack of it. "I was disappointed in myself because I felt I let the team down. I tried to do too much. I didn't think about statistics or if I was ranked in the top 100. I wanted to show people I am better than what they think. I wanted to show them that I have an all-around game, that I could do a little bit of everything," he said.So he worked hard over the summer. He said he worked on everything, mostly his jump shot and improving his quickness and strength. It helped to earn him a scholarship to St. Louis University. But he still isn't
satisfied. "At Proviso West, I was an 8 (out of 10)," Carter said. "I had a slow start in every game but the championship game. I still wasn't consistent on my jump shot and making the right play each time. I'm having a decent year but I can get better and better. It was satisfying to be the MVP at Proviso West but I can get better."Carter is more generous when talking about his coach and his teammates. He said he was "shocked" when he learned Boyce had been hired because he didn't know the former Proviso East star was in the mix. But he thought it was a great decision by the school administration."(Boyce) knows what it takes to win championships and get Downstate," Carter said. "He is very tough on us. He demands a lot. But it's no problem for us because we know we have to do a lot to be as good as we want to be. Anything less than the state title would be a major disappointment this season, worse than flunking a math test."According to Carter, this is the best Proviso East team he has seen in his four years. In fact, he insists it can be one of the best in school history, in a class with the four state championship teams of 1969, 1974, 1990 and 1991. That's a mouthful for the usually quiet and laid-back
youngster. But he believes the Pirates can back it up."We are the fastest and most fearless team you'll see," he said. "We have a lot of guys who can go to the basket at any time, a lot of shooters, a lot of guys who are explosive off the dribble. We provide a lot of mismatches for our opponents. We make up for our lack of size with aggressiveness on defense, which is our biggest asset. The guys recognize how good we can be and are trying to accomplish the same goal I have."For his part, Carter is turning heads and changing opinions. Longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Top100Hoops.com, who didn't rank Carter among the top 200 players in the nation in the class of 2012, has been impressed by his early-season performances."He played very well at the State Farm Tournament of Champions in Peoria and will most likely have a shot at the (top 100) rankings," Coleman said.The Proviso West tournament provided what amounted to a coming-out party for Boyce's first team. Carter, who averages 16 points per game, wasn't a one-man gang. Sterling Brown, a 6-4 junior who is the younger brother of former Proviso East star and NBA player Shannon Brown, is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game."It's always fun to see when the light bulb comes on when a kid realizes he has a chance to be great," Boyce said. "Sterling is playing at a high level for us right now. He has a great floor game, inside and outside. Nationally, he should be making a big splash. He reminds me of (former Proviso East star) Sherrell Ford."Carter and Brown are ably supported by two other guards, 5-10 senior Paris Burns (14 points per game) and 5-foot-11 junior Paris Lee (12 points per game), and 6-foot-5 senior Trashaun Carroll (six points, six rebounds per game).Each player knows his role. Burns sets the tone for the defense and loves to attack the basket. Paris "really knows how to settle down the team without me calling a timeout," Boyce said. Carroll is the enforcer, the team's physical presence in the post.The bench features 6-foot senior Mike Nicholas, the team's best shooter, 6-foot-3 senior Jabari Alex and 6-foot-1 guard Deshamone "Spuddy" McCarty, the team's defensive stopper."The biggest thing that stands out," Boyce said about his experience at Proviso West, "is I am most happy that the kids understand we are all in it together. We came together as a team. They realize I care about their well-being on and off the court. They have bought into my philosophy."I have been in coaching for a few years but I learned with these kids that it is like a chess game. You want to make sure you give all the players an opportunity to play to their strengths and cover their weaknesses. If you play together and you're unselfish, good things will happen."Boyce admits he isn't a miracle worker. He credits former coach David Chatman for doing an excellent job in developing these players. But he points out that last year's team lacked discipline and sacrifice and commitment on defense. This year's team has bought into his system."I would be a fool to think it's all me," Boyce said. "You need players. We are all from the neighborhood. I watched these kids grow up. I knew their strengths and weaknesses and I wanted them to buy into my system. My biggest fear was they wouldn't do it."So what is Boyce's system? "Being together, doing it all together, win or lose, as a team," he said. He recalled how his coach, Bill Hitt, who produced the state championship teams of 1990 and 1991, preached working hard in practice. He said: "You've got to make practice harder than the game." Boyce never forgot his message."Hitt made sure we were aware of every situation in a game, what to do if we were up by five points with two minutes to play, what to do when we were down by 10 with five minutes left, how to execute last-second shots. I have a blueprint of what previous coaches did. And I added my own twist -- pressure, pressure, pressure."So Boyce is pleased where his team is at. "Proviso West is a tournament where you gauge how good you really are. We are headed in the right direction. A lot of Proviso West champions have gone on to win the state title. We have a chance to do it," he said.

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

Before the clock struck noon on a day Chicago was hosting its first ever NHL Draft, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman sent shockwaves throughout the city and hockey world by completing a pair of blockbuster trades within an hour of each other.

The first was dealing three-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, and the second involving Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad in a swap of talented wingers with Columbus.

This comes two days after the Blackhawks announced Marian Hossa will miss the 2017-18 campaign with a progressive skin disorder. That's three core players gone in the blink of an eye.

Who's ready for a new era in Chicago?

Rather than maximizing a championship window that was viewed as closing quickly, Bowman has elected to take a long-term approach and it might not be the worst idea.

There's no doubt the loss of Hjalmarsson, who remains one of the most underrated blue liners in the league, and Panarin, who finished in the top-10 in scoring among forwards in both of his first two NHL seasons, will sting.

But there's a good chance the Blackhawks wouldn't have been able to reward them with the pay raises they deserve after their contracts expire following the 2018-19 season, and that certainly played a huge role in the decision to head in a new direction.

In reacquiring Saad, the Blackhawks finally give Jonathan Toews that reliable left-winger they've desperately lacked since Saad was shipped out of town in 2015, providing balance throughout the top-six. Saad is also locked up for the next four years at a $6 million cap hit that will look better as time goes by.

For the last two years, the Blackhawks were known as a one-line scoring team thanks to the chemistry developed between Patrick Kane and Panarin.

The second-half emergence of Nick Schmaltz and familiarity Kane has developed with center Artem Anisimov has allowed Panarin to become expendable in their quest to solve their top-line woes. And that's not a bad consolation line, especially when you consider top prospect Alex DeBrincat could also be in the cards as early as this season.

On the back end, the Blackhawks receive a 24-year-old defenseman in Connor Murphy, who's also signed for the next four years at a $3.85 million cap hit, and carries a right-handed shot, something they've needed more of in the organization. While there will certainly be growing pains under Joel Quenneville, Murphy's ceiling is fairly high and gives the Blackhawks some speed coming out of their own zone.

In making both of these deals, the Blackhawks got younger in their attempt to keep up with a league that relies more on speed, addressing a few areas that Nashville exposed during their first-round sweep of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

And while they may have sacrificed two key players in the short-term, the Blackhawks executed a plan that should keep the perceived championship window open longer than expected.

Jimmy Butler is switching jerseys to the number he wasn't allowed to wear in Chicago

Jimmy Butler is switching jerseys to the number he wasn't allowed to wear in Chicago

Jimmy Butler is paying homage to the GOAT.

The former Bulls star could never be No. 23 in Chicago because of some guy named Michael Jordan, but now Butler is free in Minnesota.

Butler posted an emotional goodbye to Bulls fans and the city on Instagram Friday afternoon and fans pointed out he also changed his IG bio to read "#23 in minnesota, forever #33 from marquette."

Butler wore No. 21 during his six years with the Bulls since the most iconic jersey number in sports is retired in Chicago.

Considering Butler is probably the Bulls' best player since MJ, it makes sense Butler would want to follow in Jordan's footsteps in terms of jersey number, too.

Butler wore No. 21 with the Bulls to honor his college teammate, Joe Fulce, who he played with at Tyler Junior College. When Fulce later committed to Marquette, he brought Butler with him in Buzz Williams' first year in Milwaukee.