Proviso West's 32-team tourney set

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Proviso West's 32-team tourney set

Joe Spagnolo always has been an innovator, a visionary and a wheeler-dealer. And the longtime director of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament outdid himself this year.
Spagnolo came up with a couple of new innovations for the 52nd annual event, which will be conducted on Dec. 22, 26-29 and 31 at Proviso West in Hillside. He has expanded the tournament from 16 to 32 teams, and the championship game will be played on New Year's Eve afternoon.
It is advertised as the largest high school holiday event in the nation conducted under one roof.
It isn't the first time a holiday tournament in the Chicago area has been concluded on New Year's Eve afternoon. Spagnolo recalls when the old All-Chicago tournament conducted its final game at that time and he thought it was a good idea to copy.
In the early 1970s, the all-city event was held at Illinois-Chicago's old gym on Roosevelt Road. In 1973, Leo and Tony Parker, father of NBA star Tony Parker, won the event. Crane dominated in the 1980s with Cory Blackwell, Ken Colliers Norman, Anthony Emanuel and Joe Daughrity.
The afternoon final had enormous appeal for high school basketball fans who could watch some of the city's best players and teams and then have plenty of time to attend New Year's Eve parties.
"I've been working on this project in the back of my mind since the summer of 2011," Spagnolo said. "I brought in logistical people to see if it would all work. It was one of the best-kept secrets until we announced it."
There were many questions to be answered. Can we install a college floor? Do we have enough electricity? How can we move people from gym to gym? Will fans accept a 32-team concept?
It will be the biggest event of its kind in the country...six days, 61 games, as many as 16 games in one day, 132 officials. And every game will be televised on High School Cube.
In scheduling the championship game on Monday afternoon, New Year's Eve, Spagnolo was influenced by the old All-Chicago tournament at UIC.
"I thought it was great, a day where people didn't do a lot of things. They could see the games and still celebrate," he said. "We're committed to not playing on Sunday. So I like how the calendar fell with the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Monday. It was a no-brainer. We'll be the only game in town. All the other tournaments will end on Saturday night."
In addition, Proviso West will conduct games in two venues at the same time--the 3,000-seat gym and the adjacent field house. Proviso West will bring in new seating for about 1,200 people, a wooden floor, scoreboard and backboards to transform the field house from a track facility into a basketball-friendly arena.
"I think people will like the idea of coming and going back and forth all day to watch games," Spagnolo said. "We're just trying to perfect our 32-team plan. We will have more fan-friendly stuff, more contests, more marketing things and fan-fest activities in the field house. It will be a circus-like atmosphere."
The 32-team field is headed by 13 schools that have participated in the event for 10 or more years--Proviso East, Proviso West, St. Joseph, New Trier, Westinghouse, Homewood-Flossmoor, Morton, Benet, Fenwick, Glenbrook North, Hillcrest, Von Steuben and Morgan Park.
There also are 13 first-time entries--Urban Prep, Ellison, Crespi from Encino, California, Bogan, Lincoln Park, Maine South, Nazareth, Oswego, Rockford Auburn, St. Charles East, Stevenson, Thornton Fractional South and Wheaton Academy.
Other teams are Hinsdale Central, Foreman, Downers Grove South, Brooks, Dunbar and Glenbard East.
Tickets for the 2012 tournament currently are on sale. On-line sales will run through Dec. 14. Season ticket booklets, good for all 61 games, can be purchased for 75 on-line at www.pwhoops.com.
"We're going for greatness," said Spagnolo, who has been affiliated with the tournament since 1978 and has served as tournament director since 1981. "We've been working on it for a long time. It will give more teams an opportunity to play here. I got tired of saying 'no' to new teams that wanted to play here."
In expanding the event from 16 to 32 teams, Spagnolo said he didn't want to negatively affect other holiday tournaments.
"Our original plan was to get as many good programs as we could," he said. "We didn't take more than two teams from any existing tournament. A lot of emerging schools wanted to get into our holiday tournament. We had our eye on some of them."
For example, Proviso West had never invited an out-of-state school--until this year. But Crespi contacted Spagnolo. The Encino school had qualified for the Final Four in the California tournament in four of the last five years and boasts one of the most widely recruited point guards in the West, London Perrantes, who is committed to Virginia. Spagnolo jumped at the chance to add Crespi to the 32-team lineup.
Ellison is a small charter school in Chicago, the first charter school to be invited to participate in the tournament.
"I like the blend of teams. It gives us a little bit of everything," Spagnolo said. "Our goal wasn't to bring in the top 32 teams in the state, just 32 good programs that have interesting stories."
Spagnolo didn't get everything he wanted. He talked to Farragut but coach William "Wolf" Nelson doesn't like to play at Christmas. He talked to St. Rita but the Mustangs are going out-of-state at Christmas. He also lost one school, St. Patrick, which opted out of its contract to compete at Hinsdale South.
"Our mission has always been to promote high school basketball," Spagnolo said. "Our motto is: 'Proviso West is where basketball is best.' we want everyone to enjoy what we have, from paying customers to referees to participants. We think it is a special event and we want more people to get involved in it."
First-round pairings on Saturday, Dec. 22, will pit Oswego vs. Lincoln Park, New Trier vs. Nazareth, Westinghouse vs. Downers Grove South, Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Ellison, Benet vs. Urban Park, Morton vs. Dunbar, Proviso East vs. Thornton Fractional South and Rockford Auburn vs. Foreman.
First-round pairings on Wednesday, Dec. 26, will pit St. Joseph vs. Brooks, Crespi vs. Bogan, Morgan Park vs. Wheaton Academy, Proviso West vs. Fenwick, St. Charles East vs. Von Steuben, Stevenson vs. Hinsdale Central, Glenbard East vs. Glenbard North and Hillcrest vs. Maine South.

Fire fans swarm O'Hare to greet Bastian Schweinsteiger

Fire fans swarm O'Hare to greet Bastian Schweinsteiger

In the age of social media you can track something like Bastian Schweinsteiger's flight to Chicago in almost real-time.

The Chicago Fire publicized Schweinsteiger's Tuesday arrival in Chicago, giving fans details of when his plane was expected to arrive and at what terminal.

First, Schweinsteiger and his former tennis player wife, Ana Ivanovic, both tweeted photos to their millions of followers about their trip.

Once they arrived, the mob scene at O'Hare was on. Schweinsteiger was greeted by hundreds of fans.

Check out the video above for some footage of Schweinsteiger's arrival.

He will be introduced formally with a press conference on Wednesday at 3 p.m. from the Fire Pitch in Chicago. The press conference will air on CSN+ and be streamed live on CSNChicago.com.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.