Simeons march towards history begins Saturday

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Simeons march towards history begins Saturday

By Bryan Crawford
CSNChicago.com
Simeon has had no problem reinforcing basketball history lessons in recent years. And school will be in session for their opponents from Saturday until possibly March.
The question is: can Simeon keep acing the tests themselves?
The Wolverines kick off their 2012-13 season Saturday night at the Chicago Elite Classic (8 p.m. vs. Milton GA) at the UIC Pavilion. It will be the team's first step in a march towards history. The South Side powerhouse has won the last three 4A state championships. Should they win it all this year, they would become the first Chicago Public League team to win four consecutive Illinois state titles.
To say that the Simeon basketball program has bulls-eye on their collective backs is an understatement. Like any elite squad with a strong tradition of winning, no matter who they play, theyll get every opponents best game. But given what theyre trying to achieve this season, opposing squads are going to come at them even harder and do whatever they can to keep the Wolverines from accomplishing their goals.
It will be an uphill climb and a tough road, for sure, but Simeon appears to be ready for the challenge. 
This years Wolverine squad is not just senior-heavy, theyre also deep. Led by All-American Jabari Parker and fellow senior standouts Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, Kendall Pollard and Ricky Norris, all of these players have tasted the ultimate victory of being the last team standing in Peoria. Each player is not only hungry to get back there, but they want to achieve an even greater goal in the process.
We want to make history by winning a city championship, another state championship and also a national championship, said Ricky Norris after a recent practice. But at the end of the day we know that we have to go out there and play just like every other team. So were just going to play hard and try to get it done.
We know what were trying to do, but we dont really talk about it that much, point guard Jaylon Tate, a University of Illinois commit, said. We just want to go out there and play each game game by game and just win. Well let everything else just fall into place. But the main goal is to win state and it would be real good to make history, too.
Saturdays contest will be Simeons first game of the season while their opponent, Milton High School (GA), already has five games under its belt. But Wolverines head coach Robert Smith isnt too concerned about his squad not having played any official games yet, and has complete confidence in his groups ability to play hard and, most importantly, win.
With this being our first game of the season, its huge for us to get off to a good start, Smith said. Milton will probably be in a little bit better rhythm that well be in since theyve played a few more games than we have, but I have a lot of confidence in these guys. I know how badly they want to get to where they want to go, so I think well pull out the victory.
Kendrick Nunn, who will join Jaylon Tate at the University of Illinois next year, echoed his coachs sentiment. 
Its definitely going to take us a little while to get our rhythm because itll be our first game, opined Nunn. We just have to get all of the jitters out. But when we do, well be fine.
Unfortunately for Simeon and for those attending the Classic as well missing in action on Saturday night will be their superstar, Parker. The senior is still sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot and has yet to be cleared by doctors to play. 
His teammates know what he brings to the team on the court, but being forced to play this weekend without him doesnt bother them one bit. Theyre a confident bunch and believe they can still win with Jabari cheering them on from the sideline.
Its not going to be tough playing without Jabari. Were used to it we played without him all summer, said senior Kendall Pollard whos committed to play his college ball at Dayton next season. But hell be on the bench to cheer us on, so itll be good to seem him there.
Said Tate, Jabari is a really good player and hes a really big help for our team. But we have other good guys on this team, too. Having Jabari is definitely a big plus, but without him, weve still got guys that can step up. Its going to show just how deep we are as a team.

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.

When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.

But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.

In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.

“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.

“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”

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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”

Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.

While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.

Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.

“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”

Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.

Two days out, White Sox already excited about facing former teammate Chris Sale

Two days out, White Sox already excited about facing former teammate Chris Sale

There are still two days remaining until the White Sox take the field against their old teammate, but the questions are already coming about what it will be like to face Chris Sale on Tuesday night.

The Boston Red Sox come to the South Side for a three-game series starting Monday afternoon, but the highlight of the set will be Tuesday night's matchup: Sale against his old team, which will counter with another All-Star arm in Jose Quintana.

The White Sox jumpstarted their rebuilding effort this offseason when they traded Sale to Boston, getting a hefty haul back in return led by top prospect Yoan Moncada.

Sale was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball during his tenure in a White Sox uniform and has continued that trend in Boston, where he's posted a 2.34 ERA in 10 starts this season, punching out a league-leading 101 batters in a league-leading 73 innings of work.

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Tuesday night he'll go up against his ex-mates for the first time, something those players are pretty excited about.

"I have so much respect. He was one of the best teammates that I had here in my first three years," first baseman Jose Abreu said Sunday. "That will be fun. He’s a very good pitcher, and we’ll see what happens that day."

"Facing Saler is going to be awesome, big time," Quintana said. "A big moment of the season. He was my teammate. It's a different feeling, but it's good to face the best left-hander in the league. I'm excited and I think he's excited, too. But my focus right now is to do my job. Do my work and do my thing and put us in a good position to win. That's all I can do."

There'll be much more reaction to come from both the White Sox and the Red Sox ahead of the matchup on Monday and Tuesday. But already this big-time showdown against Sale — who made five consecutive All-Star appearances in his seven years on the South Side — is demanding everyone's attention.