Chicago Fire

Transfers are cottage industry in high school

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Transfers are cottage industry in high school

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With liberal transfer rules and a desire to play for teams that can compete for championships and provide national exposure for college scholarships and even the NBA, it has become a common practice for high school athletes to market themselves to the most high-profile programs in the country.

Some of the most celebrated transfers in Illinois history were Kevin Garnett, Mark Aguirre, Marcus Liberty, Nick Anderson, Quentin Richardson, Jereme Richmond, Michael Hermon, Bill Small, Shaun Livingston, Fred Riddle and Bumpy Nixon, all basketball players.

In the last few years, however, transferring has become a cottage industry. De La Salle's basketball team lost Gavin Schilling to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada, and Alex Foster to Seton Academy. Kyle Davis went from Hyde Park to Morgan Park. Tommy Hamilton left Whitney Young for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

In the last two years, Wheaton Warrenville South landed two highly regarded quarterbacks, one from Ottawa, Illinois, and the other from Springdale, Arkansas. This season, a 1,700-yard running back moved from Bartlett to St. Francis in Wheaton.

In Chicago, handlers of a promising and widely recruited offensive lineman showed up at a few high schools and demanded: "If you guarantee that he will play left offensive tackle, he'll come here. If not, he'll go somewhere else."

This year, the most celebrated transfer could be 6-foot-5 junior L.J. Peak, who left Gaffney, South Carolina, and enrolled at Whitney Young. He is rated among the top 50 players in the country in his class by some evaluators. At Whitney Young, he will join two other highly rated players, 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor and 6-foot-9 Paul White.

"Peak is an explosive scorer who can create, drive with either hand, finish with major hops and is a surprising passer off the dribble," said veteran recruiting analyst Van Coleman. "He is a streaky shooter from around the arc but when he's on, he can be scary, like he was at Beach Ball last winter when he scored 40 points on 13-of-18 shooting, including five threes."

Coleman said Peak, who is being recruited by South Carolina and Clemson, will have to convert his game to the more physical style that is played in the Midwest, especially in the Chicago Public League. "If he does, he will be a huge addition to Windy City basketball. He probably will start the year rated around No. 40 in the class of 2014."

In other moves, A.J. Riley went from Peoria Manual to LaLumiere Academy in Indiana to Peoria Notre Dame, 6-foot-7 junior Don Johnson went from Niles Notre Dame to St. Joseph and 6-foot-5 senior Paris McCullum went from St. Patrick to Proviso East.

Nationally recognized recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons of Lenoir, North Carolina, who has been evaluating high school basketball players since the 1970s, said the hardest aspect of his job is to keep track of where top-rated kids are going from year to year.

"Transfers and reclassifications are a major dilemma," Gibbons said. "Kids are being jerked around. Always stay with the horses that brung you, I always say. If you have reached a level of success at a high school with a coach and your teammates, you don't have to go to a different school to get a scholarship.

"Parents are worst of all. They are like Little League parents. They have illusions fed by summer coaches that their sons will make them millionaires overnight with a pro contract and shoe contract. The hoop dream of today is to be recruited by Kentucky and enhance your chances of being a big-time prospect and become an NBA player after one year of college."

Coleman has observed the growth of transfers over the last decade. Every year, based on academics, a significant number of athletes leave high school to enroll at prep schools, some of which are legitimate while some aren't.

No matter, the aim of the prep school is to get kids qualified. There were 580 transfers in the NBAA last year.

"The whole system has changed to an impersonal look at things. Now it is the culture of recruiting," Coleman said. "Kids look at their own lives and what older kids are doing. Every time a kid is unhappy, someone is trying to help him go somewhere else.

"I understand if a kid has a desire to play for a state championship if his parents are willing to move. But I think we have gotten to a mentality that if it ain't right for me here, I can go somewhere else. Now if you don't promote a kid, he goes to another school where he thinks he can play.
It's the 'me' society of the 1960s. Kids have so many options."

And about this story? Does it get any more hypocritical than this? When athletes jump from one school to another to another, when does it become obvious that it isn't for academic reasons and somebody in authority steps in and says "enough is enough" and declares the athlete ineligible to participate in sports?

After being declared academically ineligible after his junior year at Peoria Manual, A.J. Riley, one of the state's leading basketball players in the class of 2013, transferred to La Lumiere Academy in LaPorte, Indiana.

One report said Riley was "homesick" but another report said Riley was flunking out of La Lumiere and withdrew before the school ordered him to pack his bags. Now Riley has returned to Peoria and reportedly will enroll at Peoria Notre Dame.

Let's get this straight:

Riley's AAU coach said the 6-foot-2 guard, who has received more than a dozen Division I scholarship offers, including Bradley, Illinois State, Creighton and Drake, was leaving Peoria Manual because he needed to escape Peoria's academically inept public school system. So now he is coming back because he has no other options?

And if Riley couldn't cut it at Peoria Manual, what makes him think he can achieve passing grades and meet NCAA academic standards at a parochial school such as Peoria Notre Dame?

"Transfers are out of control, largely with the involvement of prep schools," said recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "The problem is compounded because there is no way of regulating it. Who is the authority to step in? Who is the governing body? It has become enough of a national issue that the NCAA or the National High School Federation must step in.

"It has reached epidemic proportions because so many talented players have delusions of grandeur. They think prep schools are the fastest way of achieving success in college and moving to the NBA. It is hard to turn down those incentives."

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

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USA TODAY

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

Saturday got off to a good start for the Fire with New York City FC drawing at home, but the Fire were unable to gain ground in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Fire fail to gain ground, they lost ground. Philadelphia smashed the Fire 3-1 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, leaving the Fire four points behind NYCFC for second and vulnerable to the chasing pack. Atlanta can pass the Fire for third place with a win against Montreal on Sunday, and still would have a game in hand.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fire with a trip at San Jose coming up on Wednesday. The Earthquakes are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and have one home loss this season.

While Philadelphia has won a majority of its home matches this season, it was the easiest of the three remaining road games on the Fire’s schedule. In addition to the trip to San Jose, the Fire close the regular season at Houston, another team in the playoff hunt that has just one home loss this year.

So Saturday wasn’t such a good day for the Fire.

The game marked the first start for defender Joao Meira since Aug. 16, but midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho missed once again. This was the third straight game Schweinsteiger missed and two straight for Juninho.

Philadelphia took the lead on a Chris Pontius header in the 10th minute and added goals in the second half by Pontius and C.J. Sapong to secure a three-goal lead. Luis Solignac, who came off the bench to replace David Accam in the 60th minute, provided the Fire with a consolation goal, but there wasn’t another to make things interesting in the final minutes.

With four games left in the regular season, the Fire have a pair of tricky games coming up with that trip to San Jose before a big one at home against NYCFC.

Justin Wilson isn’t running away from big moments with Cubs: ‘I want the ball’

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AP

Justin Wilson isn’t running away from big moments with Cubs: ‘I want the ball’

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs have tried to find lower-pressure spots for Justin Wilson to work on things and rebuild his confidence without publicly burying a lefty reliever they specifically targeted before the July 31 trade deadline.

Both manager Joe Maddon and team president Theo Epstein have given Wilson the vote of confidence, though the real test will be whether or not the Cubs actually trust him in the playoffs.

“It’s an open book of communication here,” Wilson said. “We talk. I’ve talked to them and said: ‘Hey, I’m going to get right. I want the ball. I just want to keep getting back out there.’”

Even after All-Star closer Wade Davis blew his first save in more than a year, the Cubs could find big-picture optimism about their bullpen because Wilson got four outs during Saturday’s 4-3 10-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

“How good was that?” Maddon said. “That’s really something looking forward. He made a nice adjustment out there. It looked really good from the side. If we get that out of him, that could be a huge difference-maker for us.”

That was the idea when the Cubs made Wilson their headliner in the package deal with catcher Alex Avila and reinforced the bullpen for another World Series run. Wilson closed for the Detroit Tigers, notching 13 saves for a bad team, putting up a 2.48 ERA in 42 appearances and shutting down left- and right-handed hitters.

Wilson – who gave up 16 walks in 40.1 innings for Detroit – allowed 16 walks and 17 hits through his first 14.1 innings as a Cub while putting up a 6.28 ERA.

On a smoking 88-degree afternoon and in front of a loud crowd of 44,067, Wilson faced the top four hitters in the Milwaukee lineup and unleashed 17 fastballs in a row, all of them buzzing around 95-97 mph across the seventh and eighth innings. Wilson struck out Eric Sogard and Neil Walker, forced Ryan Braun to fly out to left field and struck out Travis Shaw swinging.

With stuff like that, the magic number to clinch the National League Central title in the low single digits and another week left in the regular season, the Cubs hope Wilson can figure it out and become the late-inning weapon they envisioned.       

“Clearly, it hasn’t been the same for me from before the trade,” Wilson said. “I just want to keep pitching.”