Westinghouse basketball is back

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Westinghouse basketball is back

You remember Westinghouse. The one-time West Side candy factory was a state and national power for 30 years, from the day Mark Aguirre transferred from Austin in 1976 to the day the old school closed in 2007. Now there are signs that Westinghouse is back.

The old school on West Franklin Boulevard in Garfield Park produced such coaches as Frank Lollino, Roy Condotti, Frank Griseto, Chris Head and Quitman Dillard and sent four players to the NBA--Aguirre, Eddie Johnson, Hersey Hawkins and Kiwane Garris.

Others starred in college and went on to play professionally overseas, including Skip Dillard, Bernard Randolph, Michael Jenkins, Melvin Bradley, Larry Roby, Wayne Montgomery, Len Moffett, David Greer, Mark Miller, Damion Dantzler, Jimmy Sanders, Jamaal Brown, Jamarcus Ellis, Darius Glover, Martell Bailey and Cedrick Banks.

In those years, Westinghouse battled Marshall, Crane, Manley, Farragut, Simeon, King, Phillips, Collins, Carver and Morgan Park for supremacy in the Chicago Public League. The Warriors won a state championship in 2002, finished second in 2000 and third in 1981, 1992 and 1996.
   
Last year, after returning to the Red-West for the first time since the school was reconstituted, Westinghouse was 16-9 and lost to Marshall in the regional. With all 15 varsity players returning, fourth-year coach Garland Williams had high expectations for 2012-13.

"We expect to do well this season. We want to be in the top spot in the Red-West. We are mentally prepared to play the good teams," Williams said. "We remind our kids every day about the rich tradition of Westinghouse basketball. They see the trophies and banners in the gym. We ask alumni to come back to talk to the kids."

Westinghouse got off to a good start, beating Galesburg, East Moline and Bartonville Limestone at Thanksgiving. With games against Marshall and Whitney Young this week and Orr and North Lawndale next week, the Warriors hoped to make a statement.

On Wednesday, they won their seventh game in a row by edging Marshall 60-58 as Dewan White scored with 2.4 seconds to play. White, a 6-foot-4 senior, scored 13 of his season-high 19 points in the second half to hold off a furious rally by Marshall, which rallied from a 15-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to tie at 58 with 10 seconds remaining.

On Friday, Westinghouse will try to make another statement when it challenges Whitney Young and Jahlil Okafor.

The lineup features White (14 ppg), 6-foot-1 senior point guard Ricky Battles (18 ppg), 6-foot senior Darius Mason (10 ppg), 6-foot-6 senior Darrell Gant (10 ppg) and 6-foot-1, senior Ramone Taylor (8 ppg). Battles and Mason each scored nine points against Marshall, Gant had 10 points and eight rebounds and junior guard DeQuanis Jackson scored 10.

"We don't have great size so the key to our success is to play defense, create turnovers and score points off our defense," Williams said.

A graduate of Flower Vocational, the 42-year-old Williams learned a lot about the Red-West while hanging out with his pals, Marshall coach Henry Cotton and former Westinghouse coach Chris Head. He coached at Flower before it closed, then assisted Vince Carter at Von Steuben and coached at Raby before being hired at Westinghouse.

Dewan White also knew a lot about Westinghouse and the Red-West before he enrolled. His father and mother are graduates. His father competed in football and track. His mother participated in basketball, track, volleyball and swimming. But he preferred baseball.

"My first passion was baseball. I wanted to be the next Sammy Sosa or Paul Konerko," young Dewan said. "But then I started playing basketball and saw my basketball skills were better than baseball."

As an eighth grader, he played on an AAU team coached by Proviso East's Donnie Boyce that went to the national finals. "I realized that's what I wanted to do in high school," he said.

He already knew about Westinghouse's tradition. His father took him to games as a second and third grader. He saw Chris Head's state championship team in 2002 and Quitman Dillard's 28-4 teams in 2004 and 2005. He played on Head's Illinois Hawks AAU team in the summer.

"We came up to the Red-West for the first time last year. We wanted to show we could compete," White said. "The Sun-Times picked us to finish last in the conference. We had to get used to tougher competition. It was a maturing process. We knew we could play but we had to think the game, not make crucial mistakes in the clutch.

"We have been together since freshman, since the first practice. We have a lot of chemistry. We are more mature than last year. We know what is expected of us. We know each other's games. This is a big statement for us this week, a great opportunity to see how good we are. This is what we have been waiting for since our freshman year."

White and his teammates also are looking forward to competing in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. They'll meet Downers Grove South in an opening round game on Dec. 22.

"I've been going to Proviso West with my father since third grade," White said. "Morton won when I was in eighth grade. I saw Jon Scheyer score 52 points against Proviso West. It's one of the best tournaments in the nation."

But Westinghouse has a target on its back, like the teams of yesteryear with Aguirre, Johnson, Hawkins, Garris and Banks.

"No one noticed us when we started. We were 33-1 as freshmen but nobody noticed because we were in the Metro Green Division," White said. "As sophomores, we were 18-5 and finished second in the Blue Division. People started to notice.

"We improved over the summer. We got to the final four in the summer league tournament. We lost to Curie by eight points in the semifinals. We showed we can play against the big names."

Now they still have some showing to do.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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