Whitney Young prepares for 2012-13 season

690612.png

Whitney Young prepares for 2012-13 season

Even though some critics singled out Whitney Young's 2011-12 basketball team as "the biggest disappointment" of the season, coach Tyrone Slaughter weathered the storm and hasn't changed his course.

"What is our game plan for the coming season? Times two of last year. We haven't changed our approach," Slaughter said.

Last season's 16-9 squad was a disappointment, he admits, but it was largely based on high expectations. With three major Division I prospects on the front line, including 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor, perhaps the No. 1 player in the nation in the class of 2014, the Dolphins were projected to be one of the best teams in the nation.

It didn't happen. Whitney Young was hampered by injuries, including 6-foot-9, 240-pound Tommy Hamilton, one of the leading prospects in the class of 2013, the presence of three sophomore starters and, most of all, a killer schedule that featured four state champions. The Dolphins closed with an eight-point loss to Simeon in the sectional semifinal.

So there will be more of the same in 2012-13, a national schedule that will be highlighted by a Dec. 1 date with Simeon, a match-up with traditional power De Matha of Hyattsville, Maryland, a trip to the City of Palms tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, and trips to Myrtle Beach, Memphis, New York, Boston and Wheeler, West Virginia. Oh, don't forget a game against local power De La Salle in the CitySuburban Showdown.

"It's a tougher schedule that last year," Slaughter said. "This is the way to play all the time. We have kids who have a need to be on the national stage. If all things are in order, it will give us great preparation for the state tournament. But things happen..."

No one could have foreseen the "happenings" that torpedoed Whitney Young's team last season. Most of all, the injury to Hamilton that kept him off the court for most of the season. Slaughter believes he will recover and play up to his potential but he understands the skepticism of college coaches and recruiting analysts who wonder if he will be a disappointment as his highly publicized father was.

Thomas Hamilton Sr. was one of two seven-footers on King coach Landon Cox's unbeaten 1993 state championship team, along with the more ballyhooed Rashard Griffith, who played at Wisconsin and was the 38th pick in the 1995 NBA draft.

Hamilton was a 7-foot-2, 330-pounder who signed a letter-of-intent to Illinois but wasn't academically eligible. He attended Pittsburgh but didn't play basketball. He was signed by the Boston Celtics at the beginning for the 1995-96 season but didn't appear in a game until about five weeks remained in the regular season, spending most of the season on the injured or suspended lists. In 11 games, he scored 25 points.

Hamilton, whose weight was listed as high as 360, was signed by the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the 1999-2000 season. He started in seven games and played in 22 of them. But he suffered a lower back strain and was placed on the injured list for nearly two months, then was released.

At his size, he had a talent for shooting a three-point shot from the corner, so NBA scouts constantly raved about his potential, hoping he would play up to expectations. But he rarely was in shape. Even in high school, he had to get frequent rests because he couldn't run up and down the court on a consistent basis.

So what about Tommy Hamilton? Will he become the player that recruiting analysts project him to be? He is ranked as the No. 9 player in the class of 2013 nationally by respected recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com. He is being recruited by Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Purdue, Kansas, Memphis, Louisville, Indiana, Michigan State and North Carolina State.

"That's the million-dollar question. Does he want to play?" Slaughter said. "He has to ask himself how much longer he can go without maximizing his God-given ability. This is his last call. He doesn't have another year. This is it.

"He has enormous ability. Last year wasn't fair because he was doing what we asked before he was hurt. We looked for him to have a phenomenal year. We remind him of what it was like last year. His skills haven't diminished. He should be hungry to be as good as he can possibly be this year.

"Will he be as good as his skills? The ball is in his court. I think he understands. We're seeing it this spring. He has lost weight. Maybe his confidence was shaken last year. But I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. I hope he gets it. A great deal of our ability to be successful as a team lays at his feet."

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.”

Wake-up Call: Mark Buehrle goes down in White Sox history

Wake-up Call: Mark Buehrle goes down in White Sox history

Watch Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement speech

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

Ben Zobrist doubtful for Nationals showdown and where things stand with banged-up Cubs

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

Preview: Cubs battle Marlins Sunday on CSN

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise