Who's who in summer basketball?

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Who's who in summer basketball?

Simeon's Jabari Parker suffered an injury, jeopardizing his position as the No. 1 player in the nation, while some nationally respected critics said Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor lost some ground in his bid to be acknowledged as the No. 1 player in the class of 2014.
Cliff Alexander, Curie's 6-foot-9 strongman, also was injured for much of the July evaluation period. But his standing as one of the top five prospects in the class of 2014 didn't suffer. In fact, he was offered a scholarship by Kentucky coach John Calipari. Enough said.
Meanwhile, several other Illinois underclassmen made names for themselves and boosted their stock in the recruiting sweepstakes. The list includes Benet's 6-foot-9 Sean O'Mara, Normal University High's 6-foot-7 Keita Bates-Diop, Taylor-Rockridge's 6-foot-7 Ethan Happ, St. Joseph guard Glynn Watson and Trevor Stumpe, Plainfield North's 6-foot-4 guard.
"The class of 2012 was the weakest the state has seen since 1999," said veteran recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "But the class of 2013 is far more talented than 2012 even though several players haven't lived up to the hype or played up to the potential that was envisioned for them.
"However, the class of 2014 has a chance to be special, one of the best in recent memory, mentioned in the same sentence with 1979 and 1998. It has great depth and talent at every position, especially at point guard and wing forward, two of the most highly coveted positions in recruiting today."
Roy and Harv Schmidt have been evaluating high school talent for nearly 30 years. In the spring and summer, they travel from Minneapolis to Fort Wayne to Orlando to Augusta to Myrtle Beach to Las Vegas to wherever the players are lacing up their sneakers to get national exposure.
Here are their evaluations and conclusions:
-- The top 10 teams in Illinois for the 2012-13 season figure to be Simeon, Proviso East, Curie, Orr, Whitney Young, St. Joseph, St. Rita, Mundelein, Homewood-Flossmoor and Morgan Park. Downstate contenders are Belleville East and Normal University High.
-- The top 10 players are Simeon's Jabari Parker, Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, Curie's Cliff Alexander, Normal University High's Keita Bates-Diop, Simeon's Kendrick Nunn, Proviso East's Sterling Brown, Belleville East's Malcolm Hill, Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis, Simeon's D.J. Williams and Orr's Tyquone Greer.
-- Parker was sidelined with an injury but it didn't affect his ranking as the No. 1 player in the class of 2013. He narrowed his field of colleges to 10 but it is speculated that the 6-foot-8 junior will choose Michigan State or Duke. He did, however, by most accounts, fall behind class of 2014 standout Andrew Wiggins in the duel for the nation's No. 1 rankingregardless of class.
"Most kids have to play on a national stage in July in order to raise their profile. But Parker had nothing to prove," Roy Schmidt said. "However, he did fall behind Wiggins as the No. 1 player in the nation. Wiggins did everything at the Peach Jam to confirm his status. He went head-to-head with Julius Randle (who once was touted as the No. 1 player in the nation) and outplayed him decisively. You have to reward his performance."
-- Some recruiting analysts downgraded Okafor's performance. Not the Schmidt brothers. "We still think he is the best college prospect in the state next to Parker. And he still is the No. 2 player in the class of 2014 behind Wiggins. He didn't have a dominant summer in the way we envisioned. He is a victim of the fact that he plays on an AAU team where the guards don't consistently get him the ball. If he got the ball consistently, he would dominate games from start to finish," Roy Schmidt said.
-- The Schmidts conceded that Alexander "may be another one whose praise is a result of his reputation," that he played well at times but was slowed by injury at other times. However, he remains a solid choice as the No. 4 player in the class of 2014.
"He will be outstanding in college," Roy Schmidt said. "He was offered by Kentucky, his likely destination. He is enamored with (Kentucky coach) John Calipari, as (former Chicago Perspectives and Kentucky star) Anthony Davis was. Calipari puts players in the NBA. I think that is something that is on Alexander's mind."
-- Bates-Diop was the player of the summer. The versatile 6-foot-7 junior is being recruited by Illinois, Marquette, Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern, Oregon and Kansas State.
"He was the most consistent and most dominant player from start to finish in every event he participated in," Roy Schmidt said. "He was the MVP at the GRBA in Fort Wayne and the Chicago Summer Showcase at Riverside-Brookfield. He has a tremendous all-around offensive skill set. He is highly athletic. He reminds of (Chicago Bulls star) Luol Deng."
Happ was the biggest surprise of the summer. A 6-foot-7 junior wing forward from Taylor-Rockridge, a Class 1A school, he is committed to Wisconsin.
"He is a hidden gem," Roy Schmidt said. "(Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan discovered a diamond in the rough."
-- Alec Peters of Washington, Ill., a 6-foot-7 wing forward, saw his stock rise faster than Google in the class of 2013. He has firmly established himself as the best shooting wing forward in his class.
-- Biggest disappointment? Alex Foster, a 6-foot-8 senior who transferred from De La Salle to Seton Academy. As a freshman, he was touted as a future star with Parker and Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton. But he was an underachiever at De La Salle.
"He hasn't developed as people envisioned," Roy Schmidt said. "I'm not sure he has the overall work ethic to be a star. Many times he doesn't play hard. He is trying to get by too much on his reputation instead of hard work and development."
-- Team to watch: Bolingbrook. Coach Rob Brost has two of the leading prospects in the class of 2015, point guard Prentiss Nixon and 6-foot-7, 250-pound Julian Torres, and 6-foot-8 Ben Moore, one of the most improved players in the senior class. Moore, who put himself on the map with a breakout performance at Las Vegas, has been offered by Illinois State and SMU and is beginning to attract more interest from major Division I schools.
-- Player to watch: St. Joseph guard Jordan Ash is one of the leading prospects in the class of 2015 but teammate Glynn Watson, a 5-foot-10 point guard who is the younger brother of former St. Joseph and Illinois star Demetri McCamey, has developed into another star in the class of 2015.
-- Best young coach: St. Viator's Mike Howland, 27, in his third year at the Arlington Heights school, has shown to be a good coach who can develop players and get the most out of them. He took his team to the sectional last year and figures to have another strong team in 2012-13.
-- According to the Schmidt brothers, Stumpe is the most underrated player in the class of 2015. He is an outstanding shooter with good all-around scoring ability and high basketball IQ. He emerged at the Fort Wayne tournament as his Illinois Wolves 15-and-under squad won the championship.
-- Three other sleepers who figure to attract attention from college recruiters are 6-foot-4 junior John Joyce of Taft, 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard Mark Falotico of St. Viator and 6-foot-6 sophomore Edward Morrow of Simeon.
-- Best story of the summer: The emergence of a handful of unheralded and under-the-radar AAU programs that won titles and made names for themselves.
"Everybody talks about Mean Streets, the Wolves, the Fire and the Derrick Rose All-Stars," Roy Schmidt said. "But three programs emerged. They are Victor Agujapay's Bulls Premier, based in Naperville, with Brother Rice's Alex Majewski and Stagg's Sean Dwyer; Todd Wolfe's Illinois Attack, based in Oswego, with Neuqua Valley's Jabari Sandifer and Oswego East's C.J. Vaughn; and Luke Wynn's Quad-City Elite, based in the Quad Cities, with Taylor-Rockridge's Ethan Happ."

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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