Williams seeks to restore Bloom's glory

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Williams seeks to restore Bloom's glory

Bloom isn't used to losing in basketball. In fact, the Trojans were 13-16 two years ago, the first losing season in 15 years. Since the 1950s, coaches Bert Moore, Phil Hey, Wes Mason, Frank Nardi and Gary Meyer produced one winning team after another at the Chicago Heights school. Now it is Jasper Williams' turn.

Williams, a Parker (now Robeson) graduate of 1972, was teaching at Brooks junior high school in Harvey when then Thornridge coach Bob Sullivan hired him as an assistant in 1982. He worked for Mike Flaherty, was head coach for one year, then moved to Bloom in 2002. When Meyer retired, he became head coach of one of the state's most storied programs.

And jumped into a pressure-cooker.

"Bloom was in the SICA East (with Thornridge and Thornton) so I knew a lot about Bloom's history," Williams said. "I learned how tough it was to coach there, the high expectations, that the team was expected to win 20 games nearly every year. I knew what I was getting into, a lot of history and tradition and expectations."

Mason produced state runners up in 1974 and 1975. Nardi took teams to the Elite Eight in 1989 and 1990, Meyer in 2000. The long and distinguished list of All-State players includes Jerry Colangelo, Homer Thurman, Walt Tiberi, Bob Heuts, Gary Clark, Larry McCoy, Mark Barwig, Audie Matthews, Kelvin Small, Larry Lowe, Raymond McCoy and Brandon Cole.

"People expect Bloom to win 20 games every year," Williams said. "But we're not getting great athletes anymore. Now we get one every two or three years. In the old days, we sometimes had two All-Staters on the same team.

"The talent pool has dried up but I think we're on the rebound. We have a good sophomore team and a good freshman team. The feeder schools are producing more kids. We are putting more emphasis on basketball now."

It shows. Bloom is 6-0 going into Friday night's game with Rich Central. Next week, the Trojans meet Rich East on Tuesday and Leo on Dec. 17 before making their annual trip to the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament at Rich South.

"Last year, we lost to Hillcrest and Homewood-Flossmoor in our Thanksgiving tournament. But we beat both of them this year," Williams said. "Beating them told me that we can play with anyone in the state.'

He is counting on 6-foot senior guard L.J. Johnson (12 PPG), 6-0foot senior guard Donald Moore (14 PPG), 6-foot-5 junior center Johnny Griffin (10 PPG), 6-foot-5 junior Jataryan DeJareaux and 6-foot-2 senior Henry Hicks (7 PPG). JeJahown Freeman, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, is the first player off the bench.

"As long as we stay focused and the kids listen to the coach, we have the potential to go a long way," Williams said. "But we have to develop some inside kids. Once we do, we'll be hard to beat. We need to develop Griffin and DeJareaux so we have more balance and get more scoring from inside. This is their first year on the varsity. They have to get used to contact and be more physical."

Also, Williams is anxious to see if his team can compete against the highly rated teams at the Big Dipper -- Evanston, Seton and Crete-Monee. "We know they will pressure our guards. They will have to step up and our inside people will have to step up for us to do well," Williams said.

Johnson is looking forward to the challenge. Last year's team rebounded with a 17-12 record but it could have been even better. It lost to Crete-Monee three times, including a three-pointer in the regional final. Italso lost one-pointers to Hillcrest and Thornwood.

"I look back and see we could have been much better. We came into most games not mentally ready," Johnson said. "This year we have more guys who work harder than last year. We came into this season a lot more focused, mentally ready. Last year, our heads got big in the beginning.

"We started to get ready for this season last April, after last season ended. We decided we wouldn't lose games this year like we did last year. We come to practice and work hard every day. We give 100 percent. We come mentally prepared every time we play, no matter who we are playing."

If that means getting into a teammate's face, so be it. It is all part of the game plan for 2011-12. "Sometimes we have to get in each other's face to let them know it is game time. I like how we have come together. We like to be around each other," Johnson said.

Born in Chicago, Johnson moved to Lansing and attended Thornton Fractional South for a year, then transferred to Bloom.

"Before I came to Bloom, I didn't know anything about the school," he said. "As a sophomore, the coaches preached how big Bloom was, that they were trying to get back to where they were."

It didn't take Johnson very long to know that Bloom has a rich history in basketball, football, baseball, wrestling, cross-country and track and field. The Hall of Fame outside the gym is filed with Sweet Sixteen banners, All-State banners and two state runnersup trophies in basketball and 11 state championship trophies -- six in track and field, three in cross-country and two in wrestling.

"I'm impressed by how many All-State basketball players there were, 16 of them, but none since Aaron Nelson 2008," Johnson said. "There were so many in the 1970s. I hope I will get there. But you have to put in work to do it. Leadership is important, how far I can take my teammates, pass the ball to the open man and make a shot when my number is called."

Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League

Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League

Luis Robert is officially a member of the White Sox organization.

Introduced with much fanfare during a Saturday press conference, Robert strolled out to the pitcher's mound at Gauranteed Rate Field for a ceremonial first pitch wearing a White Sox hat and jersey prior to the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.

But amid the hype and the excitement for White Sox fans, patience will be required. Robert is still a ways away from the big leagues, with general manager Rick Hahn saying Saturday that the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder will begin his journey through the organization in the Dominican Republic with the White Sox team in the Dominican Summer League.

Hahn made a point of mentioning that Robert hasn't played in a baseball game since last summer, meaning it's been nearly a year since the White Sox newest highly touted prospect has taken the field.

“It should be noted he has not played in a game since last July. He’s been preparing for workouts over the last several months. So right now, from Chicago, he’s going to return to the Dominican and begin his development there," Hahn said. "He will prepare to join our Dominican Summer League team in the coming weeks and then we will get all the visas in place and take things from there. His initial assignment will be back to the Dominican as he prepares to work his way through the White Sox organization.

"We’re going to have to be patient with this because he hasn’t played in almost a year now. He has been training now quite frankly more to be a workout warrior than an everyday baseball player. We’re gonna take our time at our complex, get him back playing games regularly and then get him out there. But the fact that he hasn’t played in competition for 11 months now is going to be a factor in how quickly we move him along in '17."

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Scouting reports that have compared Robert to the likes of Adam Jones and Lorenzo Cain, plus the gaudy numbers he posted in the Cuban National Series including a .401 batting average in 53 games during the 2016 season, have generated plenty of buzz. Robert is already one of the White Sox top prospects and one of the higher-rated prospects in baseball on his first day as a pro.

But as Hahn mentioned Saturday, there's still plenty of development for Robert before he's ready for the majors.

"There’s still a fair amount of development for this player," Hahn said. "This will take some time here. But with his raw set of materials and what he’s accomplished in international competition and at the highest league in Cuba at a young age, helps reinforce how you project this player to develop."

Even before Robert's signing, it was obvious Hahn and the White Sox were playing the long game, with top prospects like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech allowed plenty of time before their eventual summons to the big leagues. Robert, again just 19 years old, will take some time, too. But the White Sox are confident it will all pay off.

"Luis Robert is going to be the player that his tools allow him to become and his health and development pace dictates," Hahn said. "We do think he has the potential to be a perennial impact player in the middle of our diamond and lineup for years to come. That’s an important piece to be able to add to the organization."

90 Days to Kickoff: Morris

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90 Days to Kickoff: Morris

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Morris

Head coach: Alan Thorson

Assistant coaches: John Courter, Greg Larsen, John Wodziak, Keith Anderson, Derek Johnston, Justin Zink, Matt Seidel, Brian Kasher, Ryan Battersby, Ryan Clauson, Tyler Hartley, Kyle Enervold

How they fared in 2016: 10-3 (3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East), lost to Peoria in the IHSA Class 5A semifinals.

[MORE: 91 Days to Kickoff - Ridgewood]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 –DuSable

Sept. 1 – @ Washington

Sept. 8 – @ Quincy Notre Dame

Sept. 15 - Rochelle

Sept. 22 - @ Yorkville

Sept. 29 – DeKalb

Oct. 6 - Kaneland

Oct. 13 - @ Sycamore

Oct. 20 - @ Geneseo

Biggest storyline: Can the Redskins once again make a deep postseason run?

Names to watch this season: Senior OL Nathan Korte, Senior OL Nolan Feeney, WR/TE Tyler Spiezio

Biggest holes to fill: Morris will need to find some answers in the offensive skills department.

EDGY's early take: Morris will play its last season in the Northern Illinois Big 12 conference before heading to the Interstate 8 in 2018. If the Redskins can replace some graduated offensive skills players, Morris has a ton of experience, especially on both sides of the line, that could carry them deep into 5A. Also, keep an eye on the Redskins enrollment, which is pushing them closer and closer to Class 4A over the past few years.