York's Cohn reaches another level

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York's Cohn reaches another level

It's a wonder what a 47-point game can do for your resume. Before York's David Cohn scored 47 points against Hinsdale Central on Jan. 27, the 6-foot-2 junior guard had received scholarship offers from Illinois State, Colorado State. Valparaiso, Illinois-Chicago, Wright State and Drake.

In a 75-64 victory over Hinsdale Central, Cohn established a school single-game scoring record by accounting for his team's first 26 points, converting seven of eight three-point attempts and making 13 of 17 shots from the field and 14 of 17 free throws.

"I have seen 50-point games but not on jump shots," said York coach Tom Kleinschmidt, a former two-time All-Stater at Gordon Tech who was an All-American at DePaul. "I have never seen a shooting display like that."

Cohn, who averages 20 points per game, never expected it.

"In the pre-game warm-ups, it was brutal. I don't think I made a shot. I air-balled one. I thought to myself: 'Oh, this will be one of those nights.' I didn't take my first shot until two or three minutes into the game. It went in, from the top of the key. OK, I said to myself, when you make the first shot it is kind of comforting.

"Then I made three more threes in the first quarter. From there on, I was in a zone. In the spring, I scored 63 points in a game. I had 13 or 14 threes. But I felt I was in more of a zone against Hinsdale Central. There was more defense being played. There was more tension on me. But I still got the shots to fall."

All of a sudden, major Division I programs are expressing interest...Stanford, Penn State, Oregon, Nebraska. Look for others to dial his number. With another year to improve and get exposure, Cohn figures to command the attention of more and more Division I coaches.

But Cohn is trying to keep a level head about all of this. "It's flattering. It's nice to know that schools pay attention. But it won't change anything about me. In the end, I'll find my place in college basketball. I don't necessarily want to play at the highest level. I want to play where I can get the best of both worlds, academics and basketball, where it feels right, a program I can make an impact in, where I can play as a freshman," he said.

However, he admits Stanford "would be a great place to play." And he admits that Notre Dame, which hasn't expressed any interest yet, is his "dream school." Several family members have attended Notre Dame and the Irish have been David's favorite college for football and basketball.

"If they offered, that would be an immediate decision for me," he said. "I watch every game on TV. I know every play they run.

"Opportunity has knocked. It's pretty crazy what one game can do. It's great that they think so much of me. But colleges look for consistency. If my shooting stroke stays consistent, hopefully I'll have other games like that and we'll keep winning. All this means is I have more options to weigh when I make a final decision."

York and Cohn are on a hot streak as they look ahead to the Class 4A sectional at Schaumburg. The Dukes are 18-7 but have won 13 games in a row after trouncing Glenbard West 68-41 last Friday. They'll meet Oak Park on Tuesday in a West Suburban Silver showdown. This weekend, they'll play Downers Grove North and St. Charles North.

Against Glenbard West, Cohn scored 29 points and had five assists. After starting 5-7, York has been overpowering in recent games, winning by margins of 18, 25, 15, 20, 13, 11, 21, 16, 9 and 27 points.

"We weren't going to give up from the start. We just had to come together as a team," Cohn said. "Early, no one was on the same page. There was a lack of communication. We wanted to do our own thing. We thought we were better than we were. But no one panicked when we were 5-7. No one even got negative. The light bulb came on for every single one of us. Each player began to make plays. Everyone filled their roles."

It finally dawned on Kleinschmidt what was wrong. The first-year coach was hired in June and didn't have time to implement his system. He was starting two sophomores, a junior and two seniors who played a total of 15 minutes all of last year. And they had to play nine games on the road during a 10-game stretch. His game plan was in desperate need of an overhaul.

"I knew I had some talent. I had some pieces but they were unproven pieces," Kleinschmidt said. "Cohn was Robin to Will Sullivan's Batman last year. He had to learn that he has a target on his back, that opponents will double and triple team him.

"I had to change my system in midstream. I found out we can press some teams. I found out we can't pressure. I had to see what I had, what worked and what didn't. We tried to run but we turned the ball over too much. We had to play different defenses. We had to change the tempo. I'm learning more about the kids and the staff and the school every day.

"I didn't panic. I stuck with the people I had. I knew they could play but they were inexperienced. And I learned something about myself, too. I learned about patience. My wife says I'm not the most patient person. As a player, you had control. You went out and did it. But you can't do it as a coach. I can put them in position but they have to execute."

Early on, the Dukes were doing lots of reps in practice but not getting positive results in games. Now, according to Kleinschmidt, they are at the stage that they are getting so many reps in practice and games that it is becoming a habit. Nobody complains after going through one of Kleinschmidt's three-hour workouts.

"It took them a while to get ready for basketball after getting their heads kicked in. We lost to Hinsdale Central by 33, Oak Park by 19 and West Aurora by 25. After that, a lot of kids would have quit. But these kids were ready to fight. They weren't ready to pack it in."

York isn't a one-man team, of course. Kleinschmidt has trouble spelling his point guard's last name but he acknowledges that 5-foot-10 senior Jake Rzeszutko (11 ppg, 4 assists) is a three-sport athlete "who is as tough as nails."

He also counts on 6-foot-7 sophomore Frankie Toohey (6 ppg, 6 rpg), 5-foot-11 senior Matt DiFrancesca (11 ppg, 4 rpg), 6-foot-4 sophomore Chris Klos (6 ppg, 6 rpg), 6-foot-5 senior Mike Despinich and 6-foot-7 junior Justin Kurash.

Against Glenbard West, Cohn got plenty of support. DiFrancesca had 12 points and five assists, Rzeszutko had 10 points and four assists and Despinich had 10 points and five rebounds.

"I wouldn't want anything more for my first team," Kleinschmidt said. "It will keep me coaching. I thoroughly enjoy it. If I had started 5-7 in high school, there would have been a lot of finger-pointing. Nobody likes to lose. But these kids are competitors. They don't quit."

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Zack Burdi headed for the minors, the White Sox 12-man pitching staff is all but set.

The Opening Day roster won't be finalized until Sunday and the White Sox hypothetically could find an attractive candidate to claim off the waiver wire over the weekend. But barring that, it looks as if veteran Anthony Swarzak and second-year reliever Michael Ynoa have made the team after Burdi said Wednesday morning that he'd start the season at Triple-A Charlotte. 

The No. 7 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com, Burdi finished the spring with a 6.75 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. Burdi finished his Cactus League on a high note with three strikeouts over an inning on Tuesday, including one of Kansas City four-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. 

"Man, it's been crazy," Burdi said. "Coming in and being the young guy in the locker room and then just progressing and showing a little bit more (comfort) around the guys and the veterans and then just being able to pick their brains and go out every day and try to progress. You get to the innings and you are facing guys you've watched your last 10 years of your life. It has been crazy and definitely something I won't forget."

Burdi lasted the longest this spring out of the cache of highly-touted prospects the White Sox brought to big league camp. Prior to escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam Tuesday, Burdi looked like he would allow a run in a third straight game after a hot start to camp (he only allowed a run in one of his first 10 appearances). But Burdi battled back and struck out Perez on three pitches, one of two straight strikeouts to strand both runners.

Pitching coach Don Cooper has been impressed by Burdi throughout the spring. But he also wants to see the Louisville product continue to work on command in the minors.

"You can't not see his stuff," Cooper said. "Everybody gets excited when you see 99, 100, 101. But whether you throw it 101 or 83 like [Mark] Buehrle you have to throw it to the glove with command, change speeds and all that stuff. But he's a big part of our future going forward. He's one of the names."

Burdi said he plans to operate like he has already spring and not pay attention to any of the hype. Though he'd like to play in the majors, Burdi is excited to play alongside the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer in Charlotte.

"Once you get a feel for all this stuff and you feel how cool it is to be in the locker room with all these guys and play with them, of course you want to get back up here," Burdi said. "But at the same time, a lot of my really good friends are on Charlotte and I couldn't be more excited to go down there and play with them and make the most of the season down there."

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

PHOENIX — When the 2014 season concluded, with all its drama, poor play and internal dysfunction, Bears Chairman George McCaskey passed along the unvarnished mood of Bears matriarch and owner Virginia McCaskey:
 
"She's pissed off," George McCaskey declared.
 
The 2016 season ended worse record-wise (3-13) than 2014 (5-11) but Bears ownership sees arrows pointing up, not down as they appeared after 2014, occasioning the jettisoning of the general manager and coaching staff.
 
"[Virginia] sees the progress, but like any Bears fan, she wants results," George McCaskey said, chuckling at the recollection of relaying his mother's mood. "That's the quote that won't go away."
 
"Progress" and "results" are vague terms, and sometimes relative. But Bears ownership is not setting a public fail-safe point for either general manager Ryan Pace or head coach John Fox to remain in place, although no scenario could presumably consider four wins actual "progress" from three.
 
"We want to continue to see progress, see the building blocks but there isn't any sort of particular threshold," McCaskey confirmed. "We're not on any particular timetable that somebody else is wanting to set for us. We're wanting to see continued progress toward our goal of sustained success."
 
"Sustained success" is not beyond the scope of possibility, assuming that a talent core can be established and includes a quarterback, which the personnel department under Pace believe it is on the brink of putting in place, whether around Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez or a player to be drafted or traded for later.

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GM Phil Emery adopted the buzz phrase of "multiple championships," but current leadership does sound less grandiose and more grounded. And where Emery drafts proved disastrous, the Pace administration has had clear hits, injuries notwithstanding, as recently as the 2016 class, which McCaskey mentioned in the context of Pace building the roster exactly the way ownership prefers.
 
"We have confidence in Ryan and John," McCaskey said. "We want to build through the draft. Ryan said that in his interview when he said he was interested in coming to the Bears and we like how he's stuck to that plan. We saw it last year when we had three rookies on the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team; Cody Whitehair, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Howard.
 
"And that's what we need to keep doing; keep building through the draft. I told Ryan he should get ripped this time of year every year for not being more active in free agency and that's because we're developing our own guys and rewarding our own guys."
 
McCaskey supported the actions, or lack of same, by Pace in the pursuit of max-dollar free agents this offseason. The Bears dropped out of sweepstakes for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Tony Jefferson, among others, when prices spiked far beyond the parameters set by the Pace staff.
 
"I've been very impressed with [Pace] as a leader, as an evaluator of talent," McCaskey said. "And one of the things I've been most impressed by with him is the discipline he's shown just as recently as this free agency period. He didn't want to overpay guys. Too often, I think, you overpay guys who don't come through for you and then you have a big hole in your salary cap and you're behind the 8-ball. So I like the discipline he has shown, the restraint he has shown in free agency."