Yorkville eyes return to Sweet Sixteen

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Yorkville eyes return to Sweet Sixteen

All coaches can relate to what Dan McGuire has experienced in his first season at Yorkville.

"We have been up and down," McGuire said. "We have had moments where we said: 'Wow!' We are really athletic. But at other times we look like we should be playing sophomore basketball."

McGuire is saying 'Wow!' these days. Yorkville is 20-7 after beating Sandwich 45-31 in its Class 3A regional opener on Tuesday night and will carry a five-game winning streak into Friday night's final against Aurora Central Catholic.

Yorkville is seeking its third trip to the supersectional. The Foxes qualified in 1995 and 2002 under former coaches Chris Nelson and Jerry Farber. They were 25-2 and 26-2 in 2004 and 2005 under Farber but never got out of the sectional. Last year's 15-10 team lost to Morris in the regional semifinal.

Even though he graduated four starters from last year's squad, McGuire felt this year's team would be better than its third-place finish behind Rochelle and De Kalb in the Northern Illinois Big 12. Five of its seven losses are to conference rivals, two to Rochelle and De Kalb.

"We knew we had some good athletes," McGuire said. "Last year, we had a lot of seniors so these kids didn't play much. They had to take time to get used to playing varsity basketball and a new system. But they are a good group, a bunch of fighters."

McGuire, a 1998 graduate of West Aurora, played basketball for veteran coach Gordon Kerkman. But he didn't play basketball in college. Instead, he played football and tennis at Aurora University.

He was an in-school suspension teacher at West Aurora when he learned of a job opening at Yorkville. He was a volunteer assistant on the freshman team, then moved up to Farber's varsity assistant. When Farber retired last year, McGuire became head coach.

The Foxes are led by 6-foot-1 senior Stefen Jones (14 ppg), who played only three or four minutes per game last season but has developed into a major force this season. He had 11 points, all in the second half, to spark Yorkville's victory over Sandwich.

Other starters are 6-foot-6 senior Josh Williams (10 ppg, 7 rpg), 6-foot senior Brandon Holmes (6 ppg, 4 assists), 6-foot senior Cody Bailey (10 ppg) and 5-foot-10 senior Derek Piszczek (6 ppg), a four-year varsity player who has come back after undergoing serious knee surgery last summer. Taylor Carter, a 6-foot-2 junior, is a sparkplug off the bench.

Against Sandwich, Williams had 11 rebounds and Carter converted two three-pointers in the fourth quarter and sealed the victory.

"We're not big but we're athletic and we play at a fast tempo," McGuire said. "We have five good players who start. Opponents can't zero in on one player. A lot of guys have stepped up in different games.

"To keep going (deep into the playoff), our seniors have to show leadership and step up and do things at the end of games that we need to do to win...contest shots, rebound, little things that separate wins and losses."

McGuire said the most important thing that has turned this team into a 20-game winner is chemistry, something he wasn't sure of when the season began with so many inexperienced players vying for playing time.

"These kids get along," he said. "They don't care who scores 20 points or no points. They just want to win. They make an extra pass for a kid to get a layup. There is no animosity. You never know what will happen when you are dealing with high school kids who are stepping into new roles of leadership. But these kids have handled the challenge."

White Sox Talk Podcast: Jose Quintana trade rumors and SoxFest preview

White Sox Talk Podcast: Jose Quintana trade rumors and SoxFest preview

When will a possible Jose Quintana trade go from a watch to a warning?

Chuck Garfien, Dan Hayes, Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka break down the Quintana trade talks and what it will be like for him this weekend at SoxFest after months of trade rumors.

The guys also discuss what the White Sox roster might look like on Opening Day, and Hayes reveals his 2016 Hall of Fame ballot.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Plus listen for a special White Sox Talk Podcast giveaway: two free passes to SoxFest and the chance to play bags with Garfien and Todd Frazier at SoxFest.

Check out the latest episode below:

For Tom Rees, coaching gig at Notre Dame always seemed like an inevitability

For Tom Rees, coaching gig at Notre Dame always seemed like an inevitability

The last time Tom Rees played a game for Notre Dame, he was still known as Tommy Rees — but his coach put forth an offer that didn't come as a surprise to anyone in the press room at Yankee Stadium. 

"I'm a Tommy Rees fan for life," Kelly said after Notre Dame's 2013 Pinstripe Bowl win over Rutgers. "… He'll keep trying to play the game as long as he can. But I told him, he's got a bright future as a graduate assistant for Brian Kelly anytime."

Rees is joining Notre Dame as a full-time quarterbacks coach, not just as a coach-in-training graduate assistant role. The 24-year-old — whose father, Bill, has held a number of scouting roles in the NFL — only has two coaching stops on his resume, a graduate assistant role at Northwestern in 2015 and an offensive assistant job with the San Diego Chargers last year. But his lack of experience is more than made up for by the simple fact that, while at Notre Dame from 2010-2013, there was a well-established belief held by coaches and teammates that one day the Lake Bluff, Ill. native one day would coach in some capacity. 

"I'm very excited to have Tom join our staff," Kelly said in a statement Tuesday. "He possesses an understanding of the game, and most importantly the quarterback position, that's unique. He's a true student of the game and great communicator that will offer immediate dividends toward guiding our quarterback room.

"As a former quarterback at Notre Dame, Tom also has a rare ability to truly relate with the quarterbacks on our roster. He's literally sat in their seat, dealt with the ups and downs, faced the criticism, deflected the praise, and all that comes with playing the position at Notre Dame. He can genuinely mentor them — not only on the football field, but in the classroom and the community as well."

Rees effectively became a player/coach in 2012, when a July arrest for resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor led to a one-game suspension that knocked him out of what was a four-person competition to be the team's starting quarterback. Everett Golson ultimately emerged from that fray, but Rees was a fixture as both a mentor to and a replacement for the redshirt freshman as the Irish rolled to the BCS Championship with an undefeated regular season record. 

Consider what Rees said about his relationship with Golson prior to the 2013 BCS Championship:

"There'd be a couple late night discussions," Rees said. "He'd ask me what I thought he needed to improve on, you know, don't hold anything back. And I told him the truth sometimes -- I told him the truth all the time, sometimes it wasn't what he wanted to hear. But any way I could help, and I've had a lot of fun working with him."

Rees' playing time that year was important, yet sporadic. So during the week and from the sidelines, he took more of a coach's point of view with the Irish offense, which teammates said was beneficial when he took over the starting job again in 2013 follow Golson's academic suspension. 

"Not being a stating quarterback, it's sort of pushed him to become more of a leader and more of a coach," former offensive lineman Chris Watt said before the 2013 season. "I think that helped him see the game a little bit differently than before." 

Rees will be primarily tasked with grooming redshirt sophomore Brandon Wimbush, a guy who some around the program thought was the most talented quarterback on Notre Dame's roster the last few years. Of course, Wimbush's offensive knowledge wasn't near the level possessed by Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer, but his throwing and running ability are both mouth-watering traits that Rees will have a chance to mold.

That Rees is getting his coaching start in his mid-20's isn't particularly surprising. In many ways, has always been on track for this role, and maybe more (think offensive coordinator).

"When I finished my playing career and graduated from Notre Dame, I wanted to do two things," Rees said Tuesday. "First, I wanted to coach, and second, at some point in my career I hoped to get an opportunity to return and do it at my alma mater. I didn't know when or if this opportunity might present itself, but I'm so grateful and honored that it did. I'm ready to get things rolling with this great staff and group of student-athletes."