Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

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Cohn, Brown stand out at R-B

The best individual performance at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, described by many observers as the premier basketball event of the summer in Illinois, wasn't recorded by Jabari Parker or Jahlil Okafor or Kendrick Nunn or Gavin Schilling or Sean O'Mara any of the usual suspects.

It was David Cohn. The 6-foot-2 junior guard from York isn't included on anybody's list of the leading major Division I prospects in the Chicago area. But he bolstered his stock by giving a five-star performance in the two-day event that concluded Sunday in Riverside.

"He plays so hard. No player in the state plays any harder from start to finish," said recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "He has the ability to get his shot against almost anybody."

As he looks ahead to playing for his fourth coach in four years at York, Cohn doesn't appear to be perplexed by the change in faces and philosophies. He emerged as the leading scorer in the 36-team tournament. He scored 41 points in one game, 40 in another and 27 in another.

Last season, Cohn led York to a 22-9 record in coach Tom Kleinschmidt's first season. Kleinschmidt left to become head coach at his alma mater, Gordon Tech. Last week, Vince Doran, who had been dismissed at Hinsdale South, was hired to become York's fourth coach in four years.

"He is an ideal mid-major combo guard," Schmidt said. "He still has to prove he is a major Division I player. He isn't a pure point guard. He is being looked at by some schools as a point guard. But big schools haven't offered. They aren't ready to jump in yet. If he blows up during the July evaluation period in front of high major coaches, it would be difficult for some not to offer, particularly Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Stanford."

Cohn has been offered by Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wright State, Valparaiso, Colorado State, Santa Clara, Drake and William & Mary. He expects more offers and hopes to play at the highest level possible.

While Cohn turned in the best performance of the tournament, Schmidt singled out Proviso East's Sterling Brown as the MVP. He scored 30 points while leading his team to a 72-69 victory over Simeon in the championship game.

"He clearly was the biggest difference-maker on the floor," Schmidt said. "He has the ability to take over games down the stretch. He has great leadership qualities, a will to win. You couldn't tell him that these were meaningless summer league games."

Schmidt said that Brown, who was 6-foot-4 last season but has grown to 6-foot-5 and is pushing 6-foot-6, will be a top 50 player nationally by the end of the summer. "He is a high major prospect. He will make some major program very happy," Schmidt said.

Brown has scholarship offers from Northwestern, DePaul, Minnesota and Nebraska. Michigan State is showing a lot of interest. He had an offer from Illinois coach Bruce Weber but hasn't been offered by new Illini coach John Groce yet.

"He figures to command attention from major Division I programs in the near future," Schmidt said. "In last year's state final (when Proviso East lost to Simeon), he showed how far he has come with his perimeter shooting. Now he is bigger and stronger and more physical."

The next best player, according to Schmidt, was Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 sophomore Okafor, who scored 38 points against Evanston and 26 against Mount Carmel. "Once again, he showed he is an unstoppable force down low when he gets the ball. He has great hands and an ability to totally dominate games in the paint," Schmidt said.

The best teams? That's easy. Proviso East and Simeon confirmed -- if there ever was any doubt -- that they clearly are the two best programs in the state at this time. And Proviso East has definitely closed the gap. Coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates are closer to Simeon than people think. They beat Simeon at R-B with all of Simeon's players on the floor.

Schmidt pointed out that Brown has two outstanding complementary players in 5-foot-11 junior point guard Paris Lee and 6-foot-4 junior Brandon Jenkins.

"Lee might be the most underrated player in the state, the best on-the-ball defender in the state," Schmidt said. "Jenkins didn't play last year. He was academically ineligible. He has a lot of upside. He is very long and athletic and has the ability to consistently get to the basket. He is another offensive threat and can take pressure off Brown and Lee. He is just scratching the surface of his potential."

But don't feel sorry for Simeon coach Robert Smith. He has added another transfer -- and more depth -- to his roster, 6-foot-5 sophomore Dante Ingram, who comes from Danville.

Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 junior Kendall Pollard has started to emerge from the shadow of more highly publicized teammates Parker and Nunn. His stock skyrocketed at R-B.

"He is becoming more assertive and more of a leader," Schmidt said. "He is a mid-major plus player, on the fringe of becoming a high major player. Skill-wise, he is showing how versatile he is in being able to play multiple positions on the floor and score from the perimeter and around the basket."

The surprise team of the tournament was St. Patrick. Coach Mike Bailey's Shamrocks made the Final Four, beating Whitney Young in the quarterfinals in the biggest upset of the event, then losing to Proviso East by five in the semifinals. "They proved they are for real, a top 20 team next season," Schmidt said.

St. Patrick was led by 6-foot-5 junior Keith Langston, a transfer from Whitney Young, and 6-foot-1 junior Royale Ewing.

The biggest sleeper? Schmidt singled out 6-foot-7 junior Josh McAuley of West Aurora. "Last year, he was a role player for coach Gordon Kerkman. But he has demonstrated vast improvement on offense and is stepping up and becoming more of a scorer and interior force on offense and defense," Schmidt said.

The tournament's hidden gem? A player who no one knows about right now but who has a chance to be very good, according to Schmidt, is 6-foot-7 sophomore Davonte Heard of Homewood-Flossmoor.

"He played some last year on the varsity as a freshman," Schmidt said. "He has very strong wing skills and an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot from three-point range. He is in the mold of (former H-F star) Julian Wright. Against St. Viator, he was the best player on the floor."

Other players who impressed were Andrew's Jubril Adekoya, Mundelein's Northern Iowa-bound Robert Knar, Morton's 6-foot-5 junior Waller Perez, Morgan Park's 6-foot-1 junior point guard Kyle Davis and Loyola's 6-foot-2 junior Jack Morrissey.

Adekoya, an All-Chicago Area selection last season, is a workhorse who is starting to show improvement on the perimeter as a shooter and ball-handler. Knar scored 30 points against St. Rita and reminds many of former Washington, Illinois, star Matt Roth, now at Indiana, but he is more multi-dimensional.

Perez is a sleeper who is very active around the basket and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and score in one-on-one situations. Davis, a transfer from Hyde Park, has established himself as a high major prospect. Morrissey, a nephew of former Chicago Bears linebacker Jim Morrissey, scored 38 points in one game.

Are kids playing too many games in too many tournaments? Are they in danger of burning out? It is recalled that former King coach Landon Cox once was roundly criticized for playing an NBA-size, 80-game summer schedule. But his teams qualified for the Final Four five times in eight years and won three state championships.

"Kids aren't playing too much basketball," Schmidt summed up. "It has reached the point where you have to play as much as possible in the summer because you always want to achieve a competitive edge. Team-wise and individually, you always want to maintain a competitive edge. To do that, you must not only play as much as possible but you also have to play against the best teams possible."

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.