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."

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”