Coleman: Will Randle pass Parker?

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Coleman: Will Randle pass Parker?

Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com, a respected and trusted recruiting analyst who has been evaluating high school basketball players for more than 30 years, is looking ahead to another July evaluation period with a lot of questions that he hopes to answer. Here are 15 of them:

1. Will Julius Randle pass Simeon's Jabari Parker as the No. 1 player in the class of 2013?

Randle, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Plano, Texas, is being recruited by Baylor, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Memphis, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. He recently had a great week in a big-time tournament in Dallas. He ranked ahead of Parker as a freshman, then fell behind as a sophomore.

"Randle is the only player with a tool set and physical attributes who could have the kind of summer that could challenge a player of Parker's overall abilities. No one else is close," Coleman said.

2. Which school will Parker choose?

Nearly every observer, including Coleman, believes Parker will attend Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky or Michigan State because he has made it clear that he wants to win a NCAA championship in what most perceive will be his one and only year in college before opting for the NBA draft.

"The team that has the early lead is Duke. They have been there the longest and Parker has talked about them the most," Coleman said. "I have no gut feeling (about Parker's choice). He is pretty laid back. But the premise is correct. Michigan State also would be a front-runner. Kansas is a darkhorse. And I wonder if Arizona might become a factor."

3. Will Andrew Wiggins hold off Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor as the No.1 player in the class of 2014?

Wiggins, a Canadian-born 6-foot-7 wing forward who plays at Huntington (West Virginia) Prep, is the leader. But Okafor is closing fast, in Coleman's opinion. Dakari Johnson, a 6-foot-10 center from Elizabeth, New Jersey, and 6-foot-7 Noah Vonleh from Haverhill, Massachusetts, who plays at New Hampton Prep, also are in the mix.

4. What is the perception of John Groce, Illinois' new coach?

"He is a tremendously hard worker. He will beat the paths when it comes to recruiting. He is a tireless worker," Coleman said. "He showed it as an assistant at Ohio State, then upgraded the talent as head coach at Ohio University. He learned from (Ohio State coach) Thad Matta that X's and O's are important but you have to have talent.

"What will sell him to high school coaches in Illinois is he will outwork people. But it remains to be seen if he will be successful. He has proven he can go up against the best recruiters in the country and finish. He was a big part of Thad Matta's success with the class of 2006 with Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and David Lighty. He also was in early on Jared Sullinger. And he got D.B. Cooper for Ohio.

"The biggest complaint against Illinois has been that they can't close on the great players in the state. It is very important for Groce to get a good relationship with the class of 2014. Jahlil Okafor is a key. Or Cliff Alexander. Groce has enough time to make it happen."

5. Will the class of 2015 emerge as one of the best ever, better than 2013 and 2014?

According to Coleman, the class of 2015 is potentially the next great class in high school basketball. "It is the class that will get mentioned in the same breath with 1979, 1981, 1988, 1991, 2001 and 2007 as the best ever. It has four guards right now who will compare at the top with any four guards of any class. And, remember, two things that make a great class are great bigs and great, great lead guards," he said.

The four guards are 6-foot-4 Tyler Dorsey of Los Angeles, 5-foot-11 Marcus Lovett of Burbank, California, 6-foot-4 Malik Newman of Jackson, Mississippi, and 6-foot-3 Isaiah Briscoe of Newark, New Jersey.

Coleman said he is aware of guard Jordan Ash of St. Joseph, perhaps the best player in the class of 2015 in Illinois. Time will tell if Ash is good enough to rank among the elite nationally.

6. Is Big Ten basketball on the rise?

"The Big Ten has closed the gap and ranks in the top three with the ACC and Big East. The Big Ten has beaten the ACC in the Big TenACC Challenge for the last two years. Indiana is coming back and Michigan is better," Coleman said.

"The question is: will the western wing of the conference--Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota--pick it up? The core of the league--Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana--has bounced back. Illinois and Purdue have to be the other core teams. If Illinois reboots and Iowa continues to improve, the Big Ten will have eight schools that are NCAA worthy in the next four or five years."
7. Why can't Big Ten schools persuade 5-star players to stay home?

"I have no answer for that," Coleman said. "Jared Sullinger stayed home and Ohio State was good for two years. Four-star players are staying home. That's a start. Illinois has a challenge to keep five-star players at home and coach John Groce has time to be in the hunt.

"The trick is that kids are being nationally recruited at such a young age that the local school, everywhere in the country, has to be in on them before they achieve five-star status. That's why Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and UCLA get five-star kids," Coleman said.

"Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan turn out four-star players in numbers to be competitive in the top 20 if they keep them at home. Then you're in competition for a Sweet Sixteen bid. If you add a five-star player, you have the potential to make a Final Four run. But you have to have a great lead guard like Isiah Thomas or Ronnie Lester."

8. How bad was the class of 2012 in Illinois?
Probably the worst ever. Only four players made the top 200--Simeon's Steve Taylor (72), Rockford Auburn's Fred Van Vleet (100), Crete-Monee's Michael Orris (191) and St. Rita's A.J. Avery (197). It was a down year.

The good news is that 10 players in the class of 2013 are projected to make the top 150 nationally, eight in the top 100. And the class of 2014 could be just as good or better. "It will be a big turnaround, back to what we expect from Illinois," Coleman said.

9. Who are players to watch this summer?

Two players in the class of 2013 who could make a statement and approach Jabari Parker and Julius Randle and could push for top five spots are 6-foot-9 Chris Walker of Bonifay, Florida, a shot-blocking machine with big-time hops, and 6-foot-4 James Young of Troy, Michigan, who made the biggest move of all in the spring. But there is no Anthony Davis in the mix.

10. Who will make the biggest jump on the charts?

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a Canadian who plays at Huntington (West Virginia) Prep, is a 6-foot-4 wing forward who climbed from No. 75 to the top 30 in the class of 2013 going into the summer. He has 13 offers, including Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, USC, Washington, Marquette and North Carolina State. "He may be a McDonald's All-American by the time he is done," Coleman said.

Also 6-foot-4 Sterling Brown of Proviso East, who outplayed Jabari Parker in Illinois' Class 4A championship game last March. "He could be in the top 50 in the class of 2013. He is an explosive offensive talent with an improved jump shot. He has a great motor and a complete game. He has a chance to be special," Coleman said.

11. Are there any big-time big men in the class of 2013?

That's a good question. The three top-rated centers in the class are all 6-foot-9. They are Johnathan Williams of Memphis, Tennessee, Austin Colbert of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Matthew Atewe of Lithonia, Georgia. They don't sound like Russell, Chamberlain, Olajuwon, O'Neal, Walton and Ewing.

12. Who is a player nobody knows about but will?

Tim Quarterman, a 6-foot-6 swing guard from Savannah, Georgia, is a rising star in the class of 2013.

"I never saw him until he played with his AAU team, the Atlanta Celtics. He was a low mid-major player last year," Coleman said. "But he has done a lot to make himself a quality player. He could rank in the top 50 by the end of the summer. He is the biggest surprise of any player I had seen before but didn't notice. I love guards of his size with his skill set because he can play in college and into the next level."

13. Where is the place to be this summer?

"The NCAA has made it tough to cover a lot of events unless you have a 50,000 budget," Coleman said. "I'll be at the Peach Jam and Las Vegas. The Peach Jam is the best pure tournament of the summer from a standpoint that the players have competed for 20 games against each other prior to getting there and have great knowledge of one another. It's like taking the ACC, Big Ten and Big East and having a free-for-all for the championship.

"But the major events are scheduled so close together. Las Vegas and Orlando are at the same time. But there is a great level of competition...the Peach Jam on July 18-21, then Las Vegas a week later or the Nike Fab 48 and Adidas Super 64. You get Nike's best at the Peach Jam because they had all spring to qualify. Then you see Adidas' best teams in Las Vegas. How do you see a majority of the great teams? How do you see as many players as possible?"

14. Does Illinois have a chance to get Demetrius Henry?

Henry, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Brandon, Florida, wants to play right away. That is why he is looking at schools outside his area and why Illinois is an allure. A long-armed shot-blocker, he could be a priority in the class of 2013.
15. Does DePaul have a chance to get Beejay Anya?

Anya, a 6-foot-8, 250-pounder from tradition-rich DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, is described by Coleman as "the best low post scorer in the class of 2013."

"But he knows he has to be a power forward in college. It will take a year or two for him to develop," Coleman said. "Can a coach sell him on making that transition? Playing time isn't the only thing that matters to him. He is thinking about development. DePaul is in the mix."

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

Aroldis Chapman is the ultimate baseball mercenary for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908. The Cubs say they are going into this with their eyes wide open, knowing the superstar closer comes with off-the-field baggage and plans to cash in as a free agent this winter.

For all the talking points about being good neighbors and family friendly, the Cubs care about money and winning, which makes them just like any other professional sports franchise.

Chapman behaved in Yankee pinstripes, handled the New York market and performed with game-over efficiency, going 20-for-21 in save chances. The Cubs wanted a lefty with a 105-mph fastball and a 15.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings-pitched career rate, making a 4-for-1 trade by rationalizing that they would rather be with Chapman in the playoffs than against him.

So the Cubs – and not the first-place Nationals or even-year Giants – had to deal with the bad optics and the lost-in-translation moments before Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Chapman did not make a good first impression while getting questions about domestic violence and the 30-game suspension Major League Baseball imposed to start this season.

But if Chapman gets the last out in October, does it even matter if he’s a good guy?

“Ugh,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Was Ty Cobb wonderful? I mean, I don’t know. All these different people that I’ve read about – something happened with (the Sox) in, what was it, 1919?

“At the end of the day, I’m here to get to know him on our terms – me and him. (And) he’s been a great teammate from everybody I’ve read or discussed (it) with.

“That’s the lenses I’m looking at it through right now.”

[RELATED: Hector Rondon says Cubs had to take chance and close Chapman deal]

Chapman joined a team that began the day with a 98.8-percent chance to make the playoffs on the Baseball Prospectus odds report and a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. This is all about what Chapman can do in October and how his presence can help the Cubs survive three postseason rounds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted that the Cardinals haven’t scored a run off Chapman since September 2011, back when Tony La Russa managed a World Series team.

“Again, he did do his suspension,” Maddon said. “He has talked about it. He’s shown remorse. And then everybody else has their right to judge him as a good or bad person.

“That’s your right. But I know there are times where I’ve been less than perfect. I think we’ve all been less than perfect in particular moments that nobody’s ever known about. 

“I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he can be a very significant member. And he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you, I will embrace him.”

[MORE: Cubs make business decision to look beyond Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Inside baseball’s conservative bubble, Maddon has to be the game’s most liberal manager, a hands-off, big-picture guy who lets his players run the clubhouse. The Cubs believe his positive vibes and presence will help Chapman’s transition.

“I’m probably the most non-judgmental person you’ve ever met,” Maddon said. “I don’t go in that direction. I do get upset sometimes when people jump to conclusions without knowing everything.

“(Gather) all the information for yourself and make your own opinion. Draw your own conclusion, as opposed to maybe hearing one thing and then all of a sudden jumping on a negative bandwagon.

“I want to get to know him, get to understand him, have good conversations with him. And then, maybe at that point, I could draw some conclusions. But never having been around him, it’s very hard for me to do that.”

Chapman’s Wrigley Field debut will be electric, the triple digits lighting up the huge video board. At that point, the focus should shift back onto baseball. But the equation doesn’t change in a bottom-line business. There is only one outcome that will truly make Cubs fans happy with this deal.

“They expect me to come here, do my job and try to guide us to the World Series,” Chapman said through coach/translator Henry Blanco. “Especially in this city, they haven’t won a World Series in a long time, so they want me to do everything I can to help us win.”

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

Joe Maddon's mere presence may have hurt the team he manages Tuesday night.

As the Cubs invaded U.S. Cellular Field for the final night on the South Side of this Crosstown series, Maddon's current team was tasked with facing one of his old friends.

James Shields pitched for Maddon in Tampa Bay for seven years and the veteran right-hander took the hill for the White Sox Tuesday night, spinning a gem — 7.2 shutout innings allowing four singles and four walks.

After the game, Shields — nicknamed "Big Game James" by some — credited Maddon for his outing.

"I get amped up every game pretty much. But I always want to get amped up in front of my old manager," Shields said. "I have a lot of respect for Joe. He helped build me into who I am today. 

"I always want to go out there and show him, especially being 34 years old, that I’ve got this thing."

Maddon certainly noticed.

The Cubs manager admitted "that's what he looks like" when talking about Shields' outing.

The Cubs had pursued Shields in free agency prior to the 2015 season and came close to deal before the right-hander opted to sign with the San Diego Padres for four years and $75 million.

Part of the reason was Shields' competitiveness and desire to finish every game he starts.

"During the first part of the game, I went up to [John] Lackey and I said Shieldsy went to John Lackey Junior College at some point in his life," Maddon said. "I said I used to compare Shieldsy to you all the time back in Tampa Bay, whenever James would [refuse to come out of a game].

"So Johnny giggled about that. Very similar guys — highly competitive, believe they can beat anybody on any given day. You gotta love that about him. He's very good."

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.