Pocic changes his game plan

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Pocic changes his game plan

When Ethan Pocic thought he had prioritized his recruiting and was about to narrow his wish list to 10 finalists, Lemont's 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle received scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Florida State, Oregon and USC.

At the same time, Michigan and Notre Dame, two schools that rated high on Pocic's list, filled their quotas for offensive linemen and no longer were interested in Pocic.

All of a sudden, as fast as Pocic could say "I can't pass up a chance to visit those schools," he revised his game plan--and his travel schedule.

"I've got to make more visits," he said. "I want to visit everywhere so when I make a decision, it will be the right one. I'm not sure of a timetable (to make a commitment), just whenever the time is right."

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Pocic plans to visit LSU and Auburn. During his spring break, he visited Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee and Ohio State.

Pocic, who has 20 offers and is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2013 in Illinois by most recruiting analysts, said he still wants to visit Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.

USC? Oregon? Oklahoma? "I'm taking it one day at a time right now. I want to take it all in. When the time is right, you'll know," he said.

What is he looking for? "A winning program, good tradition. I want to be comfortable with the coaches and players. I want to have a good relationship with them. I'm a left offensive tackle. I'm looking for a school that can prepare me for the next level," he said.

He learned about the recruiting process from his older brother Graham, the starting center at Illinois. But Graham committed early and Ethan wants to be sure he weighs all of his options before making a decision.

What if he had committed before Alabama, Florida, USC, LSU and Auburn offered?

And what if he had committed to Michigan and Notre Dame, which already were stockpiling offensive linemen? Michigan has commitments from two Illinois products, Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis and Logan Tuley-Tillman of Peoria Manual. And Notre Dame has a commitment from Colin McGovern of Lincoln-Way West.

Now Pocic is considering Wisconsin, which has commitments from two big tackles from Barrington, senior Dan Voltz and junior Jack Keeler.

"This is a good problem to have," said Pocic, acknowledging that having 20 offers is better than no offers at all. "What I learned from watching my brother go through the process is to take all your visits, as many unofficial visits as you can."

While Pocic's brother was going through the process and Graham was considering Wisconsin, Ethan got a chance to meet All-America tackle Joe Thomas. Ever since, he has been following Thomas, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns and is a five-time Pro Bowl selection, the Anthony Munoz of his era.

"I watch a lot of football. I always check out the (offensive) linemen," Pocic said. "I like Joe Thomas. I've always watched him, even when he was I college. He is perfect on pass protection. He shows up every day. If you're a left offensive tackle, that's the kind of player you want to be."

He knows that left offensive tackle is the most important position in the offensive line, the guy who protects the quarterback's blind side. He recalls watching a "Top 10 Linemen Of All Time" segment on NFL Network. Anthony Munoz was No. 1, the best there ever was.

"I don't like to brag on myself," said Pocic, who is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2013 in Illinois behind Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac. "I just want to get better. I've been working on my agility, strength and footwork."

He is missing one thing--a ring, the symbol of a state championship. Lemont has been one of the most successful programs in the state in the last decade. Coach Eric Michaelsen's team has lost only five games in the last four years. Last year's 12-1 squad lost to Peoria Richwoods 34-31 in double overtime in the Class 6A semifinals.

This year? Pocic, 6-foot-2, 265-pound offensive guard Tim McAuliffe, linebacker Connor O'Brien and defensive back Jake Lemming are the most experienced returnees that Michaelsen figures to lean on as he tries to build another state championship contender. McAuliffe has offers from Toledo, Western Michigan, Western Kentucky and North Dakota.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com

The show will feature numerous teams in the CSN Preps Power Rankings. The best game on Friday night could be No. 16 Benet traveling to No. 15 Notre Dame in a clash of unbeatens in the ESCC but there will be plenty of other highlights to check for.

The Red-West, North Suburban and Southland are all prominently featured on the show this week while High School Lites will also have highlights from the SouthWest Suburban.

This week's Viewers' Choice Game of the Week generated over 5,000 votes as Von Steuben will travel to Taft to represent the Red-North.

We'll also have a Getting to Know feature on Conant senior guard Jimmy Sotos.

Thursday's Game

Hyde Park at No. 7 Kenwood, 4:30 p.m. -- Kenwood will try to keep its momentum going as they host Hyde Park in a Red-Central battle. Kenwood (5-1, 1-0) is coming off of a Red-Central win over Dunbar earlier this week while Hyde Park (3-1, 1-0) defeated Lindblom for a conference victory as well. The Broncos are still unbeaten in Illinois as they're relying on senior big man Manny Patterson and his talented group of teammates. Hyde Park is trying to figure things out in head coach Jevon Mamon's first season as Andrew Anderson had a nice game against U-High at the Chicago Elite Classic.

Friday's Games

No. 11 North Lawndale at Westinghouse, 4:30 p.m. -- The Red-West is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season as this should be an interesting game. The Phoenix (5-1, 1-0) knocked off Marshall for a Red-West win on Wednesday while Westinghouse (3-3, 0-1) is coming off of a tough double-overtime loss to Farragut. Westinghouse is going to have to slow down Carlos Hines and Martrell Barnes but they can counter with a talented senior of their own in Coreyoun Rushin.  

Kankakee at Crete-Monee, 6:00 p.m. -- We also head to the Southland on Friday night as Kankakee (1-3, 0-1) travels to Crete-Monee (3-2, 1-0). The Warriors survived a high-scoring, double-overtime win over Rich East on Wednesday as they're led by senior and Toledo commit Dwayne Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose. Kankakee is off to a sluggish start as they've lost some close games and they could use a conference road win here.

Rich East at No. 19 Bloom, 7:00 p.m. -- Keeping it in the Southland, Rich East (2-4, 0-1) will try to shake off a double-overtime loss this week as they travel to face No. 19 Bloom. Rich East has two one-point losses and the double-OT loss to Crete-Monee this year, so they could be better than the 2-4 record indicates. Bloom (4-1, 1-0) was impressive during Thanksgiving week at the Chicago Heights Classic as they look like one of the premier teams in the South Suburbs this year.

No. 24 Thornton at Lincoln-Way West, 7:00 p.m. -- These two teams battled in the SouthWest Suburban Red last season and both programs return some key pieces. Lincoln-Way West (2-4, 1-0) is led by senior Marco Pettinato as he's an All-Area candidate and big-time scorer. Thornton (3-2) will counter with a big scorer of its own with senior Alonzo Verge.

No. 16 Benet at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. -- This could be the best matchup of Friday night as two unbeatens clash in the ESCC. Benet (5-0) is coming off of a runner-up finish in Class 4A as they bring back some talented players like Jack Nolan, Liam Lyman and Justin Enochs. The Redwings have looked very good early this season as they've piled up a lot of double-digit wins. Notre Dame (6-0) is also off to a hot start as they picked up an overtime win over Loyola and another victory over Bartlett last weekend. The Dons have a lot of size on the inside as Chris Heinichen, Jeameril Wilson and Sean Johnson are all 6-foot-5 or bigger.

No. 12 Stevenson at Mundelein, 7:00 p.m. -- Stevenson is off to a great start as they try to carry that into Mundelein in this North Suburban contest. The Patriots (6-0, 2-0) are led by Indiana commit and senior Justin Smith as he's one of the best players in the state this season. Mundelein (2-4, 0-1) dropped one to Zion-Benton earlier this week as they try to get back on track in the North Suburban race.

Lake Zurich at Zion Benton, 7:00 p.m. -- Two team with high expectations in the North Suburban face each other in this one. Zion-Benton (2-1, 1-1) dropped a conference game to leader Stevenson last weekend but recovered with a double-digit win over Mundelein during the week. Lake Zurich (4-1, 0-1) dropped its conference opener to Waukegan after a 4-0 start to the season.

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Von Steuben at Taft, 6:30 p.m. -- This week's poll was a tight one as over 5,000 people voted and this game barely beat Lane at Uplift. The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) are trying to pick up their first win of the season after losing to an out-of-state opponent and No. 9 Uplift. Senior Rafael Cruz put up monster numbers last season as he's the player to watch for Von Steuben. Taft opened its Red-North slate at home against Lincoln Park as they're facing two tough opponents right out of the gate at home. They'll try to capitalize on those early conference home games with a win here.