Schmidt brothers access Groce, Parker, Okafor

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Schmidt brothers access Groce, Parker, Okafor

Longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye predict that John Groce, Illinois' new basketball coach, will turn the Illini program into a significant factor on the Big Ten and national scenes within the next few years.

"We definitely think so," they said. "He already is being well received by high school and AAU coaches. And he now is on the recruiting trail for many of the elite in-state prospects. He has strong connections and he is well respected by his peers.

"It all may not translate immediately with wins and losses but in time he will prove that he is the right man for the job. He is an extremely high energy guy. He seems to take his personality to another level in terms of having an ability to immediately form new relationships. He isn't afraid to talk to anyone."

The Schmidts said Groce has a "great shot" at signing Simeon star Kendrick Nunn. "He built a strong relationship from the beginning going back to when he was head coach at Ohio University. Illinois is in great shape. But Nunn also likes Marquette and UCLA. He will commit to one of those three schools by the end of the summer," they said.

Groce has persuaded Belleville East's Malcolm Hill to honor the commitment that he made to former Illinois coach Bruce Weber. And he is looking ahead to the talented classes of 2013 and 2014.

Before the end of June, the Schmidts predict that Groce "will make a major move" with 6-foot-9 Gavin Schilling of De La Salle, the leading post player in the class of 2013 in Illinois.

"Schilling would bring a different dimension to Illinois. Groce loves his athleticism. He is comparable to Meyers Leonard at the same stage," Roy Schmidt said.

Groce already has offered the top players in the class of 2014--Whitney Young's 6-foot-10 Jahlil Okafor and 6-foot-9 Paul White, Curie's 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander, St. Joseph's Paul Turner (no relation to Evan Turner), 6-foot-7 Keita Bates-Diop of Normal University and Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis, who is recognized as the best point guard in his class despite his 5-foot-8 stature.

What about Simeon's Jabari Parker, who almost certainly will command the most attention of any player in the nation this summer?

"He is regarded by most to be the No. 1 player nationally," the Schmidts said. "Forget about the pressure put on him externally. He is the type of kid who puts tremendous pressure on himself in a good way. That is what drives him. He has a great work ethic. He constantly wants to prove himself. He wants to do what it takes to become even better than he is."

Parker has indicated that he wants to win a NCAA championship in what everybody perceives will be his one and only year in college before he opts for the NBA draft. So it is speculated that he will choose Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas or Michigan State, the schools most associated with success in the Final Four.

"We would narrow it down to Duke and Michigan State," the Schmidts said. "Jabari has great relationships with (Michigan State coach) Tom Izzo and (Duke coach) Mike Krzyzewski. That is a very important factor to consider, his relationship with the head coach. And one other thing to consider: Michigan State is closest to home."

Parker will get more exposure this summer. He will compete in the Peach Jam in Augusta, South Carolina, on July 18-21, then the Nike Fab 48 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 23-27, then the End of Summer Showdown in Merrillville, Indiana, on July 25-31.

Many critics question whether Okafor, with two years of high school competition ahead of him, will develop to a point where he will be ranked in the upper tier of great big men in history...with Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Alonzo Mourning, Bill Walton and Patrick Ewing.

Or will he settle for the second tier with Rashard Griffith, Eddy Curry, Jared Sullinger, Russell Cross and Kevin Love?

"I think in many respects he has already moved into the upper tier, maybe not in production but in terms of expectations and projections," Roy Schmidt said. "College coaches who are recruiting him agree with that assessment. I feel he is capable of being in the upper tier. Even the second tier isn't bad as it is. Okafor has the drive and work ethic and a good inner circle of people working with him in recruiting and skill development."

While Parker and Okafor are the leaders of the classes of 2013 and 2014 respectively, not only in Illinois but perhaps in the entire nation, the memo apparently wasn't distributed to Curie's 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander, who ranks No. 8 nationally in the class of 2014.

Alexander, according to recruiting analyst Chris Bossi of Rivals.com, was the overall MVP of the recent Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, California. "All weekend long, you could count on Cliff Alexander to be in the paint, mixing it up," Bossi said.

"(Alexander) is a strong kid and he doesn't mind playing a power game. Where other big guys are in a hurry to step out and show their faceup game, Alexander is near the rim, bullying other big men and playing power basketball.

"(Alexander) runs the floor looking for fastbreak dunk opportunities. He's a controlling rebounder and he has great length. His body is one that will easily carry more strength and as he matures and fills out, Alexander will be even more powerful in the lane."

Alexander lists Michigan State, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Georgetown and Marquette among the many major Division I programs that are recruiting him. He'll continue to play with Team Rose in July.

What else are the Schmidt brothers looking for this summer?

"The biggest story locally is the every increasing emphasis on underclassmen and colleges trying to extend scholarship offers to underclassmen and getting earlier and quicker commitments from the classes of 2014 and 2015," they said. "That's mainly because of the enormous talent base in Chicago, so many talented young players. Chicago is perceived as a hotbed. More and more college coaches are jumping into the mix, even more aggressively than before."

The Schmidt brothers list several local players "who are on the fringe of being able to jump to the next level in terms of enhancing their stock, a handful who are capable of going from being a mid-major prospect to the next tier as a high major recruit."

The list is headed by Morgan Park guard Kyle Davis, who has attracted interest from Northwestern, USC, Virginia Tech, South Carolina and LSU; Proviso East guard Paris Lee; Simeon's 6-foot-5 Kendall Pollard; Mundelein's 6-foot-6 Sean O'Brien; and Bolingbrook's 6-foot-7 Ben Moore.

Also 6-foot-7 Malek Harris of Sandburg, who could emerge as one of the leading prospects in the class of 2014. He had a great spring. "Very athletic with a long wing span, strong finisher and good mid-range scoring ability," said Roy Schmidt. Harris already has offers from DePaul, Iowa and Miami (Ohio) and is drawing heavy interest from Indiana and others.

Looking for some unheralded players who could make a big splash this summer? The Schmidt brothers describe Riverside-Brookfield's 6-foot-7 Miki Ljuboja from the class of 2013 as "a hidden gem." Also Mundelein guard Robert Knar, who is committed to Northern Iowa, and 6-foot-7 Alec Peters of Downstate Washington, who is characterized as the best pure shooter in the class of 2013 among wing forwards.

The places to be this summer, the must-see events, are the Peach Jam, Las Vegas and the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals in Orlando on July 18-21 and July 25-31 respectively.

"But we don't see a signature event in the first few weeks of the July evaluation period," Roy and Harv Schmidt summed up. "You're going to see more and more watered down events in July, especially in the first two weeks of the evaluation period, because of the way everything is structured.

"The three actual evaluation periods in July are scheduled in a short time period, set up for four days, Thursday through Sunday. As a result, more promoters will want a piece of the pie. More events will be crammed into short time periods. It will be a matter of quantity over quality. There will be a lot of teams and players at those events but not an overwhelming amount of talent."

CSN to chronicle a dominant New Year's Day playoff performance on the next installment of Bears Classics

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CSN to chronicle a dominant New Year's Day playoff performance on the next installment of Bears Classics

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Xfinity to debut Monday, January 23 at 8:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on CSN

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

Chicago, IL (January 18, 2017) – CSN Chicago and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Xfinity Emmy award-winning documentary series when the network will once again go back in time to highlight a dominant victory in team playoff history, one that pitted an initially-designated back-up QB…against a future Hall of Famer.     

Debuting Monday, January 23 at 8:00 PM CT exclusively on CSN, Bears Classics will turn back the clock to New Year’s Day 1995, the date of the NFC Wild Card game against the rival Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome.  The 1994 season was a time of transition for the Bears with roster of new stars as more familiar names had left town.  Dave Wannstedt was in his second season as head coach, and working to establish a new identity for the Bears after being hired in 1993 to replace the legendary Mike Ditka.  From injury and inconsistent play, starting quarterback Erik Kramer was benched.  Backup Steve Walsh then took over and led the Bears to a winning season at 9-7, but the road to the playoffs went through Minnesota, home of the NFC Central champions.  The 10-6 Vikings were led by veteran quarterback and future Hall of Famer Warren Moon, and in ’94, Moon and his purple gang defeated the Bears in both regular season meetings, however, the Bears were determined to reverse that course.  This NFC Wild Card matchup on New Year’s Day 1995 was the first time--and to date, the only time--that the Bears and Vikings met in the playoffs. 

This hour-long installment of Bears Classics, subtitled Eclipsing Moon - Bears vs. Vikings, January 1st, 1995, takes an in-depth look at this critical game in Bears history featuring candid interviews with Bears players and coaches, Viking opponents, along with those who covered this massively-hyped battle. 

This edition of CSN’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.  CSN’s Sarah Lauch is the Executive Producer of Bears Classics, Willie Parker is the Producer, and Kevin Cross is the network’s Senior Director of News & Original Content.

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players/media/execs interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:

DAVE WANNSTEDT

Bears Head Coach (1993-98)

WARREN MOON

Vikings Quarterback (1994-96)

CURTIS CONWAY

Bears Wide Receiver (1993-99)

TOM WADDLE

Bears Wide Receiver (1989-94)

STEVE WALSH

Bears Quarterback (1994-95)

RAYMONT HARRIS

Bears Running Back (1994-97)

JAMES “BIG CAT” WILLIAMS

Bears Tackle (1991-2002)

Please note the following quotes from CSN’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon - Bears vs. Vikings, January 1st, 1995, debuting Monday, January 23 at 8:00 PM CT:

DAVE WANNSTEDT (on the Bears’ mood as an underdog in the playoffs): “I think our guys had a hidden sense of confidence, a hidden sense of excitement…I remember when we went up there, our guys were excited about playing the football game.”

WARREN MOON (on facing the Bears three times during the ’94 season): “We get into the playoffs and have to play them a third time, to beat a team three times is kind of tough in the same year because they know you so well, especially being from your same division.”

TOM WADDLE (on the Bears’ playoff performance): “At no point did we ever feel we were blowing them out, because I don’t know if we had a capacity to blow anybody out that year, but we were in control.”

RAYMONT HARRIS (on Warren Moon): “(The Vikings) were so talented, Warren Moon was so good.  He had the ability to not just hone in on one receiver…because he could’ve done that.  He had one of the greatest receivers to ever play pro football in Cris Carter.”

STEVE WALSH (on gaining the confidence of teammates as backup QB): “If that locker room believes in that quarterback, generally that guy is going to be successful.  If they don’t, then they’re not…and I think in that year in ’94, there was some uncertainty.”

CSN will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Tuesday, January 31 at 7:00 PM.  In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, CSNChicago.com will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from CSN’s team of Bears experts. 

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