5 Questions with...Shannon Ryan

595790.jpg

5 Questions with...Shannon Ryan

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guestone of the best college sports reporters around who has had the interesting task of following the Fighting Illinis roller coaster football season this yearif shes not covering an event (which is ALWAYS by the way!), you can catch her running in marathons, working out and enjoying the sights of our fine cityoh, and you can also catch her on Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Livewhat are we waiting for, its "5 Questions withSHANNON RYAN!

BIO: Shannon Ryan arrived at the Chicago Tribune in 2007, after working the previous seven years at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Beginning in 2000 at The Inquirer, she covered preps before moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles, Villanova basketball, and enterprise and general assignment reporting in Philly. Her time with the Eagles included the Terrell Owens era (yes, during the situps-in-the-driveway saga) and their run to the Super Bowl. She also covered the start of Villanovas reemergence under coach Jay Wright, where his four-guard lineup advanced to the Elite Eight. Her first time writing about the Phillies filling in for the main beat reporter she covered a no-hitter. (She takes no credit for the feat. Just there and excited to write about the rare occurrence that some lifelong baseball beat reporters never witness.)

At the Tribune, she covered the local, Big Ten and national college basketball scenes, covering the NCAA tournament nearly every season. She also assisted in the Tribunes coverage of the NHL Finals when the Blackhawks won the Cup.

As an Ohio native, she grew up in BrownsCavsIndians territory, so she is amazed she still loves watching sports.

1) CSNChicago.com: Shannon, as the beat reporter for the Fighting Illini, youve been there for all the highs and lows this season. They started off so strong start at the beginning of the season (6-0 no less)to the point where now they might be looking for a new coach next year. In your opinion, what would you say was THE defining moment of their recent tailspin and what bowl game do you anticipate theyll be playing in this season?

Ryan: The complete turnaround has been astounding.

There was a glimpse of trouble when Illinois fell behind 10-0 early to Indiana before pulling away for a 41-20 victory, which made the Illini bowl eligible in back-to-back seasons. The lead to my game story the next day was the image of coach Ron Zook running off the field with six fingers thrust into the air to signify the 6-0 start.

But that hiccup early in the game carried over. Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State were all beatable teams. Some would argue Michigan was as well. But the Illinis once potent offense has lost its spark. Theyve failed to score in the first half in four out of their last five games (they did score 17 pts. in the second quarter in their last game vs. Wisconsin, but ultimately lost 28-17). While players say they dont have a here-we-go-again attitude, coaches have said they tense up early in games, which is a problematic reaction when teams fall behind. It disrupts the plan of getting their run game going, which has been a major struggle lately.

The bowl game, of course, may largely hinge on whether Illinois beats Minnesota and what other Big Ten teams do. The conference has eight bowl tie-ins but more than eight Big Ten teams may become eligible. Illinois has traveled well in the past, but if they enter the post-season trending downward and only have one sellout on record in Champaign that isnt too appealing to bowl representatives. The last three Big Ten bowls are the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston, the TicketCity in Dallas and the Little Caesars in Detroit, so dont be surprised to see Illinois in one of those. Some experts have Illinois in New Orleans, playing Louisiana-Lafayette.

2) CSNChicago.com: Naturally, as a college sports journalist, youre fully aware of the horrific details about what went on at Penn State. Going forward, from a recruiting standpoint, how difficult will it be for this once dominant football institution to acquire the same high-level, athletic talent that would actually want to be associated with this now-marred program?

Ryan: I think it will be difficult for the university as a whole to move forward and it will be a serious undertaking to remove this stain permanently. Penn State was Joe Paterno and what people believed he stood for. That perception has changed for many.

With the NCAA and FBI now both investigating, this will scare away not only big-name coaches, but big-time recruits. Without a high profile coach, the recruits will look elsewhere, unsure how Penn State will be able to rebuild its image and its winning ways.

3) CSNChicago.com: Lets shift to some college hoops for this next one. From a Big Ten standpoint, Thad Matta has put together a pretty darn good Ohio State team this year led by super-sophomore forward Jared Sullinger. Does this team have ANY challengers in the Big Ten this season and, if so, who?

Ryan: Youre absolutely right that Ohio State is the class of the Big Ten and has a legitimate chance to be the best in the nation by March Madness. Sullinger surprised many people, except for coach Thad Matta, by making good on his promise and returning for a sophomore season. Along with Sullinger, sharp-shooter William Buford, skilled point guard Aaron Craft and big-bodied forward Deshaun Thomas, Matta brought in some promising freshmen who should contribute. If the Buckeyes have a weak point, its their depth. This team cant afford a serious injury or two.

But I would not count out Wisconsin. Jordan Taylor is probably one of the most overlooked guards in the country. He has a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio and is a savvy veteran. I saw him drop 27 points on Ohio State last season at a wild game in Madison. Somehow everyone always overlooks Bo Ryans teams but they still manage to usually surprise us.

Michigan State slumped last season but theres no denying Tom Izzo is an excellent coach with a proven track record. Despite their loss to North Carolina on the aircraft carrier, I wouldnt be surprised to see the Spartans improve as the season progresses.

4) CSNChicago.com: Name your Top 3 favorite sports-themed books (fiction or non-fiction) of all time.

Ryan:

1) Unforgivable Blackness. The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, By Geoffrey C. Ward.

Boxer Jack Johnson was far ahead of his time. In the early 20th century, he confronted harsh racism head on literally in the boxing ring and figuratively in the way he lived his life with no apologies. He knew he was so good that white fighters would eventually have to fight him if they wanted to claim they were the best (because obviously Johnson was the best and refused to stop challenging the best fighters regardless of race). He later won the heavyweight championship, but it is a shame that through much of his early career and some of his prime he was denied being named the champion or given the access to fight for the belt. I would love to see him receive a pardon for his unjust and racist conviction. He lived much of his life in Chicago and is actually buried in Graceland Cemetery under a very simple plot, which I visited after reading this biography.

2) To the Edge, by Kirk Johnson.

I read this non-fiction story about the 135-mile footrace from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney before I ran my first marathon in 2001. I just kept thinking to myself that 26.2 miles through Cleveland was nothing compared to what I read in this book. It was actually written by a New York Times reporter who was a neophyte at ultra-marathons. It would be great to try something like this and write about it, but Im afraid it would be a bit of an embarrassing tale given my slow marathon pace.

3) Friday Night Lights, A Town, A Team and A Dream, by H.G. Bissinger.

While most kids today know the title as a T.V. show, I urge anyone growing up in a high school football-crazed town or state like much of my native Ohio to read this. It seems clich now but this behind the scenes look at the season of a Texas high school team and its football-obsessed town sparked a genre of sports books. To me, this remains a classic.

5) CSNChicago.com: If you werent a sports writer, what alternate career path would you have loved to have been associated with?and how do you think you would have realistically fared in that role?

Ryan: Everything! The best part of being a journalist is meeting people of various backgrounds and with an array of skills and experiences. Usually, I think, Wow, I would have loved to have .. lived there or tried that or do whatever it is my interview subject is telling me about. But I absolutely love traveling and learning about new people and places. Im also very intrigues by various social justice issues. So I feel like in another life or maybe my future one I would be traveling and trying to help through some type of charitable organization. I have a bit of an adventurer spirit and have enjoyed volunteering so I think I would do well and enjoy it. But for now, sports writing is my gig. And I love it.

Ryan LINKS:

Chicago Tribune sports home page

Shannon Ryan on Facebook

Shannon Ryan on Twitter

2016 NHL Draft: Report Cards for Central Division

2016 NHL Draft: Report Cards for Central Division

The 2016 NHL Draft has officially come and gone, and it's time to assess how each team in the Central Division fared. Taking each team's circumstance under consideration, grades were determined by the execution of their big picture plan. 

Chicago Blackhawks: B+

For the second straight year, the Blackhawks didn't own a first-round pick after trading it at the deadline for Andrew Ladd. They did, however, have the most draft picks out of any team in the Central Division (nine), including three second-rounders after acquiring two of them in a deal that sent Andrew Shaw to Montreal.

The first one, No. 39 overall, was used to select Alex DeBrincat, who was projected to go in the first round but slipped because of his size (5-foo-7, 165 lbs). Scouts are already comparing this pick to Brandon Saad in a sense that it's a player with high upside and has the potential to be a second-round steal.

One thing we do know is, DeBrincat can score and he does a lot of it. The 18-year-old winger registered two consecutive 51-goal seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hocky League, where he compiled 104 points in 2014-15 and 101 points in 2015-16.

The Blackhawks added some defensive depth by drafting defenseman Chad Krys, who played with DeBrincat on Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Championship, at No. 45 overall and Russian winger Artur Kayumov with pick No. 50 to cap off the trio of second-round selections. 

Along the way, the Blackhawks stockpiled a pair of 2017 draft picks, giving them 10 total when they host the draft in Chicago for the first time ever.

Colorado Avalanche: B

The Avalanche are quietly gathering a young and skilled forward group in Colorado. While defense has been an issue since Patrick Roy took over as head coach, they've been near the bottom of the league in puck possession numbers as well, and the selection of Tyson Jost at No. 10 overall is a step in the right direction to patch up both areas.

Draft experts are comparing Jost to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a two-way centerman who has the ability to play against top competition on a nightly basis.

Already with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog as the franchise cornerstones, Jost figures to draw into the lineup at some point over the next couple seasons, along with offensively-gifted Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen, who they drafted at No. 10 overall last year.

The Avalanche also selected two defensemen, Josh Anderson in the third round and Nathan Clurman in the sixth round, addressing a glaring need.

Dallas Stars: C

The Stars have created an identity in Dallas built on speed and strong puck possession numbers, and their first-round selection of Riley Tufte is an interesting one. He's one of the tallest forwards in this year's draft at 6-foot-5, but scouts say he's a strong skater with great hands for his size.

While he may not blend in with the fast-paced style, he's a versatile player that can play up and down the lineup, the type of hockey player every team needs.

To address their goaltending situation, the Stars drafted Colton Point in the fifth round as a potential long-term project and solution in the crease. This came shortly after the Stars officially gave up on and parted ways with netminder Jack Campbell, who was once thought to be the next big thing, after he was shipped to Los Angeles for defenseman Nick Ebert.

Minnesota Wild: C

The best move of the weekend for the Wild was, hands down, the decision to buy out the final year of Thomas Vanek's contract and the $6.5 million cap hit that came with it. While the penalty will be $1.5 million this year and $2.5 million in 2017-18, it opened up $5 million in cap space for a team that currently has just seven forwards under contract in 2016-17 and wants to contend before the championship window starts to close.

As for the draft itself, the Wild had only one pick in the first three rounds — and four total — but luckily for them it was a first-rounder used on forward Luke Kunin at No. 15.

He's regarded as a solid two-way player who plays with high energy, something the Wild could use as they transition into the Bruce Boudreau era.

Nashville Predators: B+

The Predators had eight draft picks this year (with at least one in each round), and — surprise, surprise — they used five of them on a defenseman, including their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) Dante Fabbro and second-round selection (No. 47 overall) Samuel Girard.

Fabbro is expected to play next season at Boston University, but with Shea Weber on the back-nine of his career and Seth Jones being traded to Columbus in exchange for Ryan Johansen, the Predators are hoping Fabbro can be their next young stud on the blue line.

St. Louis Blues: B

The Blues owned only one draft pick in the first three rounds last season, but this year they had three in the first two, and eight overall.

Tage Thompson fits the crop of the Blues as a versatile power forward with offensive skill, and they liked him enough to trade up two spots to take him at No. 26 overall. Jordan Kyrou, their second-round selection, drew some positive reaction as a guy that jumps off your television screen. 

Thompson and Kyrou were two of seven forwards drafted by the Blues, with the other being a goaltender, Evan Fizpatrick, with the 59th overall pick.

Speaking of goaltenders, the Blues also made one of the biggest trades of the weekend by dealing Brian Elliott to Calgary for a second-round pick (which turned out to be Kyrou at No. 35) and a conditional third-rounder in 2017, with the caveat that Elliott re-signs with the Flames.

With Jake Allen ready to take on the full-time role in net and the Flames desperately needing a starter, it's a deal that made sense for both sides, but perhaps the Blues could've gotten more for Elliott given his 2016 success, both in the regular season and postseason, and great value at $2.5 million.

Winnipeg Jets: A-

The Jets are building something special in Winnipeg after owning two first-round picks for the second straight year.

Auston Matthews, who went No. 1 overall to Toronto, is certainly the most well-rounded player in this year's draft, but the Jets arguably drafted the player with the highest ceiling with the second overall pick: Patrik Laine, who compared himself to Alex Ovechkin, a six-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner.

Laine will make an immediate impact on the Jets in his first season. Factor that in with the possibility of Kyle Connor, who was named USA Hockey's College Player of the Year and left college early to sign his entry-level contract in April, joining the Jets at the same time as Laine and Winnipeg's future is almost here.

Logan Stanley, a 6-foot-7 defenseman, may have been a reach at No. 18 overall, but the growing threat of losing Jacob Trouba, who's a restricted free agent on July 1, via a trade or an offer sheet may have forced their hand to keep that blue line stocked with young, promising talent. 

Cubs drop fifth game in last six with loss to Marlins

Cubs drop fifth game in last six with loss to Marlins

MIAMI (AP) — Ichiro Suzuki slapped a ground ball toward the left side of the infield, then hustled down the line to first just in case the throw didn't get there in time.

It didn't, and the Miami Marlins were in business.

That play by Suzuki kick-started what became a four-run fifth as the Marlins took the lead for good, and they went on to beat the Chicago Cubs 9-6 on Saturday.

"Just a good team," said Justin Bour, who hit his 14th home run and finished with three RBIs. "Good vibe right now, and just got to keep it rolling."

Giancarlo Stanton had his first three-RBI game since April 26 for Miami, which got to 40 wins in 75 games - or 20 games faster than they did a year ago. Paul Clemens (1-0) allowed four runs in five innings for his first big league win since June 12, 2013, and A.J. Ramos got the last two outs for his 24th save in as many chances this season.

Going back to 2015, Ramos has saved 33 straight, tying a Marlins franchise record.

"He's been solid," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Any team that has a guy at the end that's closing `em down and not giving `em up, if you can get to him with a lead you're in good shape."

Addison Russell hit a three-run homer and Miguel Montero added a solo homer for the Cubs, who still have the best record in the majors even after losing five of their last six games. They ended a four-game skid Friday night despite giving up Bour's grand slam.

"That's a tremendous lineup," Clemens said.

Cubs starter John Lackey (7-4) gave up a season-high seven runs in 4 1-3 innings, and it's almost like he knew Suzuki's infield single would be trouble - smacking his glove and shouting in frustration after he reached.

It only got worse over the next few minutes for Lackey, who had a 2.78 ERA when the game started and a 3.29 ERA when it ended.

"To start off with an infield hit ... I have to do better than that," Lackey said. "Four runs should be enough to win that game."

Suzuki took second when Russell's throw squirted away from Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and scored two pitches later on Martin Prado's double.

Stanton drove in Prado with a single that chased Lackey and put Miami up 5-4, Bour greeted reliever Gerardo Concepcion with an RBI double, and Derek Dietrich's sacrifice fly made it 7-4.

It was a rare sort of loss for the Cubs, who were 33-0 this season when scoring six runs and 44-3 when scoring at least four.

"When we score that many runs we're going to win a baseball game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It was one of those nights and we move on."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: Rizzo (back stiffness) and Montero (right knee) returned to the lineup after missing the last two games. ... 2B Ben Zobrist, who was forced out of Friday's game after getting hit in the left ankle by a pitch, didn't start but pinch-hit in the eighth.

Marlins: CF Marcell Ozuna, who played in all but one of Miami's first 74 games, wasn't in the lineup because of left wrist pain. Suzuki started in center for the sixth time this season.

CUBS LINEUP

Willson Contreras, who had an RBI double in the ninth for the Cubs, got the start in left field. That became the third position (joining catcher and first base) that he's played in a very hectic opening eight games of his MLB career. And Lackey batted eighth, the second straight day that Maddon put a starting pitcher in that slot after doing the same with Kyle Hendricks in Friday's win.

ICHIRO WATCH

Suzuki went 1 for 4, moving him within 16 hits of 3,000 for his MLB career.

UP NEXT

The series ends Sunday when Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (9-3, 2.36) faces Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (7-3, 2.55). Fernandez is 23-1 all-time at home and has never faced the Cubs, who have lost each of Hammel's last three starts. Fernandez briefly left the Marlins' dugout in the first inning Saturday after a foul ball bounced off his right hand, but returned not long afterward - and even asked Mattingly if he could pinch-hit in the late innings.

White Sox blast seven homers but lose to Blue Jays

White Sox blast seven homers but lose to Blue Jays

Even though they tied a team record on Saturday afternoon, the White Sox became only the third team in baseball history to hit seven home runs in a game and lose.

Brett Lawrie produced his first multi-homer game, but a poor outing by starter Miguel Gonzalez did in the short-handed White Sox, who lost 10-8 to the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 25,776 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The seven home runs -- all solo shots -- matched an April 23, 1955 performance at the Kansas City Athletics. But it wasn’t enough to prevent them from falling below .500 as Gonzalez allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. Dioner Navarro, J.B. Shuck, Tim Anderson, Alex Avila and Adam Eaton all homered in the loss.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that before,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

While it may not be as unprecedented, the workload has been hefty for the White Sox bullpen over the last week. The group had combined for 26 1/3 innings in the team’s previous seven games and needed a lengthy effort from Gonzalez. Ventura said afterward he ruled relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones, who each appeared in five of those games, and Matt Albers and Zach Duke, who had four each, out of action.

So it couldn’t have been easy for Ventura to stomach when Gonzalez allowed five consecutive first-inning hits and fell behind 3-0. Devon Travis made it a five-run game in the second inning with a two-run homer.

Starved for length from the starting pitcher, Ventura stuck with Gonzalez, who retired the side in order in the third. But the Blue Jays continued to add on against Gonzalez, pushing across three more runs in the fourth inning. Josh Donaldson drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs to make it a 6-3 game and Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run single again pushed the deficit to five.

While Gonzalez pitched a scoreless fifth inning, he was lifted after a one-out double in the sixth by Ezequiel Carrera.

“We've got to win that game,” Gonzalez said. “That can't happen. I have to be more consistent.

"It's frustrating not to be a little bit more consistent early in the ballgame.”

Gonzalez is now 1-3 with a 7.83 ERA in four home starts this season.

Encarnacion doubled in an insurance run and Troy Tulowitzki singled in another in the ninth off rookie Michael Ynoa to give Toronto a 10-7 lead.

Despite facing big deficits all game, the White Sox didn’t surrender.

Lawrie’s inside-the-park-home run with two outs in the second off R.A. Dickey lit a fuse. It was the first inside-the-park-homer by a White Sox player at U.S. Cellular Field since Chris Singleton on Sept. 29, 2000.

Navarro then lined one out to right to make it 5-2 and Shuck followed with his first homer since April 19, 2014 -- a span of 318 plate appearances. It’s the first time the White Sox hit three consecutive homers since they hit four in a row against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 14, 2008.

Lawrie’s solo homer off Dickey in the fourth made it 8-3 as he became the first White Sox player since Ron Santo on June 9, 1974 to have both a traditional homer and an inside-the-park-homer in the same contest.

The White Sox added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Lawrie to make it 8-5, but reliever Jesse Chavez stranded a pair of runners.

Anderson’s homer off Drew Storen in the seventh made it a two-run game and Avila’s oppo-shot off Jason Grilli in the eighth got the White Sox within a run.

Eaton homered in the ninth, too, but it wasn’t enough.

“They’ve got a well oiled machine over there,” Eaton said. “They’re tough to compete with. At the same time, you hit seven home runs, you think you should win the ballgame. But that's the way baseball goes. Baseball is a weird game.

“It's a tricky game. You can never really predict it.”