Chicago Colleges: Basketball

Top recruit Okafor chooses Duke

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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video

Top-ranked Jahlil Okafor and fourth-ranked Tyus Jones committed simultaneously to the Blue Devils. The duo picked Duke over Kansas and explained their decision to Matt Schick.

NU surprises Montgomery with scholarship

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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Northwestern senior James Montgomery III, a walk-on for the Wildcats for the past two seasons, got a big surprise from head coach Chris Collins on Thursday.

In front of the Wildcats' team, Collins announced Montgomery would receive a full scholarship this year.



"He has as much energy as anybody on the team. ... He's our best perimeter defender," Collins told the team in a clip posted on Northwestern's You Tube channel. "The guy through 12 practices that has done the best job of doing what he's supposed to do every day is James."

The video clip also shows Montgomery, who is from Los Angeles, sharing the news by phone with his overjoyed mother and sister.

Montgomery spent his freshman season as a practice player with the women's team before making the Wildcats' roster as a sophomore. He scored 17 points in limited action over the last two seasons under coach Bill Carmody and clearly made a quick impression on his new coach, Collins, this season.

Braves 'sign' 2 grade-schoolers for season

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
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Bradley coach Geno Ford announced Monday the signing of 5-year-old Johnah Sahrs, who has been battling life-threatening cancer, and his older brother 9-year-old Jarret Sahrs for the upcoming season.

Through Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization which tries to improve the lives of children with life-threatening diseases, Bradley was connected with Johnah, who is recovering from Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that begins in the adrenal glands and is found in mostly young children. Jonah has been undergoing treatment, which has included six rounds of chemotherapy, an eight-hour surgery to remove a baseball-sized tumor and stem-cell transplants, for the last 1 years.

“For us, it’s really an amazing opportunity,” the brothers’ mother, Kelly Belinger-Sahrs, said in a phone interview on Monday. “Johnah spent most of the last year and a half in the hospital or not able to participate in childhood activities. For him to be able to have the team’s support, to be involved not just in the community, but Bradley University, its athletics and team, it gives him something he couldn’t do a year ago. For our family, it’s a blessing.”

The brothers signed "letters of intent" on Friday at a ceremony at Bradley’s Renaissance Coliseum. They were given a tour of the facilities by Bradley players Mason Alwan, Anthony Fields, Jordan Prosser and Jordan Swopshire. The four players will serve as mentors to the brothers this season. The brothers will also have lockers with the rest of the team and have been invited to sit on the bench during practices and games.

“It was an easy thing to do, and it feels like we’re really helping the kids,” Ford said in a phone interview on Monday. “I certainly hope we are, and the kids seem to have a great time with our players. That being said, it has been at a very minimum just as good for our players as it has been for them. We’ve probably got the better end of the deal. Johnah has undergone some incredible adversities. I think it puts a lot of things in perspective for our players and coaches about what adversity can mean.”

Johnah and his family will travel to St. Jude’s in Memphis this week for another scanning. Kelly said they were hopeful there would be no traces of cancer found in Johnah’s system.

“This is a big week for us,” Kelly said.

Bradley announced in a press release, “A 3-foot-4-inch guard, Johnah Sahrs will wear uniform number 1. He becomes both the youngest and the shortest player in Bradley Basketball history. Standing 4-foot-5-inches, Jarret Sahrs will wear uniform number 32. “

Johnah’s parents, Timothy Sahrs and Kelly, have created a Facebook page to chronicle their son’s cancer battle. The Facebook page is called “Johnah's Journey: The Neuroblastoma Ninja' s Road to Recovery.”

Collins has Northwestern believing

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
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It always begins with the cold. New alumni trickling off the Purple Line "L," young parents carrying toddlers, white-haired die-hards docking old Cadillac boats in reserved parking: No matter who you are or how you get there, the first sensation of attending a Northwestern men's basketball game at Welsh-Ryan Arena is that bone-shattering North Shore Chicago cold.

This is true of most places during basketball season; they play the game inside for a reason. But nowhere in major college basketball does the futility and depression of winter seep so thoroughly into the gym itself.

That's the next part of the Welsh-Ryan experience, and it hits just as hard. Thing is, Wildcats fans know -- not gut-feeling know, but know know, because after all it is a provable historical fact -- that not only will the Wildcats lose, but they'll do so in a gym half-full with gleeful opposing fans.

Read the entire story.
Michigan State and  MichiganAP Photo/Tony Ding
Summer Shootaround: Big Ten
Catching up on news and notes from the Big Ten offseason while looking ahead to 2013-14 with predictions and analysis. Read

Greenberg: 2013-14 Big Ten Power Rankings
Seth Greenberg provides his power rankings for the Big Ten, a conference that could produce eight NCAA tournament teams. Read

Darius Paul headed to Illinois

May, 4, 2013
5/04/13
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Western Michigan freshman forward Darius Paul announced on Twitter on Saturday that he will follow in his older brother Brandon's footsteps and transfer to Illinois.

Darius Paul, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward, was the MAC Freshman of the Year averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds last season. He decided to transfer because of a coaching staff change and the desire to play at a higher level, according to his mother.

Darius also had offers from Florida, Iowa State, Marquette, Miami (Fla.), Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and others since receiving his release from Western Michigan. He will have to sit out next season per NCAA rules and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Read the entire story.

RecruitingNation: Coaching Carousel

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
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Dave Telep and Paul Biancardi offer a blueprint for success for coaches taking over programs this offseason.

Chris Collins has plans for Wildcats

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
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New Northwestern coach Chris Collins left his comfort zone as an assistant at Duke. But he didn't venture outside his area of expertise when he returned to where he grew up.

He is now at a school where the pool of talent is small and is limited by the highest academic standards in the Big Ten.

Collins, who been on the job for a little more than a week, has one goal, and that is to get Northwestern to the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Since he arrived in Evanston last week, his main focus has been on these five items:

Five goals for new NU coach Chris Collins

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
11:35
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Now that Chris Collins has been hired as the Northwestern Wildcats’ coach, he has some work ahead of him if he’s going to establish it into a consistently winning program.

Here are five immediate objectives for Collins to start his tenure:

1. Move on from the past and create a winning mentality: You saw this when John Groce took over at Illinois and it worked to perfection. The message is important right away. Collins has to first convince his current players, then recruits and the fan base, that Northwestern is done with its past and is moving on to a brighter and winning future. Luckily for Collins, he might just have enough quality pieces to make a run at the NCAA tournament next season. If he can somehow get the Wildcats into the tournament in his first season, he can really get the program rolling. The first part of achieving that is to sell his team on the idea that it’s possible.

2. Convince Drew Crawford to stay: Next season’s fate likely depends on whether Crawford decides to stay at Northwestern for his fifth year or take advantage of the graduate school loophole and transfer to another program. Crawford, a 6-foot-5 guard, medically redshirted last season and had surgery to repair his right shoulder. He’s one of the more gifted players Northwestern has ever had. He’s a big-time scorer and team leader, but he also can rebound and defend. He was an All-Big Ten third-team selection as a junior, averaging 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals.

3. Re-recruit Jaren Sina: Sina, a 6-foot-3 point guard, was ranked in ESPN’s top 100 in the Class of 2013 when he originally committed to Northwestern. He’s since dropped in ranking, but he would still be a major recruit for the Wildcats. He asked and was released from his letter of intent when Bill Carmody was fired. Sina’s father, Mergin Sina, said the family would still explore Northwestern as an option when a new coach was hired. Sina has reportedly also been contacted by Alabama and Seton Hall. Northwestern has a steady point guard in Dave Sobolewski, but Sina would add depth at the position and be the team’s point guard of the future.

4. Establish relationships with local high school and club coaches: Northwestern has to recruit nationally to fill a roster, but the Wildcats should still be able to pull players from the state whenever they fit their criteria. In the recent past, Michael Thompson, John Shurna, Crawford and Sobolewski are among the players Northwestern has recruited from Illinois and the Chicago area. Getting those players from the state is key for the program’s future as well.

5. Keep Tavaras Hardy on staff: Hardy, who was an associate head coach under Carmody, is the full package to get Collins going at Northwestern and recruiting the state. Hardy starred in high school in Illinois, played at Northwestern, coached at Northwestern and has been the program’s main in-state recruiter. He knows Northwestern inside and out. He also can quickly open for Collins a lot of doors to the state’s high school and club coaches. Collins is likely to bring an assistant or two with Duke ties, and that could helpful in a lot of ways, but it’s also vital to have someone who knows Northwestern and the state.

Notre Dame 82, DePaul 78 (OT)

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
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Notre Dame picks up 20th win of the season in an 82-78 overtime victory over DePaul.

Video: The road ahead for Illinois

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
11:32
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ESPN's Sean Farnham and Joe Tessitore take a closer look at Illinois’ 80-75 loss to Michigan State and road ahead for the Illini.

BU's Simms-Edwards going on defensive

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
9:57
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Bradley senior Dyricus Simms-Edwards got a good taste of basketball thievery at the start of the season and he’s been obsessed with it ever since.

“Even in a game, I get mad if I juggle the ball and don’t get a steal,” Simms-Edwards said.

Simms-Edwards has had plenty of games with two, three, four or five steals this year. He’s even had one of eight steals. Yet, none of them fill his craving.

“I just want to repeat it,” he said. “I just want to do it again. I want to top it.

“It definitely drives me. I want to be considered one of the best defenders in the country. I just want to leave my mark when I leave Bradley. I’ve really been thinking about that this season.”

Simms-Edwards appears headed toward achieving that goal. He’s just eclipsed 1,000 points for his career. He’s averaging 3.38 steals, which is second in the country, and with 54 steals in 16 games is near pace to break the Missouri Valley single-season steals record of 96. Finally, Simms-Edwards has been a key piece in Bradley’s program returning to a respectable level.

“Dyricus is going about it the right way,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “He was here when the program was really down. He’s been a part of some bad basketball teams. In spite of that, he’s found a way. If he can finish the last half of the year as he’s played the first half of the year, people will remember him for being one of the best to ever play here.”

Simms-Edwards’ love for defense arrived late in his career. A year ago, Ford thought Simms-Edwards was actually a liability as a defender at times.

But at the start of this season, something clicked for Simms-Edwards. He started utilizing his wingspan and strength to begin snatching the ball from opponents, and he hasn’t stopped doing it.

Simms-Edwards had three steals against Michigan. He’s had four games of four steals, two games of five steals and he swiped a career-high eight steals against Drake.

“I didn’t dream he’d get this many steals,” Ford said. “We don’t press and we don’t get out and deny and gamble. For him to get that amount of steals, it’s remarkable what he’s done.”

Western Illinois rolling: Who from the state could be dancing come March and is currently the hottest team in Illinois?

It may be a surprise to some, but the answer is Western Illinois.

Building off last year’s run to the Summit Conference championship game and a CBI tournament appearance, the Leathernecks are 13-3 overall, 5-0 in conference and are currently riding a 10-game winning streak.

And it’s been defense that has put Western Illinois in such a favorable spot. The Leathernecks rank second in the country in defense, allowing 50.8 points a game. They’ve held four opponents to under 40 points and have only allowed one team more than 70 points.

“If you play defense in any sport, you have a chance to win,” said fifth-year coach Jim Molinari. “We really take pride in defending.”

Western Illinois’ effort has been led by seniors Ceola Clark and Terrell Parks. Clark is key to the top of the defense as the point guard, and Parks, a center, is the rim protector. They’ve combined for nearly three steals and three blocks per game.

Clark, who was a granted sixth year of eligibly this season due to multiple injuries in his career, has a special place in Molinari’s heart.

“I say this to people: for our system, I don’t think there’s a guard in the country I would rather have than Ceola Clark,” Molinari said. “I would think Jim Beilein would say the same thing about Trey Burke because they like to run up and down. Because we pack our defense and play a lot of ball-screen offense like we do, I wouldn’t want any other than Ceola Clark.”

UIC, Illinois State declining: Illinois State and UIC were two of the state’s most impressive programs during the non-conference season.

Illinois State looked like a potential NCAA tournament team with a 9-3 non-conference mark and respectable losses to Louisville, Northwestern and Wyoming. UIC opened the year 9-1 and knocked off Northwestern on the road.

As of late, both programs have looked just the opposite.

Illinois State has dropped its first four Missouri Valley games. On top of that, Redbirds coach Dan Muller suspended star guard Tyler Brown indefinitely Wednesday for conduct detrimental to the team.

As for UIC, the Flames have lost five of their last six games and are 1-2 in the Horizon League. Their defense has been the problem lately. They allowed only one opponent to score 70 points in their first 10 games. Four of their last six opponents have reached that mark.

ESPNChicago.com Player of the Week: DePaul junior guard Brandon Young is doing all he can to keep the Blue Demons competitive in the Big East. He’s averaged 21.7 points, four rebounds and four assists in DePaul’s three conference games. He scored a career-high 35 points in a loss to Connecticut on Tuesday.

ESPNChicago.com Team of the Week: Northern Illinois used a true team effort to snap a five-game losing streak and defeat Miami (Ohio) 72-61 on Wednesday. The Huskies had 11 players score in the win. Aksel Bolin had 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Should we buy the Illini?

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
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PaulRobert Johnson/Icon SMIHave Brandon Paul and Illinois turned a corner? Only if they can keep shooting the 3 this well.


Late on the evening of March 8, 2012, Ohio took the floor at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to play Toledo. At the time there wasn't an abundance of attention being paid to a MAC quarterfinal between a No. 3 seed and a No. 7 seed that tipped at 9:55 p.m., but it actually marked the beginning of a rather remarkable run.

Starting with the opening tip of that game, teams playing for John Groce -- which is to say Ohio in the 2011-12 postseason, and Illinois so far this season -- have devoted 43 percent of their shot attempts to 3-pointers, and have connected on those attempts 40.5 percent of the time. Groce's record over that stretch stands at 15-1, and he is yet to lose a game in regulation. (Ohio, you may remember, lost in overtime to North Carolina in the Sweet 16.)

Read the entire story.

Liberman bringing yarmulke back to court

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
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Beren AcademyAP Photo/LM OteroBeren Academy in Houston has players' names and uniform numbers on their yarmulkes.


Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at sundown Saturday. But there's already cause for celebration among Jewish basketball fans thanks to Aaron Liberman, a freshman walk-on at Northwestern who also happens to be an Orthodox Jew. He hasn't yet appeared in a game this season because of a nasty case of shin splints, but he's easy to spot on the bench: He's the one wearing a yarmulke.

When Liberman is eventually given medical clearance to make his Northwestern debut, which he expects will be "pretty soon," he plans to wear his yarmulke on the court. (Northwestern is making two versions for him -- purple and white for home games, and purple and black for the road.) That will make him only the second yarmulke-clad player in Division I basketball history. The first such player was Tamir Goodman, the much-hyped "Jewish Jordan," who played for Towson in 2000 and 2001. But disagreements with a new coach derailed Goodman's college basketball career early in his sophomore year, leaving Division I hard courts yarmulke-free until Liberman's arrival this season.

Read the entire story.

Video: Player Of The Week -- Brandon Paul

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
3:05
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Andy Katz explains how Illinois guard Brandon Paul's performance at Maui Invitational earned him Player of the Week honors.

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