Ask our prep sports coordinator anything on your mind ... recruiting, All-Area teams, the best holiday basketball tournaments ... anything goes during his 12:30 p.m. chat. Submit questions any time.
Welcome to the final prep chat of 2012. After today, we'll take a two-week break, and then resume again on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. And now, onward to the questions!
1) anything new on schools joining the "new" Okaw conference?
2) Who is playing SJO in the Leader Classic Final and how do you see that one playing out?
Hi Brian. Here's the schedule for Friday's final round of the Leader Classic.
4 p.m. -- Armstrong-Potomac vs.Fisher, consolation championship
5:30 p.m. -- Paxton-Buckley-Loda vs. Olympia, fifth-place game
7 p.m. -- Westville vs. Chrisman, third-place game
8:30 p.m. -- St. Joseph-Ogden vs. Cissna Park, championship game.
Looking at the final game, you'd have to consider SJ-O the favorite on its own home court. This takes a David vs. Goliath approach. SJ-O is the Class 2A school (with 494 students) in the finals. Cissna Park, with fewer than 100 students, is the Class 1A entry in the finals. These are Sangamon Valley Conference schools which will meet several times during the course of the season. Don't discount Cissna Park, based on size. The Timberwolves are an experienced bunch. Cole Hasselbring and Alex Rabe are fourth-year varsity regulars and Beau Anderson has started for three years. SJ-O has steamrolled all of its opponents thus far (closest game, 18 points) and I suspect this will be a double-figure margin, too, by game's end.
As far as the "new" Okaw Valley Conference, I think they're moving ahead with what they have at this time, certainly keeping an ear open to schools with an interest. There's a need to get schedules in place, so that in football expecially, schools know when there open dates will be. I think when Dwight committed to joining the SVC, that put at least a temporary halt to some of the movement we saw throoughout the first half of the school year.
Fred,Do you know anything about the Head Football Coacing job and A.D. job at Rantoul?Also anything new on Central Head Football Job?
Hi Tom. As expected, there's considerable interest in the Central football position. The last I heard, there were 45 applicants. The plan is to interview at least 10 of those candidates. The school would like to have the next coach hired by mid-February to give that person ample time to put a summer program in place and get returning kids some time in the weight room before the school year is out.
As for Rantoul, I suspect the school will name an interim AD to get through the school year and then since it didn't work too well having one person fill both the AD and football coaching positions for this year, I'd look for two different hires, probabnly starting with the AD and moving on from there.
Who are the favorites for player of the year in both boys and girls basketball?
Great question. I was actually thinking about where things stand as we reach the mid-way mark. I'll put some names out there, but keep in mind, there's not a guarantee all of these individuals will even wind up on the season-ending All-Area team because it isn't just based on who's gotten off to a strong start.
Among girls, I see five viable candidates and they are (alphabetically!) Argenta-Oreana's Kandie Bloch, St. Thomas More's Randa Harshbarger, Champaign Central's Laura Litchfield, Centennial's Katelynn Martinez and Centennial's Stacia Simmons.
Bloch is one of the best athletes around and I always thought would pursue basketball in her future, but after winning the high jump state title last spring, I think she is looking more seriously at track and field and schools such as Illinois are extremely interested. Of the five players listed, she is the only one on a team which may struggle. Not sure what ultimate affect that will have on the decision-making thought.
Harshbarger is on a loaded team and every time I see her, I come away more impressed with her on-ball defense. She makes life miserable for opposing point guards. I've actually seen point guards pass the ball before they reach halfcourt when being pressured by her. She is adept at scoring in the transition, and -- leave her open -- and she'll bury threes, too.
Litchfield has always had the talent to be in this conversation, but until this year was on teams with other outstanding players and deferred to them. She excelled in setting them up. This year, her role has expanded and she is not just a ballhandler and passer, but a scorer and a great one at that.
Martinez is without peers as far as handling the ball. What she can do is flat-out amazing at times. In a sense, she's in the position Litchfield was in previously. There's such a strong supporting cast, she doesn't need to be a major offensive threat. Sometimes, I wish she'd take more shots. her offensive numbers won't 'wow' anyone, but try to take the ball away from her.
Simmons' story is turning out far better than anyone would have imagined. She suffered a torn ACL in the regionals last spring, but has been a prominent part of the Chargers' lineup and, in fact, is leading the team in scoring. She is not only the player she was as a junior (when she earned All-Area honors), but appears to be improved, which seems like an impossible assignment for someone who missed the entire summer while doing re-hab.
Among boys, the conversation starts with Michael Finke, the UI recruit from Centennial. He has burst onto the scene and deservedly so. He has fine-tuned all aspects of his game and some of the things he does nest often go unnoticed, like the high-low passes to Luke Vaughn and his willingness to give up the ball. He'll take his shots, but also is very cognizant of the fact there are always four other teammates on the floor with him.
Chase Patton, from St. Joseph-Ogden, is another very solid player and an example of an outstanding football player who has again made a smooth transition to basketball.
Two others who are on the radar are Johnny Jones, from Rantoul, who got a late start into playing this year and Brad Herrmann, from Mahomet-Seymour. I need to see more of them, but first impressions from their game last Friday against each other were certainly favorable.
Thanks to all who participated again this week. We'll look forward to more questions when 2013 arrives. Happy holidays and we'll be back on Jan. 8.