• Troy Sparks

    by Published on 04-05-2013 08:51 PM     Number of Views: 4379 

    CHICAGO - Aaron Gordon made the country wait until he was ready to decide where he wanted to play his college ball. The performance he put on at the United Center, April 3, was the reason why he earned the MVP of the 36th annual boys game in a 110-99 West victory over the East.

    Gordon announced his decision days before the game. The 6-foot-8 forward from San Jose, CA narrowed his list of schools to Washington, Kentucky, Oregon and Arizona. Gordon took the sunny desert route and chose to play for Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats.

    It was not a surprise that Kentucky was out of the picture because the Wildcats already had six of the 24 McDonald's All-American players committed to their school, including the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew. Both brothers will compete for playing time and should be immediate contributors.

    Somehow, the math didn't add up for me when six guys chose Kentucky. They got two to commit there last year. One of the two, Archie Goodwin, plans to enter the NBA draft. He's projected as a late first round pick. The other MCDAA player, Alex Poythress, decided to stay at least for another year.

    Gordon, with 24 points in 24 minutes, took in the surroundings of the United Center before the game. "I like to think of myself as a humble person," he said. "So, just lining up while they're singing the National Anthem, I was just looking around at all the people. It kind of felt like that I made it at this point and time and that I made it to the highest level that I can possibly do right now."

    Another highly-regarded player that's on the one-and-done path is keeping the recent Canadian pipeline going. Andrew Wiggins, out of Huntington Prep (WV) school, by way of Thornhill, Ontario, still hasn't made his college choice yet. He has the skills of a guard and a small forward at 6-8. Wiggins' weight of 205 is on the too lean side for his height. If the NBA didn't have the one-year waiting rule in effect, he would've declared for the draft.

    Chicago's own Jabari Parker, former Simeon and current Marquette player Steve Taylor's teammate, came to the event fresh off a state championship for the fourth year in a row. He was the best senior in the country and is headed for Duke. If all goes well for him in a year or two, he will be going to the NBA.

    This year's group of the 24 selected players aren't NBA ready. As a sidenote, there were better players in Wisconsin than some of the ones that were picked. Maybe next year, there will be a someone from the Badger state that will be picked.
    by Published on 04-03-2013 08:21 PM     Number of Views: 3661 

    CHICAGO - Last year, at the United Center, the West team lost a heartbreaking game by a point in the McDonald's All-American game. They returned the favor this year with a 92-64 runaway victory in the 12th annual girls meeting, April 3.

    It was your usual all-star game with up-tempo play and a little sloppiness. The Addidas-designed red uniforms worn by the East and the green uniforms worn by the West made both teams look like Christmas colors.

    Rebecca Greenwell, who's headed for Duke, got the West team off to a hot start with her outside shooting. One of her threes allowed the West to enjoy their biggest lead of the first half of 18 points at 31-13.

    Greenwell had an unfortunate moment late in the half that ended her night. Greenwell interecepted a pass from the East's Lindsay Allen. As she drove for a layup and got fouled by the East's Kaela Davis, her right knee buckled. Greenwell, who wore a big brace on the knee, limped off the court and didn't return. It was later revealed that Greenwell re-injured her MCL and will get it checked out. Her absence motivated the West as they took a 45-35 lead into the locker room.

    "When (Greenwell) hit her first two threes, we started to motivate her," Linnae Harper, from Chicago's Whitney Young, said. "We encouraged her to keep shooting. That opened up a lot of the court and that got her confidence up."

    Greenwell, who left the game with eight points, going 3-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, played the role of cheerleader the rest of the game. "Even when (Greenwell) got hurt, we cheered her up," said Harper. "She helped a lot."

    Somehow, the East went backwards from their late first half surge and let the 10-point deficit get bigger in the second half. Mercedes Russell had everything go her way in the game. The 6-foot-5 future Tennessee Volunteer player had 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks and earned MVP of the game. The only thing that didn't go Russell's way was the loss by the Vols by Louisville in the NCAA Regional Finals with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

    "That (game) was very interesting because those were my last two schools (that were on my list)," she said. "We (Tennessee) didn't come out to win. I thought it was a pretty good game the first half."

    The 28-point waxing by the East was the worst defeat since the East beat the West by 29 points (105-76) in the 2007 game at Louisville's Freedom Hall.
    by Published on 03-31-2013 08:20 PM     Number of Views: 4429 

    Once again, the top selected high school senior boys and girls players will invade the United Center this Wednesday, April 3. This will be the third straight year the contests will be held at the UC. The house that Michael Jordan built will host the games through at least 2015.

    There are reasons, I think, why Chicago is the best location for the McDonald's All-American events. The city is the major transportation hub of the midwest. The UC attendance records the last two years were off the charts. Almost 37,000 people attended the games there the last two years.

    In 2011, the United Center broke the all-time attendance record with 20,019, in part because Anthony Davis, a local product, Kentucky and NBA rookie, participated. It was also the first time the UC hosted the games.

    It's important that if the McDonald's committee is going to have the games in the Windy City, they will have to consider a Chiacgo-area high school player, male and/or female. It would be considered an insult if the all-star games are in Chicago and no local players was selected to the boys and girls teams.

    There was criticism from Chicago Public League officials because no boys player from that league was represented in last year's contest. They have representation this year in 6-foot-8 Jabari Parker of Chicago Simeon, who is headed to Duke. On the women's side, Whitney Young's Linnae Harper will showcase her skills before she's off to Kentucky. The way I see it, The CPL will be happy as long as they have someone in the league represented in the games.

    At last summer's NY2LA Summer Jam in Mequon, I paid attention to two brothers who played on the Houston-area AAU team. Twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison played well in that tournament, and I had the feeling at that time that either one or both of the brothers would get some McDonald's All-American consideration. My prediction was correct. Both of them got picked to the West team.

    So what does that say about the consideration for Wisconsin high school senior basketball players? They have more of a basketball resume than some of the guys on the roster from the East and West teams. Luke Fischer led his Germantown team to back-to-back state championships and a 56-game winning streak. Bronson Koenig led his La Crosse Aquinas team to a state title. Matt Thomas had a great year for Onalaska. Deonte Burton was steady for Milwaukee Vincent. They were on the watch list, but they weren't picked to the team.

    The player with a better chance to make the McDonald's All-American team in 2014 from Wisconsin is Milwaukee Hamilton's Kevon Looney. The 6-8 junior is one of the top 10 juniors in the country. If he doesn't make it, then it's a shame. The same would be said for sophomore sensation Arike Ogunbowale from DSHA if she's overlooked two years from now.

    I'll be in attendance for both the boys and girls games, so look for an update from Chicago later in the week.
    by Published on 03-10-2013 03:16 PM     Number of Views: 4334 

    MADISON - Winning their second straight state championship involved making adjustments on the run. Germantown dealt with foul trouble from their frontcourt players and inconsistency from two of their top three scorers in the Division 1 championship game against Mukwonago to win back-to-back titles in a 57-28 win, Mar. 9, at the Kohl Center.

    When Lamonte Bearden and Jake Showalter shot a combined 2-for-16 from the field, the defense cranked it up. They held the Indians scoreless the last 6 minutes 38 seconds of the game. Making only nine shots from 43 attempts didn't get Mukwonago even close to keeping up with Germantown.

    "We wanted Lamonte to have a really good game from the field, and he was 1-for-11," Germantown coach Steve Showalter said. "We wanted Jake to light it up from outside. He was 1-for-5. I don't know what happened. We're used to scoring 80 points a game. Our guys were sitting on the bench and not making shots. I can't even explained what happened."

    The Warhawks got by with senior Luke Fischer's 17 points. He was named to the all-state tournament team and Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin. The 7-footer got in early foul trouble but managed to stay on the floor and play 27 minutes.

    Mukwonago wasn't just happy to be at state. They wanted to make an impact in the title game. They were physically drained from upsetting the powerhouses in Madison Memorial in the sectional finals and King in the state semifinal game in consecutive weeks. Not many people gave them a chance against Germantown to win the game, and their horrible shooting was proof ot that.

    "I thought the game was going really well for us," Mukwonago coach Jim Haasser said. "Had we sank some shots, what that would have done for the rest of the game might have been a little intriguing." The Indians shot 21% from the field (9-for-43).

    As the game clock wound down to the 3:00 mark, many people headed for the exits. There was no way that Mukwonago could come back from 10 points down with 5:23 left. Germantown ended the game on a 19-0 run.

    Showalter said it was a journey to make it through another unbeaten season with a target on their backs. It was his duty to blend a team with only three seniors and lots of juniors after having a majority of seniors on last year's team to bond as a unit. It worked. King and Oshkosh North won back-to-back titles recently, but neither of those teams won consecutive state titles without a loss. The Germantown winning streak now stands at 56.
    by Published on 03-09-2013 08:15 AM
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    Germantown did their part to contend for their second straight gold ball in 2013, but they won't have a ...
    by Published on 03-09-2013 07:37 AM     Number of Views: 4740 

    MADISON - Going to the boys Division 1 state tournament to bring back the gold ball was a goal that Milwaukee King had in mind, but they returned home empty-handed and embarrassed by an underdog in Mukwonago, Friday, at the Kohl Center in the second semifinal game.

    It wasn't that they they suffered a 64-47 setback to the Indians that was disappointing but how they lost. Mukwonago gave the Generals a taste of their own medicine by solving their full-court press and using their big bodies in the post for a 2-1 margin in the paint (32-16 points).

    "Mukwonago beat us in every aspect of the game," a dejected King coach Jim Gosz said. "They (beat us to) loose balls. They won it tonight. Sometimes the better team just beat you. We get to the middle (of the lane), and they had those big kids there. That's the way we were winning games.

    "This game humbles you real quick. You just feel for your young men who battled all year. I feel for my guys. As someone said a long time ago, 'If you end your season on the Kohl Center floor, it would be fantastic.' When I leave here, I'm going to be very happy. Dejected we lost, but knowing the effort these young men put forward . . . Tonight the better team won."

    Gosz admitted that the Indians' size was too much to handle for his undersized team. Besides dealing with being underappreciated, only Mukwonago believed they could run with King. Now their trip to state for the first time since 1996 will include an appearance in the title game, Saturday, against the top team in Germantown. Certainly, confidence is at an all-time high after the Indians overcame huge odds to beat Madison Memorial and King, the usual visitors at state.

    "The guys on the team never backed down from anything," Nate Tanguay said. "We love the pressure of the great powerhouses. I guess being the underdog, we don't look at ourselves as an underdog ever. We always think that we are the better team. The only team that can beat us is us."

    This was a different King team that gave Germantown all they could handle in last year's title game. Going the last 2 minutes 40 seconds without a basket in the game and a big free-throw discrepancy doomed the Generals. Mukwonago had 35 trips to the free-throw line and made 22 while King converted on 10 of their 14 attempts.

    The Generals had their worst shooting percentage from the field (32%) probably in a long time in the state tournament (16-for-50). The margin for team fouls committed (28-9) by King with their aggressive play and no points from two of their starters leaves them with a lot to work on in the offseason, but as Gosz said, they will be back. If the Generals do make it back to state, they vow to be a much-improved squad.

    The Indians was in control of the game from beginning to the end. They took a 26-25 lead into the locker room at halftime. The game was out of control at times, and instead of the Generals imposing their will on opponent, they let the deficit grow bigger. Mukwonago made 14 of 21 free-throws in the fourth quarter from 12 King fouls.

    It will take some soul-searching for King to reclaim their throne at state and get on top again after two failed attempts in the last two years to bring home the gold ball. Gosz said he will have to take in a Mukwonago football game, perhaps to take a page from the Indians and get some beef from the King football team on his basketball team.
    by Published on 03-04-2013 10:22 AM     Number of Views: 6261 

    I sat and watched the girls regional finals at Sussex Hamilton, March 2, and was waiting for the Chargers to prevail over Arrowhead. The unthinkable happened late in the fourth quarter when star junior Mackenzie Latt slipped under the basket and injured her knee. She pounded the floor in disgust and the crowd was silent.

    After Latt was assisted to the sideline, she had her right knee wrapped up in ice and propped up in a chair, weeping along the way and watching the Warhawks break a 35-35 tie to win. Latt could do nothing to help her team. That's what hurt the most as Hamilton was one of the top teams in the state. Now there's nothing to do but hope that Latt will recover in time for her senior season.

    Hamilton was one of four area No. 1 seeds knocked out of the girls playoffs as they enter the sectional round. Whitefish Bay, Whitefish Bay Dominican Milton and Arrowhead are the only teams that aren't either a 1 or 2 seed. The other 1-2 seeds face each other this week, starting on Thursday.

    I think Mukwonago (1) and Janesville Parker (2) is a good matchup. What about Divine Savior Holy Angels (2) against Milwaukee Riverside (1)? Very tasty. Can DSHA's Arike Ogunbowale take it to the hoop against 6-foot-5 Breanna Lewis of Riverside without getting her shot blocked, or will she do the wise thing and shoot from outside? If the Dashers' Shaylan Reardon take Lewis away from the basket if the Tigers play man-to-man defense, then "AO" can go to the bucket all night.

    Don't even imagine what kind of hostile environment you'll see between Oak Creek (1) and Franklin (2). The border line is south 27th St. Either side of that street, east or west, and you're an enemy. These two teams will take their Hatfields and Mc Coys battle to Greenfield, who has the unduly task of trying to maintain some kind of order in their gymnasium Thursday night. There will be no love lost. I will personally pay to see that one.

    I think Beaver Dam, Pius, East Troy, Racine Prairie, New Berlin Eisenhower, Heritage Christian, Wilmot and Arrowhead will win their sectional semifinal games.
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