Guard height helps Lake Zurich stand out

LAKE ZURICH — Standing just 5-foot-6 as a freshman, Brad Kruse grew up playing point guard.

Kruse, now a senior, still handles the ball for Lake Zurich — only he’s sprouted to 6-foot-4.

Kruse is one of Lake Zurich’s exceptionally tall starting guards — juniors Jack O’Neill and Mike Travlos are each listed at 6-foot-3. That size in the backcourt gives the Bears flexibility other teams don’t have, particularly on the defensive end.

“If everyone can guard every player on the court, it doesn’t matter,” O’Neill said. “We can switch everything.”

Lake Zurich showed how effective that strategy can be in the second half against Mundelein Dec. 4. Leading by seven points at halftime, the Bears began to alter their defensive assignments.

“We were switching a lot of screens because you’ve got a 6-5 big guy but a 6-3 guard, so it doesn’t make much of a difference” whom each player defends, said Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher.

The maneuver helped Lake Zurich keep Mundelein players from getting open looks at the basket and also forced a number of turnovers.

“When we switch we can get into passing lanes,” Kruse said. “Then we can get some transition going the other way.”

Lake Zurich outscored Mundelein 45-13 in the second half after giving up 29 points in the first half.

Placing the ball in the hands of such tall players also offers advantages on offense. Against a team like Mundelein that runs a full-court press, the Bears are able to, as Pitcher put it, “pass through the press instead of dribbling.”

“You can see over guys a lot easier and pass the ball if you’re getting trapped,” O’Neill said. “Everyone can handle [the pressure] too.”

The guards do much more than pass — Kruse, O’Neill and Travlos all took turns bringing the ball up the court against Mundelein’s man-to-man pressure — but their height does offer an advantage over smaller defenders.

“It’s easier to see over the little guards that are guarding you to get into the offense,” Kruse said.

When one of the guards is defended by a smaller player, Pitcher has his squad exploit the matchup.

“We can post up our guards,” Kruse said. “We have a few plays we can run to get me or Mike [Travlos] in the post to take advantage of a size mismatch.”

“Usually whenever we have a mismatch we like to call a four-high,” said Travlos, who scored on a hook shot in the third quarter over a Mundelein defender several inches shorter than him. “Which lets us get the guard … get the ball in the post and let him go to work.”


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Clutch free-throw shooting lifts Glenbrook South past Glenbrook North

The Titans made eight of their final 10 attempts from the charity stripe and finished 15-of-17 for the game. 

Glenbrook South 44, Glenbrook North 34


The Glenbrook South boys basketball team never trailed in the final three quarters of Friday’s matchup with rival Glenbrook North. After combining for 44 points and 20 turnovers through three quarters, Glenbrook South (3-3) and Glenbrook North (1-4) totaled 34 points in an exciting fourth quarter as the Titans pulled out the home victory in Glenview.


Glenbrook North got within six points of the lead with 4:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Glenbrook South made eight of its final 10 free throws to hold off any chance of a Spartans comeback.


Glenbrook South ran its offense through senior center Conor McCarthy, who finished the game with 16 points and five rebounds. For Glenbrook North, junior Jan Siegien had 16 points, while senior Ethan Lutz led the defensive effort with four steals.


Glenbrook South finished the game 15 of 17 from the free-throw line, including 13 of 15 in the final quarter. Glenbrook North attempted just four free throws in the game.


“It feels good, you know, when everyone’s knocking [free throws] down. Once one person starts making them then everyone starts making them. It’s kind of contagious.” – McCarthy

Originally posted on 12/06/13

By Jakub Rudnik

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Third-quarter run carries Lake Zurich past Mundelein

Lake Zurich 83, Mundelein 42


Lake Zurich’s boys basketball team led Mundelein by just six points with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but closed the period on a 12-1 run to open up a 59-42 lead. Lake Zurich (3-2, 1-0 NSC Lake) outscored Mundelein 45-13 in the second half Wednesday.


With 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Mundelein attempted to hold the ball for the final shot, but Lake Zurich forced a five-second violation on Mustangs senior guard Nick Filippo. On the ensuing inbounds play from midcourt, senior center Ryan Richman made a layup off of a lob pass to extend the lead to 17.


Junior guard Mike Travlos finished with 20 points for the Bears, with senior guard Brad Kruse adding 19 points. For the Mustangs, senior Sam Nelson and sophomore Pierre Bailey each tallied 11 points.


Lake Zurich’s guard trio of Travlos, Kruse and junior Jack O’Neill combined for 49 points on the night, outscoring the entire Mundelein team by seven points.


“We tried to play like them. We tried to go a million miles an hour, and that really hurt us. We need to play under control, and once we got under control we broke it open. We should have been playing like that the whole game.” — Lake Zurich junior guard Mike Travlos

Northridge boys basketball preview

Knights to watch

Point guard Dylan Haig

Haig, a junior, is the lone returning starter for a Knights team that finished at the top of the Independent School League in 2012-13.

Defensively, he has very quick hands and can force opposing guards into a lot of turnovers. His experience will be key as Northridge again plans to run a lot of match-up zone, according to coach Will Rey.

Although Haig has improved his shooting range since last season, his primary goal on the offensive end is to get his teammates involved.

“He’s the kind of player that gauges his own success on his ability to make the players around him better,” Rey said.

Shooting guard Mike Kane 

Kane moves into the starting 2-guard slot in 2013-14 after playing key minutes off the bench as a junior.

The leading goal scorer on Northridge’s soccer team, he’s a very quick guard with the ball-handling skills to take pressure off of Haig at times. He has 3-point-shooting range and is always a threat to score from the perimeter.

Defensively, Kane can provide pesky on-ball pressure up and down the court against opposing backcourts.

“He brings a lot of speed and toughness to the lineup,” Rey said.

Center Matt Brown

At 6-foot-6, Brown will be key to the interior play for the Knights. His combination of size and skill will allow Northridge to play more of an inside-out style than they have in recent seasons.

“Because we have a little more size we’ll be able to throw the ball inside some more … and do more in the post than in the past,” Rey said.

At center, the junior will be asked to anchor the middle of the zone, keeping opponents out of the paint and off the glass.

“He’s long, he can block shots and he can grab rebounds,” Rey said.

Opposing coach’s take

They lost a lot of good players, but coach [Will] Rey always coaches them well … Northridge has never had a down year since I’ve been here … [Offensively] they test your defensive patience … They kind of lull you to sleep on the perimeter and wear you down … Dylan [Haig] will be huge for them. I thought he was one of the best point guards in the conference last season.



2012-13 Record: 21-4 overall, 11-1 Independent School League

2013 Playoffs: Lost in regional final of Class 2A to North Shore Country Day

Head Coach: Will Rey, 10th season

Projected starting five: jr. PG Dylan Haig, sr. SG Mike Kane, sr. SF Steve Leazer, sr. PF John Penner, jr. C Matt Brown.

Game to watch: Northridge at North Shore Country Day, 6 p.m. Dec. 4. This will be Northridge’s first chance to avenge a 41-37 loss in the regional final.


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Romeo Magloire’s buzzer-beating layup caps a wild win for Niles West

Niles West 48, Glenbrook North 47


The Niles West boys basketball team (3-0) was down by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter against Glenbrook North (1-2), but a buzzer-beating layup by senior forward Romeo Magloire gave the Wolves the victory Wednesday in Skokie.


With 15 seconds remaining, Glenbrook junior forward Jan Siegien hit a 3-point jumper from the left corner to give the Spartans a 47-46 lead. Niles West advanced the ball without taking a timeout, and Magloire ended up with the ball on the left block. The buzzer sounded just moments after the ball left his hands.


Magloire finished with 10 points on the night, including the game-winner and a pair of free throws with 1:11 remaining to tie the score at 44-44. For the Spartans, Siegien finished with 21 points.


The Spartans scored just three points in the final four minutes of play. The Wolves got three steals leading to six points during the period as Glenbrook North tried to run out the clock.


“[Siegien] hits that shot … but our kids didn’t panic. We didn’t take a timeout, we just came down and played. … Fortunately that ball left [Magloire’s] hand— I looked up and saw two-tenths on the clock. It was close.” — Niles West coach Bob Williams


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Evanston Boys Basketball Preview

Wildkits to watch

Center Elijah Henry

Henry, who started as a sophomore, is the Wildkits’ most important player inside. At 6-foot-5, the junior is the team’s top rebounder and he defends the paint well. Henry has the length to defend shots near the rim.

While he has a strong back-to-the-basket game, he’s developed face-up skills. Henry said he expects to shoot more mid-range jump shots and he has the athleticism to take slower-footed centers off the dribble.

“I’m excited to attack the basket more this season,” Henry said.

Shooting guard Will Jones

Jones is one of four seniors starting for the Wildkits. He’s got one of the most well-rounded skill sets on the Evanston roster.

“He does just so many different things for us,” coach Mike Ellis said.

At 6-1, Jones will be relied on to defend opposing shooting guards, but he also rebounds well for a guard.

Offensively, he creates things for his team by attacking the basket and getting out in the open court on fastbreaks.

Point guard Nojel Eastern

Eastern will likely soon become a household name. The 6-1 freshman has already had colleges like Ohio State and Illinois express interest in him.

Ellis says Eastern will play big minutes for Evanston from the beginning of the season, and could be starting sooner rather than later.

Eastern already has a consistent jumper and the ability to get by defenders and into the paint, but as a lead guard he looks to get teammates involved.

Opposing coach’s take

Every year, Evanston is a top team in the area and conference. Their lower levels are strong, and coach [Mike] Ellis and his staff do a great job of developing in the E-Town program.


2012-13 record: 9-18 overall, 1-9 CSL South

2013 playoffs: Lost in regional semifinal of Class 4A to Loyola

Head coach: Mike Ellis, fourth season

Projected starting five: sr. PG Dante Henley, sr. SG Will Jones, sr. SF Nibra White, sr. PF Jackson Mihevc, jr. C Elijah Henry.

Game to watch: Glenbrook South at Evanston, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, 2014. Evanston will be looking to avenge February’s 59-57 overtime home loss to Glenbrook South.

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Illinois Veterans Face Challenges in the Classroom

Tyna Korcz, a junior psychology major at DePaul University, served four years of active duty in the U.S. Army before attending college. She applied to DePaul while she was in Afghanistan, beginning studies in the fall quarter 2012. 

“I wanted to be ahead of the game because I knew I wanted to go to school and I forgot the process of applying to college,” Korcz said. “I was looking up stuff about DePaul and I was like, ‘Wow, that kind of means I need to do that right now.’”

More than 2 million U.S. troops have been deployed overseas since 2001, and as of 2010 there were 76,000 “new” veterans living in Illinois, a figure “expected to grow significantly in the coming years,” according to the Heartland Alliance Social IMPACT Research Center.

DePaul’s student veterans say that they face significant obstacles when returning to civilian life, particularly when looking to pursue higher education.

While 99 percent of new veterans hold a high school diploma or equivalent, just 22 percent of new veterans in Illinois have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Heartland Alliance study. In Illinois, 31 percent of the adult population as a whole holds a four-year degree.

“While the veterans have a lot of education benefit options, it can be kind of confusing to figure out what they’re eligible for, which is best for them,” said Lindy Carrow, a research associate with the Social IMPACT Research Center, which did a comprehensive study of Illinois veterans in 2012.

For new veterans, the Post-9/11 GI Bill was created to provide financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after Sept. 10, 2001, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers benefits for service members and veterans attending education and training programs taken at accredited colleges or universities or accredited non-college degree-granting institutions.

These benefits offer up to 100 percent tuition and fee coverage, a monthly living stipend, $1,000 per year for books and supplies, a one time relocation fee and an option to transfer benefits to family members. But as of August 2011, the VA changed its rules for coverage at private universities, limiting it to $17,500 per year or the cost of in-state tuition.

For new veterans attending private universities, the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program) allows institutions of higher learning in the United States to voluntarily enter into an agreement with VA to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses and VA will match the same amount as the institution. DePaul University is a participating institution of the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Joe Franzese, who graduated in 2012 from DePaul, began taking classes two weeks after he got out of the Marines Corps. He attended a community college before going to DePaul.

“I never thought I would go here because of how high tuition is,” Franzese said. “Once the Yellow Ribbon Program came about and  I found out I could go to DePaul, I jumped right on it.”

Korcz was eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill when she returned from Afghanistan because she served more than 36 consecutive months active duty after 9/11.

“DePaul is amazing because they have the Yellow Ribbon Program,” Korcz said. “If you are 100 percent eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and you are currently not active duty, then you are automatically enrolled in the Yellow Ribbon Program … DePaul and the VA cover the rest of your tuition.”

While the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program provide new veterans with educational funding, many cannot take advantage of the benefits for a variety of reasons. In Illinois, as many as 92 percent of new veterans reported some level of of physical or mental disability, according to the Social IMPACT Research Center.

“It is hard for veterans to go to school because when people come back they can have mental health issues,” said Daniel Panzarella, a DePaul student who spent four years with the Marine Corps. “They have a hard time coming back from military life to the military world.”

Panzarella said that of his roughly 20 close friends from the Marines, just three are currently working toward a degree.

“Many cannot manage the academic environment after the military because they’ve been out of school so long,” Panzarella said.

Veterans can also feel out of placing starting school later than their peers. 

“Knowing that you’re older than the average college student … that perception affects people,” Franzese said. “Like, ‘I’m too old to go back to school.’”

Veterans with young families are often unable to take advantage of their educational benefits. As many as 37 percent of new veterans return home to at least one child, and roughly 6,000 are single parents. Some of those veterans say they feel that they cannot take the time away from their family necessary to earn a degree.

“They often don’t want to go to school because they don’t want to feel like they’re neglecting their families,” said Mark Slaby, founder and executive director of the Illinois Patriot Education Fund, a non-profit organization that offers scholarships to wounded veterans and their spouses and children.

Franzese has seen that firsthand from Marines he served with.

“A lot of military [members] get out with families,” he said. “They started their families young … while they were serving, and they were earning paychecks every two weeks.

“Getting out of the military, you don’t have that paycheck anymore,” he added. “[They think] ‘I don’t have the luxury of just having to support myself … I don’t have time to just sit in a class. I’ve got to work, I’ve got to make money. I’ve got to support my family.’”

Even for Marines without a family, financing college can be difficult. Juan Perez, who will begin attending DePaul in the winter quarter 2014, said one of the biggest reasons he chose the private university was that it participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

“I would have [attended college], just not here,” said Perez. “There’s no way I could have afforded it. Definitely not DePaul … I don’t even know [about] a cheaper school. I don’t think I would have been able to afford that.”


Originally posted on 11/22/13

By Jakub Rudnik and Winnie Dortch

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Stingy Lake Forest starts fast to dominate finale

LAKE FOREST — The Lake Forest defense can wreak serious havoc on an opponent.

In a 31-19 win over Warren Friday, the Scouts’ defense started hounding Warren’s offense immediately. On the first play from scrimmage, Warren’s quarterback made a swing pass to his running back in the flat to his right. As soon as the back caught the ball, he was tackled for an 8-yard loss.

The Scouts held Warren to 163 yards and just one touchdown through three quarters as they jumped out to a 31-7 lead. A big part of that success came from Lake Forest’s ability to stop Warren behind the line of scrimmage.

“I thought our perimeter pressure did a pretty good job of containing, and then our inside guys were able to get good pressure,” Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli said. “When you get all the guys working together, they all play really hard.”

The Scouts’ defense stopped Warren behind the line of scrimmage nine times Friday, including five sacks. Lake Forest was able to get pressure in the backfield from all levels of its defense. Senior defensive back Geno Quaid had a sack in the second quarter. Junior linebacker Nicholas Monfardini and senior lineman Oliver Babnik each got to the Warren quarterback in the fourth quarter.

Senior linebackers Benjamin Audley and Joseph Beible tallied their sacks on back-to-back plays in the second quarter after Warren had gotten the ball near midfield.

“We were blitzing both the outside linebackers off the edge,” Audley said of the first sack. “We got some pressure and Trent (Williams) flushed him into me and I just hit him hard.”

Audley’s stop dropped Warren back from a second-and-8 at the 48-yard line to a third-and-19 from the 37. Bieble’s pressure knocked the Blue Devils back another 11 yards, forcing a punt.

“We were in a dime package, so we only had three guys rushing from the line,” said Bieble. “(Senior) Trent Williams and I brought pressure off the edge and the (offensive) tackles were slower than us, so we just had to give a little inside move.”

The Scouts were just as good in short-yardage situations. Warren failed to gain a first down on its first four drives, twice getting stopped on third-and-short.

“They were running a lot of power,” Audley said of those third-down plays. “So we stacked our right-side linebackers up and stuffed them.”

If anybody knows just how tough the Lake Forest defenders can be, it’s the offensive players who have had to face them in practice all season long.

“It’s no fun having to practice against our defense,” said senior running back Hub Cirame. “They always know what to do.”


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Lake Forest heads into playoffs on winning note

Lake Forest 31, Warren 19



The Lake Forest (7-2, 4-2 NSC Lake) offense was too much for Warren (5-3-1, 2-3-1) in the second half Friday. The Scouts scored 17 unanswered points to begin the half, taking a lead of 31-7 with 8:07 left in the game.



Lake Forest’s first possession of the second half began on the Warren 49, and the Scouts scored in nine plays to take a 21-7 lead. Warren wouldn’t get any closer until 2:11 remaining in the game.



Lake Forest senior running back Hub Cirame carried the ball 26 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. He also had five receptions for 40 yards, adding a receiving touchdown.



Lake Forest outgained Warren 414-282 in total offense and had a 240-yard advantage on the ground.



“We were controlling the line of scrimmage offensively, and when you get the ball to the other side of the line without getting hit, that’s huge.” — Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli


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Eddie Rodriguez Transfers His Energy to Niles North Offense

Before the 2013 season, Eddie Rodriguez wasn’t even sure he would play football for Niles North. Now the senior wide receiver is one of the Vikings’ top offensive threats.

Rodriguez played for Evanston as a freshman and sophomore, but he sat out his junior year because he knew his family was moving. He transferred to Niles North near the end of the 2012 football season. He wasn’t sure how well he could compete for playing time with players who had been with the program for years.

“I took the entire year off,” he said. “I didn’t play any other sports; I only did the occasional workout.”

It was encouragement from an old friend that helped convince Rodriguez to play as a senior.

“We played Junior Vikings together, but lost touch when he moved to Evanston,” said senior Michael Marek, a Niles North offensive lineman. “When he came to North we became friends again. We talked to coach (Mark) Egofske about Eddie playing.”

“The times in the summer when I wasn’t motivated to go to practice, Michael would call me up and have me sleep over,” Rodriguez said. “He lives near the school, and we’d go to the morning practices together.”

It was during those summer workouts that teammates saw Rodriguez’s potential.

“We both play wide receiver, so I was always doing drills with him,” senior J.J. Myles said. “He was lost at first, but he’s got great hands and he always runs hard.”

Rodriguez saw he could learn a lot from Myles, the team’s top returning receiver. During practice, Myles would help with his technique, showing him things like how to properly stand at the line before the snap. Eventually, they began to get extra workouts in after practices.

“There were times in the summer where we’d have morning practices, then go to the field when nobody else was there,” Myles said. “Me, Eddie, Mike, we’d get (senior quarterback) Charlie (Long), and just go work on routes, run 1-on-1s.”

There were nights, Rodriguez said, when they would work on their routes until it was dark, and they’d ask a security guard to turn the lights on in the stadium.

That extra work helped Rodriguez earn a starting spot at wide receiver for the Vikings, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity.

In a 21-20 loss to Highland Park on Friday, Rodriguez caught five passes for a game-high 121 yards. His fifth reception was a 36-yard touchdown on a corner route that put the Vikings up 18-14. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Long again found Rodriguez in the end zone.

“I was actually the second option on the play,” Rodriguez said. “When I hit my break I shoved off on (No.) 7, and I noticed I was open, so I started clapping for Charlie.”

Although Highland Park would go on to win the game and drop Niles North to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the CSL North, Rodriguez picked a great time to have his best performance of the season.

“The defensive coordinator and recruiter from Aurora (University) came to watch me and Mike,” Rodriguez said. “We had no idea he’d be there.”

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