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    Men's Basketball News and Notes

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    Northwestern Names Team Captains

     

    Northwestern's three seniors who are in their fourth year with the program have been named the team's captains for the 2012-13 season. Drew Crawford, Reggie Hearn and Alex Marcotullio have been named the tri-captains. It's the first time since the 1993-94 season that the Wildcats have had three captains when Patrick Baldwin, Todd Leslie and Kevin Rankin each served in the role.

     

    Crawford, Hearn and Marcotullio have combined to lead Northwestern to 62 victories to date in their careers, a total that is closing in on the school record of 76 amassed by last year's senior class.

     

    "All three of those guys have dedicated themselves to moving the program forward," Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. "They've demonstrated their leadership abilities throughout the summer and fall and into the first month of the season. They've set a great example to all of our younger players."

     

     

    Moore Returns to Northwestern

     

    Fans may have noticed a familiar face has returned to the Northwestern bench this season. Craig Moore, a 2009 graduate of NU and one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in Big Ten history, is serving as a volunteer special assistant for the program.

     

    Moore played professionally in Romania and Holland following his collegiate career. He notched 320 3-point field goals during his time as a Wildcat, a total that ranks fifth in Big Ten history and first in Northwestern annals.

     

    In his current role with the program, he'll be responsible for assisting Director of Operations Joe Kennedy and Assistant Director of Operations Mike Pepple in various administrative tasks as well as video exchange with other schools.

     

    "I'm extremely grateful to Coach Carmody and to Northwestern for the opportunity to return to my alma mater," Moore said. "This was a terrific place to be as a student-athlete and I'm thrilled to be back and help out the program in any way possible."

     

     

    Shurna to Play Professionally in France

     

    Former Wildcat Michael Thompson will have a familiar competitor in France's top professional league this winter. John Shurna, a first-team All-Big Ten selection and an honorable mention Associated Press All-American last season, has signed on to play for SIG Strasbourg. Strasbourg is located in eastern France along the border of Germany.

     

    Shurna, Northwestern's all-time leading scorer, played in the NBA Summer League with the Atlanta Hawks' squad before participating in training camp with the New York Knicks.

     

    Thompson, a 2011 Northwestern grad, is playing for ASVEL in Villeurbanne, France. His teammates include recent Notre Dame standout Tim Abromaitis. The team is off to a 5-2 start and Thompson is averaging 12.0 points and 3.6 assists per contest.

     

     

    Former Northwestern baseball players are enjoying solid starts to their respective 2012 professional seasons.

     

    Right-handed pitcher George Kontos, who competed for the Wildcats from 2004-06, got the call up from Triple-A Fresno to the San Francisco Giants over the weekend and tossed one scoreless inning with a strikeout in his National League debut against the Texas Rangers on Sunday. Kontos was a September call-up for the New York Yankees last season, making seven appearances. It appeared that Kontos might make the Yankees' Opening Day roster this season, but he was traded to the Giants on April 4. He posted stellar numbers at Triple-A prior to his promotion, notching a 2-0 record with a 1.71 ERA in 23 appearances, including allowing only one earned run over his last 20 innings for the Fresno Grizzlies.

     

    Kontos is joined in the Majors by left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ of the Houston Astros. After struggling last season on a last-place team, Happ has gotten back on track in 2012 as he won four of his first seven decisions. Even though he has lost his last three decisions, he has recorded 23 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched over his last three starts, including fanning 10 over 6.1 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers May 27. In consecutive starts that resulted in wins against the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs May 17 and 22, respectively, Happ allowed only one earned run over a combined 12 innings.

     

    The Wildcat who is currently the closest to the Big Leagues is outfielder Jake Goebbert who was promoted to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks in the Astros organization. He notched a pinch-hit double and scored a run in his RedHawks' debut Saturday evening. Goebbert was batting .279 with 12 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 29 RBI for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks at the time of his promotion. He also appeared in 31 games at Triple-A with the RedHawks a year ago.

     

    Another former 'Cat who recently jumped up a level is left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch who is currently with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies in the Chicago Cubs' organization. The promotion hasn't slowed down the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year as he is a stellar 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in four starts with the Smokies, while limiting opposing hitters to a .116 batting average. In his lone no-decision, Jokisch allowed only one hit over 6.1 innings on June 5. In his most recent start on Sunday, Jokisch surrendered just three hits and one run over 7.1 innings in a 4-2 win. Prior to moving up to Double-A, he was 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA for the High-A Daytona Cubs.

     

    Jokisch's catcher for the Daytona Cubs was his former Northwestern backstop, Chad Noble. Noble has been catching every other day as of late and has appeared in 37 games this season. He has a .177 batting average with four doubles and 14 RBI.

     

    Also at High-A is right-handed pitcher Bo Schultz who is with the Visalia Rawhide in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization. Schultz got his 2012 campaign off to a terrific start as the team's closer. A recent string of four tough appearances have skewed his season numbers as he currently has a 2-1 record with a 5.76 ERA and nine saves. He has recorded 28 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched while allowing only six walks.

     

    The most recent Wildcat currently in the Minors is 2011 graduate Chris Lashmet. The third baseman is batting .240 with four doubles, three triples and 10 RBI in 41 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Class-A affiliate West Virginia Power. Lashmet got his season off to a hot start, batting .308 in 12 games in the month of April.

     

    The group is soon to be joined by 2012 Northwestern graduate Geoff Rowan who was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in last week's MLB First-Year Player Draft.

     

     

    Shurna Prepares to Join Elite Company

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    Over the last half-century, just three men have been able to claim the title of the leading scorer in the history of the Northwestern men's basketball program.

     

    Back in the era when freshmen weren't eligible to compete on the varsity team, Jim Burns surpassed Joe Ruklick late in his senior season of 1966-67. Burns completed his three-year varsity career with 1,368 points in 70 games played. The total out-distanced Ruklick's mark of 1,315 points which took him 66 games to amass from 1957-59.

     

    Both Burns and Ruklick were prolific scorers prior to the advent of the 3-point line. The pair scored in different ways as Ruklick was a 6-foot-9 center who did most of his work in the post, while Burns was a 6-foot-4 guard. Ruklick earned All-America honors as a junior in 1958, while Burns earned the accolade following his senior year.

     

    Each of them averaged over 17 points per game in each of their three seasons in a Northwestern uniform. To this day, Ruklick is still NU's career leader in scoring average at an impressive norm of 19.9 points per game, just ahead of Dale Kelly (1968-70) who averaged 19.8 points per contest. Burns ranks third in Wildcat history with a career average of 19.5 points per game.

     

    Ruklick's top single-game effort came in the final game of his junior year when on March 8, 1958 he posted a then-school-record 40 points, making 17 of 26 field goal attempts in an 88-72 win over Illinois. Burns notched a personal-best 38 points in the penultimate game of his junior year on March 5, 1966 in a 105-92 shootout loss at Michigan. Ironically, though, he wasn't the game's high scorer as Cazzie Russell set a Michigan record that still stands with 48 points in the contest.

     

    Nine years after Burns earned the top spot on NU's career scoring list, 6-foot guard and Zion, Ill., native Billy McKinney made the mark his own. In the final home game of his junior year during the 1975-76 season, McKinney tied Burns with 20 points against top-ranked Indiana. He would post the record-breaking points on March 6 at Michigan when he netted the first basket of the game 33 seconds in the contest, though the Wildcats would go on to drop a close 80-77 decision to the 11th-ranked Wolverines.

     

    McKinney would go on to tack on another 516 points as a senior during his four-year career to comfortably be in first place. He got his revenge on the Wolverines and his nemesis, All-American guard Rickey Green, on Jan. 29, 1977 when he scored 29 points to lead the 'Cats to a 99-87 upset win over second-ranked Michigan.

     

    The highest-scoring game of his career came during his sophomore campaign when he posted 37 points Dec. 4, 1974 at No. 13 Notre Dame, connecting on 17 of 23 field goal attempts. However, just like Burns, he wasn't even the high scorer in the contest as the Fighting Irish's Adrian Dantley posted 44 points in the game, including 32 in the first half.

     

    In the 35 years since McKinney completed his collegiate eligibility, no one seriously threatened his mark. Only Evan Eschmeyer (1996-99) came within 100 points of the record as he finished with 1,805 points with his 112 games played being 10 more than McKinney played in his prolific career.

     

    *******

     

    That brings us to the present.

     

    John Shurna stepped into the Northwestern starting lineup right away as a freshman during the 2008-09 campaign. The Glen Ellyn native averaged a modest 7.3 points per game in his first season. Though he only showed glimpses of the 3-point shooter that he would become (he hit just 26 that year), it was a shot against Ohio State on Feb. 18 that served as his highlight that season. In a tie game, Shurna took a feed from Michael Thompson and launched a deep triple from the right wing that found nothing but net with 3.3 seconds remaining to give Northwestern a 72-69 victory.

     

    The game-winner would prove to be a harbinger of things to come. It didn't take long to realize that Shurna would take his game to another level. After scoring 25 points in a semifinal win over No. 23 Notre Dame in the semifinal round of the Chicago Invitational Challenge, Shurna scored 23 the following night against previously unbeaten Iowa State to lead the Wildcats to the tournament title. Due in large part to his efforts, NU started the season 10-1 and earned its first Associated Press national ranking in 41 years.

     

    Big Ten foes had little answer for Shurna as well as he topped 20 points in a conference game eight times during the season while posting 19 on two other occasions. Shurna led the Big Ten in total points scored in conference play, though the league's scoring champion is considered the individual who boasts the top scoring average. A 31-point effort in the Big Ten finale at Indiana left him with an average of 20.111 points per game. Evan Turner of Ohio State, who appeared in two fewer games, averaged 20.125 points to be considered the conference's scoring champ, preventing Shurna from becoming the first NU player to earn the title since Ray Ragelis in 1951. With merely one more point, Shurna would have earned the accolade.

     

    Nonetheless, Shurna's 619 total points in 2009-10 bested the Northwestern single-season record of 585 by Eschmeyer in 1997-98. For his efforts, Sporting News named Shurna the nation's Most Improved Player.

     

    Through the nonconference portion of his junior year, Shurna was playing as well as anyone in the nation. He scored at least 20 points in eight of the team's first nine games, including a 31-point effort in the season-opener at Northern Illinois in which he scored 25 points in the second half. Shurna was closing in a triple-double against Mount St. Mary's in the final game before the start of Big Ten play Dec. 23 when he went down with a severe high ankle sprain. The injury limited him throughout conference play, though he came close to regaining form late in the season as three straight 20-point games late in the season helped Northwestern advance to the NIT quarterfinal round as the Wildcats recorded a school-record 20 wins for the second consecutive season.

     

    Now fully healthy as a senior, Shurna has once again fully displayed his scoring prowess. In just the second game of the year, he scored a career-high 37 points in a comeback victory over LSU. Against Eastern Illinois, Shurna tied Craig Moore's school record by knocking down nine 3-pointers en route to a 32-point game. As recently as this past week, he tallied 30 points at Purdue - including 21 over the final eight minutes of play - and followed it up with 29 at No. 18 Indiana.

     

    And so heading into this Sunday's home game against Minnesota, Shurna sits just 16 points shy of McKinney's record that has spanned six U.S. presidencies.

     

    *******

     

    In addition to knowing how to put the ball in the basket, another common thread between Ruklick, Burns and McKinney is the postgraduate success that they have each gone on to enjoy.

     

    A charter member of the Northwestern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984, Ruklick's brief stint in the NBA was most made famous for the fact that he assisted on Wilt Chamberlain's basket that gave him 100 points when the duo were teammates on the Philadelphia Warriors. He then went on to work for the National Merit Scholarship Corp., and has worked as a freelance journalist as well as for the Chicago Defender newspaper.

     

    Burns had a brief professional basketball career, playing for the Chicago Bulls as well as the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA. He would earn his law degree from NU and served as a U.S. Attorney and ran for both lieutenant governor of Illinois as well as governor. He is currently the Illinois Secretary of State Inspector General.

     

    As for McKinney, he has enjoyed a distinguished NBA career on a variety of levels. He played seven seasons for Kansas City, Utah, Denver, San Diego and Chicago before moving on to front office positions with Chicago, Minnesota, Detroit and Seattle. He also served as an NBA broadcaster and is currently the Director of Scouting for the Milwaukee Bucks. Every year since his graduation, Northwestern has given the Billy McKinney Award to a graduating NU male senior student-athlete in any sport based on leadership and constant effort.

     

    Not a bad lineage to follow if you're John Shurna.

    Wildcats Welcome Friends from Misericordia to Practice

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    Northwestern's men's basketball program has a long history of being involved in community service efforts in Evanston and the surrounding communities and that tradition continued Thursday as it welcomed a group from Misericordia to practice.


    Located just south of Evanston along Ridge Avenue in Chicago, Misericordia offers a community of care that maximizes potential for persons with mild to profound developmental disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged. Misericordia serves and houses more than 600 children and adults on its 31-acre campus. The organization is operated by the Sisters of Mercy under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

     

    Many of the members who attended Wednesday's practice participate in a Special Olympics basketball team. They had the opportunity to watch some of the Wildcats' practice as well as shoot baskets with the team afterward and get autographs from the squad.

     

    Northwestern's men's basketball program has also been heavily involved with a wide variety of events such as the University's annual Relay For Life as well as the athletic department's annual Field Day. Last season, the team welcomed a group from Children's Heart Foundation which was NU's primary beneficiary of the popular Dance Marathon.

    Basketball is Back!

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    WATCH: Interviews with John Shurna and Davide Curletti


    No dunk contest this year.

     

    No Snoop Dogg nor Kid Cudi.

     

    Once 6:30 p.m. rolled around Friday evening, it was time to get down to business for the Northwestern men's basketball team.

     

    Though relegated to training at SPAC due the volleyball match at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the venue was inconsequential. The rims were still 10 feet high and the free throw line was still 15 feet from the hoop. Basketball was back.

     

    Though the team has technically been able to practice together with the coaching staff for the past month, the first official day of the college basketball season has a different feel to it. Instead of only being able to work together on the court for two hours a week, teams can now get down to business for approximately three hours a day.

     

    The start of a new season is similar to a television spinoff. Familiar characters who you've grown to know and enjoy are back, while other new cast members have joined the fold. Players have graduated and newcomers enter the fray looking to contribute. The returners have honed their craft in the offseason as they attempt to expand their contributions from the campaign prior. Every team has a clean slate. Everyone's record is 0-0.

     

    Earlier in the day at the annual Chicago College Basketball Luncheon, Howard Moore, the head coach at UIC, compared the first day of practice to opening a Christmas present. Coaches get to unwrap this "gift" where they're finally able to get down to work with their players.

     

    The Wildcats start their season anew on the heels of three straight postseason appearances and back-to-back school-record 20-win seasons. However, the previously unattainable goal is still out there. Everyone knows it, and the question persists for all those in and around the program: "Is this the year?" It's the elephant in the room.

     

    "We're all really focused," senior Davide Curletti said. "We all want to get that NCAA tournament bid. Everybody's talking about it. (For the seniors) this is our last year. Our freshman year, we did great. Our sophomore year we did better and our junior year we did even better. Now we're just trying to finish this off.

     

    "Right now it's time for guys to get used to each other. Now that we're starting practice tonight, it's going to be time where we're really going to have to sit down and start honing in on all aspects of our game."

     

    Here's to a season of good health and a dream realized. Only 24 days until the exhibition opener.

     

    Notes: Special guests at Friday's practice included Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and assistant coach Ed Pinckney. Northwestern assistant Fred Hill served alongside Pinckney as an assistant coach at Villanova from 2003-05 ... The Wildcats went through their annual media training session Thursday night with The Speaking Specialists. Special thanks to Sue Castorino and Randy Minkoff for taking time out to work with both the Northwestern men's and women's teams ... The players got a first glimpse at their new uniforms Thursday evening. The new unis are tentatively planned to be unveiled to the public at the Fast Break Club Tip-off Dinner next Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Hilton Orrington in Evanston. To register or for more information, please visit NUsports.com.

     

     

    Capocci Heads to England to Play Professionally

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    Recent Northwestern graduate Mike Capocci (Lombard, Ill./Glenbard East) is joining his former Wildcat classmate Michael Thompson in heading overseas to play professionally as Capocci will compete for the Durham Wildcats of the British Basketball League in Durham, England.

    A three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Capocci is pursing a master's degree in finance and international banking from Durham University.

    He appeared in 98 career games for the Wildcats, including making 11 starts. Capocci's finest game of his senior season came in a narrow one-point loss to top-ranked Ohio State, posting 11 points.

    For more on Capocci, including quotes, please visit:
    http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/9240714.Wildcats_look_forward_to_starting_the_season/

    Kontos Earns First Major League Promotion to the Yankees

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    Former Northwestern right-hander pitcher George Kontos (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) has earned his first promotion to the Major Leagues as he has been announced as a September call-up for the New York Yankees.

    A fifth-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2006 following his junior year with the Wildcats, Kontos posted a 4-4 record with a stellar 2.62 ERA in 40 appearances primarily out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees this season. He struck out 91 batters in 89 1/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .221 average.

    Kontos joins left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ (Houston Astros) as former Northwestern players currently at the Major League level. Kontos will be managed by another Wildcat, Joe Girardi, during his time with the Major League squad. The Yankees currently lead the American League East by 2.5 games over the second-place Boston Red Sox.

    Kontos was a Rule 5 Draft pick of the San Diego Padres following the 2010 season but he was returned to the Yankees' organization during Spring Training.

    Chris Kontos, George's younger brother, is currently a senior outfielder on the Northwestern baseball team.
    Even though it's college football season that is about to kick off this week, college basketball season is not that far around the corner. In fact, preview magazines are starting to hit newsstands and Northwestern senior forward John Shurna is starting to earn accolades.

    Shurna has been tabbed a preseason second-team All-American by Sporting News as well as a first-team All-Big Ten selection. He is joined on the All-America second team by Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor, Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson and North Carolina center Tyler Zeller.

    The first team consists of Connecticut guard/forward Jeremy Lamb, North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, Baylor forward Perry Jones III and Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger.

    A two-time All-Big Ten pick, Shurna was one of the nation's top scorers during the nonconference portion of the 2010-11 season as he averaged 24.4 points per game in the Wildcats' first nine contests. An ankle injury suffered in the last game prior to the start of conference play limited him the rest of the season but he finished with averages of 16.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range. Shurna was named to the watch list for the Naismith Award last season as well as being a member of the Wooden Award Midseason Top 30 list. He enters his senior year 524 points shy of surpassing Billy McKinney as NU's all-time leading scorer.

    Sporting News selects Northwestern to finish seventh in the Big Ten this season and advance to the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. The Wildcats are coming off their second-consecutive 20-win season while advancing to the quarterfinal round of the National Invitation Tournament a year ago.

    In addition to Jones being named a first-team All-American, NU will also face a third-team preseason All-America pick in nonconference play in Creighton sophomore forward Doug McDermott. Three of the Wildcats' nonconference foes are picks to win their respective leagues: Baylor (Big 12), Creighton (Missouri Valley) and Stony Brook (America East). Northwestern could face a fourth if it meets VCU (Coloniel) in the Charleston Classic.

    The Wildcats open their 2011-12 regular season Nov. 13 when they host Texas-Pan American at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

    Ruchim Earns First-Team Summer All-America Honors

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    Summertime is a chance for collegiate baseball players to get away from their university surroundings and hone their craft on a different stage. For the Northwestern baseball program, no one performed at a higher level than rising sophomore Kyle Ruchim (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) this summer.

    The second baseman/right-handed pitcher was rewarded for his stellar play with the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Golden Eagles of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) by being named a first-team summer All-American by Perfect Game USA. The recognition covers all collegiate summer baseball leagues in the nation.

    Ruchim was recognized as a utility player for his efforts as both a position player and on the mound. At the plate, Ruchim led Glen Falls with 16 doubles, 55 hits, 37 runs scored and 19 multi-hit games while ranking second on the team with a .333 batting average, nine home runs and a .552 slugging percentage. His 27 RBI ranked third on the squad. As a pitcher, he sported a 3-0 record with a 2.05 ERA and a team-record nine saves. Ruchim struck out a ridiculous 43 batters in 22 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters posted a mere .175 average.

    His efforts helped the Golden Eagles to East Division-leading record of 31-17. He was named to the PGCBL all-league first team as well as the Rising Stars team for his efforts.

    Men's Soccer Cruises Past Wheaton in Exhibition Finale

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    Northwestern men's soccer closed out its exhibition season Friday evening at Lakeside Field, downing Division III foe Wheaton College, 5-0. The teams played two 45-minute periods, followed by a 30-minute period that featured mainly reserves.

     

    The Wildcats dominated possession over the opening 45 minutes of play, holding an 8-3 edge in shots. Sophomores Reed Losee and Lepe Seetane each barely missed out on scoring opportunities before NU finally cashed with in one second shy of 10 minutes remaining in the opening stanza. Nick Gendron, who had entered the game as a substitute just one minute earlier, finished in front of the goal from five yards out off assists from Seetane and Layth Masri to give Northwestern the lead.

     

    Sophomore Tommy Tombridge got the start in goal for the Wildcats and made one terrific leaping save, punching the ball over the top off the crossbar.

     

    NU was able to pull away midway through the second half. Sophomore Scott Lakin headed home a service from Losee at the back post at the 66:28 mark to make it 2-0 in the hosts' favor. Just over three minutes later, freshman Jagger Martinez made his presence felt by putting home a feed from Peter O'Neill to extend the Wildcats' lead to three.

     

    Losee finished off the scoring with just over 17 minutes remaining when he made it 4-0. Masri was credited with his second assist of the match on the play.

     

    Northwestern out-shot Wheaton 15-4 over the opening 90 minutes of play. Jonathan Harris worked the first 41:30 of the second half in goal, while freshman Tyler Miller worked the final 3:30, as well as the final 30-minute period.

     

    Freshman Eric Weberman tallied the lone goal of the final stanza, ripping a shot inside the near post from 15 yards out with senior Lucas Swertloff earning an assist. The 'Cats held a 5-2 advantage in shots in the last period, including a pair that hit the crossbar.

     

    Northwestern opens its 2011 regular season next Friday, Aug. 26 as it hosts Eastern Illinois. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. at Lakeside Field.

     

    Men's Soccer Drops Exhibition Opener to SIUE, 1-0

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    Host SIU Edwardsville got a goal in the 70th minute to edge the Northwestern men's soccer team 1-0 in the exhibition opener for both teams Sunday night at Korte Stadium in Edwardsville, Ill. The teams played two 40-minute periods as well as one additional 20-minute period that featured mostly the reserve players.

    The Wildcats were out-shot 15-6 over the 100 minutes of action with sophomore Lepe Seetane recording four of the team's shots, including two that were on goal. SIUE held a 9-2 edge in shots over the opening stanza, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Tommy Tombridge wasn't forced to make a save. Both of NU's shots were on frame but were stopped by Scott Meyer.

    The decisive goal came at 69:35 when Jordan Barnes scored off 10 yards out off a feed from Jared Tejada, beating Northwestern keeper Jonathan Harris. The Wildcats were never able to tally the equalizer.

    NU returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday as it closes out its exhibition season by hosting Wheaton College at Lakeside Field.
    John Shurna has been here before. Very few basketball players are fortunate enough during their careers to have the opportunity to represent the United States once on the hardwood, but as the NU rising senior heads to Colorado Springs, Colo., this weekend for tryouts for the World University Games it marks the third consecutive season that he'll have the chance to don the Red, White and Blue.

    Shurna is one of 20 individuals who will be competing to earn the 12 roster spots for next month's event in Shenzhen, China. Unlike many of the others making their way to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, this won't be a new experience for Shurna. Two years ago, he was a member of the USA team that captured the gold medal at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in New Zealand. He then earned a return invite from USA Basketball during the summer of 2010, competing as a member of the USA Select Team of collegiate players who trained against the USA National Team en route to their winning the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

    To put Shurna's experience playing for USA Basketball into perspective, Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine is the only other player at camp who was a member of the Select Team last summer. Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs and Kentucky guard Darius Miller are the only other two individuals beside Shurna at camp who were members of the Under-19 squad.

    Few could debate the notion that the opportunity to play for USA Basketball has helped Shurna become the player that he is today. Following a solid freshman season during which he averaged 7.3 points per game, he took his game to another level in 2009-10, vaulting his scoring average to 18.2 points per game while earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. He began his junior year playing at an All-America level before being slowed by an ankle injury and was still able to earn third-team All-Big Ten accolades. 

    The fact that Purdue head coach Matt Painter is serving as the head coach of the World University Games team likely can't hurt Shurna's case to make the team. Painter hasn't only had the opportunity to see Shurna compete against his Boilermakers in Big Ten play, he also served as an assistant coach for the USA Under-19 team back in 2009.

    Shurna is being joined by two other Big Ten players at this weekend's tryouts as forwards Draymond Green of Michigan State and Trevor Mbakwe of Minnesota are also making the trip to Colorado. Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor was invited to try out but was forced to withdraw due to injury.

    The squad is set to have one practice Friday evening, two sessions on Saturday and one more on Sunday morning before the finalists are selected. Those who remain will continue to practice through Aug. 7 before departing for China the following day. Competition at the 2011 World University Games is slated to run from Aug. 13-22. Of the four groups in the tournament, the United States is in Group D along with Finland, Hungary, Israel, Mexico and South Korea.

    For more information, please visit the USA Basketball website.
    A stellar performance for the second straight summer while playing for Great Britain's Under-20 Team has earned Northwestern junior Alex Marcotullio an invite to the country's National Team training camp.

    Marcotullio averaged 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game in leading the Brits to a 7-2 record at the FIBA Under-20 European Championships which concluded last weekend. He ranked third in Division B with an average of 3.2 3-point field goals per game, while his steals average ranked fifth.

    Great Britain's National Team is training in preparation for EuroBasket 2011 which runs Aug. 31 through Sept. 18 in Lithuania. Training camp gets underway July 30 with the squad slated to make cuts Aug. 10 and 22.

    Among those slated to play for Great Britain's National Team is Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls. Ben Gordon, formerly of the Bulls and currently of the Detroit Pistons was also named to the team's preliminary 17-man roster. Great Britain will serve as the host of the Olympic Summer Games in 2012 and has earned an automatic berth in the field.

    Numerous Former 'Cats Doing Well on the Diamond

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    Yesterday we updated fans on the progress of former Northwestern baseball standout Jake Goebbert who is performing well at Double-A for the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Houston Astros' organization. Goebbert isn't the only former NU player making his mark in professional ball, though, as four other Wildcats are also trying to work their way to the Big Leagues.

    We start off with George Kontos (2004-06) who is the most advanced of any former Northwestern player currently in Minor League Baseball. The right-handed pitcher is putting up impressive numbers for the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. After being a Rule 5 Draft pick of the San Diego Padres in the off-season, Kontos was returned to the Yankees during Spring Training. He has appeared in 27 games this season and sports a 2-1 record with an impressive 2.26 ERA. Kontos is averaging more than a strikeout per inning, fanning 59 batters over 55.2 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .200 average. Hopefully, Joe Girardi will have reason to call up a fellow former 'Cat to the Major League squad in the Bronx sometime in the near future.

    Another pitcher who is off to a good start this season is left-hander Eric Jokisch (2008-10). Playing just down the road from Evanston and just up the road from his hometown of Virginia, Jokisch sports a 7-2 record and a 3.24 ERA for the Chicago Cubs' Class A Midwest League affiliate the Peoria Chiefs. He was paired with another pitcher on the Chiefs' squad during the first half of the season and won each of his first seven decisions, all out of the bullpen. With the exception of one hiccup, Jokisch has performed well in his five appearances since being moved into the starting rotation. In three of the starts, he has not allowed an earned run with each of those appearances covering at least six innings.

    Joining Jokisch in the Cubs' organization is catcher Chad Noble (2007-10) who had been a bit of a nomad this season. The Rockwall, Texas, native has bounced around between the Peoria Chiefs, the Boise Hawks and currently the High A Daytona Cubs. Noble has appeared in 32 games overall between the three teams, with 20 coming for Daytona. Overall, he is batting .229 with 10 RBI while playing the most demanding position in baseball.

    Recent grad Chris Lashmet (2008-11) is the most recent Northwestern addition to the professional ranks. He recently joined the Class A State College Spikes of the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization. Lashmet has the rare opportunity to compete in a home stadium that he has already played at as the Spikes' facility is also home to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the spring. Splitting his time between first base and third base, Lashmet is batting .279 with two doubles, a home run and seven RBI in 18 games played.

    We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the one former Wildcat who is currently playing in the Majors as southpaw J.A. Happ (2002-04) is in his second season with the Houston Astros. Happ hasn't received much help from the struggling Astros squad. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in a game seven times this season, but has just a 2-2 record in those contests. He has hit a rough patch, dropping his last seven decisions and is 3-11 overall this year with a 5.76 ERA. He tied a season high with eight strikeouts in just 5 2/3 innings pitched in his most recent outing against the Florida Marlins on July 7. Perhaps his highlight of the season came against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 29 when he socked his first career home run.

    Former Wildcat Goebbert Shining in the Minors

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    Former Northwestern baseball standout Jake Goebbert (Hampshire, Ill./Hampshire) is climbing the charts through the Minor League Baseball ranks with the hopes of one day making it to the Big Show. Matt Rogers of the Corpus Christi Hooks provided NUsports.com with an update on Goebbert's progress.


    Let's make a distinction right off the bat.

     

    There are ball players and then there are ball players.

     

    Many ball players play ball from diapers to dentures, from neighborhood streets to slow-pitch softball diamonds with youth league-length base paths and pitching distances.

     

    A small percentage finds college ball, smaller yet pro ball and the big leagues.

     

    They are ball players because they play ball. That's it - pure and simple - from the last player jettisoned off his high school freshman team to some of the highest-paid and best-known athletes in the game.

     

    So, when Corpus Christi Caller-Times Hooks beat writer Greg Rajan muttered under his breath during a game early in the last homestand, "That Goebbert's a ball player," the weight of his statement wrapped itself around our shoulders like a humid August night on the west side of Whataburger Field.

     

    If Ted Williams' dream was to walk down the street and hear passersby say "there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived," it's no less noble for someone to be recognized as a ball player.

     

    But how do you define a ball player? What distinguishes him from ball players? Could it be as simple as attitude and hard work? Could it be that players who land on the self-made side of things are harder workers because they have grateful hearts?

     

    Yes.

     

    Jacob Goebbert grew up on a farm near Hampshire, Illinois. A Hook since May 6 - promoted from High-A Lancaster - he's not the most heralded prospect in the Houston system. Heck, he's not the most heralded prospect here. He is a good teammate, a considerate man, thoughtful in word and action.

     

    And an everyday player hitting .312.

     

    "Growing up I was never the best athlete. I never had the strongest arm and was never the fastest," Goebbert recalled. "But, I learned through life on the farm that you only get one shot. On the farm, you develop an attitude to give it your all. You learn to try to take advantage of every moment. Do your best every day; don't let yourself be taken out of the game.

     

    "I try to be a good teammate and play hard all the time."

     

    Hooks manager Tom Lawless calls Goebbert blue-collar, a grinder.

     

    Translation: ball player.

     

    Goebbert is unafraid to sacrifice his body at the convergence of wall, ball and warning track. He'll run through a stop sign if the play is in front of him, he has a decent look and the club desperately needs an extra base. He enjoys interacting with fans. He's insightful in postgame interviews, as good as any 23-year-old at breaking down wins and losses for a writer or broadcaster.

     

    And then it's over, ideally.

     

    "My wife (Heather) doesn't like the fact that I can so easily turn my emotions on and off. It's a game with a past, present and future. The only way you're going to limit your success in the future is to dwell on the past. That's something I'm still trying to get better at."

     

    Heather and Jacob met in high school, where he was a three-year varsity letterman in football, basketball and baseball. Coastal Bend football fans will appreciate his experience as a quarterback in the Wing-T, an offensive system born 60 years ago and not foreign to modern-day South Texas programs.

     

    Goebbert also played safety full-time.

     

    "My graduating class was 124, so we were pretty busy."

     

    "In high school, I loved Friday night football," he explained. "One game a week. Just one opportunity. But, baseball's always been my true love. I've always been the best at it."

     

    His parents were always Jacob's biggest supporters. He points to football coach Don Cavanaugh and baseball coach Steve Ream as strong influences along the way. Both men visit Corpus Christi this week to catch up with Jacob and Heather.


    But home - where the Goebberts operate an agritainment enterprise with a corn stalk maze, petting zoo, pumpkins and hayrides in the fall, vegetables in summer and annual and perennial flowers in the spring - is where the greatest lessons came.

     

    "There are a lot of things about farming that help in baseball," Goebbert emphasized. "The work is never over. You can stop when the sun goes down and start when it comes back up, but the work's never over.

     

    "I was in a position to see my dad and mom working side-by-side, every day. A farming family is a team. It takes a lot of teamwork to get the job done. It brings a sense of accomplishment, planting in the spring and the fall harvest.

     

    "You also learn to fail. There are the storms. What do you learn? Don't worry about the things you can't control and trust in God for His provision."

     

    That's not just the difference between a ball player and a ball player, but an indication of maturity well beyond the playing field.

     

    "It's important to realize what you have. I was not blessed with the most ability, but try to make the best of my situation. I have no regrets. I wouldn't change anything. It's important to look back and be grateful."

     

    Quite a ball player, that Jacob Goebbert.

     

     

     

     

     

    For more information on the Goebbert family business, go to pumpkinfarms.com