Chicago basketball report: Lonzo Ball is dunking, DePaul finds its new coach — and notable NCAA Tournament memories

Lonzo Ball showed off a few basic dunks as he continues to progress from a knee injury, and Ayo Dosunmu recorded a career-high scoring total for the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago Sky forward Isabelle Harrison ripped off a 41-point performance in an Athletes Unlimited game.

And DePaul found its new coach.

Every Wednesday throughout the season, Tribune writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead — for the Bulls, Sky and local basketball.

Lonzo Ball shows off dunks

Ball still has a long road ahead to recovery, but the Bulls guard has been able to show small signs of improvement — most recently sharing a video on Instagram of him dunking the ball twice in succession.

Ball shared the video Monday in which he jogs from behind the 3-point arc twice to finish a pair of standard two-legged dunks.

He has shared videos of him lightly dunking throughout the past year. More important to his progression was the news two weeks ago that Ball is able to sprint for the first time since his initial injury in January 2021.

Ball will remain sidelined for the remainder of the 2023-24 season, but the Bulls are hopeful he will be available at the start of next season if he continues at his current rate of progress.

Isabelle Harrison fills it up

The WNBA season is months away, but the Sky forward is hooping in the Athletes Unlimited spring season.

Harrison dropped 41 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Team Cloud on Thursday after starting the season on limited minutes as she recovers from a knee injury suffered in the preseason that sidelined her for the 2023 WNBA season.

Athletes Unlimited is a six-week season played in Dallas and featuring 40 athletes who are drafted onto new teams each week. Winners are determined by individual performance. Harrison finished sixth on the Week 3 leaderboard and is 23rd in the overall standings with 2,458 points.

DePaul finds a new coach

DePaul introduced Chris Holtmann as its new men’s basketball coach Monday at a news conference at Wintrust Arena, earning a resounding response from fans.

Holtmann has a 251-171 record at Gardner-Webb, Butler and Ohio State and led his teams to seven NCAA Tournament appearances over the last 13 seasons while winning Coach of the Year in both the Big East and Big Ten.

Ohio State fired him midseason this year with a 14-11 record and a 4-10 conference mark. The Buckeyes have gone 6-2 under Jake Diebler, who shed the interim label Sunday.

Holtmann will face a hefty task at DePaul: trying to revive a program that hasn’t been competitive in the Big East since joining in 2005. The Blue Demons went 0-20 in conference play this season.

“We’ve got a great opportunity,” Holtmann said. “We came here as a family because we really do believe in what this place can be.”

Number of the week: 34

Career-high points scored by Ayo Dosunmu in the Bulls’ 127-98 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday. He followed it up with 23 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, marking the first back-to-back 20-point games in his NBA career.

Dosunmu has been a stabilizing presence for the Bulls since the All-Star break and has taken a major step up after Coby White suffered a hip injury against the Indiana Pacers last week.

Week ahead: Bulls

  • Wednesday: off

  • Thursday: at Rockets, 7 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Friday: off

  • Saturday: vs. Celtics, 7 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Sunday: off

  • Monday: vs. Wizards, 7 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Tuesday: off

What we’re reading this morning

This week in Chicago basketball

March 22, 1952: Tiny Alden-Hebron beats Quincy 64-59 in overtime to win the Illinois high school boys basketball tournament

Hebron was a school with just 98 students, while Quincy had 1,035 students — 300 more than the population of Hebron at the time.

The game, played in Champaign, was the first live telecast of a high school sporting event in Illinois. Hebron’s water tower remains painted like a basketball in the Green Giants’ honor today. The basketball feat spurred the documentary “Becoming Giants” and the book “Once There Were Giants,” by Scott Johnson and Julie Kistler.

March 23, 1963: Loyola wins the NCAA championship over Cincinnati

The climax of the game came with one second left in overtime when Vic Rouse, a 6-foot-6 forward, tipped in a basket. Cincinnati never had a chance to put the ball into play.

Loyola, hanging on the ropes with a 15-point deficit in the second half, stormed back and with four seconds left All-American Jerry Harkness sank a 12-foot jump shot to tie the score at 54 and send the game into the extra session.

The Ramblers defeated four teams ranked in the top 10 on their march to the championship: Mississippi State, Illinois, Duke and Cincinnati, which had held the top spot from the start of the season.

But the 1963 team is remembered as more than just the state’s last team to win it all.

Harkness didn’t fully grasp the significance of the regional semifinal against Mississippi State on March 15, 1963, when he stepped to center court and shook hands with his white opponent.

“I get there and you see these flashbulbs — pop, pop, pop — and I thought, ‘Hmm, this is more than a game,'” said Harkness, who was Black. “It just felt more like this is history.”

The landmark game later was named the “Game of Change” because it featured an all-white Mississippi State team that defied its governor’s orders banning it from crossing state lines to compete against the integrated Ramblers. Loyola won 61-51.

March 24, 2018: Loyola becomes the first team from the state to reach the Final Four since Illinois in 2005

The Ramblers, the No. 11 seed in the South bracket, won with relative ease in a 78-62 blowout against ninth-seeded Kansas State.

“To bring the joy to the city and make everybody happy in the city of Chicago is crazy,” said senior Donte Ingram, who played in high school at Simeon. “The buzz going around campus and town, it’s totally different. It’s on the rise and I expect it to go up even more.”

Loyola, picked in the preseason to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference, became the first team from the state to reach the Final Four since Illinois in 2005. That team was coached by Bruce Weber, who coached Kansas State against Loyola.

The Ramblers were the fourth No. 11 seed to advance to the Final Four after LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011. Loyola fell one game short of the national championship game, losing to Michigan 69-57.

March 26, 1945: DePaul wins the NIT at Madison Square Garden

The Blue Demons were led by young coach Ray Meyer and 6-foot-10 George Mikan, who would later be voted player of the half-century.

Mikan set an NIT record by dropping 53 points on Rhode Island in DePaul’s 97-53 semifinal victory. And he didn’t let up in the title game, scoring 34 points in DePaul’s 71-54 win over Bowling Green.

He was named the NIT MVP, scoring a record 120 points during the three games. His presence also led to record crowds, as 72,622 fans turned out for the four nights at Madison Square Garden.

In 1982, Mikan was inducted into the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame.

“How do you forget a game like that, even after all these years?” Mikan said of his 53-point performance. “It seemed like everything went my way that night. We pressed them and forced a lot of turnovers, leading to easy baskets.”

March 26, 2005: Illinois rallies to beat No. 3 Arizona in OT in the NCAA Tournament’s Chicago regional final

It was one of the most thrilling comebacks in the history of college basketball.

Trailing third-seeded Arizona by 15 points with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left in regulation, top-seeded Illinois mustered every ounce of energy it had and channeled it into a 90-89 overtime victory at Allstate Arena.

“Unbelievable game,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.

“A miracle,” Dee Brown called it.

Deron Williams and Luther Head combined to score 16 of Illinois’ final 20 points in regulation.

“If we were going to go down, we were going to go down fighting,” Williams said.

The win sent Illinois to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and for the first time since 1989. Down in St. Louis, Illinois dispatched Louisville 72-57 to advance to the national championship game, which they lost 75-70 to North Carolina.


“I don’t have no other hobbies.” — DeMar DeRozan on how he prioritizes recovery while leading the league in minutes