Baseball team captures first sectional title since 1989
May 11, 2015
Morton College’s motto for the weekend was “Why not us?” and it sparked the Panthers to their first sectional baseball championship since 1989 at Elgin Community College.
The Panthers certainly are the party crashers at this weekend’s North Central District Tournament at the Schaumburg Boomers’ Stadium. Morton College is the only team in the final four with a sub-.500 record at 16-36. They open against top-seeded Madison Area Tech (39-14) at noon Friday, May 15th. Oakton (39-14) and Black Hawk (34-22) complete the field.
The 11th-seeded Panthers had their back against the walls after falling to Carl Sandburg 4-3 May 9, but reeled off three straight wins over two days. Morton College first eliminated Elgin 4-2 behind a complete-game performance by Adam Martinson. Elgin (41-13) came in ranked eighth in NJCAA Division II and had pummeled the Panthers 20-2 and 12-2 during the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference season.
Morton College then needed to beat Carl Sandburg twice the next day and the Panthers did so by 5-4 and 6-5 counts. The relief team of Roberto Prado and Torrence Sumerlin notched the win and the save, respectively, in both games. Jadiel Valle’s two-run double was the big hit in the second-game win May 10th.
“A big factor was our confidence and energy,” Morton College baseball coach Nestor Carrillo said. “We came in as the underdogs, but we told our guys, ‘It’s not how you start, but how you finish.’ It was the best ball we played all year. We told the guys that you had to earn it. They certainly did by making every play.”
In addition to the Panthers’ starting pitching that produced two complete games, Carrillo also pointed to Morton College’s keystone combination of shortstop Moises Diaz and second baseman Angel Munoz for the team’s success.
“That was the best middle infield play we had all season,” Carrillo said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have won the sectional.”
Angel Zorilla went the distance in Morton College’s 4-3 loss to Sandburg, then Martinson followed with a 97-pitch masterpiece over nine innings to stop Elgin. David Matthews’ two-run double was the big hit against the Spartans, who entered the game with a team batting average of .334.
“Elgin is an excellent fastball hitting team,” Carrillo said, “and Adam kept them off-balance. He had control of all three of his pitches and he was pounding the zone.”
“I was pitching efficiently, kept my pitch count down and felt good right to the end,” Martinson told the Elgin Courier News’ Gene Chamberlin. “I threw a lot of sliders and kept them off-balance and came with the fastball only when I needed to.
“This feels great. We played hard the whole year and didn’t get a lot of wins.”
Basketball All-American signs with Texas Pan American
April 15, 2015
Nick Dixon is excited about his newest opportunity, but also took time out to remember and thank those at Morton College who helped him along the way.
Dixon called his decision to come to Morton College as a “life-changing moment” and that’s no exaggeration. In two years, he went from an unknown prospect to two-time NJCAA Division II All-American at Morton College to signing a letter of intent April 15th with NCAA Division I men’s basketball at the University of Texas Pan American, located 10 miles north of the U.S./Mexican border.
“Coming to Morton College was a life-changing decision,” Dixon said. “If not for Morton College, I never would have fulfilled my goal of being a Division I player. I was working for two years after high school and not playing basketball. Morton gave me a place to showcase my talent.”
While Dixon leaves Morton College as the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,622 points, his best memories will be those of teammates and coaches.
“I had wonderful teammates and coach (Conte) Stamas is the best coach I’ve ever had,” said Dixon, who averaged an NJCAA D-2 leading 27.2 points per game as a sophomore and 25.2 ppg as a freshman. “He really helped me showcase my skills. I’ve never forget Morton and I’ll always come back.”
Stamas, who has over 30 years of experience of coaching at the high school and college levels, was genuinely touched by Dixon’s appreciation.
“He was so thankful to me,” Stamas said. “Here’s someone was out of high school for two years and now has a Division I basketball scholarship. He told me, ‘Coach, you really changed my life.’ It makes all that you go through really worth it.”
Texas Pan American, which is changing its name to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the Fall of 2015, finished 10-21 overall and 4-10 in the Western Athletic Conference last season. Dixon will make at least one trip back to the area as Chicago State is a WAC school.
“It’s an up-and-coming program,” said Dixon, the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference’s back-to-back MVP. “I felt their coaches had good trust and confidence in me.”
Stamas, a former Division I assistant at Stetson and Xavier, believes veteran Texas Pan American coach Dan Hipsher will help Dixon develop.
“I like their coaching staff,” Stamas said. “What they’re good at doing is helping Nick Dixon to learn how to play off the ball. He had the ball in his hands quite a bit for us. They’re in need of some outside perimeter scoring and that’s what attracted them to Nick.”
Dixon is expected to graduate from Morton College in May with an Associate in Arts degree. He will head down to Texas Pan American to take summer classes and work out with the basketball team. Dixon knows he needs to hit the weight room to make an impact at the Division I level. He plans on majoring in communications and would like to become a sports broadcaster.
Johnson's journey to play D-1 basketball an amazing experience
April 1, 2015
It’s the weekend of the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.
Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and the studio crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Clark Kellogg and Greg Gumbel will be all over the big story lines – Kentucky’s quest to be the first team to go undefeated since 1975-76 Indiana, Mike Krzyzewski’s record-tying 12th Final Four appearance and the possibility of an all-Big Ten title game.
The story of Morton College’s Michael Johnson won’t be on their radar, but it should.
Name the obstacle put in Johnson’s way and he overcame it to fulfill a dream of playing one year of Division I basketball as a walk-on at Chicago State this season. The 6-8 forward played a total of 56 minutes and scored just four points in 10 games for an 8-24 team.
But Johnson will celebrate and cherish his time at Chicago State just as much as Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, who is playing in his second consecutive Final Four this weekend.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Johnson said. “I was able to enjoy being part of a Division I program, the chance to travel and the opportunity to play. I was just ecstatic to be there.”
His first basket against Elite Eight qualifier Notre Dame is one Johnson has stored on his I-Phone. It came with 67 seconds left in Chicago State’s 90-42 loss.
“It’s probably one of my top 10 highlights personally,” said Johnson on the turnaround jumper. “My confidence went through the roof. Scoring against an ACC team.”
Johnson’s longest stint of the season was 14 minutes against Bowling Green, where he had two points, five rebounds and two assists. He had a season-best 7 rebounds against Omaha and fouled out in 8 minutes against Wisconsin-Green Bay. He also was in the starting lineup against Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley.
Johnson’s numbers in two years at Morton College weren’t ones attracting D-1 attention. He averaged 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 28 games as a freshman and 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 31 games as a sophomore.
His grades weren’t much better, either. Between Johnson’s freshman and sophomore years at Morton College, he had to sit out a season due to academic ineligibility. Small schools liked Johnson because was 6-8 and strong. He was set to go to an NAIA school in Indiana, but Johnson never enrolled because what was promised fell through in his eyes.
He took some classes at Malcolm X, then enrolled at Chicago State in the Fall of 2013. Johnson wanted to walk-on, but needed to meet the NCAA requirement of averaging 12 hours for each semester enrolled in school. He needed to be at 96 semester hours by the Fall of 2014 to be eligible.
Johnson also was on the NCAA clock, which gives a student-athletes four years of eligibility within a five-year period from first enrolling at a college. The 2014-15 season was it for Johnson, who began scrimmaging at Chicago State.
“I knew the opportunity was out there,” Johnson said. “I had a small clock to find that chance.”
Then came June 12, 2014. He stepped on a teammate’s foot and fractured his right ankle during an open gym at Chicago State University. How bad could have it been if Johnson was able to drive home from Chicago State at 95th and King on the South Side to Division and Central on the West Side before going to the hospital for an X-ray on his ankle?
“I fractured my right ankle on June 12th,” Johnson recalled. “I thought it was the end. Man, I was in pain when I got home. But I worked hard to rehab it and get back on the court.”
Johnson knew he officially made the team when he was invited to celebrate Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy’s “Early Christmas” gathering. It’s when the players receive their basketball gear.
“I was the last one called,” Johnson recalled. “I knew then I was officially on the team. It was a great feeling.”
More importantly, Johnson says he’s on target to graduate from Chicago State on May 14th with a degree in business management.
“I’m very proud to be getting my degree,” Johnson said. “I started taking school more seriously and buckled down like should have in the past. I started seeing things I wanted to do in life and I knew I had to work hard to get there.”
Johnson isn’t ready to let his personal “Hoop Dreams” end yet. He’s hoping for an opportunity to play in Europe or in the NBA’s Development League.
“My intuition told me to keep going and keep fighting until I reached my goal,” Johnson said. “If you want something, you really have to go get it. You just have to stay focused, know you can do it and believe in yourself. The only person who can motivate yourself is you. It’s up to me if I want to do it or not.”
Dixon named Morton College's first two-time All-American in men's basketball
March 31, 2015
Men’s basketball player Nick Dixon became the first two-time All-American in Morton College history when the 6-3 forward/guard was a repeat selection to the NJCAA Division II All-American Second Team, released today (March 31st).
Dixon is the second all-time leading scorer in Morton College history, finishing with 1,622 points. Only Marvin McGrew, Morton College’s first men’s basketball All-American, is ahead of Dixon. McGrew, who played at Cleveland State, finished with 1,891 points from 1988 to 1990.
Dixon also is the only athlete in Morton College history to be named a two-time Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference MVP.
Averaging 26.2 points per game for his career, Dixon scored in double figures in all 62 games played during his two seasons at Morton College. Dixon is one of 14 players in Morton College’s 1,000-point club, reaching that milestone in the Panthers’ win over Region IV powerhouse South Suburban.
Dixon and McGrew also are the only two players in Morton College history with back-to-back 800-point seasons. The graduate of Proviso West High School accounted for 33.8 percent of Morton College’s offense in his two seasons and finished shooting 54.4 percent from the field and 79.2 percent from the free-throw line. He also averaged 7.1 rebounds per game.
While Dixon never had a 40-point game, he finished with 22 30-point games and 29 20-point games. He helped the Panthers to a Skyway tri-title in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2015.
Dixon was the leading scorer in NJCAA Division II for 2015, averaging 27.2 points per game. He scored a season-high 37 in a win over NJCAA D-2 tournament qualifier Kishwaukee. He had nine 30-point games and 19 20-point games this season.
As a freshman, Dixon was the country’s seventh-leading scorer at 25.2 points per game. He had 13 30-point games.
To see a complete list of the NJCAA Division II All-American Team, click on:
Morton College remembers Minnie Minoso (1925-2015)
March 3, 2015
Minnie Minoso was truly one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors.
The Chicago White Sox great, who died March 1 at the age of 90, would sign every autograph, shake every hand and talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him.
Mr. Minoso made annual appearances to Morton College’s Convocation ceremony to present the Morton College Foundation’s Chico Carrasquel Scholarship given to a deserving Panther baseball player. Mr. Minoso and Carrasquel were teammates on the White Sox in the 1950s.
Mr. Minoso’s last appearance to Morton College was on May 2, 2014. Since the baseball team had a game that day, Mr. Minoso presented the Carrasquel scholarship in front of the players in the Vais Gymnasium.
The day before had been the 63rd anniversary of Mr. Minoso’s debut with the White Sox. He immediately endeared himself as a legend in the eyes of White Sox fans with a 415-foot home run in his first at-bat against the New York Yankees.
Mr. Minoso spoke to the baseball team that day on the virtues of clean living, the value of a good education and the importance of being a good teammate.
Highlights of Mr. Minoso’s career include:
• Lifetime BA of .298
• 17 years in Major League
• Played in 5 decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s)
• Led the American League 10 times in hit-by-pitch
• Led the American League 3 times in stolen bases
• 7-time All-Star
• 3-time Golden Glover
• Most times struck out in a season – 63! Struck out once per 11.3 at-bats and just 584 times in 6579 career at-bats