May 7, 2024 - Sports

Next gen up: Five stars to watch in Chicago sports

Photo of a woman in a dress on a red carpet

Angel Reese departs The Mark Hotel for the 2024 Met Gala on May 06, 2024 in New York City. Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for The Mark Hotel

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese was a huge hit Monday night at the Met Gala in New York City.

The big picture: 2023 was a down year for Chicago sports as none of our teams made the playoffs, while stars like Zach Lavine, Justin Fields and Patrick Kane were either injured or traded away.

Yes, but: 2024 looks brighter, with young superstars preparing to dazzle fans with their play, but also their style.

Zoom in: For those worried about keeping track of the next generation of stars, here's a quick primer:

Caleb Williams

Photo of a man taking selfies with fans at a gathering
Caleb Williams celebrates with fans after being selected first overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2024 NFL draft. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images​​

The former USC quarterback went No. 1 to the Bears in the NFL draft, and the team looks to be giving him the keys to the offense. Williams has done everything right since coming here, including pumping up the crowd at a Cubs game.

  • It won't take much for Williams to be a star. The Bears' quarterback futility is well documented, and he has to play really badly not to break all the team's QB rookie records.

Honorable mention: Rome Odunze. The wide receiver was also a top 10 pick in the NFL draft, and he returns punts. We like punt returners in Chicago.

Connor Bedard

Photo of a hockey player in a suit before a game
Connor Bedard No. 98 of the Chicago Blackhawks walks down the red carpet during pregame ceremonies prior to the game against the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center in 2023. Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Even if the Blackhawks score another rookie phenom, this is firmly Connor Bedard's team after the 'Hawks picked him No. 1 last year.

  • The overall team was brutal, but Bedard had a tremendous first season and is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy (best rookie), even though he missed several games with a fractured jaw.

Shota Imanaga

Photo of a baseball pitcher getting ready to throw to the batter
Shota Imanaga in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 1. Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Imanaga has been sensational since joining the Cubs this offseason. So far this season, the Japanese hurler is 5-0 with an ERA under 1.00. He was named NL Rookie of the Month for April.

  • If he keeps this up and the Cubs make the playoffs, he could become the face of the franchise.

Coby White

Photo of a player being interviewed after a basketball game
Coby White after the Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks on April 17. Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Coby White is not a rookie, but the reserve point guard broke through in a big way last season, coming in third for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

  • White's play gave fans something to cheer about as the team missed the playoffs for a second-straight year.

Angel Reese

Basketball player high-fiving on the court
Angel Reese high fives teammates before the game against the Minnesota Lynx on May 3 at Target Center in Minneapolis. Photo: David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Angel Reese shined last night at the Met Gala, but she's gonna shine even brighter as a rookie with the Chicago Sky.

The intrigue: The WNBA got such serious pushback from not airing Reese's first Sky preseason game last week that the league reshuffled the lineup and will air tonight's game.

  • Reese may not win a lot of games as a rookie, but Chicago wants to watch. Which is a good thing for the WNBA.
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