Welcome to Czar Season 10

Now introducing Czar Season 10.  I've updated everything site wide for the 2016-17 school year.  That means updated fall ball schedules which includes a listing of fall exposure camps as well.

There have already been a bunch of 2017 kids who have figured out their college future.  Seems like a rather large number compared to years past.  The Signings page now includes that list.

With a loaded 2017 class and a whole bunch of new rankings released after the summer AAU season, I've updated the Rankings page with a compilation of the most recent rankings from all the big sites.  Note that Rivals has not yet come out with summer updates to the 2017 rankings, expect big changes there when those are released this week.

The season moves back to the old start practice during the week of Thanksgiving schedule after 2 years of early starts.  That means season previews are later but I will still have my usual infamous preview series.  This year I'm changing the entire schedule of conference previews and will now do them from small conferences to large conferences rather than alphabetically.  That means the big schools will mostly wait until the 3rd week of the 6 week preview series.  The full schedule of previews is now posted on the Season Previews page.

The Holiday Tournaments page has the 1st attempt at this year's holiday tourney list.  I'll be updating that as time goes on.

For those of you who don't use the full website, there are lots of extra links available.  The left hand menu has links to anything and everything on Minnesota basketball, summer basketball, recruiting and other hoops sites of note.  It also includes my weekly schedule during the season.

Finally, a couple weeks back I had a chance to do an hour long podcast with Alex Conover (Prep Hoops writer).  Its me talking about food, AAU, the upcoming high school season and much more.  If you missed out on that, you can listen to it here.

Reflecting on Vegas 2016

Its the 5 year anniversary of my 1st trip to Las Vegas.  The Adidas Super 64 has fallen off the map, the Fab 48 and Bigfoot Hoops have exploded since being in 2nd year and 1st year respectively back then and now NY2LA is putting on a new quality event out there.  Quite the set of changes in a short time.

The overall showing
The Minnesota teams were impressive in their events.  Howard Pulley in their 1st Vegas appearance in my time made a run all the way to the top bracket championship game in Bigfoot.  Heat Vang was the runner up in a 2nd bracket there as well.  6 of the 7 17U teams swept their pools at Bigfoot.  Heat Reese 16s were 2nd place in pool and a runner up in there 16U bracket.  At Adidas, D1 Minnesota was the Creators Cup runner up and won a showcase game on ESPNU.  They avenged regular season losses to Team Loaded (VA) and Eric Gordon during that run.  D1 Minnesota 16s reached the semifinals.  Finally, Comets Lewis won the NY2LA event.  Grassroots and Select Ohnstad winning their pools there as well.

Individual Games
Its rare to see Minnesota teams take on each other in an event in Vegas.  And while that's a generally a good thing, we did get a very significant matchup.  In the 2nd round of the championship bracket at NY2LA, Comets Lewis knocked out the MN Warriors in a fantastic game.  Thanks to Bryce Irsfeld, the Comets rallied from 7 down in the last 2:45 and down 4 in the last 24 seconds. One of those games where you hate to see a team lose.  Knowing that the Warriors are a team that over the years closes games like that, its was hard to see their era end on that note.

Howard Pulley had no trouble in the 3 games I saw them.  The black court with white lines setup was pretty unique and the crowds turned out for it.  Heat Vang also got to play their final game on that court which had to be a thrill.

Adidas stepping up their game with the showcase court online and shown on a huge projection screen in the Cashman Center.  Cashman is the nicest setup in terms of enough room for fans and to move around.  They had all of the premier 17s and the top 2 16s pools plus their bracket play under that 1 roof.  Fun local tie there as Isaiah Stokes who played in the Timberwolves Shootout this year busted a backboard during Thursday's play.

Biggest surprise of the individual teams was that the both Fury 17s were done after the 1st round of bracket play.  No shame in that especially for Fury Zurn who got stuck with uber talented Georgia Stars in the 1st round.  But after the great results they've had in Vegas the last couple of years, you would have to classify it as surprising.  Doesn't diminish the seasons those teams had though.

When we talk about individuals, Race Thompson immediately comes up.  He was an absolute monster for the entire tournament and his offer list blew up in response.  I saw his worst game there in the 2nd game on Thursday.  Even in that game he came up huge at the end to help D1 get a W.

Matt Hurt was playing in front of UNC most every game and had John Calipari watching at some point as well.  He was fantastic in that game with coach Cal watching.

Gary Trent and Tre Jones outstanding as expected. Trent missed Sunday and Theo John had injuries.  That gave Daniel Oturu a chance to shine.

Chase Grinde was a stabilizing point forward for the Heat Vang roster.  Dom Bledsoe and Sean Sutherlin also giving the Heat quality minutes when I watched.

Great matchup of point guards in that Comets Lewis vs Warriors game with Bryce Irsfeld taking on Jameson Bryan.  Bryan played well but Irsfeld would not let his team lose.  2 clutch bombs late brought the Comets back when it looked like they were done.   Luke Loehr also playing well in that game.  Glad to see his twin brother Alec there on the bench to support the team after a nasty injury last week.

It wouldn't be Vegas if we didn't mention food.  No special lunch this year on Wednesday.  I hit the buffet on the way to the Comets vs Warriors game.  Not terrible but not a great choice either.  Especially when I get to NY2LA and they had what looked like excellent menu options available.  Best concession item?  Ice Cream Bars at Spring Valley.  No brainer choice to have that in Vegas and it did not disappoint.

So after that Comets vs Warriors game and the ending of the Heat Vang 2nd round game, I had a little spare time with the local crowd back at the hotel before my scheduled red-eye flight home.  Only to be informed by another local coach on that same flight that I didn't pay enough attention to my email.  Flight cancelled!  So with a mostly dead phone I manage to get the flight rescheduled for the morning but via Seattle.  With no where to stay it was up all night with 6 hours of flight time ahead.  And after my 1st year in Vegas, I knew what to expect at 6 AM at McCarron Airport (its a zoo of epic proportions).  So I didn't get back until Sunday night.  Let's just say Monday was a nightmare of recovery.

Now on to the important stuff.  So did I take time on the extra night to hit the tables again?  Answer, absolutely NOT!  Night 1 was a reasonable up tick.  Night 2 was even.  Minor loss on night 3 with idiots splitting 10s at my table.  Then the final night, I got taken to the cleaners and lost the entire gambling budget for the trip.  Sad part was it wasn't because of bad play. Bad cards and I can't say I've ever seen a dealer stay that hot for that long.  Incredibly disgusting to end up down 25 hands in under an hour of play.  Blackjack odds aren't supposed to be that way.  Am I bitter, indeed I am.  Next year I shall be ready to go again.

July 2016 Pack your bags

Its the 4th of July holiday and that means local AAU squads are ready to head out on the road for the annual July recruiting periods to hopefully set off their own fireworks.  The college coaches will be focused on the southeastern part of the US this week.  You have The Peach Jam (Nike's championships) in N Augusta, SC and the Adidas Gaunlet Finale in Spartanburg, SC.  While Under Armour has their finals in Atlanta next week, they are hosting their star players for a camp in Charlotte, NC.  But the Midwest is full of events too and you'll find most of our locals teams there.  So here's who's playing where in the 1st July 2016 period from Wednesday thru Sunday.

Howard Pulley's 17s are at The Peach Jam.  They open play on Wednesday night as the top seed in Pool D.  Then they'll play twice Thursday and Friday to finish round robin pool play.  The top 2 teams out of 6 from each of the 4 pools qualify for bracket play starting on Saturday.

D1 Minnesota's top teams are at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale   The 16s and 17s avoided the pigtail round and will open Thursday afternoon in the round of 32.  Both teams could play Texas PRO in that opener.  2 wins for the D1 16s could put them up against the Iowa Barnstormers in the quarters on Friday afternoon.  Very interesting possibility there.  The 15s division is just 2 pools of 4.  So that means they will play 3 pool games and then 1 final game on Saturday. 

Milwaukee (NY2LA Sports Next Level Invite)
Crossfire Weege and Swanson
Grassroots 17s
Top MN Comets teams, 3 in 17s, 2 in 16s and 15s
Top 2 MN Select 17s plus their top 15s and 16s.
WOTN will have 2 17s plus a 16s and 15s.
2 Real Athletics 17s and a 16.

Indianapolis (Adidas Invitational)
What used to be a super event has gone down hill with Adidas revamping their structure.  But the Minnesota Heat will still send their 3 Sanford teams plus Heat Wright in 15U.

Then you have the group of events starting on Friday.

The Chicago Summer Jam is a noteworthy event for Minnesota teams.  In the 17s you have Powerhouse, Fury Kallman, MN Warriors, Heat Bui, MN Phenom and MN PREP.  But Powerhouse may see Trae Berhow miss sometime.  He'll be at the Powerade camp in Charlotte (not the same as the UA camp mentioned above).  Howard Pulley's non-17U teams will be here along with the MN Eagles and Powerhouse in 16U.

There will be no championship game here as it would be the 4th game of the day for the teams.  What's more disturbing is that Howard Pulley had to skip the championship game in this same event last year for the exact same reason.  How does the NCAA not catch this in post review and why does this event operator continue to not follow the rules and get away with it?  What about all the other questions it raises?  What happens if they do play the game during the live period (some play it after 5 PM which is OK), can you punish the teams?  If so, how?  Could you penalize a college coach for watching it?  If so, how?

Also in Chicago you have all 3 D1 prospects teams playing the Chicago Summer Challenge

Kansas City (Mullen's Invite)
Minnesota Fury sends their Sanford teams to the quality Mullen's Invite again.  This year the event moves from St. Louis to Kansas City.

Iowa cleans up what hasn't yet been mentioned.  3 Crossfire and a couple of MN Rise teams there.  MN Fury's 2nd 16s and 15s also there.

2016 AAU 1st Open Period Quick Look

After a long weekend in St. Cloud, its time for the 1st open period of the 2016 spring season.  Of course that means all the leagues (except Sanford which goes back to back in mid-May) will be in session so that really limits the field for others.  Here's where our teams will be.

The big fish on the block of open spring tournaments locally is NY2LA Spring Extravaganza at Hopkins and Eden Prairie.  Comets, Select and Grassroots will have teams in the league portion of this along with SPTS members Dakota Schoolers, Omaha Crusaders and WI Playmakers.  Those games are at Hopkins.  Eden Prairie has most of the open division.  That includes many other Minnesota squads like Heat, WOTN, MN Warriors, SW MN Stars, Real Athletics and the Howard Pulley 16s playing up just to name a few.  Pulley's younger kids also playing in the other levels.  Also from out of state, ND Phenom, ECI Prospects, SD Attack, RAS Milwaukee, WI Jets and DTA Devin Harris Superstars.

Howard Pulley's EYBL crew will be in New York for the 1st weekend of EYBL play.  Once again Pulley's schedule is very tough on Memorial Day weekend (last EYBL weekend) so they'll want to get off to a good start.  Its only 3 of the 16 games, but 2-1 will feel much better than 1-2.  0-3 would be a disaster.  Powerhouse Hoops MN (formerly MN Lockdown) will also be in the New York area for a different event. 

Midwest Live is down in the Des Moines area.   MN Fury will have all their teams there.  D1 Minnesota will have both of its 15s and the 16s Prospects team there.  Twin Cities Finest will have both its 17s there.  Crossfire Weege in the 17s will also be playing.  Heat MacDonald (did I spell that right Wibi?) also there after a 15U runner up finish to the Comets in St. Cloud last weekend.

So where are the other 3 D1 Minnesota teams you ask?  They are in Dallas for the 1st weekend of the Adidas Gauntlet series.  D1 MN Prospects 17s are in the Silver division.  Other 2 teams are in the Gold divisions.  McKinley Wright was my MVP of the Comets Shootout last week.  He looks to continue his high level play in the open period.  I'm expecting lots of attention on Nate Reuvers as well after a big high school season that has generated Minnesota and Wisconsin offers.

Finally in Chicago, MN Phenom's 17s and 16s make the trip along with MN Ice.  BBA Force and Pentagon 16s from South Dakota also making the trek there.

2016 Comets Shootout Preview

Its time to for the full blown kickoff of the 2016 AAU Season with the annual Comets Shootout.  Here's some of what I'm watching.  Sunday plays out the quarterfinals to the end, good games.  The early 2 or 3 games are pigtails, round of 32 and round of 16.  Nice to have a bracket, but not having pools means most of Saturday's play is blowout city.  But early in the year anything can happen and we did see a couple of early round upsets last year on Saturday.

In the top quarter of the bracket, I expect the hosts Comets Lewis to have no problem reaching Sunday's quarterfinals.  Great additions of Wayzata's Ryan Lindberg and Gavin Baumgartner and Hopkins' Simon Wright for that squad.  Only question I have is a backup point guard to Bryce Irsfeld.  Fury Kallman and WI Playmakers Hjelter are on the other side of the quarter.  Fury Kallman vs Comets Lewis in a sleeper quarter final game.  Rocky Kreuser for Fury Kallman is going to be a problem matchup for many of their opponents this year.

In the 2nd quarter of the bracket, its D1 Minnesota's top team.  Heat Vang and high-flyer Parker Fox are on the other half of this quarter.  Expect D1 Minnesota to have no trouble here.  Looking forward to see how D1 rotates their front court trio of Nate Reuvers, Goanar Mar and Matthew Hurt.  McKinley Wright, Ishmael El-Amin, Jericho Sims, Jack Sorenson and Jack Hutchinson also on display for that loaded team.

Now to the bottom half and quarter #3.  Minnesota Warriors and Select Ohnstad are lined up for what I see as the top round of 16 game.  That's at 10:00 PM Saturday night.  Mitch Ohnstad playing at least 3 sophs from his WOTN 15U squad last year on this team.  ECI Prospects are on the other side of this quarter with the 2 top 2017 prospects in North Dakota.  That's post Jordan Meidinger and guard Siman Sem.   Plus they have more D2 level talent around them in guys like Lucas Mayer and Justin Engg.  I like ECI over the Warriors in the quarters.  But the Warriors being together for years always makes them a tough out in this tourney.

In the bottom quarter, you have the Fury top group and D1 Minnesota's 2nd team on separate sides.  Not a cake walk section as Comets Kirchner, WOTN Nicols and Real Athletics House are also in this quarter of the bracket.   Zach Hanson from WOTN is the sleeper kid to watch in this group.  WOTN Nicols vs Comets Kirchner is the only real interesting game I see in the round of 32.  Fury Zurn vs D1 MN Prospects is a very good quarterfinal.  I'll take Fury to barely hang on.

So that leaves Comets Lewis vs D1 Minnesota and ECI Prospects vs Fury in the semifinals.  I think Fury's tough game vs a scrambling fast paced D1 MN Prospects squad takes it toll.  Give me ECI to take on D1 Minnesota in the final with D1 Minnesota taking the trophy.  D1 Minnesota vs Comets sure to gather a ton of interest as it could be the highest profile Minnesota on Minnesota battle we get all year at 17U.  That would also be true if Fury Zurn would make the final.

In 16U, I see a pretty wide open event.  No top team from D1 (they're in Wisconsin this week), no Pulley, no Powerhouse Hoops etc means you don't have a whole lot of high profile 2018 guys playing.  I have to take the home team, Comets Stumpf, as my favorite.  Brevyn Spann-Ford gives them a 3/4 combo guy who's a difficult matchup.  Cam Jackson and Kyler Kluge make up a small backcourt that can score it.

But there's a group of teams that can jump up here.  Heat Reese knocked off D1 last week (granted in a scrimmage with no Race Thompson) but they've rebuilt that group into one that will be much improved.  Tayler Johnson and Odell Wilson from Minneapolis North are nice additions there.  Select Altenhofen is also a nice group that will be very competitive.  They have a very solid perimeter group.  Fury Wilde has to be discussed here as well, but they're not quite what they were last year.  Matt Todd has moved on to Pulley and that deprives this crew of a major difference maker.  ECI has a couple of top 5 North Dakota kids so they'll be solid here as well.   Crossfire Swanson and Comets Servaty are other squads that could surprise.  So while there's not star power, you have a nice group of very respectable teams.

2016 AAU Opening Day in Iowa

Its April and that means its time to get on the road for the AAU Season.  I open my season with a day trip to Ames, IA.  Its the Super 16 hosted by All Iowa Attack.  Its my 1st trip to the All Iowa Attack Fieldhouse and what an amazing building it is.  4 courts in an entirely retro feel.

I had a chance to take in all 3 of the games for the Howard Pulley 17s and more than a game's worth of their 16s.  Both were playing in the top 17s bracket which is a 6 team round robin setup.  The 17s would go 3-0 and the 16s 1-2.  The Phenom 17s opened 0-2

Howard Pulley 17s
All Iowa Attack 17U Black 86-48 win
Omaha Elite 17U 67-54 win
All Iowa Attack 17U Red 78-42 win

Howard Pulley 16s
All Iowa Attack 17U Red 66-53 loss
MN Phenom 17s 78-48 win
Omaha Elite 17U 74-66 loss

MN Phenom 17s
Omaha Elite 61-36 loss
Howard Pulley 16s 78-48 loss

Don't have full information on the Phenom 17s roster but Irondale guard Sean Sutherlin is one of their top guys.

As to Howard Pulley, they were able to get everybody's feet wet with lots of playing time which means the event serves it purpose.   As expected they go 4 guard around either Theo John or Daniel Oturu.  Pulley's man to man defense was really aggressive getting after people.  Brad Davison knocked down shots and was very good all around all day.  Tre Jones was very good as well.  I really like DJ Hunter for this squad.  A guy who doesn't need shots and can defend multiple spots.  He played his role well as the 5th starter.  Isaac Johnson off the bench has the ability to be good in that role too.  Gary Trent did his usual scoring in limited minutes with the bench seeing extra minutes.  Gabe Kalscheur came off the bench and they ran lots of sets for him.  That results in 6 3s in the 1st game of the day.  Jeremiah Coddon played a lot of point guard off the bench.  But I'd rather see Brad Davison get those back up minutes to allow Coddon to create off the ball and give Davison more time on the ball where's he more comfortable.

The game vs Omaha Elite was a very good test for the Howard Pulley 17s.  Omaha Elite's starting backcourt has offers from Nebraska-Omaha and South Dakota.  Forward Logan Strom has football and basketball offers from South Dakota State.  Center Isaiah Chandler played here in the 2015 Timberwolves Shootout.  He has division 1 upside as well.  So despite losing a player or 2 to Adidas sponsored Chauncey Billups Elite, they're still very talented.  But despite a very quiet game from Gary Trent, Pulley would open a 38-19 halftime lead mainly due to their defense.  The 2nd half they would coast a bit.  Omaha Elite would try to make it interesting with Small and Chandler making plays in the 2nd half but they never got it to single digits.  Pulley would go on to win by 13.

The Pulley 16s have freshmen Courtney Brown (East Ridge) and David Roddy (Breck) starting for them.  This team struggled all day on the offensive end.   Its an athletic group with 3 or 4 good point guards.  However there's no real inside threat and not much shooting.  Matt Todd is in a spot similar to Brad Davison where he's a PG who has the ball all the time and creates for his team in HS but is now playing mostly off the ball (Ryan Larson playing PG).  So expect some time for him to adjust to that role.

The 2016 Grassroots Saga Begins

Its the start of April this weekend and that means its time for another spring and summer of grassroots basketball.  Remember to use the hashtag #AAUBingo on twitter for all the craziness you see.  But remember, all the easy ones are taken.  Jim Rome phone call rules apply, don't ruin it and don't support the low life thief who has the account.  The hashtag is the true #AAUBingo.   If you haven't read it, oh boy have you missed out.

This weekend is NOT a viewing period for college coaches due to the Final 4.  Though this weekend's Minnesota All-Star Series is an exception for the Minnesota NSIC schools if I read the D2 recruiting calendar correctly.  D2 coaches can be out in full force next week and then the following week begins back to back viewing weekends for the D1 coaches.

Here are this week's Minnesota teams in action.

D1 Day (Minneapolis)
D1 Day is at Colin Powell Center on Saturday afternoon and evening.  A chance for the teams to tune up for the Comets tournament next week.  Here are the teams playing there.

Both D1 teams at all 3 top levels
MN Lace Up 16s and 17s
MN Heat has their Sanford league 15U-17U teams playing
East Metro 9th
MN Eagles

Super 16 (Ames, IA)
In Ames, All Iowa Attack hosts one of their many events.  From Minnesota we have both Howard Pulley 15s.  Then we have the 16s and 17s both playing in the top 17s division.  Those teams are scheduled to play each other in the final game on Sunday afternoon, but I would guess that those teams will come home rather than play that one out.

MN Phenom is also represented with a team each in 15U-17U.  Minnesota Rebels 15s are also there.

Swish N Dish (Milwaukee, WI)
Arguably the best non-viewable event we have in the midwest.  Its the NY2LA Swish N Dish in suburban Milwaukee starting Friday night.  Net Gain is listed for 15s, not sure if that's a local crew or not.  Grassroots and Powerhouse Hoops Minnesota (formerly MN Lockdown) are also in the 15s. They could mean in the 2nd round of playoffs.

Powerhouse Hoops MN has 2 teams in the 16U division.  Esko's Adam Trapp will also be there with the loaded WI Playground Warriors 16s.

Jalen Suggs and the Grassroots 17s are super pooled.  Trae Berhow and the Powerhouse Hoops MN 17s ended up just outside that.

And in an unrelated note, the NW MN Tarantulas will begin their trek to the Comets tourney.  Happy April Fools Day.