How the WI Realignment Plan Might Look in MN

There's a very interesting development going on in Wisconsin right now regarding classification.  The WIAA, Wisconsin's version of the MSHSL, is pushing a new plan for realigning sections based on a rural vs urban model.   Here's a good link to read about the particulars.  Basically it says that small schools based in large population areas will be moved up from the 2 smallest divisions (4 and 5) to division 3 while the 2 largest divisions (1 and 2) remain unchanged.  The definition of large urban area is defined by the US Census with a link in the article.  Basically that's an area of more than 25,000 people.  I decided to play around with it a bit and see what it might look like here in Minnesota. 

Here are the rules, I tried to base it on the Wisconsin stuff but 4 classes instead of 5 complicated it.  So I chose the number 300 as a dividing point since I didn't want the smallest schools to move up more than 1 class.

1) Class AAAA remains unchanged.
2) Schools with an enrollment of over 300 and in an urban area will play no lower than class AAA.
3) Schools with an enrollment of under 300 and in an urban area will play in class AA.
4) Enrollment for co-op programs is the combined enrollment of the schools.
5) Enrollment figures are from the MSHSL website but likely doesn't include free lunch calculations or schools who have the ability to opt down.
6) Opt Up schools not included

AAAA retains the same 1195+ range and 64 teams

14 schools were urban and had an enrollment of over 300.  They were moved from class AA to class AAA.  They are (in order of enrollment)
St. Cloud Cathedral
Rochester Lourdes
Charter Stars
St. Paul Academy
St Paul Prep/HSRA
Holy Family Catholic
International School/Eagle Ridge
St. Croix Prep
Minnehaha Academy
Brooklyn Center
Southwest Christian
Providence Academy
Hmong Academy

Class AAA expands to 96 teams in an attempt to balance the enrollments.  That's 8 sections of 12 teams so 4 pigtail games in each which I think would be interesting.  Its the next 82 in enrollment after class AAAA plus the mandated 14 teams above.  The 14 teams above are the smallest in the class with Hmong Academy coming in at 307.  But note they play in section 4A right now, so they would likely be AA after adjustments.  St. Croix Lutheran also moves up but they already opted up for this 2 year cycle.  Note that Brooklyn Center with an enrollment of 336 moves up.  Brooklyn Center is the only public school moved under the plan.  In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee area has a number of smaller public schools that move up to Division 3.

Bloomington Kennedy with a listed enrollment of 1290 (meets AAAA criteria but adjusted to AAA) is the largest school.  Fairmont at 464 is the smallest non-adjusted school in the class.  That compares today to a range of 555-1290.  By comparison, Wisconsin leaves their top 2 classes alone and sees a large disparity in the middle class where all the teams are moved to.

Class AA remains at 128 teams.  Its the next 103 schools by enrollment.  Then 25 teams move up from class A, 18 of those are from the metro area.  Mankato Loyola and Lakeview Christian are 2 other notables that move up.  Hope Lutheran is the bad luck draw here with an enrollment of 27 but being in Winona bumps them up.  On the other end, Milaca is the biggest school with an enrollment of 460.  Rushford-Peterson is the smallest school not forced up with an enrollment of 195.  AA today is a range of 204 - 554.  Wisconsin also ends up with the problem of a very tiny private school facing a public school in the 500 enrollment range.

Class A drops to 138 teams.  Largest school is Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton with an enrollment of 195.  It drops all the way down to Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig at 23.  Ellsworth at 40 is the smallest public.  Note that the class still has private schools, some of them with very good basketball histories.  Central Minnesota Christian, SW MN Christian, Hillcrest Lutheran, New Ulm Cathedral, Minnesota Valley Lutheran and Mayer Lutheran remain in class A because they aren't in a big enough urban area.

Now I'm not advocating for the idea or for the exact way I did it.  The splits in AA and AAA aren't all that appealing.  I did try a version where I moved urban schools over 600 to AAAA with 96 teams.  But that made the split between biggest and smallest in AAA even worse.  My point is discussion as private vs public is an issue that has been around forever.  The WIAA proposal is definitely new and worth evaluation and discussion.  One suggestion is a private school federation.  I find that ironic being I grew up with WISAA (the now defunct private school version of WIAA) in Wisconsin and I always complained that I wanted them to prove them were as good as the public schools so be careful what you wish for.  Another option that has come up is a multiplier value to a private school's enrollment.  The methodology here is probably most similar to the idea of bumping all private schools up a class, another popular suggestion.

Welcome to Czar Season 11

Its that time of year again.  As is tradition here on Labor Day weekend, I move forward to the new school year and another season of high school hoops.  Its my 11th season and I've provided all the usual updates for the 2017-2018 season.  That includes the biennial update of Section Assignments and Section Maps.   We'll dive more into the specific section updates during previews.

The fall basketball schedule including fall leagues and valuable camps can be found here on my Fall Basketball page.  All of the players who have made the choice to play D1 or D2 basketball are listed on my Signings page.  New this year, I'm also including any non-seniors who have made that choice.  I'll move those forward to next season when the time comes.  The Holiday Tournaments page lists out the laundry list of holiday tournaments and who will be playing in them (as far as I know now).  That list will be updated as more teams and schedules become available.

I'll be doing my usual season preview series starting in October.  That will be on the usual schedule of the 6 weeks leading into the start of practice in November with a 2 day MEA break thrown in.  Find out when your conference and section will be previewed on my Season Previews page.  Once again, I'll be doing those in the general order of small schools to large schools.

One major change I've made is the addition of a Resources Page.  This will appear as the 1st option in the menu for folks on mobile devices.  This duplicates all the things you see in the Basketball Links menu on the left side of desktop site but don't appear on a phone.  I've broken that out into 3 major areas, High School Season, AAU Season and Other Sites.  So it has a slightly different feel than the current menu.  Hopefully that makes the multitude of resources that are there easy to use in the mobile world.  Anything that you want to find about Minnesota hoops is likely there. 

2017 Summer Stockraisers

So after watching another season of grassroots hoops here are 10 names that stuck out to me as improving their stock in the recruiting world.  I've limited the list to 17U kids only since that's the vast majority of what I watched.  The names are in no particular order.

Tre Jones - Apple Valley/Howard Pulley
With a very talented point guard class at the national level, where would Tre stand at the end of the season.  Well if you watched the high school season, the end result is no surprise.  He raised his game during the high school season leading the Eagles to a state title.  He continued that momentum into the grassroots season where he repeatedly outplayed his peers.  As has been stated before, you can have any other point guard you want and I'll take my chances (credit Ryan James)

Jarvis Thomas - Orono/Howard Pulley
It was fair to wonder where he would fit in at the start of the season.  After all, with Daniel Oturu already there and Pulley traditionally plays small, how would his minutes turn out?  No questions afterwards.  He hustled and dunked his way up the recruiting charts all season long.  He even showed flashes of a perimeter game.

David Roddy (2019) - Breck/Howard Pulley
Playing up a year didn't hurt Roddy any.  He played a perfect role for the Panthers squad and hit a bunch of big shots.  He definitely progressed faster than expected for a talented Panthers squad.

Joe Hedstrom - Hopkins/Minnesota Comets Lewis
Hedstrom went from being a lower level D1 guy to having Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue following him at different points this season.  He played hard and showed ability to finish in the paint.  And as a biased former coach of his, I'll always say he's more skilled than he appears.

Max Bjorklund - Orono/Minnesota Fury Antl
Bjorklund was the catalyst for the 2nd Fury crew and opened eyes all spring and summer.  He's another guard who took the momentum of a great finish to the high school season and showed it during the spring and summer.  He's a capable ball handler and shot maker.  If there's a vastly underappreciated guy out there, he fits the bill. 

Josiah Strong - Champlin Park/Minnesota Powerhouse Hoops Black
At first glance you wonder is he a 2 stuck in a 1 body.  He proved he too can make big shots and play either guard spot.  Was very impressive in his final game vs EYBL rep Portland BC in Las Vegas.  Played himself into a Missouri-Kansas City offer.  Will get a chance to break out this high school season with all the graduation losses for the Rebels.

Tayler Johnson - Minneapolis North/Grassoots Sizzle
Sizzle was often undermanned on the Under Armour Circuit.  But Johnson did everything he could to keep it from being only the Jalen Suggs show.  He stepped up and became the clear #2 guy for the Sizzle.  His quickness definitely played well on the circuit and he showed he could definitely compete.

Luke Martens - Apple Valley/Minnesota Select Ohnstad
Martens has always been known as a great role player who will defend anybody.  But in Vegas he took his offensive game to another level.  Playing without Beijan Newbern or Christian Dickson, Martens carried the offense in the 1st bracket game and then lit it up for 30 and a buzzer beater on championship day as Select won their bracket

Deaundra Roberson - Columbia Heights/43 Hoops
Roberson definitely helped himself with 43 Hoops this grassroots season.  His athleticism caused fits for opponents all season.  He was definitely the catalyst for his crew.  Its also true during the high school season where the Hylanders will be a team to be reckoned with in class AAA.

Calvin Wishart - Delano/D1 Minnesota
Wishart used his speed very effectively throughout the grassroots season.  That allowed him to be very effective playing on the Adidas circuit.  He looks to have another big season for a dangerous Delano squad in AAA.

Vegas 2017 Part 2 (The Rest)

This is part 2 of my writings on what I saw in Las Vegas during the 2017 recruiting period.  Part 1 was about the Minnesota teams so read that here if you missed it.  In this post, everything else that happened.

Lavar Ball
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the clown show around Lavar and Big Ballers.  I didn't attend the Wednesday night game with Zion Williamson where 80,000+ watched on Facebook and another 3,000 to 4,000 watched in person.  The craziest atmosphere that I can recall in my time covering grassroots hoops.  Fans flocking around his team after each game ended.  Then the whole debacle on Friday where he got a T, had the female official replaced and then forfeited his team after he got another T but wouldn't leave the court.  The national writers have said everything that needs to be said on this and far better so I won't repeat it here.  Shame on Lavar and Adidas for how they both handled it.  Total embarrassment.  Credit to the officials group for backing out of their contract with Adidas.  Part of me is slightly disgusted though that when I did seem them on Thursday he actually behaved himself which seems to more and more rare.  Say what you will about the style of play but I love how they get the ball out of the net and get it to the front court . Either via the pass as a 1st option (super underutilized in today's game) or pushing it hard with the dribble.  After that, the shot selection etc etc leaves much to be desired.

The Other Basketball
Another year like 2015 where Point Guard play was the theme.  I got to see a glimpse of most of top point guards in the country during the week between the 3 events.  That made it clear to me that Tre Jones is the top point guard in the country.  There are scoring point guards (most of the crop) and then floor generals like Jones and Devon Dotson.  Very impressed with both of those generals.  Also impressive, Mac Irvin Fire PG Ayo Dosunmu went off for 40 something in the 3rd place game of Pulley's bracket of The Eight.

Speaking of point guards, when not watching The Eight or The Creators Cup, I took in championship bracket runner up Las Vegas Prospects.  Backup PG Christopher Hawkins is no more than 5'6" but just loved how he got after it on the ball and took FOH Seattle out of their offense. 

Cache Valley of Idaho features one of the top bigs in Idaho in Brayden Parker.  The big bruising forward was dominant in the game against Team 907 of Alaska.  That Team 907 squad knocked out 43 Hoops in the bracket opener to get to this point.  Fun game with a surprisingly athletic Alaska team really getting after it and the fans/bench both being very vocal.  But the big man with the Idaho State offer was just too much.

The championship games of the mini brackets didn't disappoint either.  At The Eight, Team Takeover won the Peach Jam finale rematch with the Oakland Soldiers in a very entertaining game.  Ditto that as the Compton Magic went down to the wire to beat the New England Playaz in the Creators Cup final.  Compton got a couple late freebies from star PG Jules Bernard to hold off D1 in the semis.

The Gambling
Now for the important stuff.  I started my monetary adventures at the Bellagio on Monday night.  It was only after I sat down and started playing that I realized that the table was only paying 6 to 5 for Blackjack.  That's a terrible table when most pay 3 to 2.  Quickly got back to even and got out.  Lost everything for the Tuesday afternoon session.  The regular hotel sessions Monday thru Thursday ended about even.  So down a big number going to the big table on the final night.  Double deck and I couldn't bust.  Poor guy next to me was getting 15 and 16 all night.  Not me as I doubled up and more than made up the early losses to come home a big winner.  Best result ever there and even better cards than 2011 at the Bellagio.

The Hangover
It started on Monday on the strip with sightings of an Austin Powers impersonator and Chewbacca on the way to the Bellagio.  So not only did I break my regular glasses on Thursday morning (so who knows what I actually saw) but after recovering on Sunday from the flight home, somehow I was missing part of a tooth (Chewbacca noise here).  Sad part is I have no idea how.  I had fun but didn't think I had THAT much fun.  No super late nights, just extra good food as I used Tuesday to get some quality Pot Liquor CAS BBQ.  After 5 miles on foot with luggage on my back on Saturday, all I could do is sleep and rehydrate.  Well worth it though to see 5 kids that I once coached.  Spent 3 hours in the dentist's chair getting that fixed to wash away all the winnings.

Vegas 2017 Part 1 (MN Teams)

The annual adventure known as the Las Vegas recruiting period has completed for 2017.  So much to talk about that I'm going to split it into 2 parts.  This post will deal with the Minnesota teams that I saw.  The next post will be the lighter side of the trip and the other hoops I saw.  9 of the top 10 Minnesota 17U teams were in Vegas (WOTN season was done).  I had a chance to see 8 of those teams and saw the game that 43 Hoops would have played in had they won their bracket opener.  So here are my thoughts in order of viewing.

Howard Pulley
Pulley is the one team in this group that I saw twice.  They lost their opener to E1T1 on Wednesday.  Very good use of a soft trap to get the ball out of Tre Jones hands.  That held him to 12 points in that game.  Tre rebounded to outplay LSU commit Javonte Smart in the 5th place game of The 8.  But that was another game where his shot left him.  3-12 FG but ended with 19 points, 6 board and 8 assists.  Gabe Kalscheur combined for 7 triples in those 2 games. David Roddy's hot shooting in game 2 was a big factor.  Jarvis Thomas very active in both games and even knocked down a 3 in each game.  Disappointing end to the tourney with a big loss to NY2LA champ Team Blaze Select and Ohio St commit Musa Jallow.  They finish 2-2.

Grassroots Sizzle
Sizzle played a Wednesday showcase game in the Fab 48 vs 1 Family.  1 Family had a quick turnaround with only 1 session off to cross town after a tough 4 point loss.  Jalen Suggs and 1 Family star Nassir Little both played well but ended up leaving with injuries.  Javonni Bickham and Tayler Johnson would pick up the slack and get THE NATION a win.  Johnson impressive all weekend.  They would beat Belmont Shore in their pool finale to reach the championship bracket.  They lost the opener to Nike South Beach who then forfeited the next game.  That meant a rematch with fellow UA member C2K Elite which they lost.  We'll ignore that since they shouldn't have been in it anyway and on the schedule it shows as a forfeit.  They finish 3-2.

D1 Minnesota
Matt Hurt had a quiet 2nd half in the game I saw vs Compton Magic.  Beyond that though he was terrific.  Race Thompson stepped up in that 2nd half and finished with 23 points.  Calvin Wishart continued to play well at the point guard spot.  D1 would finish 3rd in the Creators Cup by knocking off eventual tourney champion Team Loaded VA.  They lost to the Iowa Barnstormers in the tourney quarterfinals to finish 5-2.

Comets Lewis
The game I saw had the Comets lose a NY2LA league rematch with the WI Swing.  Joe Hedstrom had 15 of his 20 points in the 1st half of the game.  Purdue and Wisconsin 2 big names there to watch him.  Ultimately though, the Swing made big shots in the 2nd half and hung on late.  That put the Comets 2nd in pool play.  They advanced to the semis of the Gold Elite bracket to finish 5-2.

The rest of these 17U games were in Saturday bracket play.  My luggage and I hiked over 4 miles to see these and they didn't disappoint.

Powerhouse Black
Powerhouse won their pool and drew Portland Basketball Club of the EYBL in the 1st round of bracket play.  Portland BC featuring Barrow, AK native and top 50 national player Kamaka Hepa.  Powerhouse played without Jarius Cook who was injured earlier in the tourney.  But the Powerhouse guys didn't care.  After trailing by 7 in the 1st half, they would open up a 12 point second half lead.  Both Gach with a big first half.  Josiah Strong would make big shot after big shot.  Portland BC would rally to tie behind their big guards which Powerhouse had no answer for.  Tie game at the end of regulation, Portland BC trying to give 5 fouls to close the clock out.  Both Gach with a catch and 1 dribble pullup for 3 that he got hit on and its good but waved off.  Dig thru my twitter feed for the video.  Spirit of the call right but easily could have counted for the win.  Hepa would miss late in double OT but Portland BC would put it back for a 60-59 2 OT win.  Both Gach 20 pts and Josiah Strong 17 pts with terrific games.  Nate Hendler with a very good game off the bench as well.  Powerhouse finishes 3-1.

Fury Wilde
Fury took on Griffins, a collection of players including John Stockton's son and coached by none other than Stockton himself.  We get to bingo him immediately for not turning his lineup in to start the game.  You could really see the Utah Jazz influence on his team too.  Hard cuts and UCLA action both shown and were staples of the old Jazz offense.  They also had a really good big guy that Fury had no answer for.  Fury really struggled in this one until late.  But Michael Jones would keep Fury close.  Drew Galinson with a late 3 to make it a 2 possession game and Fury would hang on from there.  Jones with 22, Galinson with 10.  Joey Whitlock 3 big 3s to help do some zone busting for 9.  Fury.  They would lose in the Platinum championship semis to finish 5-1.

Select Ohnstad
Select's bracket day was strange.  They were given a 1st round bye but their opponent sat in the main gym and didn't show up.  Game ends up being a forfeit.  But no time wasted as Select only had to wait another 90 minutes for their next game.  San Antonio GATA played a nasty 1-2-2 matchup and gave Select fits.  Select would make a shot and GATA would have an answer for a 33-20 lead in the 2nd half.  Luke Martens the only Select player able to get any offense to work.  Select would finally start making some shots.  The biggest being by Nick Fulford who buried 3 huge 3s down the stretch.  that brought Select back from 5 down with 3:30 left to 1 up with 1:20 left.  Select would hang on from there to win 51-47.  Luke Martens with 17 in the game.  He would go for 30 and hit a 3 to force overtime on championship day.  Select goes 7-0 and wins their Platinum championship bracket.

Fury Antl
Fury Antl came into Vegas hot but struggled to a 1-2 mark in bracket play.  That means we get the infamous 9 PM game and on Saturday night no less.  A detached auxiliary gym means no air conditioning and no game in the main gym.  Add in a full day of sweaty kids and fans in the gym and you can fill in the rest.  This made the old days under the track at Jefferson during the AAU State Tourney look like a picnic.  Their opponent was the Dallas Razorbacks who have a fun and athletic squad.  Offense in the 1st half very hard to come by with a 16-15 halftime score.  Razorbacks getting only 1 bucket in the last 7:45.  Max Bjorklund carried the Fury offense.  His 3 point play with 1:15 left tied the game.  Fury would get a stop and take timeout with 37.8 left.  Razorback player gets in the Fury huddle while ref is cleaning up a wet spot.  Fans start going nuts about it, kid gets shoved out of the huddle and gets a T.  Fury goes on to win 48-45 with Bjorklund scoring half of those.  Fury Antl would go on to sweep their bracket and win the Copper Elite championship.  They finish 5-2.

Lower Levels
Also have to give mention here to the Heat MacDonald and Heat Bui 16s that I saw play on Thursday night.  Heat MacDonald had no trouble winning their pool and they made a run all the way to their Platinum championship final before losing.  They finish 6-1.  Heat Bui and their Bethel offense was really fun to watch.  We had to invoke the up 50 media must leave mercy rule for their game.  They won a rematch with School Boys to open bracket play.  They lost their Platinum championship semifinal to finish 5-1. 

What I didn't see
43 Hoops 17s swept their pool and lost in 1st round to go 3-1.  D1 16s swept their pool before losing in the 2nd round of bracket play.  They finish 4-1.  Select Jaryan 16s finished 0-4.  Both Fury 16s won their pool but lost in 1st round to finish 3-1.  School Boys also swept their pool before losing to Heat Bui in the 1st round, 3-1 finish. 
D1 15s steamrolled their 3 pool opponents and their 1st bracket opponent before losing in the 2nd round.  They finish 4-1.  43 Hoops 15s started with a win over the Oakland Soldiers but lost their last 3 games for a 1-3 finish.  Fury Zurn won their pool and lost in 1st round for a 3-1 finish.  Select Gaddis 15s finished 2nd in pool and made a run to the Gold Elite championship game before losing.  They finish 5-2.

Thoughts from 2017 GPA

Another quality weekend at the Great Plains Alliance in St. Cloud.  Champioship games in St. Cloud never seem to disappoint and they didn't this weekend either.  We had 2 overtime title games and the other was a tight classic.  Here's some of the notes from what I saw.

Powerhouse Red won the 17U bracket over Comets Lewis in a 70-69 overtime thriller.  Powerhouse rallied from 5 down in the last couple minutes of regulation to force the OT.  Josiah Strong with a couple of big buckets late.  The Comets would get a late hoop but Powerhouse would see Colton Codute go coast to coast to beat the regulation buzzer.  The Comets had 1 last chance in OT but Matt Todd's lane fadeaway at the buzzer was off.

The game was a very fun coaching chess match as 6'10" center Joe Hedstrom for the Comets ended up guarding the 5'10" PG Codute for a significant portion of the game.  Powerhouse would show a Golden State like "death" lineup with Jarius Cook, Josiah Strong, Anthony Davis, Duoth Gach and Michael Schaefer to start the 2nd half.  I was really hoping to see more of that group just for the humor value.  Very logical lineup too as you wouldn't want Hedstrom chasing any of that group around the 3 point line.  But the leadership and defense of Codute is really hard to take off the floor.  Jarius Cook hit a couple of big 3s in the game and as the biggest stockriser on the Powerhouse squad he did not disappoint.

Powerhouse looked like they would steamroll the MN Eagles in the semis.  Schaefer had 25+ thanks to hot shooting before fouling out.  Codute also fouled out and the roof almost caved in.  Powerhouse saw a 25 point lead with 12 minutes left shrink all the way down to 6 with 2:40 left.  But the rally would fall short.

Speaking of rallies and hot shooting, another great game on the weekend in 17s was ECI Prospects vs Wisconsin Shooters.  Preston Maccoux of the Shooters showed a smooth stroke leading the Shooters to a 14 point halftime lead.  ECI would rally to take a late lead.  But a Grant Basile layup and 2 free throws in the last minute would lead the Shooters to the last 8 points of the game and the victory.  Maccoux didn't play on Saturday and the Shooters fell to Select Ohnstad in the quarterfinals.

Credit to WI Playmakers Clark for their performance.  They took Comets Servaty right down to the final 6 seconds on Thursday night before a Jordan Belka 3 did them in.  Then they won a couple of bracket games before falling to Comets Lewis in the quarterfinals.  Speaking of Belka, the Rogers forward is one of the hottest names coming out of the event as he starts to rack up a bunch of D2 offers.

SD Attack won the 15s last year at the GPA and defended that title in 16s with a 77-73 win over Comets Stumpf.  Even more impressive when you consider they did it without star PG Sawyer Schultz (has Augustana offer).  That left Noah Freidel as the main attraction and he did not disappoint.  He made tough shots all weekend and had 36 in the championship game.  Its a fun squad to watch as they execute good offense well, play rock solid defense and don't make mistakes. 

The biggest story of the 16U bracket has to be Wayzata G Jacob Beeninga.  He was fantastic all weekend and finished it with 42 points in the championship game.  The mano-a-mano battle with Friedel in that game will be remembered for a long time. 

Beeninga and White Bear Lake's Sam Schwartz for Heat MacDonald were the leaders for their squads in the semis.  Beeninga had a big first half with 16 of his 22 points and Schwartz brought his crew back in the 2nd half to finish with 19 points.  A late Beeninga steal and free throw would finish the game.  Comets Stumpf won that semifinal 58-55.

WOTN Swedberg lost to the eventual champs in the quarterfinals but won their other 4 games of the weekend.  Lakeville North forward Tate Staloch played well and definitely helped himself.  Fury Zurn played up in the 16s and drew the champs in the round of 16s.  But Fury also won their other 4 games to win the consolation championship.  They knocked off a talented ECI Prospects squad and solid Heat Wright and Real Athletics squads along the way.  ECI's Isaac Undlin was a physical inside presence that caused problems and Mitch Larson showed nice range on his shot over the weekend.

In the 15u bracket, WOTN Davis won the title 68-62 in OT over Comets DLR.  6'8" C Steven Crowl from Eastview looks like he'll be a nice compliment to Tate Machacek on the Lightning frontline.  Add in a shooter like Gabe Bassett from Farmington and forward Reid Gastner from Lake City and you have a nice squad.  They played very well in Sanford League play and extended that here.

Looking back at 10 years

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the creation of this site and my entry in the local high school hoops scene.  Who would have thought this would last this long?  This ride is an amazing roller coaster and you always feel like you're about to fall off.

I've mellowed and slowed down over the past few years or should I say I do a better job of picking my spots.  But there's a been a ton I've seen.  Over 1000 high school varsity games plus countless other lower level and AAU games.  That means I've had tons of concessions food and thousands of ounces of beverages and heard more current music than I would like.  Here are some of the things that stick out in no particular order.

The Food and Beverages: This started as space filler at the start of a post.  Then it grew and now some of you (you know who you are) only read that section.  Yes the numbers are preposterous, but is it really that interesting?  Who knew?  You can ponder that while you ignore the rest of this piece.

Locations: When I first started this, I was shocked by the total number of schools in the metro.  Now I look back at the places I've been where you can't normally see a game.  There are closed schools like St. Bernard's, Concordia-Bloomington, Minneapolis Central and the original St. Paul Washington.  Then there are places that have built new gyms like Mounds Park Academy, St. Thomas Academy, St. Agnes and the University of St. Thomas.  Not to mention the places that had rare games or don't hold them anymore like the 2008 state tournament using Mariucci Arena because of a robotics event at Williams Arena.  While we're at the U of M how about the old section final doubleheaders at the Sports Pavilion.  Then there was Osseo Junior High coming into play when Maple Grove's gym got flooded.  ESPN's use of the big gym at CDH for a Joe Mauer event forced a game to the small upstairs gym.  Even a concert taking over the Orono main gym and forcing the Spartans next door to the middle school for a season opener.

The Officials:  It started as a harmless way for me to remember these guys.  Then Lithgow got out of hand.  Before you know it, he's working a game at Breck with another official who demanded a nickname on the spot.  Hence The Nutty Professor was born.  Other nicknames came along like The Rev, Billy Crystal and the JMOA.  But I've only gotten to use Mr. Roboto once which is a huge disappointment.

Best Team: Hopkins 2009 class AAAA state champions
This one was easy.  PG Marcus Williams (NDSU FB and NY Jets), Trent Lockett (Az St and Marquette), Ray Cowels (Santa Clara), Mike Broghammer (Notre Dame) and Mr Basketball Royce White (MN and Iowa State) was the starting 5.  DJ Peterson (La Salle) and Marvin Singleton (UNI) came off the bench.  Freshman PG Siyani Chambers (Harvard) and soph Joe Coleman (Minnesota/St. Mary's) were also on that team.  Both would go on to win the Mr Basketball award (2011 and 2012 respectively) but didn't play many critical minutes that year.  So that's 9 kids who played at a mid-major level or above.  Scary talent level.

On a side note about the 2009 class, remember this.  Nate Wolters and Mike Muscala have seen NBA time and didn't make the Mr. Basketball final 5 that year.  Wolters not making it was almost criminal.  That class and the class of 2017 absolutely stacked with talent.

Best Game: Dec 12, 2008  Hopkins at St. Bernard's (what I said then)
Its only fitting that the 2008-2009 Hopkins team is here.  They played 2 single digit games all season and this was the closest of them.  St. Bernard's was the consensus top team in AA that season and ended up going up 28-4 and losing to Pelican Rapids in the state title game.  Coach Ed Cassidy had a loaded roster of his own and this game was as big as any.  Then you add in the tiny gym at Bernard's with people crammed in for the atmosphere and you have a game for the ages.   Jordair Jett and Royce White going head to head was something to behold.  A tie game with 7 minutes to play before Hopkins hung on.

Some other games that deserve mention here.
  • Hopkins winning the 2014 AAAA title in 4 OT over Shakopee thanks to a 3/4 court heave from Amir Coffey as Hopkins held the ball for 3 of the 4 overtimes against the Shakopee zone. That shot was from right in front of my position on press row and is still incredible.
  • 2012 State championship night.  Ian Theisen from the baseline in front of me to give Osseo the AAAA title over Lakeville North.  That was after De La Salle went full court after a bucket with no time out and got a Ross Barker buzzer beater to defeat Washburn.  That was the 1st in the string of their current 6 straight AAA titles.  
  • Southwest with the February 8, 2013 buzzer beater against South.  That home win was needed as the Minneapolis City ended up in a 3 way tie between South, Southwest and Washburn.  Southwest would go to the Twin Cities Game for the 1st time in 30 years and for only the 2nd time.  While they were only 15-13 that season and lost to Johnson in that Twin Cities Game, it was a landmark moment for a program that has long struggled in the league.
  • March 6, 2014 Cretin-Derham Hall ends the Tyus Jones era.   This was the 3AAAA section final in 2014 with Tyus Jones and Apple Valley trying to defend a state title.  A full house, intense double OT game and a major upset.
  • The Blake Hoffarber shot at state vs Eastview was before my time.  I didn't attend the 2007 final between Buffalo and Robbinsdale Armstrong but the shooting and ovation from the crowd is still worth watching.
Best Atmosphere:  That Hopkins at St. Bernard's game was great but I want to mention Dec 7, 2013, De La Salle vs Apple Valley boys in the 2013 Girls Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins.   Both teams were ranked number 1 and arguably the top 2 teams in the state.  While the game lost some luster because Reid Travis was out due to injury, the interest in the game was still crazy.  I wrote about it here.

Scoring Records:  Its crazy to think that the boys scoring record has been broken 3 times during these 10 years.  Cody Schilling broke it in the state tourney quarters at Mariucci Arena in 2008.  Anders Broman set the current record in December 2012 at the Hibbing Holiday Tournament.  Then there was January 25th, 2010 when Kevin Noreen of MTS broke the record in a game at Roosevelt.  I feel the same way now as I did then about how the record was treated differently for Kevin than others.  The Red Star drooled over Schilling sending then writer John Millea (now the designed scribe for the MSHSL) down to Ellsworth for a big feature.  Broman's record was heavily followed.  But on Noreen's night, nobody showed up besides me and Steve Froemming.   That's sad.  Not to mention The Red Star had a hatchet piece ready to go that was posted almost instantly after the game ended.  With the whole LaMelo, Lonzo, Lavar Ball mess going on today, it draws a striking parallel for me.  Many people had issues with Kevin's dad and/or MTS coach John Sherman for whatever reason.  While they may not have been saints, many took that out on Kevin which is a shame.  Kevin is a great person who never wanted the spotlight and he deserved much better.

Most Unintentionally Funny Headline Ever:   January 12, 2012 Hooker reaches a milestone.
I write lame post titles all the time which are usual sad plays on words.  Some actually work out well like "Ponies mash the Spuds" from November 27, 2015.  Most don't.  But the post in question was completely unintentional.  Park Center star Quentin Hooker who had a very nice career at North Dakota is the subject of the post.  He reached his 1000th career point during the game.  So the title is innocent enough.  But if you don't know the player in question or have a humorous point of view, the prostitution angle to this adds an entirely different spin to it.  This generated a lot of good laughs all from an innocent attempt to acknowledge a milestone.
The Changing of the AAU Landscape
Once upon a time, we had actual AAU qualifiers and a state tournament.  There was only 1 shoe program not 3.  Almost every major event was held at Bloomington Jefferson (Magic spring tourney, State AAU tourney, Howard Pulley tourney).  Then AAU went away and the shoe programs came along.  Magic is still trying to rebuild.  Glory fell off the map (RIP Charlie Paxson) while many other programs like Comets, Fury, Heat, WOTN etc all took a step up.  More and more Minnesota players are playing.  More and more players are seeing success and scholarships.  Great to see it take a big step forward.  I've seen tournaments in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Iowa and of course Las Vegas where its a different world.  But our teams definitely hold their own.  And what would AAU be without Twitter and #AAUBingo.  That adds another level of fun to watching the circuit.