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.

2016 State Wrap Up

Thoughts from the semifinal and finals rounds of the 2016 state tourney.

Class A
No shock that Minneapolis North ended winning the title.  Their 21 point win over Red Lake in the semis was their closest game in their playoff wins.The expectations were incredibly high for this team and after a couple of years of not reaching those, they achieved all those goals this season (twin cities game, section and state).  But watching them after the game, it almost seemed like more of a relief than anything.  Even Larry McKenzie's hugs of his seniors when he pulled them out looked somewhat staged and awkward and he's definitely aware of style points.  That a sad statement considering they would have been vilified had they not won it all in this convincing fashion  Maybe my expectations were crazy and maybe the celebration at the school afterwards was more in line, just saying it didn't appear that way in real time.

But in the final it almost didn't look that way.  North jumped out to a 15-2 lead as they attacked the rim at will.  But Goodhue would finish the half on a 24-10 run as North relaxed.  That would give the Wildcats an improbable 26-25 lead at the half.  Larry McKenzie with a great adjustment at halftime going to a 1-2-2 zone for the 2nd half.  After only 5 turnovers in the 1st half for Goodhue, they turned it over 14 times in the 2nd half.  Patrick Dembley and Issac Johnson stepped up big in the 2nd half and North went on to the 68-45 win.

Class AA
OK Braham folks, I got this one wrong.  I thought the size of St. Croix Lutheran would be too much and Braham's guard play ended up being terrific and the difference in the AA tourney.  MN-Moorhead commit Chris Olson with 23,24 and 33 points to lead the Bombers to the title.  Soph PG Ryan Larson with 22 and 28 points in the final 28 games from the other guard spot.  John Larson with 3 solid games as well. Jackson County Central's Bodey Behrends will attend Augustana and he had a big tourney as well to lead the Huskies to the title game.  16 Pts, 12 boards and 9 blocks in the championship game, 20 pts, 8 rebs and 7 blocks in the semis and the 20, 17 and 5 blocks game vs Caledonia in the quarters.  Jackson County Central was down 24 late in the 1st half, but the shooting came on and they rallied to within 5.  They had a layup to cut it to 3 that didn't fall with about 3 minutes left and that would have made it very interesting.

Class AAA
Its a record 5th straight title for DeLaSalle.  Gabe Kalscheur with a clutch title game of 27 points.  But early on it was an Austin McGeheran 3 and 2 more bombs from frosh Tyrell Terry off the bench that kept Fergus Falls at bay.  Fergus Falls moved the ball well early for a couple of open 3s and a couple of back doors before DeLaSalle clamped down.  Goanar Mar was quiet in the title game, but had 2 high level games before that with teams holding Kalscheur down.

But maybe the 1 extra thing everyone will remember is the twitter storm over Samm Jones' post game TV interview.  Side note on some of the outstate teams on the Islanders schedule.  The Atascocita (TX) team that beat them was undefeated until losing in the Texas 6A title game.  Sioux Falls Washington is the 1 seed in the South Dakota AA tourney and La Crosse Central is in the final 4 of the Wisconsin D2 tourney.

Class AAAA
Osseo loses in the semis and the 3rd place game for their only 2 losses of the season.  The team concept was amazing for them but not having a high level go to guy like the other semifinalists showed up on the big stage.  Ultimately soph guard Zach Theisen never did recover from the nasty ankle sprain in the final regular season game.  He played only 6 minutes the whole tourney and only 1 of those in the last 2 games.  That was a huge missing piece for the Orioles as most of their sets had him as an option.

Apple Valley vs Hopkins in the semifinals was a huge letdown.  I would have expected Apple Valley to be thru the roof motivated for this one after losing to Hopkins in December.  But Hopkins jumped on them right from the opening tip for a double figure lead.  Apple Valley would rally to within 1 at the half   Hopkins ran away in the second half for a 24 point win.  Gary Trent 9-28 and the team had 5 assists on 23 field goals.  Tre Jones a very surprising 8 turnovers.  Just not the same Apple Valley team that was dominant all season.  Amir Coffey 16 and 8 in that game and 24 points from Xavier Johnson. 

Lakeville North's Nate Reuvers with a high level tournament and he earned a Minnesota offer from it.  His 17 pts, 9 rebs and 5 blocks were a major difference in the semis.  I would have liked to see him get the ball with the ability to work off the dribble in the final.  In earlier games, they'd station him at the foul line where he could pop and turn and face.  He spent more time in the post and that wasn't successful.  North's main story though was guard Nick Fossey.  He made critical hustle plays all tourney and was the "Where did he come from?" guy of the tourney.

Lakeville North was up 5 in the 2nd half of the title game vs Hopkins.  But a 15-0 Hopkins run would ultimately be the difference.  Lakeville North would cut the 10 point margin to 4 late but never did recover.  Vinnie Shahid with 6 straight points in the last minute (2 FTs, steal for 2 and another layup) to seal the championship for Hopkins.  His defense helped force 13 Lakeville North turnovers in the 2nd half.  Those turnovers were the catalyst for the game deciding run.   Very surprised at his lack of college interest. 

Year Wrap
And so it ends, 9 seasons online are now in the books.  Its another personal record for total games seen this year with 155 total varsity games.  Number of boys games is 5 short due to more boys and girls doubleheaders this season.  The final counts are included for your amusement.

Number of Teams I've Seen: 177 (66 courts, 2 new, 2 TV games, 155 varsity games)
Fire Marshal Sightings: 1

Beverage Ticker: 950 ounces (8540 calories) + 9.7 liters (1370 calories)

  • Pepsi: 432 ounces (4850 Calories) + 2 liters (840 Calories)
  • Diet Pepsi: 20 ounces (0 Calories)
  • Coke: 92 ounces (1080 Calories)+ 500 ml (200 Calories)
  • Dr Pepper: 60 ounces (750 Calories) 
  • Mug Root Beer: 40 ounces (520 Calories)
  • Sprite: 76 ounces (900 Calories) + 500 ml (200 Calories)
  • Water: 6.2 Liters + 200 ounces (0 Calories)
  • Gatorade: 500 ml (40 Calories) + 40 oz (160 calories)
  • Powerade: 20 oz (130 Calories)
Hot Dog Ticker: 20
Pizza Ticker: 16
Walking Taco Ticker: 12
Pork Sandwich Ticker: 6

2016 State Tourney Day 1 Thoughts

Day 1 of the 2016 State Tournament has concluded.  I attended the Target Center night session.  Here are some thoughts from the 2 games I saw plus the rest of the day.

No surprises at Target Center in AA or AAAA.  Apple Valley and Hopkins rolled thru their games in the bottom half.  Osseo beat Eden Prairie earlier in the year and won again.  I wasn't surprised that Lakeville North knocked off Maple Grove.  North being there for the 5th straight year and no Tywhon Pickford were part of that reasoning.  But also I didn't like the matchup for Maple Grove for who would guard Nate Reuvers and/or Carter Brooks. 

That sets up a pair of dynamite Thursday night semifinals with undefeated Osseo taking on Lakeville North.  Then its the highly anticipated rematch of Hopkins and Apple Valley.  That will be off the charts.  Amir Coffey took a nasty spill in their game.  Hopefully he's 100% for another mano-a-mano matchup with Gary Trent.  No fire marshal required for this one thankfully.  Enough seats for all.

In AA at Target Center, St. Croix Lutheran's big 3 went nuts against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Aage Rovney with 6 3s and 22 points in the 1st half as the Crusaders ran away and hid.   They roll 86-51 with the big 3 going for 69 points and 18 rebs on 27-37 shooting.  Braham did their part in the other game by knocking off Maple River 67-58. Chris Olson with 23 points and 3 3s for Braham. John Larson added 19 points and 12 boards.

That means we get another main gym at the Tipoff Classic rematch.  The 1st game was a tale of 2 halves.  St. Croix Lutheran looked as awful as they could during the 1st half.  Braham opened up a 42-33 halftime lead.  Then St. Croix Lutheran turned the tables in the 2nd half with a 28-4 run to get started.  They went on to win by 11.  But a team that lives and dies by the 3 trying to shoot in the Target Center is a dicey proposition.  Especially against a team that has the ability to get easy buckets inside.  I like St. Croix Lutheran in that rematch.

Meanwhile over at Williams Arena, the top 3 seeds are thru plus 5 seed Monticello knocks off Chisago Lakes.  De La Salle trying to hold down Matt Todd will be very interesting.  Red Wing's stifling defense against the great ball movement and shooting of Fergus Falls is a great contrast of styles.   Those 2 are the afternoon session at Target Center.

In AA at Williams, it was all about poor shooting. 2 seed Caledonia is out after shooting 9-41 from 3.  That's despite getting 28 more shots than Jackson County Central.  JCC turned it over 25 times and gave up 21 offensive rebounds.  JCC only took 47 shots total.  Annandale knocked off Esko 52-40 in the other game.  The teams combined to shoot 4-33 from 3.  That keeps us from getting the Bodey Behrends (20 and 17 tonight) vs Adam Trapp inside.  Also not on the semifinal list Owen King vs Jaxson Turner which would have been a fun guard matchup.  Annandale won't wow you but they play a playoff style and the coaching staff has been here. 

Finally, Class A tips off their quarterfinals tomorrow.  I wonder if anybody goes to a stall against Minneapolis North.  The thought of Hopkins vs St. Cloud Tech with Nate Wolters comes to mind if Browerville and North play in round 2 (Star PG Bryce Irsfeld playing the Nate Wolters role for Browerville).  Imagine the partisan North crowd (who you know will be out in force) going nuts at Target Center on Friday afternoon if that would happen.  Quality television there from that passionate fan base.

2016 Mr Basketball Final 5 Commentary

The 5 finalists for the 2016 Mr Basketball award have been announced.

Amir Coffey - Hopkins
Michael Hurt - Rochester John Marshall
Steffon Mitchell - Shakopee
Johnny Beeninga - Wayzata
Brock Bertram - Apple Valley

Czar's Thoughts
The first 3 were obvious and no surprise.  Everyone expected those 3 to be there before the season started.  Beeninga was the catalyst for a Wayzata team that knocked off Hopkins during the season.  Bertram with solid numbers on a loaded Apple Valley squad.  He could leave averaging a double double with 3 state titles.  Remember the committee likes career accolades.  So there's a case to be made for everybody on the list.

Ade Murkey of St. Croix Lutheran was a no brainer choice for me.  22 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast and 2 steals a game.  That was on a team that lost only to Wayzata and by 5 at Minneapolis North.  Plus they had wins over state qualifiers De La Salle, Waseca, Braham, St. Clair, Fridley and Maple River.  Not to mention wins over Minnehaha (x2), Battle Lake (section finalist) and Waverly-Shell Rock (IA).  In those big games Murkey averaged 23.3, 11.5 and 4.6, so he didn't just beat up on the weaker Tri-Metro half of the schedule.  Top guy for the top team in AA, getting some D1 interest, played well in the big games and his team is at state.  So that's the only player I think who can legitimately complain.

Other guys of interest.  Nate Albers of Mounds View who averaged 25 a night and almost willed his team to state.  Nick Dufault carried Waseca to state.  That Waseca vs Marshall section final game is one of the exciting section finals ever.  Tyler Johnson at Minneapolis North with a solid season.  But remember Wayzata not only beat North and St. Croix Lutheran but did it handly.  Amar Miller with many large individual performances but as a team Minnetonka was just over .500 and arguably were a disappointment.  As to other non-metro guys, nobody had the major standout season to force their way on.  That would be guys like Cole Dahl from Northern Freeze, Travis Toivonen at Red Wing, Luke Harris at Northfield.

Ultimately though its splitting hairs because the top 3 were always the real 3 contenders for the award.  The other 2 spots are just filler.  With Hurt and Mitchell done and Coffey still playing, I think it be a major surprise if Coffey doesn't win it.

The full history of the award including semifinalist can be found on my Mr Basketball page.