2019-20 St. Paul City Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 2 begins with a look at the city schools.  That starts with a peek at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2018-19 season 22.7, 12-0 Conference, 1st)
Central loses almost the entire rotation from last year but they'll reload with a JV squad that won the conference last year.  Caron Crowe and Gavin Gothard will man guard spots.  Curtis Favors gives them a solid wing.  Jaelen Thomas is a breakout candidate inside.

Como Park Cougars (2018-19 season 6-21, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
Mike Landers was going to take over after being an assistant with Edina.  He got an assistant AD job at Maranatha.  So now JV coach Donnell Gibson is the head man.  All 3 double figure scorers including 18.8 PPG from guard Josh Ward need to be replaced.  Tyroun Sain provides an option at the point guard spot. Isaiah Long provides length up front.  Soph Jountay Kibble is a young piece to build around.

Harding Knights (2018-19 season 14-11, 8-4 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Assistant Kenny Olafeso takes over for long time coach Dean Keenan.  Point guard Jovan Christian graduated in a tie for the school's all-time scoring record.  Leading scorer Simeon Sharp (18.8 PPG) returns on the wing.  He'll pair with forward Alex Addai (8.7 PPG) to form a nice 1-2 punch for the Knights. No experience coming back beyond those 2 however.

Highland Park Scots (2018-19 season 8-19, 5-7 Conference, 4th)
Jesse McCann takes over the Scots program.  The top 3 scorers depart but 5 juniors and freshman Ishmael Powell saw a ton of time last year so expect much of the same.  Forward Carter Owens averaged 9.4 PPG to lead the returnees.  Joey Kottke averaged 8.8 PPG and Powell put up 5.5 PPG. This group of juniors did play in the Twin Cities freshmen game so that gives the Scots hope.

Humboldt Hawks (2018-19 season 11-16, 4-8 Conference, 5th)
Junior Brian Williams almost doubled his scoring output to 16.8 PPG to lead the Hawks.  Two other double figure scores are back for the mostly intact rotation including the guard duo of Desmond Lugo (12.9 PPG) and A'Kei Pippins (11.6 PPG).  Tom Hobday and Andre Johnson fill in the interior spots.

Johnson Governors (2018-19 season 15-11, 8-4 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Leading scorer Jordan Mobley (11.7 PPG) graduated and freshman DeWayne Givens (11.6 PPG) is now at Minnehaha.  Guard Terrel Turner also graduated.  Larry Harris is the top returning scorer at 10.6 PPG.  4 other underclassmen from last year will see big minutes at guard slots.  That includes Jordan Gaultney, Treyvon Mollette and Julian Borney.  Jeremiah Knox and Daniel Foster will be the interior bangers. 

Washington Eagles (2018-19 season 6-19, 2-10 Conference, 7th)
Center Da'Quan Grimes needs to be replaced.  PG Zaveon Smith (21.6 PPG) and wing Drew White (17.2 PPG) are the offensive spark.  Guard Kshui Harris provides another offensive option.  La'Kendrick Reed (6.4 PPG) will take the power forward spot.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Central 
  2. Johnson
  3. Harding
  4. Humboldt 
  5. Highland Park
  6. Washington
  7. Como Park
Conference Overview:
I'm picking Central here despite the lack of experience.  Still plenty of talent.  Johnson and Harding should hold their spots as well.  Humboldt with all they have back gets the nod.  The bottom 3 are going to struggle.  Washington is far more talented than 6th but last year was a disappointment.  I'm putting them behind a Highland team that they should beat.  Como Park is in a rebuilding year.

Conference MVP: Simeon Sharp - Harding

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Adam Belden, Jaylen Cardenas - Central
  • Jountay Kibble, Amir Plair, Jermaine Walker - Como Park
  • Ishmael Powell - Highland Park
  • Jordan Gaultney - Johnson
Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Central - Jan 10th
  • Central at Johnson - Feb 4th
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 29th (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Croix Prep at Central - Dec 17th
  • Central at Minnehaha - Feb 6th

2019-20 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2018-19 season 26-5, 9-3 Conference, 2nd West)
The Stars were a big improvement story of last season going from 9 wins to 26 wins and a trip to state.  Three double-figure scorers from a very balanced lineup need to be replaced including interior presence Thor Holien (14.5 PPG) and defensive ace Charles Johnson (11 PPG).  Wing Matt Banovetz (14.2 PPG) and star soph guard Emmett Johnson  (13 PPG) return to the starting lineup.  3 members of the 4 man bench mob return as well.  Aaron Engel is one of those and will be a very productive replacement for Holien inside.
 
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2018-19 season 10-17, 4-8 Conference, 5th West)
Justyn Burgess comes over from the Tartan girls to take over a program in major flux.  With Matt McCollister taking the South St. Paul job, there's been an exodus from the program so who knows what's left from last year's youth movement.  2 major pieces of the movement, Maxamus Wilson and De'Mari Larkins are definitely gone.  Ben Wehyee is one of the notable returnees after averaging 5.7 PPG last season.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2018-19 season 10-15, 5-7 Conference, Tie 3rd West)
Coach Willie Braziel has to replace 3 members of his rotation.  That includes forward Jarvis Wright and his 11.3 PPG.  Leading scorer Jordan Jones and his 14 PPG return at the point.  Then you add in the talented sophomore trio of W Muja Burton  (12.3 PPG), F Spencer Alvarez and Jamez Garner.  Elijah Williams (8 PPG) also returns to the rotation.
 
De La Salle Islanders (2018-19 season 27-5, 12-0 Conference, 1st West, AAA State Champs)
De La Salle returned the AAA title to the island last year.  Now they have to replace a pair of 21+ PPG scorers in Tyrell Terry (Stanford) and Jamison Battle (George Washington).  While the offense may not have a clear go to guy, the Islanders reload and will look to make another run.  Seniors Amir Whitlock, Andrew Irvin and Semaj Hart will combine with talented juniors Keijuan White and Cade Haskins on the perimeter.  Those juniors could very well be  their top offensive options. Jalen Travis returns in the middle after almost averaging double figures last year.

Fridley Tigers (2018-19 season 9-17, 5-7 Conference, Tie 3rd West)
New Hall of Fame coach Jim MacDonald needs to replace 5 of his top 6 scorers.  That includes star soph Hassan Kamara (15.8 PPG) who transferred to Osseo.  Lefty guard Isaac Burns (15.4 PPG) will be the focus of the offense.  Junior guards Micah Niewald and Christian Crockett along with soph guard Eli Nelsen will see bigger roles as well.  No real obvious size option to replace Harrison Blum  (6.9 PPG) inside.

Richfield Spartans (2017-18 season 6-21, 1-13 Conference, 8th Metro West)
Richfield will open their Tri-Metro run in rebuilding mode.  They added 5 wins last year and they have some young pieces to build with.  Junior wing Ryan Miles returns after leading the team with 13.7 PPG last year.  Fellow junior Lamar Grayson is also a top scorer for the Spartans.  Junior Isaiah Casey Hammond provides size.  Sophomores Mitchell January at the point and Jaden Wollmuth will be big contributors as well.

St. Anthony Huskies (2018-19 season 13-14, 4-7 Conference, 2nd East)
Chris Satterlie returns to Minnesota to take over the program after coaching in Arizona.  He'll have a small shooting backcourt of Tait Nelson and Max Kachman to build around.  Nelson averaged 20.9 PPG and Kachman 8.9 PPG.  Dylan Manning is another guard who will see time.  Junior Luke Omodt will man the middle.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2018-19 season 15-13, 8-3 Conference, 1st East)
St. Croix Lutheran returns 4 of their top 6 scorers from last season.  That includes the talented perimeter trio of PG Zach Longueville and wings Xavier Garcia and Owen Bushaw.  They combined for 37 PPG last year.  Mert Cula provides defense and another perimeter shooter for this 3 point reliant sharp-shooting squad.  Last year's JV squad will provide solid depth.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. De La Salle
  2. Holy Angels
  3. St. Croix Lutheran 
  4. Columbia Heights
  5. St. Anthony 
  6. Fridley
  7. Brooklyn Center    
  8. Richfield     
Conference MVP: Matt Banovetz - Holy Angels

Conference Overview:
The league is now at a nice even number of 8 teams.  Concordia and St. Agnes moved to the new Skyline Conference.  Richfield joins from the Metro West to make a league that is now almost all AAA schools..  The schedule returns to a standard 1 division round-robin format after being a 2 division setup in recent years.  De La Salle is too deep for the rest and have to be the pick until they are knocked off.  Holy Angels and St. Croix Lutheran will battle not only for 2nd but for the top seed in section 3AAA.  Columbia Heights is another year or 2 away from a high level season but they'll make you work for it.  St. Anthony's solid guards put them in a battle with Fridley for the next spot.  Brooklyn Center and Richfield continue with youth movements and will battle each other to stay out of the cellar.

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Muja Burton, Spencer Alvarez, Jamez Garner - Columbia Heights
  • Eli Nelsen, Daniel Pobuda - Fridley
  • Emmitt Johnson Aidan Smith - Holy Angels 
  • Mitchell January, Jaden Wollmuth, Joe Miller - Richfield
Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 16th
  • Holy Angels at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 21st
  • De La Salle at Holy Angels - Jan 31st
  • St. Croix Lutheran at De La Salle - Feb 11th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Holy Angels - Feb 14th
  • Holy Angels at De La Salle - Feb 25th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle vs Waseca - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park)
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Mound-Westonka - Dec 3rd
  • De La Salle at North St. Paul - Dec 5th
  • De La Salle vs Mankato East - Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Holy Angels at Cristo Rey - Dec 12th
  • De La Salle at Minneapolis North - Jan 7th
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Jan 10th 
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Feb 1st 
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 15th
  • De La Salle at Minnehaha - Feb 22nd

2019-20 IMAC Preview

This is the 4th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series chugs along with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2018-19 season 13-15, 3-6 Conference, 5th)
The Bears 3 amigos, Gabe Ganz, Jasper Liu and Robert Grace all return on the perimeter.   They combined for almost 42 PPG last year.  Soph Theo Liu fills in nicely when 1 of those 3 gets a breather.  Sam Deignan and David Bix also return to the lineup.  Size and depth remain an issue.

Breck Mustangs (2018-19 season 22-6, 7-3 Conference, 2nd)
Tim Sension returns to lead the program after most recently spending time with the St. Louis Park girls.  He had the head job previously from 1996-2002.  He has to replace beast forward David Roddy and his huge numbers.  No double figure scorers return but the cupboard isn't bare.  Junior PG Jaren Morton returns along with wings Andy Ott and Jimmy Koch.  Alex Demaris returns inside.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2018-19 season 29-2, 6-0 Conference, 1st)
The 3 time defending conference and class AA champs once again have an embarrassment of riches.  Isaiah Davis comes in from Apple Valley and soph Chase Carter (son of former Gopher Randy Carter) comes over from Maranatha.  Guard Terry Lockett returns after a year at prep school.  Not to mention the big 3 high-major trio of PG Jalen Suggs (24.2 PPG), SF Prince Aligbe (10.5 PPG) and F Chet Holmgren (18.6 PPG) all returning.  Plus a shooter in soph Donovan Smith and football star Kaden Johnson to do dirty work.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2018-19 season 4-20, 0-9 Conference, 6th)
The Panthers have to replace 2 of their top 3 scorers.  That includes high jumping forward Yahya Madar and 17 PPG.  Junior Jack Paulson is the top returner with 14.9 PPG  Senior guard Shane Fruchterman will provide most of the rest of the scoring.  Austin Lee, Ayoub Mahamoud and Hunter Erickson also return to the rotation.

Providence Academy Lions (2018-19 season 16-12, 6-3 Conference, 3rd)
Ariel McDonald moved on to take the head job at Maranatha so the Lions don't have a coach as of this writing.  7 of the top 8 scorers graduated including forward Mark Richelsen (17.3 PPG) and 2 other double-figure scorers.  Guard Jacob Halek and forward Sean Rocheford are the only 2 returnees that saw significant minutes.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2018-19 season 17-11, 4-5 Conference, 4th)
Kevin Keto takes over the program.  He was recently an assistant at Forest Lake.  Junior guard Adam Holod and his team high 15.7 PPG return to the lineup.  The next 3 scorers, including 2 double figure scorers, need to be replaced.  That includes power forward Ryan Moore.  Liam Will, Alex Herrmann and Griffin Thissen all return to the rotation.  Sophs  Clarke and Brandt Baskerville could step into contributing roles.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Breck
  3. Blake 
  4. St. Paul Academy 
  5. Providence 
  6. Mounds Park Academy 
Conference Overview
Half of the league has new coaches.  As to predictions, everybody is just playing for second here.  Minnehaha arguably the best team in the state regardless of class.  I think that race for second comes down to rivals Blake and Breck.  Call that a coin flip as I can make a case for either here.  Then it progressively drops off.  St. Paul Academy has more back than Providence and Mounds Park Academy will find it hard to match last season.

Conference MVP: Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Theo Liu - Blake
  • Jimmy Koch- Breck
  • Prince Aligbe, Donovan Smith, Chase Carter, DeWayne Givens - Minnehaha
  • Brandt Baskerville, Clarke Baskerville - St. Paul Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Breck at Blake - Jan 7th
  • Blake at Breck - Jan 24th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha vs Cretin-Derham Hall- Dec 7th (Tipoff Clasic at Hopkins)
  • Minnehaha at North St. Paul - Dec 11th
  • Minnehaha at East Ridge - Dec 28th
  • Park Center at Minnehaha - Jan 3rd
  • Sierra Canyon (CA) at Minnehaha - Jan 4th
  • Eden Prairie at Minnehaha - Feb 18th
  • De La Salle at Minnehaha - Feb 22nd
  • Minneapolis North at Minnehaha - Feb 27th

2019-20 Skyline Conference Preview

This is the third preview in my 2019-20 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at brand new Skyline Conference in the east metro.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Concordia Academy Beacons (2018-19 season 11-17, 3-8 Conference, 3rd Tri-Metro East)
Concordia has to replace the front line duo of Barnabas Preble (16 PPG) and Luke Raymond (11.5 PPG).  But they return sharpshooter Aaron TerHaar (12.9 PPG) and guard Essay Hagos (11.6 PPG). Gary Legvold will look to replace the front line minutes lost.  Brandon Bonk returns in the backcourt and junior PG Thomas Ghidey adds depth.

Cristo Rey Jesuit Pumas (2018-19 season 19-8, 12-0 Conference, 1st TCAC D1)
Cristo Rey's high-powered backcourt is back for another season.  Senior PG James Sommer leads way with 23.8 PPG.  Wings Derek and Erick Burgess combined for over 28 PPG.  Most of the front line is gone though including Victory George and center John Williams.  But the backcourt was tops on the team in rebounds anyway.  Expect them to play small and fast.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2018-19 season 23-6, 12-0 Conference, 1st MCAA division)
Former Gopher Ariel McDonald takes over from Providence Academy after Rob Ware moved on to an admin job.  He played a very slow style last year but don't expect that with this group.  Its a team that needs to play fast and create turnovers.  5 seniors plus forward Chase Carter, now at Minnehaha, have to be replaced.  PG Maciah Harut (7.2 PPG) and F Hakim Daniels return to the starting lineup.  Daniels was the team leader in scoring and rebounds last season.(11.3 and 7.9).  Forward Tristan Lee should expand his role into being a double-figure scorer as well.

New Life Academy Eagles (2018-19 season 11-16, 6-8 Conference, 4th MCAA division)
New AD Jed Moseman also takes over the head coaching duties.  Its a logical fit since he has spent time as an assistant at Bethel.  He has plenty to work with since the top 5 scorers all return.  Senior forward Michael Reader averaged 16.4 PPG.  Konner Ware added 13.8 PPG.  Soph wing Kollin Kaemingk will see a significant offensive role as well.  They'll miss the leadership of Colin Quirk at the point.

Nova Classical Academy Knights (2018-19 season 13-13, 8-4 Conference, 2nd TCAC D1)
The 40+ point a night duo of Mathieu LaFrambois and Shae Nelson needs to be replaced.  Junior Jack Monroe is the top returning scorer at 4.7 PPG and nobody else listed at higher than 2.7 PPG.   It will be an inexperienced roster of largely sophomores and juniors building for another season.

St. Agnes Aggies (2018-19 season 8-19, 2-9 Conference, 4th Tri-Metro East)
It could be a rough move to the Skyline for the Aggies.  5 of the top 6 scorers have graduated.  Guard Jacob Brezny will be a main offensive threat after averaging 13.5 PPG last season.  Guard Sam Masek will be eligible after a transfer from Trinity last year.  Jevon Jones is another guard who should see a significant role.  Luke Planmann returns to the lineup after being out last year.

St. Croix Prep Lions (2018-19 season 22-7, 12-2 Conference, 2nd MCAA Division)
The Lions are prepped for another big season.  Lefties Daniel McCarrell and Addison Metcalf combined for 31 points a game.  They can both run the show or be knock down shooters.  Barrett Benson and Zach Doely  (12.2 PPG) provide good size on the front line.  Andrew Howard gives them another option at the guard spots.

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2018-19 season 20-9, 9-5 Conference, 3rd MCAA Division)
Trinity needs to replace all 3 double-figure scorers from last sesaon.  That includes 18.6 PPG from guard Ben Maslow.  Juniors Lewis Gerrity, Ben Erickson and Paul Wessel all return to the rotation.  Senior Isaac Showalter returns to man the middle. Despite the losses, many players return who saw time.  I expect the dropoff to be less than one may expect.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Croix Prep
  2. Cristo Rey
  3. Maranatha  
  4. New Life
  5. Concordia
  6. Trinity 
  7. St. Agnes
  8. Nova Classical
Conference Overview
The new Skyline Conference is to the east metro what the IMAC is to the west metro.  Can we get a Mounds Park for Maranatha trade to save the geography?  The league is top heavy with 3 teams worthy of a top 10 ranking in a deep year in AA.  New Life has a ton coming back and will battle for the top tier with Concordia.  Trinity has too many losses to reach the top tier but could surprise in the middle.  St. Agnes will battle them for 6th and the Aggies did beat Concordia twice last season..  They too could be better than expected.  Nova is in store for a long year.

Conference MVP: Daniel McCarrell - St. Croix Prep

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josh Kirchoff - Concordia
  • Kollin Kaemingk, Max Briggs - New Life
  • Charlie Matthews, Rayan Taha, Spencer Frost - Nova Classical
Conference Games to Watch
  • Maranatha at Cristo Rey - Jan 14th
  • St. Croix Prep at Maranatha - Jan 16th
  • Cristo Rey at St. Croix Prep - Jan 28th
  • Cristo Rey at Maranatha - Feb 4th
  • Maranatha at St. Croix Prep - Feb 11th
  • St. Croix Prep at Cristo Rey - Feb 18th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Holy Angels at Cristo Rey - Dec 12th
  • Minneapolis North at St. Croix Prep - Dec 13th 
  • St. Croix Prep at St. Paul Central - Dec 17th
  • Spectrum at St. Croix Prep - Jan 3rd
  • Maranatha at Minneapolis North - Feb 1st 
  • St. Croix Prep at Hudson (WI) - Feb 25th
  • Maranatha at Minnehaha - Feb 28th

2019-20 MCAA Preview

This is the second preview in my 2019-20 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at the slightly renamed Minnesota Classic Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eagle Ridge Academy Gryphons (2018-19 season 3-22)
The Gryphons join the MCAA after splitting off from their co-op with International School of Minnesota.  Not sure which kids were at which school so we'll treat this all as one though ISM may now be with Chesterton Academy.  Regardless, 2 double figure scorers will have to be replaced including long time offensive spark Preston Dahlen.  Senior Charles Wilkowske is the top returner at just over 9 PPG.  Sophomores Tommy Chevalier and Soren Habel will see expanded roles.

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2018-19 season 9-19, 3-11 Conference, 3rd in Division)
Senior TJ Guggenberger is top returning scorer at 10.8 PPG.  Most of the rest of the starting lineup, including 2 other double figure scorers have to be replaced.  Juniors Ethan Virshek and Steph Sawtelle will make up a small backcourt.  Senior Evan Jacobson provides experience in the backcourt as well.  Junior Jack Wicht gives the Eagles a banger in the post.

Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2018-19 season 9-18, 2-12 Conference, 5th in Division)
Most of last year's roster was underclassmen.  That development project continues this season.  Leading scorer Jordan Sperl is now at Cambridge-Isanti.  Guard Harley Kendall is the top returnee from last year at 8.2 PPG.  Junior guard Jake Wald transfers in from St. Francis after averaging 6.4 PPG there last season.  Seniors Carson Sharp and Primeau Hill are a pair of experienced ball handlers.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2018-19 season 13-13, 7-7 Conference, 2nd in Division)
Last year's season was torpedoed by an early shoulder injury to star Michael Ziermann.  That experience should help them this year.  Leading scorer Evan Lee returns as a double figure scorer.  Dylan Ruzicka will be another primary offensive option.  Alex Heimerl gives the Bulldogs size in the middle.  Frosh Tanner Scheevel will see plenty of time as well.

North Lakes Academy Huskies (2018-19 season 16-11)
North Lakes won 15 of 19 after losing their first 5.  The Huskies have to replace their star forward Cole Donelan.  He was one of the top players in the 2nd division of the TCAC last season.  The rest of the starting lineup returns.  Point guard Ethan Crandell should be a primary option this year.  Alex Ten Napel is another scoring option.  Forward Stephan Ndirangu also returns to the starting lineup along with guard Asher Luebke.

PACT Charter Panthers (2018-19 season 5-22, 2-12 Conference, 5th in Division)
The Panthers return 3 juniors to the starting lineup.  That features 11.9 PPG from wing Jordan Stone.  Tyler Cowden and Gio Santiago return to the backcourt.  Calvin Churchill provides interior size.  Parker Maahs and Matt Johnson are important losses.  Most of the roster will be juniors so look for a year to progress forward toward next year.

Spectrum Sting (2018-19 season 24-5, 12-2 Conference, 1st in Division)
Assistant Justin Femrite takes over after a banner year for the Sting.  He has a big task to replace 4 starters including the high scoring perimeter duo of Matt Kruse and Cole Elrod.  They combined for almost 38 PPG.  Guard Max Lawrence and his 15.8 PPG lead the returnees.  Soph Titus Skistad will see a much expanded role.  Jonathan Gertz is the lone other returner to the rotation.

West Lutheran Warriors (2018-19 season 14-13, 4-10 Conference, 4th in Division)
Bruising power forward Brett Vollrath is a big loss as the 2nd double figure scorer and 2nd best rebounder.  Forward Troy Kokkinen appears poised for a big year after putting up 14.7 PPG and 6.7 PPG last year.  Not much firepower around him though.  Lefty guard Sam Bjorlin appears to be next best option.  Joe Paul provides a size option.  Soph Christian Schmidt saw time in 25 games last year.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity 
  2. Spectrum
  3. West Lutheran
  4. Legacy
  5. PACT
  6. Heritage
  7. North Lakes
  8. Eagle Ridge
Conference Overview
Its a new look in the MCAA this year.  Now that private schools no longer make up a majority of the league (4 charters, 1 public, 3 private), the C in MCAA now is Classic rather Christian.  North Lakes and Eagle Ridge join the league from the TCAC.  Long time members New Life, Trinity and Maranatha plus St. Croix Prep have all departed for the new Skyline Conference.  That at least makes for easier travel with the exception of the long trip to North Lakes in Forest Lake.

Overall its a down year in the league with many teams losing star players.  Despite that being good for the TCAC teams moving in, it won't help them in the standings.  Eagle Ridge and North Lakes have to replace high scoring wings.  Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity has plenty of options coming back so I like them there.  Spectrum with Max Lawrence being my league player of the year takes second.  The next 4 spots I think will be very competitive.  Troy Kokkinen is the best player in the group so West Lutheran gets my pick.  Legacy's guard play gives them the last spot in the top half with a strong push from PACT.  The new members will struggle in their inaugural season in the league.

Conference MVP: Max Lawrence - Spectrum

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Soren Habel, Tommy Chevalier - Eagle Ridge
  • Tanner Scheevel - LP/HT 
  • Josh Schmidt - North Lakes
  • Titus Skistad - Spectrum
  • Christian Schmidt - West Lutheran
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Spectrum - Jan 21st
  • Spectrum at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Feb 14th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Eden Valley-Watkins at Spectrum - Dec 17th
  • Spectrum at St. Croix Prep - Jan 3rd
  • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Mayer Lutheran - Feb 8th
  • Maranatha at Spectrum - Feb 20th

2019-20 EMAC and Independents Preview

This is the first preview in the 2019-2020 season preview series.  This year is the 13th annual edition of this preview series.  Over the next 6 weeks, I'll post 28 previews covering 13 metro area conferences and 14 sections leading up to the start of practice on November 18th .  The previews will be done starting with small schools and working up to the big schools.  That means the Eastern Minnesota Athletic Conference (EMAC) goes first.  Only fitting since I usually start my week with a game from this league.

The league reverts back to its old name and 1 division as it closes the 2 or 3 division TCAC era.  10 teams now make up the EMAC with many of the others going independent.  In this preview, I'll look at newly revamped league plus those local independents with apologies to MSAD and Shattuck-St. Mary's who won't appear here.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Independents

Chesterton Academy Knights  (2018-19 season 14-8)
Most of the roster returns.  Junior posts Mitch Laxen and Landon Ahlquist give the Knights a couple of pieces to build around.  Kolbe Lelemsis returns at a guard spot as well.

CHOF Lions (2018-19 season 23-7)
The Lions lose 2 double figure scorers from last year's state qualifier.  That includes star forward McCaleb Alleman and 17.1 PPG.  Expect returning wing Isaac Collins to fill that role this year after putting up 12.4 PPG last season.  As their biggest player, he'll have to have a big year rebounding as well.  Guards Clay Bluhm and Preston Alleman (13.6 PPG) also return to the starting lineup.  Junior Drake Eckman also returns to the rotation.

High School for Recording Arts Falcons (2018-19 season 14-7)
HSRA loses a ton of high powered offense.  That includes guard Lewis McCaleb and a bunch of other seniors.  Sherman Powell and Cole Foss look to pick up the slack.

Hope Academy Lions (2018-19 season 15-16, 5-7 TCAC D1, 3rd)
Hope lost the section title game last year but the Lions return everybody except for grinder forward Samuel Ojebode.  He was their dirty work guy inside.  6'5" Caleb Hoilien and his 24.9 PPG return to the lineup.  He's a triple-double threat on any given night for this small roster.  They have a bunch of small talented guards to go with him.  That includes soph Elijah Wade (16.5 PPG) and freshman Nehemiah Davis (7.5 PPG).

Kaleidoscope Comets (2018-19 season 8-15)
The Comets return the high scoring duo of senior forward Jacob Donnett and sophomore guard AJ Kargel  They both went for 40+ in the playoff opener at Groves last season.  They return the entire rotation but its young and a major dropoff.  That rotation included 3 8th graders last year. 

Lakes International Language Academy Dragons (2018-19 season 12-14)
LILA moves into its 2nd year of varsity play.  The Dragons return their top player Strom Norcross and post Ethan Maring. 

Lincoln International Eagles (2018-19 season 2-7)
No information available

Metro Schools College Prep (2018-19 season 4-10)
No information available

Minnesota Transitions Wolves (2018-19 season 17-7)
Michael Emery-Minor and Kyriaun Christian combined for over 30 points a game for MTS last year and need to be replaced.  They'll still have firepower with senior guard Lashone Patterson (17.1 PPG) leading the way.  Expect junior Malachi Wilson  (8.3 PPG) to have a much bigger role to help replace the losses. Linday Brown (7.3 PPG) gives them an option on the front line.

Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans (2018-19 season cancelled)
Prairie Seeds had a late coaching resignation last year and couldn't find anyone to replace in time.  That caused the season to be cancelled.  Many of the top players ended up at other locations and had to sit out.  Will they return and will they be eligible are major questions.

EMAC

Academy for Sciences and Agriculture Eagles (2018-19 season 1-18)
The AFSA roster was young again last year so they'll have plenty coming back.  Senior forward Jake Colestock is a piece they'll look to.

Avail Academy Valor (2018-19 season 15-7)
Starting center Hans Dykstra has to be replaced inside but the Valor return everybody else.  Plus the rhino mascot is one of the best around.  Soph wing Josiah Schaap leads the way.  Junior Joey Ritzema also provides scoring.  Junior Josh Kroeze returns to run the point.  The Valor will now play their home games at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

Community of Peace Academy Tigers (2018-19 season 4-22, 2-10 TCAC D1, 6th)
Junior guard Tyrell Green returns after leading the team in scoring at 18.8 PPG.  He can play both guard spots.  The scoring punch from wing GeanCarlos Pujols (17.6 PPG) is the biggest loss.  Soph Osasumwen Ero (5.9 PPG) returns to the front line along with Chris Williams.  Junior Angel Sanchez returns on the wing (7.7 PPG)
 

Groves Academy Griffins (2018-19 season 5-18)
Groves loses their 2 double figure scorers in guard Larry Mohamed and forward Sam Goldstein to graduation.  That's almost 32 PPG that has to be replaced.  Senior Gabe Gordon is the top returning scorer at 9 PPG.  Nick Maiers (7.1 PPG) gives the Griffins a big option inside.  Guard Robert Hall returns to the tiny backcourt as well.

Hiawatha Colliegiate Wolves (2018-19 season 14-8)
The Wolves had a breakout year behind 2 very talented 8th graders.  PG Jessye Lewis averaged 23.2 PPG.  Wing Jaheim Houts averaged 15.6 PPG and still plenty of upside in his game.  Junior Jose Amigon also returns to the starting lineup.  They'll need to find size and replace the scoring of Talib Taylor-Bey (15.1 PPG).

Hmong Academy Warriors (2018-19 season 4-18)
Hmong Academy opened their brand new gym last year.  Minimal wins followed that but they do have a few pieces coming back.

Liberty Classical Academy Lions (2018-19 season 17-7)
Liberty features one of the best 1-2 punches in the league with guard Ben Horn and center Thomas Conroy.  Horn averaged 15.1 PPG and Conroy put up video game numbers of 36 PPG and 10 RPG inside.  2 starters have to be replaced.  The Lions will have to find somebody outside of the big 2 to be a scoring threat.

Math and Science Academy Dragons (2018-19 season 10-14)
Math and Science returns 3 starters and a bunch of reserves.  Seniors Charlie Eng and Jagar Hansen man the front line.  Guard Nate Stephen and soph Dylan Goff return to the backcourt.  Kaden Demer is also a key returner to the rotation.

Twin Cities Academy/Great River Tigers (2018-19 season 12-16, 6-6 TCAC D1, 5th)
Another team with almost everything coming back.  Senior F Akpevwe Avwunuma should have a big year for the Tigers as the top post player in the league.  He's really developed over the last 2 years.  Sophs Carmello and Carrington McNeal return in the backcourt with junior Tre-Vionne Allen. 

United Christian Academy Thunder (2018-19 season 24-27 combined, 7-5 TCAC D1, 4th for Christian Life)
This is the program formed by the merger of Bethany Academy and Christian Life Academy.  They will play out of the Bethany Academy gym  Shooting guard Jacob Kyllo should be the go to guy for the roster after averaging 12 PPG last year.  Junior Zach Corley gives them a big body inside.  Chase Bixel is the top returner from the Bethany side.  Drew Adamek and soph Canyon Johnson provide depth from that group as well.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Twin Cities Academy/Great River
  2. Avail Academy
  3. Liberty Christian Academy
  4. Hiawatha Academy
  5. Community of Peace 
  6. United Christian Academy 
  7. Math and Science 
  8. Groves Academy
  9. Hmong Academy
  10. AFSA
Conference Overview
This could be one of the most competitive conference races around.  With everybody back and playing in the upper division last year, I give TCA/GR the edge. I've bet against TCA in the past, I'm not doing it again.  Having an experienced backcourt, tougher schedule and the top player in the league in my estimation gives them the nod.  Avail, Liberty and Hiawatha all have major pieces back as well and are very evenly matched.  Hiawatha's young guys could push them up the list but they lost to both Avail and Liberty last year. Community of Peace is the most talented team remaining and will look to jump up into the top 4.  Then a notable drop off to the bottom half.  United Christian and Math and Science are the best of the rest.  The bottom 3 is another drop and will all really struggle.

Conference MVP: Akpevwe Avwunuma - Twin Cities Academy/Great River

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josiah Schapp. Josiah Loge  - Avail 
  • Osasumwen Ero - Community of Peace
  • Jessye Lewis, Jaheim Houts - Hiawatha
  • Elijah Wade, Nehemiah Davis - Hope Academy
  • AJ Kargel - Kaleidoscope
  • Dylan Goff - Math and Science 
  • Carmello McNeal, Carrington McNeal - Twin Cities Academy/Great River
  • Canyon Johnson - United Christian Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Liberty at TCA/GR - Dec 10th
  • Hiawatha at Avail - Dec 19th
  • TCA/GR at Avail - Jan 14th
  • Liberty at Hiawatha - Jan 14th
  • Liberty at Avail - Jan 16th  
  • Hiawatha at TCA/GR - Jan 21st
  • TCA/GR at Liberty - Jan 28th
  • Avail at TCA/GR - Jan 30th
  • Hiawatha at Liberty - Jan 31st
  • TCA/GR at Hiawatha - Feb 17th
  • Avail at Liberty - Feb 20th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Rockford at TCA/GR - Dec 5th 
  • Hope vs Rushford-Peterson - Dec 14th (Southside Showcase at Hiawatha)
  • Liberty at Hope  - Feb 24th

Welcome to Czar Season 13

Its a couple weeks late due to my annual visit to Las Vegas happening right after the labor day holiday, but its time for a lucky 13th season.  With the start of a new school year that means we flip the page to a new season for 2019-20.  The usual list of all fall events is now posted on the Fall Hoops page.  That also includes notable local camps/expos/showcases for kids to attend.

The schedule for my annual longest running season preview series in the metro is posted on my Season Previews page. Those previews will begin on October 7th and as always span the 6 weeks leading right up into the 1st week of practice in November.  That link will be in the header menu from now thru the early part of the season.  You can find all 28 previews and when they'll be posted there.  That's where I'll try to make sense of the numerous conference changes this year and the biennial section movement.

15 players from the very talented 2020 class have already committed (behind last year's pace).  That list can be found here.

The list of this season's holiday tournaments can be found here.  As always I'll fill that out with detailed schedules and matchups.as the holidays approach

I've also done all the usual clean up of links.  That includes updating the current recruiting rankings from all the major services.  See that on my Players page.

That cleanup also includes all the links on the left hand side of the main site or for those of you on mobile, check out the Resources page (always 1st in the main menu too).  That includes links to anything and everything you may want to know about Minnesota hoops during the high school or grassroots seasons.  It includes national sites, recruiting calendars, signing dates, records and award winners just to name a few useful things that can be found there.