2009 Magic Invite Preview

The 2009 Magic Invite is this weekend at Kennedy. Here's a quick look.

6 teams in the tourney with Magic Black highlighting the list out of Pool A. David Michaelson and the Magic Blue squad look like the class of Pool B. Magic Black the favorite here to win it all.

5 team round robin tourney here. EOTO, Wear Out The Net, MN Wrath, Magic and Grassroots are the teams here. This looks like it could be interesting but I like WOTN after their impressive performance at the Pump N Run tourney last weekend.

Also a 5 team round robin. Don't know if Magic Knutsen (sp?) is in this one or not, if they are that's very interesting. Otherwise Heat Elite steamroll through it. List of teams is Magic Red, Magic Gold, Heat Elite, EOTO and Metro Elite.

2009 MN Select Classic Preview

The pools for the 2009 MN Select Classic are out. Here are my thoughts

15U Pools
Pool A has MN Southside as my favorite with the Dakota Schoolers 15s, TC Elite White and Tri-City Bulldogs. Tri-City's talent can jump up and bite you at any time though.

Pool B has MN Select, MN Heat Select, Comets White and 43 Hoops. Don't know which 43 Hoops squad this is, but the Daniels squad or Gameli squad would have to be favored here.

Pool C TC Elite Black coming off a win at the Twin City Spring Jam and a good Comets Blue team, Midtown Kings and the Dakota Schoolers 14s are here. Tough to pick but I'll go with the top Comets club.

Quarterfinal winners: MN Southside, Comets Blue, 43 Hoops and TC Elite Black
Semifinals: MN Southside over Comets Blue, 43 Hoops over TC Elite Black.
Championship: 43 Hoops over MN Southside

16U Pools
In Pool A, TC Elite, MSB, 43 Hoops 2nd team, Comets 2nd team and P-Town. Last place finisher doesn't make the brackets. Give me 43 Hoops II to come out of here.

In Pool B, MN Select, TNL, MN Heat Elite and Wizard's Den. Heat Elite have to be the favorite here but this pool is no cakewalk. TNL won the 16U Twin City Spring Jam and the Select Team is no picnic to play against.

Straight 8 team bracket here.
Quarterfinal winners: 43 Hoops II over Wizard's Den, MN Select over TC Elite, MSB over TNL, Heat Elite over Comets II.
Semifinal winners: 43 Hoops II over MN Select, Heat Elite over MSB
Championship: Heat Elite over 43 Hoops II

17U Pools
Pool A: 43 Hoops II is here with Select-James, Prior Lake and Comets Blue. Have to take 43 Hoops II here.

Pool B: The top 43 Hoops 16s of Chris Carr are here. MN Heat Elite, Triple Threat and Comets North also in the pool. Top pool game of the weekend is Heat Elite vs 43 Hoops at 6:20 on Saturday night. Remember that the top kids from that Heat Elite team played for 43 Hoops last year (Duxbury, Brown, Quicksell, Franklin). Should be a great game of size and experience vs athletes and depth. I'll take 43 Hoops here.

Pool C: 94 Ft of Game, MN Select-Kruger and Redhawks are here. The 4th team is TBD, but could it be Al Harris's 43 Hoops team? That would be big. Redhawks are the team to beat here.

Quarterfinal winners: 43 Hoops II, Redhawks unless 43 Hoops Harris is here, 43 Hoops Carr, Select-Kruger or Redhawks (if 43 Hoops Harris attends).
Semifinal winners: Redhawks or 43 Hoops Harris over 43 Hoops Hemmingsen, 43 Hoops Carr over Redhawks or MN Select-Kruger
Championship: 43 Hoops Carr or 43 Hoops Harris

2009 Pump N Run Showcase Championships

To championship day at the 2009 Pump N Run Showcase, here's what I saw.

15U Bracket Games
A big quarterfinal between MN Southside and MN Heat Elite. Joey King with 7 in a row to start the game for Southside. The Heat took a 3 point lead to the half but gave up the 1st 10 of the 2nd half and got out to an 18 point lead with 9 minutes left. 26-5 to start the half. King puts up somewhere in the vicinity of 20 points in a 70-55 win. WI Swing-Litscher was up 8 at halftime with the Heat Select group cutting it to 3 with 6:40 left but the Swing hold on 61-50. Pump N Run rolls over Fury 68-33. IA Barnstormers roll 75-43 in the same half.

Pump N Run and WI Swing-Litscher win the semis. Swing-Litscher wins the 15U title 55-47 over Pump N Run in a game that was close throughout.

16U Bracket Games
In the 16U Quarters, Playmakers vs Pump N Run was the big attraction. Pump N Run tried to bully the Playmakers early and got out to a 10-3 lead. Then the Playmakers went to a passing lane 2-3 zone and Pump N Run really had no good answer for it. While the Heat attacked it successfully with penetration down the middle on Saturday, PNR tried to go conventional 1-3-1 high low offense against it, but without a scorer at the high post and guys in the passing lanes, they had trouble scoring as it took Jonah Travis and Alex Richter out of the game. Meanwhile the Playmakers lit it up from 3 with Paul Jesperson being quiet again. 30-26 Playmakers at the half. PNR slowly comes back behind Mike Yahnke inside and an Alex Kreuser triple at 3:40 ties the game at 49. 1:39 to go timeout still tied at 49. Playmakers go man (remember this). Travis promptly to the basket and he makes 1 of 2 FTs. Connor Miller was huge in this one and he drives for a 51-50 Playmakers lead. Richter walks with :28 seconds left. Miller 1 of 2 FTs. Travis fouled with 12 seconds left and he makes both ends of the bonus and we'll go to OT tied at 52 as Aaron Ziman strips Miller right before the buzzer.

Ethan Petrill reverses for a the 1st bucket of the OT. Playmakers miss but Ziman with a drive and bad shot with 40 seconds to play gives the Playmakers life. Jesperson fouled with 16 seconds left for 2 FTs and the 1st is in and out. Ziman with 2 freebies and PNR holds on 56-53 in OT in a great game. Jesperson 11 points but only 2 FGs. Nice defensive work by Alex Richter on him. Connor Miller with 19 points. Why did Coach Jesperson not go back to the zone in the last 1:30 of regulation and OT? I'm throughly baffled by that. Madison Spartans won their quarterfinal big 72-48 over IA Mavs Blue. IA Barnstormers won their quarterfinal big. Wear Out The Net (WOTN) won 64-54 over Heat Elite who were down to 3 guys in the last couple of minutes due to foul outs after being down 20.

In the semis, IA Barnstormers won 83-75 after being down 4 with 11:30 to play to WOTN. Pump N Run was down 19-13 at the break to the Madison Spartans. Alex Richter with a bucket at 8:13 and PNR was back on top 28-27. Then a pair of strange T's on the PNR bench with 6:25 to go but the Spartans only make 2 of the 4 FTs and Ziman takes a miss the other way for a 32-31 PNR lead with 5:50 left. The Spartans can't throw in the ocean after that as they get outscored 18-1 after the technicals. 48-32 Pump N Run wins. Nimrod Hilliard with a couple of sick crossovers in the game, but like Alex Vogel on Saturday couldn't finish at the rim against the trees.

In the championship game, IA Barnstormers vs PNR. 25 all at half, 37 all with 10 minutes left in a very entertaining game. Pump N Run wins the 16U title 62-54.

17U Bracket Games
In the 17U quarters, the IA Barnstormers broke a 62 all tie with 6:30 to go for a 84-75 win over the WI Force. Redhawks won a close one over the Fox Valley Storm 58-47. WI Swing-Selk roll 79-62 as they quickly busted open a game vs Fury Elite that was very close at about 20 all in the 1st half for a 49-28 halftime lead. Pump N Run rolled over Big Game Sports 67-47.

In the Semis, Pump N Run steamrolled the IA Barnstormers 79-43. WI Swing Selk vs Redhawks was very competitive. They win 69-55 but it was as 8 point game with 2 minutes left.

We get the expected high profile championship game between WI Swing Selk and Pump N Run. Marquis Mason with 2 quick fouls and he gets an extended rest for the Swing. He's back later in the half. A 7-0 gives Swing the lead and they go to the half up 34-27. Josh Gasser leads the Swing with 11 points. Chip Rank with 6 points and he's much quicker than you think and not a good matchup for PNR. Steve Tecker and Kevin Noreen with 8 points each, Carlos Emory with 7 points.

Mason is a beast on the other end who can't be guarded either. Emory can't handle him on the block and he eats Noreen for lunch. He's also swatting anything inside away on the other end as he had at least a half dozen blocks in the game. Emory hot with 3 triples to start the half (a part of his game that everyone gives him as something to work on) and we're tied at 40 with 12:25 left. Emory then goes down the right wing gets a feed and totally posterizes Mason with a massive dunk at 9:30. Mason can't guard Noreen on the other end though. 54-48 PNR on a nice Noreen rip thru and drive with 3 minutes left. Gasser with 4 FTs around a Noreen turnover to cut it to 2 with 2:08 left. Mason goes 0-2 from the stripe with 1:26 left and Gasser misses a 3 with 1:10 left. Jonathon Crockett misses a front end with 1:02 left. Mason 1 of 2 with 53 seconds left to foul Noreen out of the game. Aaron Anderson fouled with 49 seconds left and makes both ends of the bonus. Then it gets wild. Gasser blocked by Emory, Rank misses a 3 that Mason grabs and then Rank from the left wing for 3 and we're tied at 56 with 24 seconds left. Dyami Starks misses a 3 at the horn and we'll play OT.

In the OT, Rank gets a good look after setting a backscreen for Mason (play for a dunk). No good with 1:45 left and PNR holds the ball. Wow. With 5 seconds left, Mason gambles for a steal and fouls Crockett at halfcourt. Crockett with 1 of 2 and on the 2nd miss, Timeout Swing with 3 seconds left. They look for Gasser curling long but the pass is right to Anderson at halfcourt. He gets fouled with 2 seconds left and makes both. PNR intercepts another inbounds and Anderson tacks on 1 more FT for an exciting 60-56 win. Carlos Emory and Kevin Noreen with 18 each for PNR. Josh Gasser with 19, Marquis Mason and Chip Rank with 11 each for the Swing. Gasser is a pleasure to watch as a big point guard. Mason was arguably the MVP of the tournament as nobody had an answer for him. Worth noting that the Swing were missing 4 players including 2 or 3 starters this weekend.

Official 17U All-Tournament Team
Josh Gasser, Chip Rank and Marquis Mason from WI Swing-Selk
Kevin Noreen, Steve Tecker and Carlos Emory from MN Pump N Run
Josh Cameron from WI Force
Parker Hines from Minneapolis Redhawks
Rasham Suarez from Iowa Barnstormers

I'll add in Scott Nystrom (Comets Elite-Seevers), Alex Koch (TC Elite) and Taylor Hanson (Mpls Redhawks) as other players I saw play well in the 17U bracket.

Saturday at the 2009 Pump N Run Showcase

Saturday action at the Pump N Run showcase, here's what I saw.

Session 1
I started the day with the Madison Spartans 16U team taking on MSB, a 10-2 start for the Spartans pretty much sums it up. Their 1-2-2 halfcourt pressure quickly effective giving Nimrod Hilliard a handful of easy layups. 37-24 at the half, 67-48 Spartans win. Nice job by the Spartans of converting from defense to offense by pushing the ball. In 17U games Fox Valley Storm rolled 69-53 over EOTO. Big Game Sports defeated Iowa Mavs Blue 90-78.

Session 2
Josh Oglesby of the Iowa Barnstormers 16s is the real deal. He breaks open a close game with the Heat Select for a 74-60 win. Heat Elite 16s win their pool opener big over 94 Ft.

Session 3
Pump N Run 15s pound the NW WI All-Stars with a 47-16 halftime lead. Fox Valley Storm 17s win another pool game in a rout, 67-36 over Fury Gold. Simon Krych of Holdingford from the Comets 16s elites joins the Comets Seevers 17s today. After leading by 1 with 12 minutes left, the Seevers squad came from 7 down with 5:30 left to win 65-63 over Triple Threat-Rhodes. Scott Nystrom with 7 points down the stretch including the game winner wtih 13 seconds left. Another nice game for him.

Session 4
A rare exception on AAU days where I sit thru an entire game. But the Redhawks vs Iowa Mavs Black game was well worth it. Parker Hines of the Redhawks hot out of the gate with 7 points and an assist for a 3 point play. 15-13 Redhawks. The Mavs counter with a 19-1 run over the next 4:30 for a 32-16 lead as Alex Vogel knocks down a set of pull up jumpers. The Redhawks awaken and score the next 14 points to cut the lead to 2. Redhawks down 6 at the break. Fast forward to 3 minutes left and the score tied at 55. Vogel with a pair of turnovers trying to convert at the rim. A Taylor Hanson post bucket gives the Redhawks a lead they won't give up. Hines with 5 of 6 FTs and a late steal to seal the win and his outstanding individual performance of at least 19 points. Redhawks win the pool 65-57

Session 5
Staying with the single game theme, I took in the 16U Heat Elite vs Wisconsin Playmakers game. Being a Wisconsin guy I'm obligated by kingdom law to cover last night's Swing-Selk game and this Playmakers game with #7 2011 player Paul Jesperson. All props to Luke Preiner in this one as he had most of the chore of guarding Jesperson. Jesperson only 3-15 shooting and 9 points. Rob Daul bulled his way to 21 points, Riley West with 18 points as the Heat just dominated the Playmakers with physical play. Heat win 69-54 and that's with a couple of late 3s against that score. So much for best pool game of the day. Jon Christensen also deserves mention for crashing the glass and scoring 14 points. Connor Miller with 4 triples and 14 points for the Playmakers.

Also in the session, MSB 17s vs Iowa Barnstormers. After 2 FTs, the Barnstormers up 3 with 6 seconds left and MSB has the ball out of a timeout at halfcourt. Inbound goes to David Stanley who misses a left corner 3. The ball caroms between the circles where Troy Klingsporn tracks it down and heaves and is fouled at the horn. He steps up with no one on the line and buries all 3 freebies to send us to OT. But a last second layup by the Barnstormers wins the pool in OT 62-60.

Session 6
Play-in games for the 17s or lunch. Play-in games for the 17s or lunch. I'm thinking lunch. But I do catch the 2nd half of the Comets Seevers vs Fury Gold matchup. The Comets were up 15 with 12 minutes left but the Fury mount a furious comeback. Joe Conley, Michael Lindberg and Austin Rink all nail triples and the game is tied at 58. Conley gets the Fury over the hump for a 60-58 lead with 3:10 left. Mike Jenson with a triple and then a Joey Cuperus hoop put the Comets up 3 late. Jayme Moten (also up from the 16s) with 3 of 4 FTs to seal a 66-62 win.

Big Game Sports came from 12 down at half to defeat Iowa Mavs Black 66-60. Alex Vogel DNP down the stretch in that one for the Mavs. Don't know if he had fouled out or what the deal there was.

Session 7
Triple Threat-Rhodes vs Comets Blue. Seth Hinrichs up from the Comets 16s Elites and he nails a triple at the horn to force OT but Triple Threat hangs on 66-64 in OT. Wisconsin Force pounds the MN Sharks 77-57 in the other play in game.

Session 8
Damarius Cruz with the Triple Threat-Weber squad for today's action as they only had 6 guys. He had a big 1st half. Alex Koch with 7 in a row as TC Elite gets it going to over come that squad 81-62. MSB lead WI Swing-Shaw 33-29 at half but gave up a 10-0 to start the 2nd half and Swing-Shaw moves on 58-45. MN Xplosion won 63-56 over MN Panthers. Heat Select had a big 1st half lead on Fury Blue that was cut to 4, but they extended to a 9 point halftime lead and moved on.

Session 9
16U-Round of 16 games underway. Playmakers use with a diamond press vs TC Elite for a 17 point 1st half lead and win 69-56. Madison Spartans back and forth with the Heat Black team. A Bryan Sprang layin gives the Heat a 45-44 lead with 2:45 to play. Miles Chamberlain with a 3 point play with 2:06 left that put the Spartans up 49-47 and they don't look back. 58-49 Spartans move on as they used a 10-0 run after Heat lead 47-46 late. Heat Elite won big over Fury Blue. Wear Out The Net continued to impress and they won their bracket opener 67-28. Fury Gold defeated Iowa Mavs Black 71-66 in a 17U friendship game.

Session 10
17U - Round of 16 games. Pump N Run moves along 71-45 over Comets Seevers, Zach Noreen making an appearance. Willmar star soph Brian Reeves showed with Comets Blue during the day as well so the very good Comets 16s getting some good exposure here. Iowa Barnstormers pulled away from EOTO in the 2nd half for a 86-62 win. Big Game Sports defeated 94 Ft of Game 49-41 with some of the strangest end of game clock management I've seen in a while (both teams). Wisconsin Force were up 4 with 9:40 to play but back to back 3 point plays put them up 10 and they went on to a 59-48 win over Triple Threat-Rhodes.

Session 11
The botttom half of the 17U bracket gets their Round of 16 games in this session. Fox Valley Storm are storming thru the bracket as they win their bracket opener 66-46 over WI Swing-Shaw. The Storm are 3-0 with the closest win by 16. WI Swing-Selk rolled 81-52 over Heat Select. Fury Elite defeated MN Xplosion 71-56. The Mpls Redhawks took out TC Elite 77-60 with a big 2nd half.

17U Quarterfinals
Pump N Run vs Big Game Sports
Iowa Barnstormers vs Wisconsin Force
WI Swing-Selk vs Fury Elite
Fox Valley Storm vs Mpls Redhawks

Pool Winners
17U: Pump N Run, Swing-Selk, Fox Valley Storm, Iowa Barnstormers, WI Force, Mpls Redhawks, Fury Elite and 94 Ft of Game
16U: IA Barnstormers, Pump N Run, IA Mavericks Black, Wear Out The Net, MN Heat Elite, Madison Spartans

Pool Champion Prediction Record: 8-0 17U, 5-1 16U (Playmakers wrong)

7 of 8 teams in the 17U Quarters with brownie points for saying my 1 wrong answer (94 Ft) was the #1 seed most likely to be upset.

Friday at the 2009 Pump N Run Showcase

A light night on the schedule at the Pump N Run Showcase. 3 sessions of action. Here's what I saw.

Session 1
Most of this was 15U action. Minnesota Southside put an absolute beating on Metro Elite Basketball Academy. Chad Potas on the roster but not in attendance for MEBA. 82-28 final there, ouch. TC Elite Green and Heat Elite also win big. Heat Select get 4 straight steals from Kevin Poster in a comeback that just fell short against the Fury. They were within 2 late before a turnover resulted in an And 1 on the other end. NW WI All-Stars went on a late 7-0 run to break open a 2 point game against TC Elite White. In the 2 17U games, Heat Select and Pump N Run rolled to big wins.

Session 2
16U games on the docket here. Wear Out The Net took it to PRIDE 77-36. Pump N Run got off to a slow start against Fury Blue down 10-3 early, but a 20-4 run out of a timeout restored order. But Kevin Flesch's triple at the horn cuts the PNR lead to 25-19 at the break. Pump N Run takes care of business in the 2nd half and rolls from there. Is there a better finisher in the 2011 class than Alex Richter? Maybe Joe Coleman but I'm at a loss for anyone else. Fury Gold defeated MSB 667-56 and Grassroots defeated EOTO 80-70. In the 1 17U game I saw bits of, MSB played without David Stanley and Zach Vraa but had Marcus Alipate as a replacement. Lucas Brown played well in the bits of this one that I saw. They defeated Fury Blue 59-48.

Session 3
Enough bouncing around, I decided to stay put and watch the top Wisconsin Swing team. A total beatdown 91-41 by the Swing. Gotta like the Superman S on the Swing jerseys No Kyle Kelm or Evan Richard for the Swing due to prom. Jayme Moten moved up from the 16s for the Comets also due to prom. Marquis Mason was a beast inside as expected and he committed to UW for football today. That also gives him a basketball option. Josh Gasser got to the basket at will. Balanced offense all the way around. Scott Nystrom was a bright spot for the Comets. The Fury Elite won a relatively close game and the Minneapolis Redhawks won big 68-33.

2009 Pump N Run Showcase 17U Preview

Here's what I'm paying attention to this weekend in the 17U division of the Pump N Run Spring Showcase.

Pool A - This is Pump N Run's pool with very little of note. The MN Heat's 2nd squad is here with Trey Scott and Steve Bailey as their 1st team has the weekend off due to Stillwater's prom. In another pool they might be a surprise, but not here.

Pool B - Here's the top competition for Pump N Run, the WI Swing-Selk team. This Swing team has 4 of the top 10 kids in Wisconsin and 2 more in the top 25. Here's the list of those kids with their ranking.

#3 6'4 G Josh Gasser - Port Washington.
#8 6'6 F Chip Rank - Cedarburg
#9 6'9 F Kyle Kelm - Randolph
#10 6'4 F Marquis Mason - Madison East
#16 6'3 F Evan Richard - Cuba City
#24 6'1 G Brett Meinecke - Sussex Hamilton

Gasser has been looked at by Iowa, Iowa State and Indiana with offers from Northwestern, St. Louis, UNI, UWGB and UW-Milwaukee. Averaged 22.4 PPG this year and is a terrific rebounder from his point guard spot. Rank averaged 19.2 PPG this season and has offers from St. Louis, UWGB, UW-Milwaukee and NDSU. Kelm has high major offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Marquette and Oregon State along with interest from Minnesota. More of a high post player than a low post threat. Mason is a left-handed beast on the block who needed to work on his perimeter game when I saw him in December 2007. He was the catalyst for a much improved Madison East team this year and just received a football offer from Wisconsin at wide receiver. He was once committed to UW-Milwaukee for basketball but withdrew that committment. Richard blew up this year and scored 50 points in a game over the Christmas holiday. Meinecke gets overshadowed by teammate Kameron Cerroni, but he's a solid guard who can shoot it.

Pool C - MN Fury's 2nd team is here but the team to beat here is the Fox Valley Storm. Read a preview of them here. Their top player Logan Ellman of Oconto made a big leap from nowhere to #21 in the latest Wishoops ranking.

Pool D - If this were last year's Iowa Barnstormers roster with Brennan Cougill, I'd really be interested. MSB and the Fury 3rd team are in the pool, but the tradition of the Barnstormers as one of the 3 premier AAU programs in Iowa makes me take them here.

Pool E - TC Elite heads up the local contingent in this pool, but again I'm going the Wisconsin route with former Badger Hennssy Auriantal's Wisconsin Force program. They have 3 players ranked in the Wishoops top 50. 6'1 Mike Boos from Sun Prairie (#36), 6'1 Josh Cameron from Kenosha Christian Life (#42) and 6'6 Sam Gage from Waterloo (#44) along with a couple of 6'7 bodies. The Saturday game between those 2 teams should be a good one to decide the pool.

Pool F - The Iowa Mavericks hopefully won't get snowed out like they did at the Comets tournament, but I'll take the Mpls Redhawks here. The 3rd Comets team is in this pool as well.

Pool G- The other Iowa Mavs squad is here, but I'm taking the Fury Elite.

Pool H - The Swing's 2nd team, a decimated Xplosion squad (another team losing kids to prom and a couple of kids moving over Heat Select) and 94 Ft are here. Look for Andre Ingram of 94 Ft to be huge in pool play.

Everybody advances to the championship bracket with play-in games in the mid-afternoon. Round of 16 games are at 7 and 8:10 Saturday night. Here are my predictions of those.

Round of 16
Pump N Run over Comets Seevers
94 Ft of Game over IA Mavs Blue (but 94 Ft is the #1 seed most likely to be upset)
IA Barnstormers over Fury Gold
WI Force over IA Mavs Black
WI Swing Selk over Heat Select
Fury Elite over WI Swing Shaw
Fox Valley Storm over MSB
Mpls Redhawks over TC Elite

Quarterfinals (9:40 AM Sunday)
Pump N Run over 94 Ft
IA Barnstormers over WI Force
WI Swing Selk over Fury Elite
Mpls Redhawks over Fox Valley Storm

Semifinals (1:10 PM Sunday)
Pump N Run over IA Barnstormers
WI Swing Selk over Mpls Redhawks

Championship (3:30 PM Sunday)
Pump N Run over WI Swing Selk

2009 Pump N Run Showcase 16U Preview

Here's what I'm watching in the 16U division of this weekend Pump N Run Showcase

Pool A - The 2nd MN Heat squad and the Iowa Barnstormers are here. Pay attention to 6'5 guard Josh Oglesby of the Barnstormers in this pool. Read what NY2LA Sports said about him in February.

Pool B - This is Pump N Run's pool. The Fury Blue squad is here as well with TJ Gist and Savaughn Jordan

Pool C - The other Iowa Mavericks squad is here with a Grassroots and EOTO team. Very little know about this pool

Pool D - TC Elite, PRIDE and Wear Out The Net are here. Brandon Siefert gives WOTN a nice guard and they have size with the lanky Otto Pfefferle and improved Spencer Pankonin in the middle. If Max Watts is with them and not Pulley this adds to the bunch.

Pool E - This pool brings us a dynamite (and unfortunate) pairing of the Heat Elite (Preiner Twins, Rob Daul, Riley West) against a very good Wisconsin Playmakers team. That game could be the top pool game out of any the 17U or 16U pools. 6'6 wing Paul Jesperson is one of the top players in 2011 in Wisconsin (#7) and Connor Miller out of Eau Claire Regis is ranked #22. Wing Connor Olejniczak is one to watch as well. Add in some size on the front line and they will be a force here. Read a preview of the Playmakers team here.

Pool F - Another tough Wisconsin team makes an appearance, that's the Madison Spartans (preview here). Nimrod Hilliard came out of the blue for Madison East this year and he's now #16 in Wisconsin. Add in a pair of talented wings, Miles Chamberlain and Tre Burnette, from traditional powerhouse Madison Memorial and this club will be a tough out as well.

Here we go with the predictions

Round of 16
IA Barnstormers over TC Elite
MSB over Grassroots
Wear Out The Net over Big Game Sports
WI Playmakers over IA Mavs Blue
Pump N Run over Fury Gold
Heat Elite over PRIDE
IA Mavs Black over Fury Blue
Madison Spartans over Heat Black

Quarterfinals (10:50 AM Sunday)
IA Barnstormers over MSB
WI Playmakers over WOTN
Pump N Run over Heat Elite
Madison Spartans over IA Mavs Black

Semifinals (1:10 PM Sunday)
WI Playmakers over IA Barnstormers
Pump N Run over Madison Spartans

Championship (3:30 PM Sunday)
Pump N Run over WI Playmakers (I'd love to see the Playmakers 5'5 PG vs Ziman)

Life on the Road in Denver

To the lighter side of my trip to Denver, here are some of the sights and sounds from being embedded with Pump N Run during the trip. I was given full access to the team and coaches during the trip without any restrictions imposed on what I could write.

10:15 AM: Interesting see what it takes to get an entire team checked on to a flight. Yes I need 35 boarding passes, yes they're all standing here. Guys get over here, COME HERE! Yes YOU! All kidding aside, its surprisingly smooth. Just be prepared for the long line at security.

11:00 AM: Being the fool I am, I leave my laptop on top of my jacket and shoes and send it thru security. Send it back and now the line is at a dead halt. Wanna Get Away?

11:20 AM: The players are making a run for food before the plane boards. I really should have done Burger King but 1 lost meal won't hurt me any. I think the rest of the food on the trip will sustain the waistline.

12:30 PM: Take off. I'm stuck in the middle of 3 across in cattle class. Miserable. At least they had drink service so I get my caffeine fix. The team is scattered all over the plane. 100 minutes in the air, almost that long in taxi time and wait time. All the bags in the overheads and my feet are cramped with my bag and jacket taking up my leg room.

2:20 PM (MT). Arrival in Denver. One of the players was a 1st time flyer and it was a bouncy flight. But no sickness bags required. Thinking in terms of the MSP airport, the rent a car places are all in Eden Prairie or Victoria. Good grief. The 15 passenger vans may hold 9 real people comfortably. A very cozy ride thru the blizzard to the hotel.

3:30 PM: Arrival at the hotel. We've got food nearby, I've got internet access in the room. The kids are 2, sometimes 3 to a room. We're all glad to be out of those vans.

4:00 PM. Supper with the 17s at Red Robin, a surprising choice considering game 1 is at 6:10. Nothing like bottomless fries. I wanted to go with the 15s and 16s since they played back to back but we didn't get back in time.

6:10 PM I'm keeping the official PNR book for the 1st round pool game (as I did for all of the 17s games that I covered). Somewhere during the night I get another introduction to Jim Harrick.

8:30 PM Back at the hotel and while we're figuring out what to do, I have time to write my Friday night post. Off to a neighboring Holiday Inn where we've got a banquet room. Pizza and wings for everybody. Eventually I'm one of only 5 people left as we close up shop after exchanging stories of summer basketball.

9:30 AM: Ouch, that has to be an altitude headache. Nothing like the free continental breakfast. mmmm. There are few better things in life than free food. I sneak in a quick trip back to the room to put up the pools for the Pump N Run tourney. The snow is still out there and now there's just rain.

10:45 AM: Arrival at the Gold Crown Fieldhouse for a long day. The setup is 3 courts long with 2 rows. The spectators are on the outside with the benches between the courts. The scoreboards are behind the spectators which makes it hard to watch. I skip the PNR 17s game to watch Net Gain's 1st game of the day but PNR is on the adjacent court so I have a better view of the score of that game than the game I'm actually paying attention to. Before the game I take in a good chunk of Rivals #29 prospect Daniel Alexander of the Texas D1 Ambassadors vs the DoublePump 2011 squad.

2:30 PM: All the teams I think are gone as the PNR 16s just won. As this is my best break of the day I grab a quick hot dog and Coke. Then what, I sit down and wait for the 4 PM Net Gain game. There are 4 17U games going on, but I'm watching a 14U game as I want to have a spot on this court. I look over and there's Steve Kerr, GM of the Phoenix Suns watching. After another look, I realize he's talking to New Mexico Head Coach Steve Alford. Wait a minute, D1 coaches can't be here. So I look at my program and realize I'm watching Alford's son play. Kerr's son also plays (not in this game) explaining his attendance.

4:00 PM: Now the zoo begins. This game, then the PNR 17s, followed by the 16s, then a session off followed by the 15s. After the 16s played, Team Odom played the top DoublePump team coached by Jim Harrick. We all stuck around just to watch warmups and the first few minutes and most of us were wowed by it (me included).

10:00 PM: During the PNR 15U game, the scorer's table isn't paying attention. Here's my conversation with the referee.

Czar: Hey Ref, the scoreboard is wrong, black (PNR colors) is short 2 points (which they were)
Ref: What do you want me to do about it?
Czar (dumbfounded): Tell the scorer's table.
Ref: They'll catch up eventually.

That was just funny enough to temper my frustrations. The scoreboard eventually dies and we end up using a little portable one for a good chunk of the game.

11:15 PM: Back at the hotel, tonight's campfire session will be in the lobby. Mention a team that a coach had years ago and they can go on for hours about it.

1 AM: After an earlier McDonald's run, this session ends early as the 15s and 16s both play at 8:30. And I haven't written anything yet or packed for the trip home.

1:30 AM: Bolshevik! My internet access code in the room doesn't work anymore. So I make quick run to the business center downstairs for the Saturday night post.

6:45 AM: Ooof, that wakeup call came early. I'm drinking orange juice just to have the physical motion of doing something so I don't fall asleep on my feet.

9:45 AM: After watching the 16s win their quarterfinal game, I took in a bit of the other 17U semifinal between Team Odom and DoublePump 2011. Team Odom comes from behind in the 2nd half after being down 10. 4 minutes left and a 4 point game but its time to run over to the PNR 17s semifinal game on the other end of the building.

3 PM: The 17s are in the championship game, but a 4 PM start and a 6:50 flight on the other end of town don't work. So the game gets moved up to 3:30. Where is Kevin Noreen? Nothing like a communication mix up to not have him at the tip (he showed up shortly after).

5 PM: Move it, move it, move it. 13 of us in the van to the airport, I'm half on the back wheel well, 10% on the seat and 40% wedged between the seat and the side. Just like on the way over we think we're cramped and we've got to fit 5-6 more people in vehicles and figure out who's taking who. I wasn't a hood ornament for either so it was OK by me. We're trying to map each player on the 17s to a player on the Cleveland Cavs as I asked for NBA references for next year (Bonzi Wells is done). Aaron Anderson = CP3 anyone?

6:35 PM: All the rush and the plane is delayed an hour. Kids run for food and chat. We take in some of the Atlanta/Miami playoff game. I can't get an internet connection to work for some dumb reason and the battery on my laptop is disappearing rapidly. Others read or try to catch up on some homework while some of the freshman parents watch the huge stack of bags at the gate.

8:30 PM Finally on the plane and stuck in the middle again. Why did it take me this long to see the flight attendants and think of Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies"? Cole Stefan is also on the plane and he's tired out. We finally arrive about 11:30 Central time.

Final Thoughts
  • Very often we think of on the court chemistry between players. But its amazing what chemistry within a program will do from the parents to the coaches to the players. And the parents are a bigger part of it than I thought. One of the parents bought pizzas for the teams and the next morning (without any prompting), the kids had a typed up thank you note all signed by the team for that parent.
  • It was amazing to see the conduct of some of the big city (read Chicago and LA) coaches. Language that would have gotten immediate ejection in a just world was not an uncommon site. In the late game Saturday for the PNR 17s, there were 7 technicals on their opponent in the 2nd half.
  • Along the same lines, you could see the attitude in those teams. They'd see Minnesota and already have a win in mind. This was particularly true of Team Chandler in the 16U quarters.
  • The talent level at this tournament compared to the Comets tourney or the Sabes or the Pump N Run tourneys was at a whole different level. July should be very entertaining when many of those teams are here with the D1 coaches also allowed to watch.
  • This tournament did it right by having the refs do a couple of games at a time and then getting them out of there. 4-6 games in a row is way too many.

Scout.com releases final class of 2009 rankings

Scout.com has released their final 2009 top 100 (read it here). Here are players that caught my attention.

Royce White (#32, down from #30)
Rodney Williams Jr (#34, up from #32)
Trent Lockett (#97, down from #94)

Jamil Wilson (#30, up from #35)
Jeronne Maymon (#84, down from #75)

Others who appeared locally
DeMarcus Cousins (#3, up from #6)
DJ Richardson (#46, down from #66)
Darius Smith (re-enters at #83)
Naji Hibbert (enters at #99)

MN Xplosion win weekend tournament

The MN Xplosion won a 19U MYAS tournament this weekend in Forest Lake. They defeated a redux of last year's MN Magic Superfriends squad 67-64 in the 1st round. Trey Scott with 30 points in that one, Steve Bailey with 18. Scott then scored 20 in a semifinal win over MN Outkast Elite in the semis.

In the finals, the Xplosion played the Magic Black 19U team of Marcus Williams and Freddie Burton amongst other loaded talent. Magic Black by 9 at the half but Xplosion comes back and wins 79-77. 5 guys in double figures for Xplosion with Trey Scott's 17 leading the way. Jordan Reibling with 16, Steve Bailey 14, Anthony Webber 12, Brent Walker 11.

Final team thoughts from Denver

Some final thoughts on the games from Denver. You can read my story on the Pump N Run 17s tournament win on Minnesota Preps (click here). I will be adding a "Life on the Road" post in the next day or 2 to explain the Saturday night teasers, but here we'll clean up some final thoughts on the 4 MN teams that made the trip.

Net Gain 17U
They were eliminated 80-79 by Step Off Lightning in the late game Saturday night. I didn't see that game as the PNR 15s ran late and then it was time to leave. What was interesting about that game was the Step Off shouldn't have been there. They were down 40-19 at half against KC Pump N Run just to get to that game vs Net Gain, but stormed back with a 42-19 2nd half and stole one 61-59. I watched Net Gain's 1st 2 games on Saturday and it was surprising how cold Cole Stefan was shooting. He was something like 1-12 from 3 in the games I saw and missing badly. I know he arrived late after not playing Friday night so I don't know how much that had to do with it. I can't say I've ever seen him shoot that poorly or be so frustrated with it. DJ Peterson on the other hand played well and their bigs (Alex Rau and Jayvin Reynolds) are perfect for that team as they generate their offense via garbage points. Their money lineup this weekend had those guys on the bench with Chanse Creekmur in the middle. Of all the guys who have played some point guard on that team, most of the time it was Shaun Jensen or Tor Anderson getting the duty.

Pump N Run 17U
The quarterfinal win against 2D1 was a steal. 2D1 had great success with their point guard but then he didn't touch the ball down the stretch and he wasn't face-guarded (something I would have done the way he was playing). In the semis, while a tough call late went against D1E, they still had 2 chances with the ball and didn't take a timeout. A complete meltdown verbally and strategically by their staff after the call went against them. Even their 16s coach, who had just beaten the PNR 16s (more on that below) and had a better view of it than the 17s (other end), thought it was the right call. From my angle at the scorer's table, I think it was the right call but it was VERY close. Team Odom was very talented, read the Keala King, Darius Nelson and Austin McBroom sections of this ESPN article on how those players did the previous weekend in Las Vegas. Their offense vs the PNR 2-3 was strange as their guards were way out high and they didn't get any movement. Worth noting that the rotations tightened up too as there was a basic go-to group of Jon Crockett, Dyami Starks, Steve Tecker, Carlos Emmory and Kevin Noreen. While it may not come out at the state tournament vs local competition, look for it when the big boys come here in July.

Pump N Run 16U
Coach Miller's 16U team only gave up 3 field goals in the 1st half of their quarterfinal game against Team Chandler for a double digit lead. Team Chandler did get the game back to 4 points late but PNR held on to win. Against D1E in the semis, a defensive struggle in a 43-40 loss. A tough charging call against Jason Perkins in the last 90 seconds was big. The bucket would have cut the D1E lead to 2, D1E scored on the other end to put the game at 6 and it was over. Jonah Travis and Alex Richter with big weekends for the 16s. Travis is an interesting case as he's a post for De La Salle and he's playing a wing spot this summer. I like what Aaron Ziman did against great athletes handling pressure for them, but he'll need rest at some point in games. Colorado Basketball Academy tried to come after them full court and got shredded. A 1-2-2 trap from them gave up a 14-3 run early in the game until CBA finally got out of it after sticking with it for far too long.

Pump N Run 15U
Coach Cassidy's 15U team blew through their pool and won late Saturday night to advance to the final 8. Taylor Montero (CDH) was big in that game with 19 points if I recall correctly. They only had 7 guys and their most talented player, Johnny Woodard of Duluth East, wasn't on the trip. This is a group to keep an eye on with jitterbug Cortez Tillman (CDH) at the point. They bowed out in the quarterfinals to Double Pump's 2012 squad which is no shame.

Impacts of new recruiting period being felt.

FoxSports.com's Jeff Goldman wrote a nice piece recently on how the elimination of the April recruiting period impacts new college coaches. Mainly they can't see multiple players at once and they're not playing against the premier competition. The main option is open gyms at a player's school during this contact period. But funny, the kids aren't at their schools during much of the period, they're on the road with their club teams.

The NCAA was trying to keep kids in school on Fridays but this year the events didn't go away. It'll be interesting to see who blinks 1st, the NCAA by changing the rules via pressure from the coaches or if the events start to fall by the wayside.

Saturday Night at the DoublePump

All the MN Pump N Run teams have made the quarterfinals here in Denver and the MASH unit known as Net Gain Sports looks like they were well on their way. Fun to see some of the Double Pump talent from their California teams and a top 30 kid from Texas. Best moment of the day was during a 14U game when a couple of top notch shooters from the late 80s made an appearance in the gym.

But its late late night here in Denver and departure for the 15U and 16U quarters is less than 6 hours away. I'll fill in details when I return. Simply put, 11 hours and what a day. The snow yesterday was rain today. Maybe we'll even see sunshine (and make a flight home if any of the teams make the championship game)

Friday night at the DoublePump

Whoa! I should have taken a left at Alberquerque. A snowy night in Denver with a shower of wet snow all afternoon. Fortunately the flight beat the snow in but it was real mess by the time I arrived at the hotel.

Only 1 game on my docket for the night. PNR 17s beat Streakers 60-31. PNR finished the 1st half on a 7-0- run for a 26-15 halftime lead. Mike Rostampour with 7 points in the 2nd half as PNR takes control with their defense. They struggled at the line going 7-23 (5-17 in the 1st half) and in the 1st half against the Streakers 2-3 zone.

Pump N Run Box Score
Aaron Anderson 2 points
Mike Rostampour 7 points
Dyami Starks 7 points
Kevin Noreen 13 points
Steve Tecker 10 points
Alec Brown 8 points (including a 1st half buzzer beater and a nice dunk in the 2nd half)
Carlos Emmory 8 points
Jake Kreuser 5 points

The PNR 16s also won. They had a big lead in the 2nd half before winning by 11 over Next Level. The PNR 15s were just finishing up and Net Gain may still play tonight if their flight here didn't get cancelled.

Rivals releases final 2009 rankings

Rivals.com released their final class of 2009 rankings today. Read the entire rankings here. Here are the changes to Minnesota players (and others of note) from the last period (August 19, 2008).

Minnesota Players

  • Royce White #19, Minnesota (no change)
  • Trent Lockett #80, Arizona State (down from #73)
  • Rodney Williams Jr #100, Minnesota (down from #95)
  • Sam Dower #116, Gonzaga (up from #119)
  • Mike Bruesewitz #118, Wisconsin (up from #124)
Wisconsin Players
  • Jeronne Maymon #47, Marquette (down from #46)
  • Jamil Wilson #94, Oregon (down from #93)
  • Johnny Lacy #143, Providence (down from #110)
Other players who have appeared locally
  • DeMarcus Cousins #2, Kentucky (no change)
  • DJ Richardson #38, Illinois (up from #57)
  • Darius Smith #71, Connecticut (up from #113)
  • Naji Hibbert #97, Texas A&M (down from #88)
  • Joseph Bertrand #128, Illinois (down from #116)
  • Diamond Taylor #129, Wisconsin (down from #118)
  • Michael Dixon #136, Missouri (down from #130)

2009 AAU Week 3 Preview

This weekend I pack up the castle and travel to Denver to follow Pump N Run and Net Gain at the Double Pump Spring Tournament. Lots of good west coast talent in that one. I should have late night reports on Friday and Saturday before a late night return to the Kingdom on Sunday. A different schedule in this tourney with 2 pool games and then bracket play starts late Saturday afternoon with 38 teams making the championship bracket in 17U. Nothing like an early exit. Its possible Net Gain and PNR could meet in the 1st round of bracket play. 1 team would have to win their pool with the other finishing 2nd to make that happen. Along the same lines, one of those teams could run into Howard Pulley nemesis KC Pump N Run in the 2nd round on Saturday night. That game could be a preview of a big game in 2 weeks at the Jayhawk Invitational.

The local tournament of note is the Twin City Spring Jam at the Colin Powell Center in Minneapolis. 2 4-team pools in the 17U division. TNL should roll in their pool. I'll take Triple Threat 2nd there. In the other pool, that's more balanced. There's Fury's 3rd team and I don't know what Select will bring. I'll take the TC Elite in that pool and TNL to win the title.

A very nice weekend at the MYAS level as well. MN Comets White and Hoops Training will have teams in the 17U/19U Division at Shakopee. In Forest Lake's 17U/19U division, MN Xplosion get a bad draw in the MN Magic 19 Red squad (see last year's Magic SuperFriends squad) of Greg Meyer, David Burnham, Jim Hill, Isaiah Thomas and Chris Breuer amongst others. Magic 17U Blue with Hudson big Eric Schmechel and Roseville's David Michaelson is the 1 team in the top half of the draw that I know anything about.

And the 15U division at Apple Valley is loaded. MN Suns 15U Briggity with Darian Pittman (MCA) and Darrien Johnson (Richfield) gets an opening bye. Net Gain and the 3rd 43 Hoops 15U team are there. But 2 major teams of note open against each other at 2:50 PM on Saturday. That's the MN Static (super stud 8th grader Riley Dearring) vs 43 Hoops Gameli. That Gameli squad is all 8th graders and a 7th grader but they won the 15U division at the Comets tournament. The winner of that game could see the Suns Briggity squad in the semis at 10:10 Sunday morning.

Conference Realignment almost had another big move

John Millea reporting today that the Lake Conference almost had a split on April 1st but 1 more school needed to jump in. Since that didn't happen it looks like the MSHSL will take over in September. They would assign Minnetonka and Edina to the Lake Conference and Wayzata and Hopkins to the NW Suburban. That's all from John's article. Now to my thoughts.

The MSHSL assignments would push the Lake to 14 teams and the NW Suburban to 13 (remember Armstrong has already been admitted to the NW Suburban). Those numbers obviously don't work so look it appears the real fireworks will being later this fall once the Lake Conference members finally see they won't get to stay with their happy number of 12 teams. The MSHSL assignment will just be the beginning, not the end of the saga. I'm keeping an eye on the Missota as it has 3 schools (Farmington, Prior Lake, Shakopee) who probably should be playing a Lake Conference type schedule due to their growth. With only 7 teams there (Hutchinson will leave for the Wright County), that league is a prime candidate to fold.

Here are the links to the full metro realignment plan I wrote in August of 2007. It doesn't include East Ridge or Chanhassen but they could be easily slotted in my plan. Read the AAAA plan here. How I'd do AAA, AA and A is here.

GopherHole talks to a pair of 2010 prospects

Last week GopherHole had the chance to catch up with a pair of possible 2010 Gopher recruits in guard Jacob Thomas of Columbia Heights and center Chad Calcaterra of Cloquet.

Jacob talks about the public reports around his interest in Minnesota along with a couple of tidbits on improvements in his game and what it was like playing against Rodney Williams. Read the Jacob Thomas interview here.

Chad talks about his season and his recruiting status with the Gophers. Read the Chad Calcaterra interview here.

Mike Fitzgerald makes a D1 choice

6'6" SG Mike Fitzgerald of St. Thomas Academy committed to Air Force yesterday. He'll be signing his LOI on the 1st day of the spring signing period on Wednesday. Mike averaged 19.6 points per game for the Cadets during the 08-09 season. They finished 18-10 losing to New Prague in the section 1AAA championship game. As a sophomore, the Cadets finished 30-2 and defeated Benilde-St. Margaret's for the Class AAA championship. Mike played 19 minutes in that game and scored 6 points. As a junior, the Cadets finished 24-7 and were the AAA 2nd place finishers. Mike played all 36 minutes in that championship game and finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds.

ESPN releases final 2009 Rankings

On April 9th, ESPN released their final rankings for the class of 2009 . Read the entire rankings here. Here are the changes to Minnesota players (and others of note) from the last period (January 13, 2009).

Minnesota Players

* Royce White #35, Minnesota (previous #25)
* Rodney Williams Jr #42 (previous #40)

Wisconsin Players

* Jamil Wilson #31 (previous #62)
* Jeronne Maymon #79, Marquette (previous #55)

Other players who have appeared locally

* DeMarcus Cousins #4, UAB (no change)
* DJ Richardson #46, Illinois (previous #51)
* Naji Hibbert #70, Texas A&M (previous #61)

2009 MN Comets Shootout Championship Day

On the road again to St. Cloud for the bracket games of the 2009 MN Comets Shootout.

16U Semis and Championship
1st seminfinal, Comets Elite vs Heat Elite. 27-21 Comets at the half when I join the party. That after bumping the lead to 8, the Heat come back and cut the lead to 2. Comets go on a 12-3 run. 45-34 Comets with 7:44 to play. The Heat have another run in them as they cut the lead to 49-45 with 4:40 to play. After a missed layup, the Comets start to turn the ball over. Riley West with a steal for 2 and another turnover give Drew Preiner a drive and hoop to tie the game at 49 with 3:40 to play. That's a 15-4 run over 4 minutes. Jayme Moten (New London-Spicer and great hair) buries a long 3 with a minute left for a 57-54 Comets lead. After a missed 3 by the Heat, they don't foul and manage to get a turnover with 25 seconds left. Rob Daul gets a good look at the tying 3 from the right corner but its in and out with 9 seconds left. With 2 fouls to give, there may not be enough time left. But the Comets overthrow the wide receiver on an open touchdown pass and the Heat will get the ball back under their rim. Drew Preiner's 3 is short and the Comets move on 57-54.

In the 2nd semifinal, Terry Porter Elite defeated 43 Hoops (2nd team as the top team played up) 38-34.

In the final, Terry Porter Elite was up 40-30 with 10 minutes left. Down 48-40, the Comets come back with 3 straight bombs in a 14-0 run. That gives the Comets a 54-48 lead with 2 minutes left and they hang on 63-59 for the 16U Championship.

Impressive Comets roster. Brian Reeves (Willmar) and Simon Krych (Holdingford) were a star pair on the front line during the tournament. Rob Daul averaged 15.8 PPG during the season for Hill-Murray. It looks like he'll be the guy replacing Alex Richter's production and style in the Heat lineup as he was impressive during the 2nd half of the Heat/Comets semi. Big body to deal with inside and has an ability to step away and be productive. Add in the Preiner twins from Tartan and this team will not be an easy out.

17U Quarterfinals (6-8 predictions)
Q1: Comets Elite-Hanson over 43 Hoops Hemmingson 72-40. I took in the 1st half of this one. This Comets team plays 2 waves of guys. The 2nd wave of Mike Johnson, Erik Tengwall, Alex Hanks, Taylor Filipek, and Zach Noreen is amazing for them. And that's no slight to the solid performances of Shaun Condon and Scott Willenbring. Noreen was an especially tough matchup for Dominique Dawson with his ability to step out and nail 3s. Dawson had trouble scoring over defenders inside. He's a 1-man band for the 43 Hoops 2nd team.

Q2: Pump N Run 17s vs TNL. Back and forth in the 1st half but TNLs pace. 17 All with 6:43 left in the half, then 23-21 TNL before they stretch it to 35-24 on a Jasper Duberry 3. 35-28 TNL at the half. An 8-0 run early in the 2nd half by PNR cuts the lead to 38-36. 47-41 TNL with 9 minutes left before the shots don't fall and that's not good for TNL with Spencer Cummings out of the game. PNR goes on a 22-3 run with some of that against TNL traps after PNR got the lead and spread the court with about 5 minutes left. 65-56 PNR wins. The number of easy bunnies that PNR missed inside was unbelievable in this one. Kevin Noreen had 3 of them on the 1st 3 possessions of the game (and this wasn't the only game where he had trouble finishing). TNL played zone most of the way and kept PNR at bay with it as they didn't get much inside.

Q3: Heat Elite vs Fury Elite. 4 point game with about 6 minute left before Dajon New'll starts a run with a steal and 2. Fury wins 63-54.

Q4: 43 Hoops Harris steamrolls Terry Porter Elite 72-32 after a 40-18 halftime lead.

17U Semifinals (4-4 predictions)
Semi #1: Free food on the line for me as Fury Elite takes on 43 Hoops Harris. A MN Preps reader said I'd get a free meal if Fury makes the final so I'll take in this game instead of the other semifinal. Talk about quickness with Dajon Newell vs Vinard Birch at the point spot. My stomach is cheering as Fury is out to a 14-3 lead at the 9 minute mark. But Birch leads 43 Hoops back with 6 points in a 12-3 run over the next 3 minutes. Josh Pella finishes a 18-6 run for a 21-20 43 Hoops lead with 3 minutes left in the half. But Fury finishes the half on a 10-3 run for a 30-24 halftime lead.

Fury adds on the 1st 7 of the 2nd half with 2 Newell steals for 2 easy buckets. 37-24 with 12:51 left. 17-3 in the 6 minutes across halftime. 41-28 Fury with 9:40 left after back to back jumpers (Jack Wittenborg of Jefferson I think). Back comes 43 Hoops with 2 bombs from Jordan Reetz (2nd from NBA range), Clay Horne goes strong takes the contact and scores for a 3 point play with 7:27 left to cut it to 4. Birch takes a turnover the other way for 2 and adds 2 FTs with 5:48 left to tie the game at 43. 15-2 run over 4 minutes for 43 Hoops. 2 Fury triples sandwich a 43 Hoops triple. Horne dunks with 2:34 left and to cut the Fury lead to 50-49. Pella with 2 freebies at 1:58 for a 52-51 43 Hoops lead. Yuriy Maleshenko misses a 3 with 1:50 left. After spreading the floor, Max Rosenbloom puts back a miss with 54 seconds left for a 3 point lead. Up 3 and defending, Birch leaves his guy for a steal and dives on the floor and gets the timeout with 18 seconds left. Reetz with 2 FTs and 43 Hoops wins 57-52. Bolshevik! There goes my free food.

Semi #2: Bitter and hungry I take in the end of Comets Elite-Hanson vs Pump N Run. Game flow to this point as follows. Comets had a 7 point lead with 3:44 to go in the 1st half. Dyami Starks of PNR (Duluth East) nailed a triple at the 1st half horn to conclude a 15-4 run and PNR was up 34-30 at the break. That lead was 10 with 12:41 left and 4 with 8:17 left. Comets took the lead 53-52 with 6 minutes left. 59-57 Comets with 2:55 left and the 2nd unit mentioned above is in as I turn and watch full time.

Alex Hanks (St. Cloud Tech) with a strong move and he finishes the 3 point play. 62-59 Comets with 2:20 left. After a PNR turnover, Michael Johnson (Grand Rapids) with an ill-advised drive that Starks converts with a floater. Eric Tengwall misses a front end with 1:27 left. Kevin Noreen has a 3 go in and out but Carlos Emmory puts it back with 1:07 left. 63-62 PNR. Hanks forces and misses with 40 seconds left. Starks with 2 FTs with 31 seconds left. Hanks with 2 FTs with 9 seconds left 65-54 PNR. I'm saying foul Emmory at this point. He gets it but the defender gets caught on the wrong side and Emmory is off to the races. It takes a jersey grab to stop him and that's an intentional foul with 7 seconds left. He misses both and I'm thinking that he should come out. But not only does he stay in, he gets the inbounds pass and I'm screaming to foul him which happens. He steps up and buries both like Larry Bird, no doubt about them. 67-64 PNR wins.

17U Championship - 43 Hoops 17U Harris vs Pump N Run 17U
PNR goes 2-3 zone, interesting. One of the tourney highlights with Kevin Noreen throwing it up from half court and Emmory flies in from Fargo like Superman and throws it down. 13-11 PNR at 8:40. Clay Horne with a layup at 7:30 for a 16-15 43 Hoops lead. But they can't find the range as they get only 1 FG in the next 7:25. Steve Tecker with a back, Mike Rostampour with a steal for 2 FTs and a Dyami Starks jumper give PNR a 29-20 lead before Tim Lubke buries a 3 to beat the halftime buzzer. 29-23 at the half PNR leads.

Emmory with 6 quick points early in the 2nd half to push the lead to 35-25. Tony Gerding with a pair of triples in a 8-2 43 Hoops run. Timeout PNR at 10:47 with a 37-33 lead. Gerding with 2 freebies and Jordan Reetz calls home to Fall Creek, WI to cut the lead to 1. PNR man-man down the stretch which is interesting. Out of a timeout, Mike Rostampour gets Tim Lubke on him inside and converts the mismatch with 6:10 to play. 43-39 PNR. Leonard Glass with a putback and Lubke with a triple with 4:43 left and 43 Hoops leads 45-44. 2 missed bunnies by PNR during that quick run. PNR not to be denied. Rostampour with 2 FTs, Kevin Noreen gets the 2nd pass out of a drive and buries a wide open 3. Clutch. Starks for 2 and Emmory with 1 of his too many to count dunks during the tourney to finish a 9-0 over 2:12. 53-45 PNR with 2:31 to play. PNR wins the title 54-45. I had Carlos Emmory with 20 points on my sheet. Tim Lubke hot in this one but his 3 or 4 triples weren't enough in this one.

Quick Final Thoughts
  • Carlos Emmory would be my tourney MVP as he was amazing all tournament long. Keep in mind that this was after not playing this entire high school season. He was a man amongst boys going around, through and mostly over everybody.
  • Dyami Starks had a nice weekend for the 17s PNR also.
  • Clay Horne looks like a totally different player than during the winter season. He will really blow up this summer if his play this weekend continues.
  • Speaking of 43 Hoops Harris, I totally underestimated them. I had questions about their offense which I think came true in the championship game. However, their defense is something I didn't count on. Summer ball gets a rep as run and gun don't guard anybody. More than anybody else you'll see, they prove that wrong as they really really get after it defensively. With Vinard Birch at the point of that pressure and a bunch of interchangable athletic wing pieces they can sustain it too.
  • I'm told Trey Scott lit up the Comets Elite-Seevers squad in pool play. From nowhere to Fall League week MVP to 20 PPG for a state qualifying Spring Lake Park team. A very nice story.
  • Terry Porter teams both very athletic and more than I expected. If Garrett Wenzelburger is who I think it was, he played well in the 16U final.
  • I correctly picked 6 of 8 pool winners, the final 4 and the winner. The 1 major wrong pick costs me free food. Drat!
  • Overall a very fun event. Too bad Net Gain didn't make it.

2009 MN Comets Shootout Pool Play Thoughts

I spent the 1st half of the day in the Auxillary Gym at Sartell HS for 15U Play and the back half of the day watching the 11 teams (IA teams pulled out due to the weather) at Sauk Rapids-Rice HS. Here's what caught my eye.

15U (4 games, 6 teams)

43 Hoops I is totally loaded with Cutler Finneman (Concordia) and Josh Turnquist (Rogers) up front with a host of guards like Marcus Marshall (Hopkins), Tommy McDermott (Minnetonka). They also have Maple Grove behemoth Will Johnson. I mentioned during the game that their execution of the dribble drive motion for 17-24 FTs during the 1st half of their game vs Tri City would have Vance Wahberg smiling.

MN Heat Elite's Trent Pollard (BSM) was terrific in the game vs 43 Hoops I. Unfortunately he also committed a reach in foul with 1 second left. Marcus Marshall made both and 43 Hoops stole a 57-56 win after being down 5 with 2 minutes left. Eric Gebeke DNP due to illness for the Heat.

MN Heat Select's team as a whole was impressive in moving the ball. Hastings with Quintain Weaver at Center (think of Tyler Perry of Mounds View as both are good passers) and Darius Wilkerson at forward may have more in the pipeline. Disruptive because of his length. Christian Koehn (Totino-Grace) did a nice job running the point.

Shaquille Stringer (Armstrong) was the top player for the Tri-City Bulldogs. He has the ability to be a very good player. Overall an athletic squad that can pull an upset with hot shooting.

The Minnesota Select featured Blake 8th grader Kebu Johnson. I like the lefty's composure. Derek Schofield (Cotton) is huge with some skills (no surprise). Mohamed Osman gives them a long and lanky shot blocking option. They have 3 tiny guards on the roster.

17U (tight squeeze against the walls at SRHS)
Session 1: No Joe Terfehr for ECI MN so their game vs MN PNR was ugly. Carlos Emmory was dunking all over the place including a monster windmill in this one. A couple of interesting PNR lineups during the 2nd half experimentation. Kevin Noreen at PG with Darius Clare, Mike Rostampour, Alec Brown and Jake Kreuser. Then they came with Aaron Anderson, Dyami Starks, Tazz Crockett, Emmory at the 4 and Brown. All 3 games are blowouts as Grassroots (sans Jett) blows out 94 Ft and Heat Elite blowout ECI East

Session 2: With the Iowa Mavs out, only 2 games in the even numbered sessions. Both 43 Hoops teams take 12/13 point leads to the break and roll in the 2nd half to easy wins over Hoops Training and TC Elite.

Session 3: Heat Elite hold off Triple Threat 59-50, 94 Ft over ECI MN 56-43. PNR gets out to a quick 18-5 lead vs Grassroots. 40-30 at half. It opens up to 57-38 with 8:30 to play. PNR wins 66-50 and it wasn't that close. A physical and chippy game. Grassroots with an interesting roster of Averey Duncan, Joe Bright and Brian Sandifer of St. Bernard's (I think Mike Weah too). Joe Bright, Kenquane Brown and Quincy Bethea of Cooper along with Kevin Thompson and Jordan Hughes (Henry) and a mystery player that no one seems to know.

Session 4: TC Elite vs PNR 16s. 8-0 PNRs after 6 minutes. But TC Elite goes on a 27-7 run over the next 11:30. PNR closes to 27-21 at the break. They pull to 33-29 in the 2nd half before a 9-0 run pushes the lead back to 13 with 9:17 to play. Alex Kreuser gets his defender pinched inside and Alex Richter and Jason Perkins score inside for 7 quick PNR points. Back to 6. Mike Yahnke puts back a miss with 4:20 left to cut the lead to 46-44. Down 49-46 with 1:20 left, Ethan Petrill misses a triple. A jumpball goes to PNR and Jonah Travis puts back a miss with 30 seconds left. After a TC Elite turnover, Shelby Moats makes 1 of 2 FTs with 16.6 left to tie the game at 49. David Gschneider of misses a front end with 12 seconds left and PNR takes time with 11.1 left. Jonah Travis gets a good look at a right elbow jumper but that's no good. TC Elite comes out of the pack and they may have a layup at the horn, but they called timeout. The clock expired as it wasn't clear how much time should be left. The officials put 3 seconds up. TC Elite inbounds from around half court and Josh Pratt curls around a high double and buries a left wing 3 to win it 52-49.

Session 5: Grassroots kept ECI MN close with a 84-79 win. PNR took it to 94 Ft with a 68-29 win. That game was something like 30-5. Ugly. 94 Ft with Andre Ingram (MTS) and Jordan Jackson (Como Park)

Session 6: Hoops Training looked they would hold on over Comets Blue. 43 Hoops Harris leads by 10 or 12 at half on the PNR 16s and then the run and jump pressure takes over and we end up with a 30 some point blowout by the 43 Hoops Harris squad.

2009 Coaches All-Star Series in St. Cloud

Some thoughts on the night that was the coaches association all-star series in St. Cloud.

2 dunks of note in the dunk contests. Rodney Williams Jr taking off from a step inside the foul line and flying and finishing with a 1 handed hammer. That gave him a win. Dylan Hale missed his 1st dunk and finished with an impressive between the legs switch and throwdown but it wasn't enough to beat the only guy who made both his dunks, Josh Figini. He did a nice Kenny Smith dunk going backwards between the legs from the FT line off the backboard and finishing.

To the games. In the early game, a nice ovation for hometown hero Nate Wolters of the Blue team in the starting lineup. He obliges with 4 of the 6 points in his 1st 5 minute rotation (kids play 5 minutes and then do a full line change to the other 5 guys). Eric Shulstad sick and DNP tonight which is a shame. Hopefully he's better for tomorrow. Damarius Cruz and Zach Towle really up the tempo for the Gold squad in their rotations. That group finishes their rotation giving up a 10-0 run over 2 minutes. Cedric Martin back in for the Gold squad and he nails 4 triples in his 5 minute rotation. In the last 5 minutes Matt Zager with 7 points, Damarius Cruz with a banked 3 and then a 3 to beat the buzzer. Those points put the Blue team up 54-50 at the break. Tom Sawatzke (Monticello) wins the 3 point shootout at the half.

Chris Halvorsen back door for a dunk to start the 2nd half and 2 more buckets in his rotation to match 2 triples from Sawatzke. Blue team 64-58 at the line change. Rodney with a triple to give Blue their biggest lead of the night 69-61 with 15:22 left. The 12:31 line change has Blue leading 74-67. Gold comes back with a 13-0 run as Martin and Towle are teamed up. Nate Wolters with 15 points in the last 8 minutes and an assist to keep Blue close. Caleb Palkert with a dunk for a 3 point play and a regular triple in a 30 second span with 4 minutes to go that were clutch. Gold wins 107-99. For the Blue team, Nate Wolters 23 and 6, Mike Muscala 16 and 11. 6 guys in double figures. For the Gold team, Cedric Martin with 18 and 4 and 5 assists Isaiah Thomas with 17 and 10. Chris Halvorsen and Damarius Cruz with 19 points each. Halvorsen with 15 in the 2nd half. 61-41 Gold on the glass with 24 offensive rebounds. 74 3s shot during this game.

In the late game, 49-44 at the half Green leads. Jordair Jett handling and breaking people down. Chris Palmer (Bethlehem) uber aggressive. Brandon Brekke (E Grand Forks) and Sam Dower all over the glass. But the Green squad gets blown up in the 2nd half as Maroon wins 107-88. 18 points for Josh Figini, 17 points, 7 boards and 3 steals for Dion Suggs. 15 and 11 for Sam Dower. They brought Sam Dower, Jordan Aaberg (Rothsay to NDSU), Mike Felt (Redwood Valley to NDSU) and Marc Sonnen off the bench. Scary. For the Green (wearing white) team, Jordair Jett 16 points and 6 assists. 15 and 8 and 4 steals for Mike Bruesewitz. Maroon shot 26-40 in the 2nd half.

2009 MN Comets Shootout Preview

Here's my thoughts on this weekend's Comets Shootout. Let's be honest. There's not much to watch in the 16s since the Pump N Run and top 43 Hoops 16s are playing up. I assume the top 43 Hoops 15U team will be good and they play a good Heat 15U Elite team at Sartell High in the Auxillary gym bright and early at 9:10 AM. A shame they're in the same pool but the top 2 finishers in each of the 4 pools move on to the championship bracket so they could have a rematch in the 15U title game. I'm surprised that the Pump N Run 15s aren't playing in this one.

The Comets Elites 16s and the MN Select 16s are the 2 16U teams I'd watch during day session (8-3). Unfortunately the MN Heat 16 Elites play during the night session as I think they're the other favorite in the 16s. Yes they lost stud Alex Richter to Pump N Run, but the Preiner twins and Riley West still give them a very good core group from one of last year's top 15U teams.

On to the good stuff and the only stuff anyone will pay much attention to (besides me of course, it's who I am, its what I do). The 17s start at 3 PM and play on 8 courts in 3 buildings for 6 straight sessions thanks to ACT exam day. A dream and a nightmare all in 1. Let's look at the best games of each session and then I'll make my pool and bracket picks.

3 PM Session
A couple of games that interest me here. Grassroots vs 94 Ft should be a very up and down game. While I don't claim to know what 94 Ft of Game has for a roster, I won't be surprised if Jordan Jackson puts up big numbers for them this summer. A couple of Grassroots questions. Will Jordair Jett play for Grassroots since he's also in the All-Star series Friday night and Saturday afternoon? If so, how much? And a little birdie tells me there may be something else worth noting with Grassroots so that perks my attention. The other point of interest is Breckenridge forward Joe Terfehr vs the huge front line of the Pump N Run 17s. Both of those games are at Sauk Rapids-Rice high.

4:10 PM Session
Weak session here, but I'll take the game on court 1 at the Whitney Rec Center. Fury Elite vs Magic Black. With Danny Geiger, Dajon Newell and Charlie Kern outside and LeDarian Horton, Yuriy Maleshenko and Justin Casey up front, this is a team I wouldn't want to play against. This Magic Black squad was a good team last year with guys like Jeff Fallat from Burnsville so I'll be interested to see what they have this season.

5:20 PM Session
There will be no more humorous contrast of size and style this summer than the matchup of the Pump N Run 17s vs Grassroots (Sauk Rapids-Rice High). Pump N Run huge and slow, Grassroots small and lightning fast.

6:30 PM Session
I'm going to stick with the Magic Black theme and go back to the WRC for their game against the Mpls Redhawks. The Redhawks added SPA's tough Evan McMillan and Burnsville shooter Jack Ghizoni. Remember they made the state 16U final last summer. Don't sleep on them this summer.

7:40 PM Session
We meet the fairness doctrine as the 3rd location (Sauk Rapids Middle School) gets this featured game. That's TNL and their high-octane offense but with a post presence now. That's White Bear Lake's Spencer Cummings who comes over from Howard Pulley. They get Chris Carr's 43 Hoops top 16U team. Keep an extra scoreboard handy in that one. I don't see TNL putting up much defensive resistance and I don't see the younger 43 Hoops guys being able to stop TNL. This game should decide Pool C.

8:50 PM Session
A couple of nice matchups in this session. At Sauk Rapids High, The top 43 Hoops team of Al Harris takes on the Pump N Run 16s. I think that's the game of the day and will decide Pool H. Over at the WRC, the Redhawks take on the Fury Elite in a game that will decide Pool E.

Pool A: Comets Elite-Hanson
Pool B: MN Glory out of the weakest pool.
Pool C: TNL but 43 Hoops Carr wouldn't surprise me here.
Pool D: Pump N Run 17s but I won't be surprised if Grassroots comes out of here.
Pool E: Fury Elite out of the most balanced pool
Pool F: Heat Elite because of all the Stillwater kids playing together but Select I is a wildcard since their roster is unknown.
Pool G: Comets Elite-Seevers. The Terry Porter rosters don't have any of the studs they had last year. No ranked kids on the 16s or 17s. Read the Wishoops.net previews here, 16s preview, 17s preview.
Pool H: 43 Hoops-Harris but I won't be surprised if the PNR 16s get the win.

Quarterfinals: Comets Elite-Hanson over Glory, PNR 17s over TNL in another game of size vs speed, Fury Elite over Heat Elite, 43 Hoops Harris over Comets Elite-Seevers.
Semifinals: PNR 17s over Comets Elite-Hanson (great game), Fury Elite over 43 Hoops-Harris
Championship: PNR 17s over Fury Elite

Don't sleep on the Gold bracket which is going on at the same time. The Semis there could look like this. 43 Hoops Carr vs Grassroots and MN Select vs PNR 16s. That's not bad. While the quarters and semis for that bracket are going on at another building, the Gold final, 17U Championship and the 15U Championship are all at the Whitney Rec Center at 3 PM on Sunday. The 16U Championship and the 3rd place championship of 17U are at 1:50 PM.

(Czar's Note 4/3/09, this Carr/Grassroots game would actually have to happen in the quarters, who ever wins should move to the final, I also overlooked the Redhawks vs Select possibility in the other half)