09-10 North Suburban Preview

Columbia Heights coach
Willie Braziel

This is the 7th preview in my metro area season previews series. In this installment, I take a look at the North Suburban Conference. To access all of the previews in the series, view the season preview page here.

A bevy of good players throughout the league. Mostly guards and then the buzz that surrounds Cooper's new addition. Top of the league is brutal with 2 obvious contenders and 2 others who I think are dangerous. This year is unique as the league goes to the 16 game unbalanced schedule. It will be very interesting to see how that impacts the conference race.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights (2008 season 17-11, 15-5 Conference)
BSM returns a talented club with Peter Crawford and Miles Barnes up front. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Zierden is outstanding. Darren Glover is a good shooter on the wing. Seth Marx, Ben Krebsbach and Nick Meyer provide guard depth and Evan Battle is mean up front. Add in sophs Will Dunn and Kyle Washington for even more talent. Look for them to be one of the best in 3A this season.

Chisago Lakes Wildcats (2008 season 10-17, 6-14 Conference)
Josh Figini leaves for Cornell after an outstanding career. Younger brother Ben will take over as the star. Otherwise not much returns. Figini will have a big season, but I can't see double-digit wins.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2008 season 18-11, 14-6 Conference)
This is the season that they've built for with a group of seniors that has played together for 2 years. Kendrick Mills and Akrau Imbu will be missed but are replaceable. Star guard Jacob Thomas returns with his 23 points a game. When he's on, there are few people who can put up points quicker. There's plenty of firepower outside with him in Harold Rainey, Markus Shaw, Gerard Baptiste and D'Carlos Craig. Andrew Hansen comes in from Apple Valley to provide much needed size in the middle. If he defends and rebounds, the Hylanders will have a great final piece to their puzzle. Notable that Columbia Heights and Cooper only play once.

Fridley Tigers (2008 season 17-9, 13-7 Conference)
Fridley surprised me last year as Isaiah Thomas put the Tigers on his back as the best 1 man band around. The top 5 scorers are gone. While coach McDonald does an outstanding job year in and year out, this year he'll have to work miracles to come close to last year's 17 wins.

Irondale Knights (2008 season 9-18, 8-12 Conference)
Guard Rayveen Banks and Bjorn Westlund are gone. However, Bryan Sprang returns as one of the more unique scorers around. Expect him to have a big season. Chad Goodsell also returns.

North Branch Vikings (2008 season 6-21, 2-18 Conference)
Leading scorer Kyle Grote returns but he didn't average double figures in a very long season for the Vikings. More of the same awaits.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2008 season 27-2, 20-0 Conference)
Cooper has the biggest X-Factor coming in and that's 6'7" Calvin Godfrey from Milwaukee via a east coast prep school. He was the #5 player in Wisconsin a year ago before leaving and recently decommitted from UW-Milwaukee. Expect him to have a HUGE year (i.e 25 and 12) as the Hawks lost high-flying Rodney Williams to Minnesota along with the other 7 members of the rotation. What they lack in experience, they'll make up for in athleticism. Johnny Jackson and Brandon Harrison give them the most size in the league. Darry Jones, Charles Williams and Terrance Averyheart are also athletic returnees. Jones was a big scorer at St. Agnes 2 years ago, he'll need to be a 2nd scorer.

St. Francis Fighting Saints (2008 season 15-13, 9-11 Conference)
The top 2 scorers, Joe Foss and post Seth Akason, are gone. Junior guard Dontay Matthews should up his scoring average into double figures and lead the way.

St. Louis Park Orioles
(2008 season 6-20, 3-17 Conference)
Hands down the most improved team in the metro this season. Coach Micah Watkins will clean up the disaster of last year and he has a couple of nice pieces to work with. Point guard Aaron Ziman is quick enough to avoid pressure and a solid pass first player. He has 6'5 shooter Alex Koch on the wing and I think he has a huge year. Frosh Kashif Hayes is a player in the pipeline to watch. TJ Gist, Marquelis Edwards, Quinton Wagner, DeMonte Baker make up a nice group of talent that coach Watkins can develop.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2008 season 24-7, 16-4 Conference)
Nasty schedule trick getting Cooper and Heights back-back but they only get BSM once and that's at home. The big scoring backcourt of Trey Scott, Shaun Jensen and Y (Tyler Ylvisaker) is gone but there are players remaining. Derek Dahl takes over at the point. Steve Bailey will man the 2. Travis Johnson and Elijah Sabah are solid forwards. Sophomore lefty Sean Scott plays like Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks wanting to swat and dunk everything in sight while shooting too many threes. He has great upside, especially if he develops a shot like Trey. They take great care of the ball and show great patience. Coach Guzy will keep them in the upper half.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2008 season 6-21, 4-16 Conference)
A surprisingly rough year for the Eagles last year finishing 3-16 in the new year. Senior center Tom Olson graduated, but everybody else is back for new coach Kevin Seim. Seim comes over after doing a nice job in a tough spot as the interim coach at Stillwater last season. The duo of John Crockett and Alex Kreuser gives him plenty to work with. Crockett was a beast this summer for MN Pump N Run much to my surprise and Kreuser was one of the nice sophomore stories of last regular season. Look for noteworthy improvement from them as well.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  2. Columbia Heights
  3. Robbinsdale Cooper
  4. Spring Lake Park
  5. St. Louis Park
  6. Totino-Grace
  7. Fridley
  8. Irondale
  9. Chisago Lakes
  10. St. Francis
  11. North Branch
Conference MVP: Jacob Thomas - Columbia Heights

Breakout/Surprise Player: Darry Jones - Robbinsdale Cooper

Games that will determine the conference title

  • Cooper at Benilde-St. Margaret's - January 5th
  • Spring Lake Park at Cooper - January 8th
  • Columbia Heights at Spring Lake Park - January 12th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Columbia Heights - January 15th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Spring Lake Park - January 26th
  • Cooper at Columbia Heights - February 1st
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Cooper - February 11th
  • Cooper at Spring Lake Park - February 16th
  • Spring Lake Park at Columbia Heights - February 18th
  • Columbia Heights at Spring Lake Park - February 23rd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Columbia Heights - December 8th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's vs Lakeville South - December 12th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Holy Angels at Benilde-St. Margaret's - December 17th
  • Cooper vs Henry Sibley - December 18th (Minnetonka tournament)
  • Minnetonka vs Benilde-St. Margaret's - December 22nd
  • Cooper at Little Falls (projected) - December 30 (Little Falls tourney)
  • Minnetonka at Columbia Heights - January 7th
  • Minnetonka at Cooper - January 26th
  • Hopkins at Benilde-St. Margaret's - January 30th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at De La Salle - February 27th
  • Columbia Heights at Minnetonka - March 5th
I had a chance to ask Columbia Heights coach Willie Braziel some questions about the Hylanders and the North Suburban Conference. Minnesota Preps subscribers can read that interview here.

Willie Braziel picture courtesy of MNPhotoNet.net


  1. Honestly, you and Michael couldn't get a better picture than that.... Gosh.. Nice write up!..


    Willie B.

  2. HA. Blame me for that one. I think it may have gotten cropped a little close. But that profile pic here is the one I should have used!


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