In part 2, I'll take a look at and make my predictions for the Comets 17U tourney, but here's a look at everything else this weekend.
Probably the biggest event in the nation this weekend is the Boo Williams invite out in Virginia. Howard Pulley opens play there in Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League with 5 non-division games. That includes a brutal opener against Seattle Rotary on Friday night. They feature a pair of nationally ranked guards in Tony Wroten (#9 rivals) and Gary Bell (#74). Wroten missed the entire season with a torn ACL so who knows if he'll play.
While its no surprise that Howard Pulley isn't playing up in St. Cloud, its a bit surprising that Minnesota Southside and their 16U squad led by Joey King isn't playing there. They're down in Iowa playing the Festival of Teams. They open their season on Saturday against Martin Brothers. That squad features super soph point guard Marcus Paige (put on a show in the TWolves shootout this year), shooter Mike Gesell and 7 footer Adam Woodbury who have all received at least mid-major D1 interest already. Pump N Run also has a squad in the 15U bracket.
Speaking of St. Cloud, let's not overlook the all-star series there on Friday night. Its the last look at most of the state's top seniors. While they play in the cities on Saturday afternoon, minimal attention to that as everybody else is in St. Cloud for the Comets Shootout.
15U Division (schedule here)
Almost all of the pool games are Saturday morning and afternoon at Sauk Rapids Middle School. The other Pump N Run 15U squad is here, guess its the top team but who knows. Either way I expect them to contend. The Dakota Schoolers are very dangerous here with 3 6'7 kids. They took it to some teams last year at the Select tournament so I expect them to contend. Also keep an eye on the MN Select squad led by Blake's Kebu Johnson along with Sibley's Adam Huessner (shooter) and Nick Goldberg.
16U Division (schedule here)
In the 16U division, they get the morning and day duty at the Whitney Rec Center except for the last pool. In Pool A, look for the hosts Comets Elite to roll through. Kevin Heysse (Tech) and Austin Pohlen (Grand Rapids) saw big minutes for state qualifiers this year. Jimmy Unger (Willmar) was a leader for them last year. Damien Reineke (Becker) comes over from Howard Pulley as another big.
6'10 Riley Mickelson of Ashby represents ECI Select in pool B. He was an Little 8 all-conference selection. Pool Pick: ECI. Would love to see him play against Heat Elite (keep reading) but I don't think they'll cross paths.
In Pool C, we have the Minnesota Suns with Maranatha frosh Isaiah Hanson playing up along with 6'8 Michael Schreiber of Rogers. 2 of HLWW's top players also play for the Suns. That's Jett Leaf and frosh Cody Painschab. I like them to come out against Comets Blue and the ECI top 16s.
In Pool D, 43 Hoops and MN Fury should battle it out. Fury with quality size in Will Johnson, Cedric Dicke and Breion Creer. Up and comer Marcus Tyus and Tony Kuplic are the guards of note for the Fury. For 43 Hoops, there's size too with Josh Turnquist, Tim Gill and Cutler Finneman. Sean Scott is a freak athlete on the wing which will fit coach Al Harris well. Marcus Marshall scores from the point guard slot. Those teams play at 12:40 Saturday afternoon to decide the pool.
In Pool E, Andrew Lindquist of Mahtomedi and Carey Woods of Bemidji (if he doesn't play up) represent MN Glory. They'll have to battle Net Gain to get out of the pool. That game is at 10:20 Saturday morning. Not 100% sure but I think that Net Gain squad features Riley Dearring playing up. I like Net Gain to win the pool with too much athleticism for Glory.
Pool F has the monster known as Dave Simmet for Heat Elite. 6'9 350 out of Hill-Murray. Josh Tismer runs the show and his White Bear Lake teammate Eric Gebeke is on 1 wing. Expect Mahtomedi wing Justin Pahl to man the other wing after averaging 11.7 PPG for the Zephyrs this season. Wear Out The Net is the challenge game also at 12:40.
Finally to St Benedict's for Pool G. Heat Black and SW Slam are here but I'll take the South Dakota Heat. Ellsworth's Dalton Huisman is part of that squad.
So my championship bracket prediction looks like this.
Comets Elite vs Heat Red
MN Glory v Comets-Stock
Heat Elite vs ECI Prospects
Heat Black vs 43 Hoops
SD Heat vs MN Fury
MN Suns vs Old Skool
Net Gain vs WOTN
ECI Select vs Triple Threat
Comets Elite, Glory, Heat Elite, 43 Hoops, Fury, Suns, Net Gain, ECI Select to win round of 16 games.
Comets Elite, 43 Hoops, Fury, Net Gain to win quarterfinals
43 Hoops over Comets Elite, Net Gain over Fury
43 Hoops over Net Gain to win the 16U Title.