10-11 North Suburban Preview

Its the second week of my 2010-2011 season preview series.  This week I begin with the 6th preview in the series, a look at the North Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

If you like scorers, this is the league for you.  I expect 3 players in the league to be in the 25 points a game range.  And only the extreme talent level holds at least 1 if not 2 players from Benilde from that mark.  The top and the bottom of the league standings seem pretty clear.  The middle of the league is a group of respectable teams that could fit anywhere from 3-6.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights (2009-10 season 24-6, 15-1 Conference, 2nd)
Forward Peter Crawford is off to UMD and sharpshooter Seth Marx is gone.  Post Myles Barnes may choose to focus on football.  That's 3 of the top 4 scorers.  And they lose defensive stopper and shooter Darren Glover.  But the junior class is one of the most loaded classes at a school in my short time in the cities.  Guard Isaiah Zierden and wing Sanjay Lumpkin are both capable of taking over at anytime.  Post Kyle Washington can block shots and also step out to the 3 point line.  He oozes potential.  Point guard Danon Briggs and wing Will Dunn are solid role players in that class.  Add in senior post Evan Battle to do the dirty work inside and the Red Knights should still be one of the best teams in 3A.  Oh and did I mention they also add point guard Isaiah Gray from Wisconsin.  He played with the 43 Hoops 16s this summer and will see a ton of playing time as well.

Chisago Lakes Wildcats (2009-10 season 6-21, 2-14 Conference, tied 10th)
Benji Figini averaged 24.8 points per game last season and figures to have another huge season this year.  The bad news is that nobody else averaged more than 7 points a game.  They do have a handful of players coming back who gained varsity experience last year.  Expect improvement from this group. 

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2009-10 season 22-7, 13-3 Conference, 3rd)
One of the state's most explosive scorers Jacob Thomas is gone (26.7 PPG) but Zach Lofton is ready to jump into that spot.  He averaged almost 19 points a game with Thomas last season.  Don't be shocked if he leads the state in shots and scoring.  Ben Glover returns on the other wing and can do a bit of everything.  Roderick Logan is a defensive pest at the point.  6'9 Andrew Hanson returns in the post. 

Fridley Tigers (2009-10 season 7-17, 3-13 Conference, tied 8th)
A rough year and the top 2 players Jordan Halvorson and Devin Hemmerich are gone. Junior Ryan Backstrom will man the point.  Ryan Jenkins is the top returner. 

Irondale Knights (2009-10 season 16-11, 11-5 Conference, 4th)
Bryan Sprang averaged 25.5 PPG last year and is one of the top returning scorers in the state.  Vince Calistro and Danny Blumberg also return.

North Branch Vikings (2009-10 season 9-18, 2-14 Conference, tied 10th)
Top player Kyle Grote is gone and he was the only double-figure scorer last year.  The top returnee is Christian Ehrnriter at 7.8 PPG.  Another long season appears ahead for the Vikings.  

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2009-10 season 25-4, 15-1 Conference, 1st)
Big losses for the Hawks in center Calvin Godfrey and wing Darry Jones.  That's over 45 PPG gone.  Guard Terrance Averyheart is the top returnee.  Raheem Tyner returns inside.  Keep an eye on frosh Rashad Vaughn.

St. Francis Saints (2009-10 season 6-21, 3-13 Conference, tied 8th)
Most of the roster is gone from a team that had a rough year.  Can't see things on the upswing this season.

St. Louis Park Orioles (2009-10 season 14-13, 10-6 Conference, 5th)
David Breitenbucher takes over as the 4th head coach in 4 years for the Orioles.  Sharpshooter Alex Koch is gone to SW Minnesota State.  However, the Orioles still have plenty of pieces to work with.  Aaron Ziman returns at the point.  Joe Zangel returns up front.  Wing Marquealis Edwards had a breakout season and a big summer for the MN Fury.  Expect his 14.1 PPG to go up.  TJ Gist and and Quinton Wagner saw plenty of time last year and return.  The schedule is favorable with Totino-Grace and Benilde St. Margaret's only on the schedule once.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2009-10 season 13-14, 8-8 Conference, 6th)
The top 3 scorers including Travis Johnson and Elijah Sabah are gone.  Freak athlete Sean Scott returns at 1 forward spot.  Derek Dahl returns to run the point.  Other than that, there's little experience to be found.  Keep an eye on soph Robert Ben.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2009-10 season 13-15, 7-9 Conference, 7th)
Leading scorer Alex Kreuser returns with his 16.2 points per game.  Guards Tyler Fleming and Sam Meyer also return.  Senior Ben Meyer returns to provide size inside.

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

Underclassmen to watch:  
Troy Freeman - Fridley
Rashad Vaughn, Leroy Taylor - Robbinsdale Cooper
Kashif Hayes - St. Louis Park
Robert Ben - Spring Lake Park

Games that will determine the conference title
  • Columbia Heights at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Jan 6th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Columbia Heights - Feb 15th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 11th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Hopkins - Dec 18th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Eden Prairie tournament - Dec 28th/30th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's vs Onalaska, WI - Jan 8th (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Columbia Heights at Minneapolis Henry - Jan 13th
  • Columbia Heights at Minneapolis Washburn - Feb 1st
  • Irondale at Rogers - Feb 1st
  • DeLaSalle at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Feb 8th


  1. Hey Czar,

    I always enjoy the previews. The North Suburban won't be as strong overall with Cooper being "down" compared to last couple of years for sure and the bottom 4 teams will struggle but BSM SHOULD be very good. I do wonder if they might have to roll out another ball to keep everyone happy.

    Lofton as your MVP? I could pick a couple kids off BSM who might not put up the numbers because of the quality of their team in contrast to some. I'm thinking Lumpkin, Zierdin, etc. Also Sprang from Irondale would get my vote if Irondale can win enough games to justify it.

    Good stuff though Czar!

  2. Hey Pimp, I had a really hard time with where to put Cooper. You know they'll have athletes and Totino-Grace seemed low at 6. But where do you put them with St. Louis Park and Irondale having their rosters back. 3-6 should be a real tossup. I took St. Louis Park for 3rd because they get a break seeing BSM only once (at home too) via the unbalanced schedule.

    Columbia Heights will go as far as Lofton takes them. He'll shoot them into games (see 18 in a row in the Pulley tournament championship) or shoot them out of games if he's cold. Take Zierden or Lumpkin off of BSM and they still win the league so that's why I didn't take anybody from there (I had Zierden initially). When I said 1 or 2 guys from BSM could put up the same big numbers, those were the 2.

    Agreed on Sprang for MVP with a big year and a jump in the standings. Averyheart, Kreuser and Marquealis Edwards could all fit in that category too. Figini would be in that discussion too if his team was better.

  3. Someone is always hating on my son- Write what you want to, he will just have to show you- as he has every other year. I want all of you boys to play your hearts out! Everyone of you has the potential to fufill your dreams- do not let people who hide behind screen names/ or who are grown up men who wish they were as good as you in high school- to take that away from you with negative comments- Good luck to all of you this year and have fun! Tonia Lofton

  4. Tonia, I'm sorry you took my comments as hating on Zach. I don't know Zach personally so I have no opinion good or bad of him as a person. I respect you standing up for your son.

    I've been around basketball for 25 years. I saw Columbia Heights play 7 times last season and saw Zach in the summer and last fall as well. I don't feel saying Zach takes lots of shots is any kind of stretch in basketball terms. I didn't say he was a gunner or selfish or that those were bad shots or anything that would imply those those things. I said he was ready to jump into the spot of a player who is now playing Division I ball, was looked at by Minnesota and was one of the state's best players last year. Please note that I pointed out the 18 points in a row at the Pulley tournament without pointing out the details of some of the off performances.

    If I was really hating on your son, why would I select him as the most valuable player in the league and then defend the choice in the comments above.

    Those who have read long enough (including Louie) know that I don't go after kids personally. I've made that mistake, paid the price and learned the lesson. However, in this forum I draw a distinction between the personal and the basketball aspects. Its part of the openness and honesty of this blog that I would hope people respect.

    As to the charge that I hide behind my screenname, that's patently false and I take offense to that. My identity has been available in the About Me page on this blog for more than 2 years. My weekly column on Minnesota Preps has been written with that name for 2 years now as well.

  5. If my "?" regarding Zach as MVP was taken as "hating" on your son it should not be. I was simply commenting on the fact the Czar had picked BSM as his pick and then Zach as the MVP.

  6. Czar,
    My comment was not directed at you. My comment was directed at the persons who are hidden behind "screen" names making negative comments on articles in the "post a comment section" or on "message boards" on any of the sites. I feel like you as a writer are not critical of actual players, you do more of a "critical analysis" of players abilities and games. While I understand that everyone has a right to their own opinion when responding to these articles, do these reponses always have to put down one player to hold another one up? As a writer, I understand your need to be completely subjective and I was very happy to see "my baby" picked as your MVP. My comments are just to make adults who are commenting on these blogs aware that they referring to boys- not men. Boys who are all striving to be the best that they can be- And to tear them down with negative comments- For what? Does the comment change what was written in the article? No. But that comment can change a young man's confidence in himself. I would just like people to think about that - not just for responding about my son but in responding to everyones son.

  7. Czar,
    I must apologize that you felt my comments were directed at you. Do not take offense to the comment I made about "hidden screen names". I very well aware that your information is readily available as to who you are. Myself, I could have hid behind a screen name but chose not to, I just think if adults are choosing to write something negative towards someone else's child- they would have the guts to sign their own name. P.S. All should know that my son is livid that I wrote on a basketball site and signed my name- oh well - moms don't always have the best tact when it comes to their children.

  8. Apology accepted. I commend you for your courage in commenting. Without the personal dialog, it can be very easy to miss the context of a comment and I think that went both ways here.

    I know I was quick to jump at the comment thinking it was directed at me. But that's also because I don't see Pimp's comment as out of line. It was simply asking me to defend my choice of a player from a 2nd place when the top team looks to be one of the best teams in the state and has at least 2 worthy candidates. That's a fair question.

  9. Every year you guys say the same things about cooper but they still end up winning the conference regardless...


Have a different take than mine? You can provide your take here.