Diapers, footrubs and hoops in Denver

I had the chance to join the Minnesota Fury on the road for their 1st trip to Denver last weekend and follow the 6 teams there while also playing tour guide.  For those of you wondering about the title, I'll explain it below.  Bottom line is that the title gets me free dinner and if you know I'm all about free food. 

Friday
Fury had the 10:40 PM Central time games so the day was already going to be a long day.  Then due to high winds at MSP the plane gets diverted to Fargo.  Ben Davis burning up phone lines left and right.  He may have used the phones of 5 or 6 different players besides his own.  Meanwhile to pass the time the players and I are trying to open something encased in that hard plastic that shreds your hands when you open it.  Of course we're behind security so no knives or anything to help us.  It takes 6 of us and 20 minutes to finally open it thanks to Will Johnson going Superman on it and just tearing it open.  We land at 9:15 Central time, hurry hurry hurry.  Most of the squad makes with just a few minutes to spare.  I pull in 20 minutes before the late games.  Fury 16s roll, Fury 17s win big but understandibly sluggish in 2nd half.  I catch a smidge of the loaded Houston Defenders Select team.  They have a pair of twins who are #1 and #10 in the 2013 class respectively.  Then its Old Chicago after the game.  Ran into IA PNR director Duez Henderson there.  They took the bus out there and ended up detouring around all the snow and just barely making their 6 PM game with 20 minutes to spare.  Then its pizza.  Points of discussion during the post game meal include George Clinton doing a concert in a diaper and a mention that person X has given more foot rubs since getting married.  That's all the sign we need that the day has been WAY too long as its 2 AM Central time.   Net Gain wins their game by 2, the other 5 Minnesota games are blowouts for a 6-0 day

Saturday
The advantage of having the late game Friday night is that you don't play until later on Saturday.  But no rest for this weary hoops scribe.  Off to one of the remote gyms to see the PNR 16s who just clobbered Shining Stars and rolled over the scoreboard.  Then across town to scout the SF Rebels who ended up winning at the buzzer.  Their opponent took a late momentum killer timeout and got out scored 9-3 the rest of the way.  Quality unis from the rebels.  Red with the Golden Gate bridge on the front and cable car on the back.  A cross between the current and old school Golden State Warriors jerseys.  Then on the way back to see the Fury 17s lunch at Jimmy John's but wait the sign says it doens't open until Tuesday, trash!  But Atlanta Bread Company is right next door and a very good choice.  Honey Ham and cheddar on 9 grain bread, yum! All that running around means I miss a classic.  PNR 17s beat Az Magic PNR 107-104 in double OT.  Arizona was up 22 in that one before needing a 3 to force OT.  MN PNR needed a 3 to force the 2nd OT. 

Fury 17s win their game easily.  #4 ranked Chris Thomas then put on a show for Colorado Hawks against KC PNR.  KC PNR usually strong but their 17s are the weakest team they've had in a long time.  Hawks pound them by 40.  The next 2 sessions see MN sweep their pool games at 12-0.  Fury 17s struggled early in their 1st bracket game but ended up blowing out Step Off Lighting.  Net Gain won big and MN PNR 17s pulled away from KC PNR but had trouble closing the game out.  They ended up winning by 10 but had a bigger lead in the 2nd half.

Then its a couple of sessions to hang out and see the top teams.  Jordan Tebbutt (#54 Rivals) brought PNR Elite back from 9 down with 2 minutes to play against Colorado Chaos to avoid a major upset.  17-3 run to end the game.  DoublePump Elite won their game by 40.  Their 7'6" center has only played 2 years and is very raw but you can't teach size  Also saw the loaded Indiana Elite squad.  Even without 2 top stars, they are ridiculously talented.  Then its the 2nd bracket game of the night for the 17s.  MN PNR moved on in the round of 32.  Net Gain fell behind 14-2 after a late start to their game but ended up winning by 20.  Then they defeated the Colorado Hawks 70-68 in the late game.  Fury 17s were the 1st team out.  They fell to Team Jennings Black.  Fury was up 10 in the first half thanks to 4 3s and 15-17 points from Sander Mohn.  Team Jennings cut the lead to 5 at half and then their athleticism was just too much.  Fury missed 6 free throws late and some easy chances.  Final was 10-15 points but a much closer game than that.

So after the game its food at Buffalo Wild Wings and that's never a bad thing.  On the way out a fellow packer fan comes over (sees my packer jacket) and shakes my hand as I'm the 1st packer fan he's seen in months.  The day is a drain and early games so off to bed at 11:30.  Then again maybe not, the PNR guys are still up so I sashay down the street to their campfire session in the hotel lobby.  Nice to get a chance to make peace with Jay Fuhrman after getting on him via twitter about his cell phone during 8th grade games this winter.  I wander back to the hotel and my shortcut ends up with me at the wrong place.  I walk around the building and find that my hotel is the next one back.  No wonder the hotel key didn't work. 1:30 AM and tomorrow will come way too quick.

Sunday
Fury 17s have the day off and are heading to the mountains which sounds way cool.  The picture of DeLaSalle's Tyler Moore on facebook with the elk is a poster waiting to happen.  I on the other hand have work to do so 6:50 AM comes really early.  7:30 and I'm off to the Fury 16s round of 16 game.  Nobody at the gym at 7:40 so we wait until 8.  Then the game starts late and its crazy.  Fury coach Matt Christensen is reallly mild mannered and he gets a ridiculous T early and the fans almost get tossed too.  55-60 fouls, 5 technicals, 1 ejection and too many free throws to count.  On the ejection, the kid gets a double T, Fury gets 1 T (not deserved) and somehow we go to the possession arrow.  Unreal.  10:05 the game ends and the next game is across town at 10:50, hustle!  1 parent goes through a light and a police car just so happens to be right there to lay down the law.   One of those days.

Thankfully its a quick trip and the opponent is KC Pump N Run.  Connor Frankamp averaged 28 PPG this season, high of 52 and will play with Tyus Jones on the USA National under 16 team.  He was pretty quiet but Travis Jorgenson was lights out as KC knocked out the Fury 16s 70-58.  That means there's time for me to eat lunch and play fan as the 17U semifinals are up next.  Packed house for those and with 3 of those 4 teams likely coming in July, a real treat.  MN PNR 15s make the semis and run away to win.  Then its off to the airport and I make it 20 minutes before the flight is called.  Smooth sailing the rest of the way.  All in all another fun time out west.  Minnesota teams started 18-0 and then finished 7-6 after that.

What caught my eye
Randomly ordered thoughts from the weekend

  • Brycen Wojta did a nice job running the Fury 16s all weekend.  I had him with at least a handful of assists in more than 1 game I saw.  Got after the ball on defense too.
  • Also for the Fury 16s, Bridge Tusler was impressive closing out the last pool game.  He played well all weekend and his game has really come along in the last year.  With significant losses at Osseo next year, expect him to play a much bigger role.
  • Zach Lindquist stepped up huge in the crazy round of 16 game.  14 of his 18 points on free throws.  He can be a matchup nightmare overpowering smaller players inside but skilled enough to step out and make shots to force bigs to play him.
  • Every team needs an X factor.  Guys like Joe Coleman, Carlos Emory etc have been that guy.  Wally Ellenson is that guy this year for PNR 17s.  Nice pickup for them.
  • Little brother Henry Ellenson for the 15s (2015 though) caught ESPN's eye and rightfully so.  He's already 6'5 and can step out and really shoot it.
  • Speaking of the PNR 15s, they don't have a true post player but they are really athletic (Louis Williams of Richfield, James Lawson of De La Salle really come to mind) with quality point guard play from Jarvis Johnson (2015) and Jordan Dembley. They will be very competitive on the circuit this year.
  • I'm not a football guy so I wouldn't know this, but Andre McDonald of the Fury 17s is a far better athlete than I realized.  He had at least 2 games that he punctuated with high flying dunks and had many more throughout the weekend.  Rather amusing off the court too 
  • The MCAA doesn't get any respect from the big time AAU programs but Fury has done good work getting kids like Michael Lindberg and Tony Kuplic out of that league.
  • Net Gain continues to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  Slow starts and close games but then turn it up later in the tourney.  Very similar to what they did at the Comets.  They only lost by 5 to Cal Supreme (eventual runner up) in the quarters and had their chances.
  • Zach Robertson makes me think of Zach Stahl when I watch him play.
  • Passing of Graham Woodward and Kashif Hayes stuck out in the blowout win I saw.
  • I like that the officials at the event usually do just a couple of games and then they're done but once again the attitudes were surprisingly bad in many of the games I saw.  I saw 1 fan get tossed for no reason and 2 coaches get technicals that were ridiculous.  Its one thing to be cranky after a full day of parents yapping in your ear, but only 2 games that's a bit much.  Also saw an official make a call on the break from the opposite bench when he had 2 refs in front of him.  Even I had to yap a little about that one.  We don't see many female officials here, especially in summer ball but there were a large number at this one including 1 game with a 3 person all female crew which I can't say I've ever seen anywhere here in MN during HS or summer ball.
  • Really fun to talk X & O stuff with the Fury guys.  In the discussions about defending screen and roll, I felt like I was at the Vince Lombardi 8 hour lesson on the power sweep.  Another case of "The more I watch, the less I know".

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