2012-13 North Suburban Preview

My 2012-2013 season preview series continues with the seventh preview in the series.  In this preview, we'll take a look at the North Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights (2011-12 season 27-2, 16-0 Conference, 1st)
The Red Knights lose 3 players to the D1 rankings including sharpshooting Isaiah Zierden (Creighton), versatile forward Sanjay Lumpkin (Northwestern) and forward Will Dunn (IPFW).  Seniors Isaiah Gray, Breion Creer, Danon Briggs and Joe Heck also depart.  The entire roster needs to be rebuilt.  Armstrong transfer Jayson Edwards is a lightning quick sophomore point guard that will lead the way.  Senior guard Sam Hafermann is the top returnee from last year.

Chisago Lakes Wildcats (2011-2012 season 6-22, 3-13 Conference, 9th)
Former Hill-Murray head man Chris Gargaro takes over the program.  He was most recently a Tartan and Henry Sibley assistant.  Leading scorer Per Gulbranson's 13 points a night need to be replaced.  Scorers 2, 3 and 4 return.  Vinnie Gorski's 8.6 points a game tops the returning players. 

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2011-12 season 12-13, 9-7 Conference, Tied 5th)
Top scorer and worker Jordan Mills departs with his almost 15 points per game.  The roster is full of perimeter players.  Deon Stanstad returns at 12.9 PPG.  Kalante Logan and Dominique Galloway also return. Long and bouncy Christian Esko will man the middle.

Fridley Tigers (2011-12 season 12-14, 6-10 Conference, 8th)
Guard Nate Geving and 15.3 points per game need to be replaced.  Fellow guard Michael Murray averaged double figures and should pick up a big chunk of that.  He's the only returning starter.  Amane Akane, Matt Duehn and Nathen Opare-Addo came off the bench last season and should jump into the starting lineup this year.

Irondale Knights (2011-12 season 14-13, 9-7 Conference, Tied 5th)
The Knights have to replace a trio of guards who all averaged double figures and combined for 35 points a night.  Leading scorer Jack Martinek returns after scoring 16.5 per night.  He'll get help up front from Ben Ojika.  3 others from the rotation also depart so plenty to replace for the Knights.

North Branch Vikings (2011-12 season 3-24, 0-16 Conference, 11th)
The Vikings lose Tom Kinsella who led the team in scoring at 10.7 a night.  Plenty of youth returns with double figure scorer Travis VanElsburg leading that list.  Fellow juniors Dylan Dahle and Brandon Thauwald also return.  Senior Cody Knobbe is the top senior returning. 

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2011-12 season 12-16, 7-9 Conference, 7th)
The Hawks lost 5 of their last 6 to end a disappointing regular season and fall all the way to the 7th seed.  But they went on the road and knocked off 2 seed Park Center to start the playoffs.  That was likely a large factor in coach Dave Johnson not being retained.  Assistant Steve Burton takes over this season.  Uber-talented Rashad Vaughn (a top 20 player in 2014 nationally) averaged just under 26 points a game last year.  But no one else averaged double figures and the team was below .500 to finish in the bottom half of the league.  Wing Eric Brown will be missed but most of the rest of the roster is back.  That includes guards Leroy Taylor and Billy Kellogg.  Transfer Troy May looks to join that rotation as well.  Forwards Lavar McCollough, Darrious Denson and Curtis Shelby all return.

St. Francis Saints (2011-12 season 9-18, 3-13 Conference, 10th)
Their only double figure scorer Andy Julkowski departs after scoring over 15 points per night.  Center Jake Johnson showed great improvement over the summer.  He just missed out on double figures last year.  That won't happen this year for the top returning big man in the league.

St. Louis Park Orioles (2011-12 season 14-13, 10-6 Conference, 4th)
The Orioles return everybody from last year's roster and they add Jeffrey Bonds from De La Salle.  Point guard Kashif Hayes is a perfect fit for their dribble drive offense.  He topped the scoring list at over 17 per night.  Wing DJ Pollard gives them scoring at 15+ and defense.  Mahki Moore also averaged double figures.  Zach Gilbert-Burke gives them production inside. 

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2011-12 season 23-6, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
Last year's star Sean Scott departs after averaging over 24 points a game and many highlights every night.  Guard Bryce Williams averaged almost 20 points a game.  That's a ton to be replaced.  The next 3 scorers do return.  Forward Robert Ben is an athletic front court presence.  Guard TC Robinson has the ability to score in bunches.  Guard Gary Cook and center Justin Axelson also figure to be in the rotation.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2011-12 season 16-12, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
The conference schedule was impressive last year for coach Kevin Seim's Eagles.  This year all 5 starters need to be replaced.  That includes the inside out duo of 6'9 left tackle Nick Carr and shooting guard Sam Meyer.  Forward Andy Moritko also departs after averaging double figures.  Juniors Reggie Meyer on the wing and sniper Colin Fleming at the point figure to make big contributions.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Louis Park
  2. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  3. Spring Lake Park 
  4. Columbia Heights 
  5. Totino-Grace
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  7. Irondale
  8. Fridley
  9. St. Francis
  10. Chisago Lakes 
  11. North Branch
Conference Overview: 
Its the final year in the league for the northern tier of North Branch, Chisago Lakes and St. Francis.  They'll move to the east division of the Mississippi 8 next season.  In a rare feat of conference realignment, I see that as a positive for both parties.  Better competitive balance for the northern schools.  For the holdovers, its a nice 8 team league with all metro teams.  St. Louis Park and Cooper will be athletic and talented.  The teams combine to play 11 of their last 12 games of the season at home.  St. Louis Park only plays Spring Lake Park once which is a major help to their title hopes.  The rest of the league sees major losses so top to bottom I see a down year overall for the conference.

Conference MVP: Rashad Vaughn - Cooper

Underclassmen to watch:  
Jarrette Baptiste - Columbia Heights
Blake Moreno - St. Francis
Adam Buirge - Totino-Grace

Conference Games to Watch
  • Spring Lake Park at St. Louis Park - Jan 18th
  • St. Louis Park at Cooper - Feb 1st
  • Cooper at Spring Lake Park - Feb 5th 
  • Cooper at St. Louis Park - Feb 26th
  • Spring Lake Park at Cooper - Mar 1st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Louis Park at Chaska - Nov 30th
  • Apple Valley at St. Louis Park - Dec 4th
  • St. Paul Central at St. Louis Park - Dec 11th
  • Cooper at Maranatha - Dec 18th
  • St. Louis Park at Edina tournament  - Dec 27-28th
  • Cooper at Hopkins - Jan 4th 
  • Cooper vs Apple Valley - Jan 5th (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • St. Louis Park at Minneapolis Washburn - Jan 12th
  • Minneapolis Henry at Cooper - Feb 8th

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