2013 Jayhawk thoughts

I was fortunate enough to take the weekend trip to Kansas City for the Jayhawk Invitational.  My thanks to Al Harris, Grant Fossum and the folks at Net Gain Sports for helping make the weekend possible.  Great facilities as the New Century Fieldhouse is a bigger version of Joy of the Game facility in Chicago.  Outstanding setup for the showcase games and the 3 Olathe, KS high schools were nice venues for outer sites.  I could do without the officials camp which makes for lots more ticky tack calls than you'll see during the average AAU tournament.  Thankfully it wasn't the disaster of a camp that was the main gym at Super 64 in Las Vegas last year.

The concept of multiple 16 team brackets is fairly straight forward.  But the Jayhawk decided to use a Rube Goldberg machine to explain the brackets..  For many trying to figure out what was what was an exercise in rocket science.  Don't even ask about the names of the brackets, I have no idea.

As to food, Oklahoma Joe's was the selection for some BBQ.  After last year's trip to Houston, a high standard was set.  That standard was not met.  Good food, but can't beat the entire package from last year's trip.  I ended the trip by snagging a glazed donut (think Krispy Kreme) from the concession on the way out of town.  Any concession stand with donuts can't be bad so mad props for having those.

In the 17s, Net Gain played in the I Will bracket.  NGS lost their showcase game 64-59 to Texas Select James.  NGS would trail most of the way but thanks to Andre Wallace would tie the game at 53.  Wallace finished with 15 points.  After losing their bracket opener 52-49 to a very talented Dallas Mustangs program, NGS dropped into the consolation side of the bracket.  A tough Utah Prospects crew was the opponent and too much.  Center Brekkott Chapman is #87 in the nation overall according to Rivals and NGS had no good answer for him down low in the 1st half.  BYU commit Dalton Nixon and guard Jared Stutzman also effective for the Utah Prospects in their 71-61 win.  Andre Wallace again leading the way with 17 for NGS. Big sequence in that game just before half.  NGS ball down 7, score and you're down 5 and feeling good.  They turn it over and the Prospects pull up in the open court for a dagger 3 at the halftime buzzer to push the lead to 10.  Significant game changer there.

After a tough 0-3 start, NGS rebounded with a 50-47 win over I Can All-Stars.  Andre Wallace 16 points to lead the way.  Scoring at a premium for both sides.  3 missed front ends late gave I Can a chance late but NGS would hold on to get their 1st win of the tourney.  They then bounced SYF Players 60-46 in their final game to finish the weekend at 2-3.  Andre Wallace proving to be the top scoring punch.  David Jesperson very active all weekend on the glass.

Other notes in the 17s.  Howard Pulley 2nd 17s barely survived their 1st round Protect This House bracket game.  Down 2 late, Pulley missed a pair of long shots and got the ball back.  A late pass to Bjorn Broman and a desperation 3 with 1 second left is no good but the officials clinic gives us the tick tack call.  Broman drained all 3 free throws for a 59-58 win over Gamepoint.  They would survive against Gateway basketball club as well before falling to the Iowa Barnstormers in the semis.  The Las Vegas Prospects took it to the youngsters in the showcase game on Friday night 66-35.  Pulley finishes 2-2 with a pair of 1 point wins.   Also in that bracket, Comets Lewis knocked off Team Superstar from the I Will bracket.  Brian Goodwin 4-4 clutch free throws in the last minute of the 56-52 win.  Comets without Andy Foley and Christian Pekarek not to mention the injured Ryan Bruggeman.  They would lose 69-62 to All Iowa Attack in the 1st bracket game. That AIA crew featured Darrion Strong and Cullen Russo, a couple of local names from years past.    Comets then lost to KC Keys and Dallas Mustangs Blue in a pair of tight games. 

Fury Anderson finished 3-1 in the Spine bracket with a loss in the quarterfinals.  Fury Zurn lost the title game of the Armour 39 bracket after knocking off Comets Schmidt 58-48 in the semis. 3 wins to get there from the Fury crew.  WOTN lost in the quarters of that same bracket but then knocked off Comets Schmidt.  

Ray Allen Select the only team on the circuit that I would accept running The Flex (I like it in this case so I won't call it by the usual name here).  A pleasure to watch the 2 way options, curling screens and not being robots in it.  A novel concept on the AAU circuit, a team that actually knows how to play and reads defenses rather than just running plays.  RAS down 18 to the Houston Defenders in the quarters at half, went up 5 or 7 very late with ridiculous shooting and then lost on a layup at the buzzer that may have been late. 

MN Cyclones and MN BB Academy-Brown on separate sides of the I Will bracket.  Both would hold on in the 1st round.  MNBBA coming back in regulation before winning by 3 in OT, Cyclones by 4 after a double digit lead.  Both would fall in the quarterfinals.  After wins they would meet each other Sunday afternoon.  MN BB Academy would control that action in a 64-50 win for local bragging rights.  Alex Illikainen getting plenty of coaches to watch but he just didn't look right.  The rest of the roster didn't hit shots.  The lack of athletes showed in their loss against a smaller but athletic Illinois Wolves roster. 

Howard Pulley Black (Jabbar Washington) 1-3 coming out of the Protect This House bracket.  Howard Pulley Black (Thurston) won 2 before being knocked out in the semis of the Spine bracket.  They knocked out GetShook in the 1st round 52-32.  Fury Ramey won that bracket.  Comets Stanfield knocked out 1st round there, lost their 2nd game and beat a Mid-Kansas squad.  2nd MN BB Academy team was knocked out in the quarters of that bracket.  GetShook won 2 consolation games and lost the consolation Spine title by 1.

In the Armour bracket, Magic Elite lost opening round as did the 3rd MN BB Academy group.  Magic lost their 2nd before bouncing back with 2 wins.  Fury Johnson made a run to the title game before losing.

Gamepoint won the I Will title in thrilling fashion.  After the St Louis Eagles White crew made a clutch 3 to tie inside of 10 seconds left in OT, Gamepoint rushed the ball back and was fouled with no time left.  2 free throws, 1st no good, 2nd up and in for a 60-59 win.  Small gym, an extra gamepoint team cheering like the old 43 Hoops teams used to.  They even pulled out an I Believe chant at the start of OT.  That's a first for that chant in AAU ball. 

Gamepoint knocked off NGS 62-49 in the 1st round.  NGS knocked off the Utah Prospects 51-44 after almost giving away a double digit 2nd half lead.  Then a win over TS Superstars before falling 61-40 to KC Run GMC in the consolation championship.  NGS with a big lineup of guys including Reed Nikko, Sam Sustachek, Luke Harris and Austin Slater.  Johnny Beeninga with 18 in the loss to KC Run GMC to lead from the guard spot.  They'll need to take better care of the ball and find more consistent outside shooting.  Have to love the spirit shown on their bench and they will get after you on the defensive end.

2013 Open Weekend 1 thoughts

Thank you to the 9999th batch of April snow for giving some extra time to put together thoughts from NY2LA Spring Extravaganza and the Pump N Run Spring Classic.

Czar Weekend Commentary
I took in the showcase games at NY2LA on Friday night.  Very entertaining games with KC Run GMC coming back from double digits down to steal one at the buzzer from Ray Allen Select.  KC Run GMC with great retro Kansas City Kings blue uniforms.  Look for those in 2 weeks at the Pulley tournament.  Net Gain fell behind by 11 at half to TP Elite in 17s and couildn't recover.  TVA blew an 8 point halftime lead but JJ Morris came up with a clutch 3 to force OT before TVA lost 56-55 to Iowa Elite.  Lester Prairie's Nick Machemehl clutch in the last minute of the Comets Schmidt opener with 2 buckets but it was a Chris Duff putback at the buzzer that gave the Comets crew a 60-59 win over Mid-Kansas.

Story game of the weekend had to be the Heat Calistro quarterfinal win over the D1 MN 15s.  Heat had a late 9 point lead before Amir Coffey sparked a huge comeback.  D1 would have a 74-70 lead with 2:37 left.  Heat would get a bucket and then convert after a turnover. D1 held for last shot and took a timeout with 11 seconds left to go for the game winner.  But Joh Farmer stole the pass to the backcourt and took it the other way for free throws.  He made both for the lead.  Amir Coffey took the inbounds and went coast to coast and missed an open layup at the buzzer to give Heat the 78-76 win.  Heat led that game most of the way and despite giving up the lead late, they pulled out a W.  The Heat has been high on that Heat Calistro group (3rd team on paper), keep an eye on them. 

Grassroots got down 23 to Top City in the 2nd half of the 17U semis.  They made a furious comeback behind hot shooting from Steve Makely but it wasn't quite enough as they fell by 2.  Nice weekend for Glory going 4-2 with a solid win over MN Phenom.  WOTN 5-1 this weekend as they won the Silver Bracket and their only loss was to Gold bracket champ Top City.  Shakopee's Tyler Weiss with effective play for WOTN.  Their squad is as talented a squad as they've had in a while.  Hard not to be impressed with the toughness of the Top City squad and they made open shots when available.  SW MN Stars with pool losses to the 2 bracket champs which eases the pain of a 3rd place pool finish but that's a group that had very high expectations.  They had chances at the end of their game against WOTN but chose not to go to their star Carter Kirk on any of them.

In 16s, sad to see Magic Blue coach Zach Towle physically confront an official after one of his players was rightfully tossed after an ugly sequence of events.  In a consolation game no less.  As coaches, we are role models for our players and need to set an example.  Apologies to sorry Sir Charles for that.  I loved Zach's intensity and toughness as a player.  I respect that he wanted to defend his player but there's also a right and wrong way to do it.  There is no place and no time, EVER, to physically confront an official, even bad AAU refs that are as abundant as plague rats.  Maybe I'm biased because 2 kids that I used to coach are on that team, but if there's anything right in the world, Zach will show he's learned from his mistake and he'll suspend himself for a minimum of their tournament.  I tell my players, the only bad mistake you make is the one you don't learn from.  For a young man and a young coach I hope that's true for Zach in this case.

Glad to see Top City and the D1 MN 16s win in the semifinals.  There's just something slimy to me about having a team full of seniors (spare me the reclassification nonsense) playing in the 17s division in April.  We could have had Grassroots vs EOTO Black in a 24u matchup of Suggs, Powell, Carter etc vs Nick Anderson, Jamal Davis, Melvin Martin et al.  There has to be a better way if we're getting these kids "exposure", especially if some are already committed (e.g Renard Suggs).  Similarly, seeing TVA go out of their way to add 2 seniors late just for the sake of getting April wins and then puff out their chest about how they were the last MN team standing in the NY2LA event.  It all just demonstrates the greed part of the grassroots scene.

On a lighter note, great to see Bo Ryan and Greg Gard playing along with my twitter feed about their viewing (or potential leaving during a game) of Henry Ellenson.  Its out of hand when they make sure they yell at me from the balcony on their way out to make sure I know it was a flight that made them leave the title game early, not lack of interest

$3 Hot Dogs were steep but the $4 meal deal with a bad of chips and 12 oz plastic bottle more than made up for it.  The hot dogs were absolutely outstanding.  Due to the Hopkins setup of having to go all the way up and around and fight the crowds, going back to the concession stand on Friday night was too much.

Wisconsin was at all of the D1 MN 16s games to see Henry Ellenson.  Ben Johnson and Creighton also made appearances for Ellenson.  South Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Elon and The Citadel some of the small schools on hand along with the NSIC D2s, NDSCS and DCTC.

Spring Classic Results
17s Pool A: Top City (KS), WOTN, SW MN Stars, Team EGOs
17s Pool B: D1 16s, IA PNR Gold, WC Wildcats, SW T-Hawks
17s Pool C: Pumas (MO), Heat-Frasier, NEI Nets, EOTO Red
17s Pool D: MN Warriors, MN Elite, CO Shining Stars, Comets Regional
17s Pool E: Grassroots, Fury Anderson, KC Premiere Preps, WI Starz Black
17s Pool F: EOTO Black, MN Phenom, Elevation Flyers (CO), Heat Hopkins
17s Pool G: KC Premiere, Glory, Heat Wiley, WI Starz Orange
17s Pool H: Next Level (CO), IA PNR Black, MN BB 16s, Fury Zurn

Championship Bracket
Quarters: Top City def Next Level 70-65, Grassroots def MN Warriors 77-71, D1 MN 16s def KC Premiere 69-47, EOTO Black def Pumas 75-62

Semis: Top City def Grassroots 70-68, D1 MN 16s def EOTO Black 59-39

Championship: Top City def D1 MN 16s 60-49

17U Silver Bracket
Quarters: WOTN def IA PNR Black, Fury Anderson def MN Elite, Glory def IA PNR Gold, Phenom def Heat Frasier

Semis: WOTN def Fury Anderson 70-64, Glory def MN Phenom 80-66

Championship: WOTN def Glory 69-47

16s Pool Results
A: Fury Ramey, IA PNR, MN BB Witthus
B: D1 MN 15s, Triple Threat, We Are Basketball
C: KC Premiere, ND Phenom, Heat Schumann
D: MN Phenom East, WI Blizzard Thomas, New Era
E: Next Level (CO), WI Magic, Glory
F: Pumas (MO), MN Elite, Heat Berndt
G: WI Starz Black, SW MN Stars, Hoopmasters
H: WI Blizzard Schneider, TC Runnin Rebels, Heat McKee
I: WI Blizzard Boots, Magic Blue, WC Wildcats
J: Heat Calistro, WOTN, Comets Regional
K: Nations Elite, MN BB Tlougen, WI Starz Orange

16 Championship Bracket

Blizzard Boots 60-58 over Blizzard Schneider in 3 OT, Phenom West def Next Level 83-65, Heat Calistro def WI Starz Black 74-50, Pumas def Nations Elite 80-56

Quarterfinals: WI Blizzard Boots def Fury Ramey 48-43, Phenom West def Phenom East 72-54, Heat Calistro def D1 MN 15s 78-76, Pumas def KC Premiere 68-39

Semifinals: Phenom West def WI Blizzard Boots 56-53, Pumas def Heat Calistro 57-39

Championship: Pumas def MN Phenom West 70-54

15s Pool Results
A: MN Swish, Real Athletics, WI Blizzard Phillips
B: MN Elite, Heat Duberry, KC Dragons
C: IA PNR Black
D: Omaha Celtics, SW MN Stars, WI Starz
E: CO Elite, MN Heat East, Pumas (MO)
F: The Academy (CAN), Fox Valley Storm, WOTN
G: Fury Peterson,
H: Fury Altenhofen, Heat Presbi, IA PNR Gold

15s Championship Bracket
Quarters: Swish def Fury Altenhofen, CO Elite def Omaha Celtics, Fury Peterson def MN Elite, The Academy def IA PNR Black

Semis: CO Elite def MN Swish 62-54, The Academy def Fury Peterson 40-36

Championship: CO Elite def The Academy 48-44

14u Championship: TP Elite def Real Athletics 62-60 with the best crowd of the weekend.

2013 1st Open Weekend Preview

Its the 1st open April weekend of the 2013 recruiting season.  Teams off to the 4 winds, here's what catches my eye.

Sanford Pentagon Tournament Series Session 1 (Ames, IA)
14 teams from the midwest have banded together to form their own league.  The league has 14 teams from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.  Minnesota's reps include the top teams from the Comets, Select, Heat, and Fury.  Pulley's 2nd team, Suns and EOTO's top team round out the Minnesota group.  Dakota Schoolers, ECI Prospects, the top Omaha Crusaders team and All Iowa Attack round out the league. 

Session 1 of 3 is hosted by All Iowa Attack in Ames.  The Comets have a difficult weekend ahead with games against ECI, OSA and the Schoolers on Saturday.  They close out with the Heat and Fury top teams.  All of those teams looking for top half finishes in the league.  A sweep of the weekend would be huge for the Chris Lewis crew.  The league does the same thing for the 15s and 16s. 

Pump N Run Spring Classic (Bloomington Jefferson and Kennedy)
Thanks to a new Adidas deal, the top D1 Minnesota crew will be in Dallas at the Adidas VIP Exclusive run with all the other Adidas clubs.  The 15s and 16s for D1 Minnesota will play up again this week.  Looking forward to see who comes out to see Henry Ellenson for the D1 MN 16s.  Pool A has a noteworthy game between the SW MN Stars and WOTN on Saturday morning at 9:40.  The Stars have been very high on their group for a while.  After again making the stupid decision to stay out of the Comets tournament, the Stars will open this weekend.  Minnesota Warriors should make a run out of pool D.  Grassroots, Fury Anderson (2nd team who beat the top Fury team last week), the top WI Starz team and KC Premiere Preps make up a deep Pool E.  MN Phenom highlights pool F.  EOTO is some how listed in both this tournament and in Ames.  Look for another group of seniors to come out.  KC Premiere should be a favorite out of pool G.  MN Basketball Academy will also play up again this week in Pool H.

Its a simple setup with 3 pool games.  Winner plays 8 team championship bracket, 2nd place same thing in the silver.  Others get 1 friendship game Saturday night.  My picks in the title bracket are as follows.

MN Basketball Academy over SW MN Stars
Grassroots over MN Warriors
D1 MN 16s over KC Premiere
Phenom over Pumas (MO)

Grassroots over MN BB Academy
D1 MN 16s over Phenom

Grassroots over D1 MN 16s

In the 16s there are 36 teams split in to 12 pools of 3 teams.  Pool L has a highlight matchup of Heat Bui vs Phenom West at Kennedy 6 PM on Friday.  Pool G looks deep with WI Starz, SW MN Stars and Hoopmasters.  Hoopmasters guard Jack Mugford with 38 vs Get Shook last week and they have big Justin Dahl inside.  Speaking of bigs, sounds like Sean Hjelle will be back for TC Runnin Rebels, they are in Pool H.  There are a bunch of WI Blizzard 16s in the bracket but the top team is across town at NY2LA.   Sleeper team is the 2nd MN BB Academy 16s of Larry Witthus in pool A.  Minnesota Fury Altenhofen is in pool H of the 15s coming off their Comets Shootout title. 

NY2LA Spring Extravaganza (Hopkins and Minnetonka)
Not too big of a local group there.  In the 17s, TVA, Net Gain, Comets Schmidt represent.  In the 16s, GetShook and the 2nd Comets group.  Comets 2nd team and Net Gain represent in the 15s.  Tons of other talent there though.  IBA Select (Sean O'Mara), Iowa Barnstormers, KC Run GMC, Madison Spartans, Ray Allen Select, Quad City Elite (UW commit Ethan Happ and Jalen Jones), TP Elite, Texas Select, WI Swing, Milwaukee Runnin Rebels (top 10 star Kevon Looney).  In the 16s, Young Legends look to have soph star big Diamond Stone.  The loaded WI Blizzard-Pronchinske squad with Cody Schwartz et al is also in this group.

2013 Comets Shootout Thoughts

Some random thoughts from the 2013 Comets Shootout

With the 15s not playing at the Whitney until the championship game thoughts here will be minimal.   Fury Altenhofen took home the title with a 50-37 win over Fury Wilde.  Both have talented squads.  Fury Wilde took out a very good NGS squad during bracket play. Fury's Steffon Mitchell (Shakopee) showing some lefty versatility playing the point forward spot.  Very rare to see that on the circuit.  That game was one of the many AAU cases I run into during the year where there was no available information on either teams roster, so that made it difficult to watch.

Comets Stanfield and D1 Minnesota (formerly Pump N Run) each went 3-0 to win their super pools.  The other pool winners in no particular order were MN BB Academy (Chaska guys?), MN Magic Blue (not last year's Magic Blue, they're now Magic Red), Get Shook, Grassroots, Southern MN Elite, ECI Prospects, MN Fury Ramey and Heat Calistro.

Championship Bracket Results

Round of 16
Fury Ramey def Heat Reese
Fury Anderson def Get Shook
Select def S MN Elite
Comets Stanfield def ECI Prospects 58-44
Phenom West def MN BB Academy 62-48
WI Playmakers I def Heat Calistro 55-32
Magic Blue def TC Runnin Rebels 62-50
D1 MN 15s def Grassroots 57-51

Fury Anderson def Fury Ramey 66-43
Comets Stanfield def Select 72-58
Phenom West def Playmakers I
D1 MN 15s def Magic Blue 83-64

Fury Johnson def Comets Stanfield 62-47
D1 MN 15s def Phenom West 78-72

D1 MN 15s def Fury Johnson 84-81

Quality performances from Southern MN Elite (Blooming Prairie star John Rumpza on that roster), Phenom West (with 3 Net Gain guys from last year, Sean Burns, Marty Hill and Jerome Dixon) and Magic Blue.  Magic Blue with a couple of guards who played on a team I helped coach a couple of years ago.  They added Clay Sieffert a quality perimeter player from Prescott, WI and 6'9" center Kyle McKinley from the Stillwater JV squad.  McKinley with a break out weekend swatting shots and some strong dunks finishing plays inside.   Patrick Dembley with clutch play for the D1 MN 15s and Amir Coffey went off for 38 in the championship game.

Minnesota Heat Reese arguably the biggest disappointment in the 16U bracket as they didn't look good in their 2-1 super pool record.  They lost by 15 to Comets Stanfield and needed a late rally to survive 59-55 against the WI Playmakers.  They knocked off the TC Runnin Rebels 83-75 with the Rebels not having their center Sean Hjelle.  Then the Heat went out in the 1st round in an ugly loss to Fury Ramey.  New pieces were added this season and the chemistry on the opening weekend was definitely missing.

Championship Bracket results

Round of 32
Comets Lewis def WC Wildcats 74-26
Glory def WI Playmakers II with a 3 with 4.1 left 49-48
Select Ohnstad def Heat Hopkins
D1 MN 16s def Comets Regional 69-44
ECI Prospects def MN Phenom (think Heat Garvis) 54-50
Fury Zurn def Comets Servaty 51-45
WI Playmakers I def MN Suns 61-37
Net Gain def Tropics 72-5
Heat Frasier def Comets Schmidt 64-60
Fury Anderson def Magic Elite
Heat Vang def Select Ellis 82-56
MN Warriors def ECI Select
MN BB Academy 16s def EOTO Black
TVA def Heat Wiley
Fury Davis def Comets Blue

Round of 16
Comets Lewis def Glory 88-63
Select Ohnstad def WOTN 66-54
ECI Prospects def D1 MN 16s 67-65
Playmakers I def Fury Zurn
Net Gain def Heat Frasier 81-36
Heat Vang def Fury Anderson 68-62 (great 2-2-1 call by Willie Vang to bring Heat back)
MN Warriors def MN BB Academy 16s 63-50
TVA def Fury Davis 71-65

Comets Lewis def Select Ohnstad 63-57
ECI Prospects def WI Playmakers I 78-45
NGS def Heat Vang 85-57
MN Warriors def TVA 69-59

Comets Lewis def ECI Prospects 78-72
NGS def MN Warriors 80-66

Comets Lewis def NGS 69-67

The Net Gain ringer was David Jesperson from Merrill, WI.  He's the younger brother of Paul Jesperson who played some events here with the WI Playmakers and is currently at Virginia.  Since NGS has set the ringer bar very high (see UConn recruit Phil Nolan last year), this disappointed some folks. His play wasn't needed in the 1st round as NGS opened up a 54-0 lead vs Tropics and only allowed 2 FGs in a 72-5 win.  I thought Dejon Davis flew under the radar with all of the other Pump N Run kids last year.  He was great this weekend for NGS knocking down corner 3s against everybody.  Add that to his standout defense that he's known for and expect his name to get some interest this spring and summer.

The biggest shockwave came in round 2 when ECI Prospects had Tanner Kretchman bury a 3 at the buzzer to knock off the D1 MN 16s 67-65.  ECI had problems with their 4 man bench, but their top 4 guards shot the lights out all weekend.  They jumped on teams right out of the gate with scorching shooting (18-4 vs Phenom, 18-11 vs Comets, 21-9 vs D1 MN).  They knocked down 10 threes in the 1st half against the Comets and ended with 15 and still lost.  They were the team that surprised me the most.  A 78-45 quarterfinal victory over a talented but listless WI Playmakers top squad was particularly impressive.

Outside of possibly Tyus Jones, is there a player who has more control of his team and the ball than Garrett Goetz of the MN Warriors.  The Warriors run more sets and more sets well than maybe any AAU team I've ever seen.  Goetz is the guy who makes that go from the point guard spot.

The 32 team bracket I felt lent itself to tons of blowouts.  Only 1 competitive game in the 7 quarters that saw between 16s and 17s.  As long as the day is and as painful as it is for the players, I would prefer a smaller super pool format and then bracket rather than the 1st round games.  Even many of the 2nd round games weren't that interesting.   But that would eliminate that surprise team like Heat Reese last year and TVA this year.

Biggest disappointment in the 17U division may be a trend.  Fury Davis was upset here last year (see Heat Reese from last year) and this year they went out to TVA (another athletic group) in the 2nd round.  Fury Davis then lost to Fury Anderson in a consolation game.  Now adding new pieces is always difficult and last year Ben Davis led his squad to a sweet 16 run in the Adidas Super 64 and upset of the Dallas Mustangs.  So I expect that group to fine but once again opening weekend wasn't up to the usual high standards.  Most surprising was a late technical in the loss to TVA that put the Fury down 6 and they never recovered.

2013 Comets Shootout Predictions

Its time once again for the Comets Shootout.  As always its the big kickoff to the spring/summer grassroots season.   All of the NSIC and tons of D3/NAIA types can be expected to be watching throughout the weekend.  A major format change in both 17U and 16U this season.  17U will not have pool play this season and will instead play a 32 team straight bracket format.  That means only 2 games on Saturday night and no more than 3 (rather than 4) on Sunday.  That beats the 7 in 26 hours that has been the norm over the years for the teams that make the championship game.  All 17U games in the championship side starting in the round of 16 will be at the Whitney Rec Center.  Round of 32 games and consolation side of the bracket will also be held at Sauk Rapids High School.  That allows the 17U games to be pushed back until 4:10 PM with a trio of 2nd round games being held at 10 PM at the Whitney.

In 16U, its a 40 team group with 10 pools of 4.  The top 2 pools are super pools with all teams making the championship bracket to go along with the other pool winners.  Those 2 super pools fill out the early sessions at the Whitney.  15s and 16s fill out the 3 main courts and the auxillary gym at Sauk Rapids HS during the early sessions.  Pool play as always is Saturday and bracket play on Sunday in all divisions.

What The Czar Is Watching
I'm planning on taking a look at the 16U super pools early Saturday.  Heat Reese (last year's Heat Bui/Lesewski crew) has added some nice guard pieces with Jalen Mobley and Andrew Grosz.  How they improved inside will be a big key.  They have the top Comets crew and a sleeper team in the TC Runnin Rebels in their pool.  That's a NE metro crew.  Hoping to get a look at center Sean Hjelle.  The other super pool has Nick Carroll's MN D1 (formerly MN Pump N Run) 15U crew along with the top Fury group.  That Fury group has added some nice pieces in guard Grantham Gillard, wing Brenon Larson-Gulsvig who came on for Lakeville South and Lakeville North's Connor Flack.  Looking forward to seeing Trevor Rothstein from STMA with this crew as well.

Then in 17s, not much compelling in the round of 32 as the tourney has been seeded.  Main thing to see there is who Net Gain pulls out of the hat in their 4:10 PM opener.  Every year somebody seems to magically appear for them.  Will Rashad Vaughn be there, with NGS, with somebody else?

In the round of 16s, some interesting matchups late Saturday night.  Select I and WOTN have ties via coach Mitch Ohnstad.  Select with guards who can score and a solid group of bigs.  ECI Prospects has a solid group to battle the MN D1 16s.  MN Warriors vs MN BB Academy 16s (last year's tNBA guys) is a pair of groups that are may not be the most athletic but they are very well coached, unselfish and run great stuff.  They've also played together for years which is a big advantage in this tournament as nobody has had much practice time.

The rest is just straight talent and that means another NGS vs MN D1 matchup.  NGS kids with the year age advantage so I'll give them the nod.

17U Players to Watch
  • Ryan Bruggeman, Clay Elrod, Austin Poe - MN Comets Lewis
  • Adam Laine - MN Glory
  • Tyler Weiss - WOTN
  • Mo Lawal, Ian Smith - MN Select Ohnstad
  • Henry Ellenson, Marshawn Wilson - MN D1 16s
  • Patrick Strom, Taylor Schafer, Jim Warmack - ECI Prospects
  • Luke Zuiker, Dakota Oskey, Gaelin Elmore - WI Playmakers Mallett
  • Jon Sobaski, Andre Wallace - Net Gain Sports
  • Nick Machemehl, D'Angelo Burns - MN Comets Schmidt
  • Geno Crandall - MN Heat Vang
  • Kory Deadrick, Charlie Koontz - MN Fury Anderson
  • Jacob Schaefer, Garrett Goetz - MN Warriors
  • Joey Witthus, Jacob Hansen, GT Johnson, Tommy Gathje - MN BB Academy 16s
  • John Veil, Ngor Barnaba, Wheeler Baker, Michael Gorder - MN Fury Davis

16U Players to Watch
  • Andrew Grosz, Jalen Mobley, Ben Boone - Heat Reese
  • Sean Hjelle - TC Runnin Rebels
  • Amir Coffey, Brock Bertram, Jake Dale, Rece Dietrich - MN D1 15s
  • Ben Ellefson - MN Comets Stanfield
  • Justin Dahl - Hoopmasters
  • Logan Halvorsen, Connor Flack, Brenon Larson-Gulsvig - MN Fury Johnson

Comets Lewis over WC Wildcats
Glory over Playmakers II
WOTN over E1T1 Red
Select I over Heat Hopkins

MN D1 16s over Comets Regional
ECI Prospects over Phenom
Comets III over Fury III
Playmakers I over Suns

Net Gain Sports over Tropics
Comets II over Heat Frasier
Fury II over Magic
Heat Vang over Select II

MN Warriors over ECI II
MN BB Academy 16s vs E1T1 Black
TVA over Heat Wiley
Fury Davis over Comets Blue

Comets over Glory
Select I over WOTN
D1 16s over ECI Prospects
Playmakers I over Comets III

NGS over Comets II
Fury II over Heat Vang
MN Warriors over MN BB Academy 16s
Fury Davis over TVA

Comets over Select I
D1 16s over Playmakers
NGS over Fury II
MN Warriors over Fury Davis (Hanel vs old team)

D1 16s over Comets
NGS over MN Warriors

NGS over D1 16s

2013 AAU Bingo Rules

With a few Minnesota AAU teams opening up their season this weekend, its time for the game craze sweeping the nation, AAU Bingo!  For those of you new to the game, its all about the sights and sounds of the spring and summer basketball season.  This year we're playing blackout rules.   You have to fill the card to win.  These have to be seen in a gym at an AAU tournament unless otherwise noted.  First one to finish their card gets to take a Monday AM red-eye flight home after Las Vegas in July and work the same day.

If you see any items on the game card or other events that you feel should get credit, tweet them to me (@tchoopsczar) with the hashtag #AAUBingo to get credit.  I'll retweet them for everyone's amusement.

Here's the game card.

Row 1 (Coaching Accessories)
These must be seen while the coach is coaching
  • Coach wearing any type of hat or headgear
  • Coach wearing flip-flops or sandals or equivalent
  • Coach wearing a bluetooth (or equivalent) or using a phone.  (Note: player or coach wearing headphones during the game or warmups also qualifies here)
  • Coach wearing a backpack, fanny back or any other equivalent.
  • Coach using a towel as an accessory (e.g John Thompson or Jerry Tarkanian)
    Bonus: Coach wearing sunglasses, mark the entire row
Row 2 (Tournament Play)
  • Player shows up late for game or switches teams during a tournament
  • Team has a set play called "Do Him" or equivalent
  • Team plays a junk defense
  • Team skips at least 1 game of tournament to get home earlier.
Row 3 (Personalities)
You just have to see these people in the building to mark the square
  • UW Ole or Late Night Hoops (Wisconsin reps)
  • The Coolest Guy in the UMAC
  • Hat Lady (has to have the center square)
  • The Coolest Guy in the NSIC
  • Gopher Lady, Tubby Smith or Sid Hartman (Minnesota reps)
    Bonus: If you provide me photographic evidence of Hat Lady, mark the entire row

    Knockout Blow: If you see Hat Lady in the gym on Kentucky Derby day and provide me a picture, mark all squares for victory.  If I correctly predict the color of her outfit before I see the picture, I mark all squares on my card.
Row 4 (Referees)
If you see these referees or issues with referees
  • The Nutty Professor
  • The Quickest Trigger in Minnesota hits anybody with a T
  • The Official Formerly Known as The Reverend Al Sharpton makes a call from the opposite side of halfcourt.
  • Slapping the backboard called goaltending.
  • Dennis Haysbert
    Bonus: If you see Czar get tossed or threatened to be tossed (in jest counts too), mark the entire row
Row 5 (Incidents and Accidents)
  • Concession stand charges $2 or more for 12 oz beverage, $2.50 or more for 20 oz beverage.
  • Toddler runs on to court during play
  • Coach or fan gets ejected
  • Scorer's table worker using phone during the game.
  • Czar eating a Walking Taco