2013-14 North Suburban Preview

The 2013-2014 season preview series continues with the 7th preview in the series.  In this preview, a look at the North Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they're created, click here.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights (2012-13 season 7-20, 5-11 Conference, 8th)
The Red Knights fell hard last season losing 11 of their last 12 and winning only 7 games after many years of 20+ wins (but note 2 years of top ranking without making state before last year).   5 of the top 6 scorers return.  That includes quick Jayson Edwards at the point and leading scorer Nick Birney.  They'll have to find offense as no player averaged double figures.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2012-13 season 18-8, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Willie Braziel will have to replace the high scoring guard duo of Deon Sanstad and Dominique Galloway who combined for almost 30 a night.  Colton Williams averaged 11+ a night and returns.  Soph forward Jarret Baptiste returns after averaging over 8 points per game last season.

Fridley Tigers (2012-13 season 11-15, 4-12 Conference, 9th)
The Tigers get an important pick up in guard Stevie Hjelmberg from White Bear Lake.  Add that to guard Michael Murray and forward Chaney Pal.  That gives the Tigers 3 scorers.  They also have a minimum of 3 other players returning to the rotation.  Size is going to be a problem for this crew.  Hjelmberg will have to be a major rebounder for them as a big athletic wing.

Irondale Knights (2012-13 season 14-13, 9-7 Conference, 4th)
The Knights lose 39 points a night from their top 2 scorers including 25 per game from Jack Martinek.  Forward Ben Ojika formed the other half of the duo.  Junior forward Devin Malik looks to take over the scoring role.  Junior guard Nick Nelson should be another rotation contributor.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2012-13 season 22-6, 16-0 Conference, 1st)
Cooper ran through the league last season but now its time to rebuild.  Rashad Vaughn leaves for Findlay Prep as the all-time scoring leader in school history.  He averaged over 28 a night.  Lavar McCollough and Billy Kellogg combined for over 20 a night and also need to be replaced.  Brandon Robinson gives them production on the wing.  Darrious Denson returns to man the post.  Top frosh Isaac Johnson left for North after playing JV last year for the Hawks.

St. Louis Park Orioles (2012-13 season 20-6, 14-2 Conference, 2nd)
The Orioles built to last year and had a 20 win season.  But they'll pay the price this season.  Much of their JV was seniors along with everyone on the varsity.  That means there's almost no scoring or experience returning.  Nicholas Kjos will man the middle as the junior class restarts the program.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2012-13 season 15-14, 8-8 Conference, Tied 5th)
The Panthers lose forward Robert Ben and guard Gary Cook who combined for 30 points a night.  They also lose Justin Axelson in the middle and Trevor Hall from the starting lineup.  But they return scoring guard TC Robinson.  While they'll plug in guards, they will need to find some size.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2012-13 season 9-18, 7-9 Conference, 7th)
Totino-Grace returns 5 significant pieces from last season.  Forward Reggie Meyer gives them a versatile wing player.  Guard Colin Fleming can shoot it from anywhere.  Seth Sullwold also averaged double figures.  Maxwell Walker saw time last year as well.  Max Meyer and space eating sophomore James Streeter should come up from JV and be valuable pieces.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Totino-Grace
  2. Columbia Heights  
  3. Spring Lake Park 
  4. Fridley
  5. Benilde-St. Margaret's 
  6. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  7. Irondale 
  8. St. Louis Park 
Conference Overview: 
The northern tier of the league (North Branch, Chisago Lakes and St. Francis) all move to the Mississippi 8.  The rest of the league stays together for 1 final year before the North Surburban folds.  St. Louis Park, Cooper and Benilde-St. Margaret's (for now) are off to the new Metro West.  Columbia Heights and Fridley move to the Tri-Metro.  The remaining 3 schools move to a larger Northwest Suburban.

As to making the picks, ooof.  I saw all of these teams except BSM last season which usually makes things much easier but this is the toughest set of picks so far.  The bottom 4 teams in the league I can't see being very good.  Columbia Heights and Spring Lake Park have major pieces to replace but do have some talent coming back.  So Totino-Grace gets the nod over those 2 for what they do have coming back.  St. Louis Park I think will really struggle after throwing everything into last year.  Fridley will be better with Hjelmberg as will Benilde-St. Margaret's.  With Rashad Vaughn leaving and new coaches trying to keep talent on the northside along with the resurgence of Park Center, is this the start of a big downhill slide for Cooper?

Conference MVP: Reggie Meyer - Totino-Grace

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Matt Lilenthal - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Jarret Baptiste - Columbia Heights
  • Erik LaVahn - Spring Lake Park
  • James Streeter - Totino-Grace
Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at Spring Lake Park - Dec 20th
  • Spring Lake Park at Columbia Heights - Jan 7th
  • Totino-Grace at Columbia Heights - Jan 23rd
  • Spring Lake Park at Totino-Grace - Jan 31st
  • Columbia Heights at Spring Lake Park - Feb 6th
  • Columbia Heights at Totino-Grace - Feb 21st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at St. Paul Central - Dec 10th
  • Mahtomedi at Totino-Grace - Jan 3rd
  • Spring Lake Park at Champlin Park - Jan 15th
  • Spring Lake Park at Farmington - Jan 21st
  • Spring Lake Park at St. Francis - Feb 8th

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