2014 Timberwolves Shootout Preview

Saturday is the 18th annual Timberwolves Shootout.  It features 4 early games with the Timberwolves taking on Oklahoma City that evening.  $20 ticket gets you into all 4 high school games and the TWolves game.  Here's what I'm watching.

Game 1: 9:15 AM #3AAAA Lakeville North (7-1) vs Grand Rapids (8-2)
This game features one of the state's top guards taking on one of the state's top big men.  Lakeville North features Xavier signee J.P. Macura.  Macura is currently ranked #104 nationally per Rivals.com.  He's averaging 37.4 PPG this season including a 55 point outburst vs section rival Farmington.  The rest of the Panthers can fill it up too.  Wing Connor Flack and guard Alex Reiland also average double figures.  Soph lefty Drew Stewart is a dangerous shooter.  Center Bronson Bruneau will walk-on with the Duke football program as a long snapper.  One worthy note is that Lakeville North has a critical conference matchup at Eagan on Friday night.  That short turnaround could be a factor.

Grand Rapids features the top junior big man in the state, Alex Illikainen.  He's averaging 27.2 points per game this season.  That's picking up where he left off from last season when he averaged 27 points and 15 rebounds per game.  He's currently ranked #83 nationally per Rivals.com.  He holds offers from Minnesota and Indiana amongst others and just visited Creighton.  The Thunderhawks will be without last year's other double figure scorer AJ Watland due to a torn ACL suffered in the offseason.

Czar's Pick: Lakeville North.  This will be the ugliest game of the day.  Lakeville North has too much firepower and is too well coached.  North in a blowout.

Game 2:11:00 AM Cretin-Derham Hall (8-1) vs #2 4A Bettendorf (IA) (5-0)
This will be the only game of the day without a nationally ranked player.  But expect another size vs speed struggle that should be closer than game 1.  Cretin-Derham Hall comes in at 8-1 but just lost their 1st game to Rosemount in the Catholic Spirit tourney championship game. Their junior class is loaded with the perimeter trio of Sam Neumann, Joe Rosga and Donnell Gresham.  All 3 average double-figures.   Rosga is the glue guy and leads the team at 21.2 PPG.  Gresham is the pure point guard of the 3.  He averages 12 points a night.  Sam Neumann is one of the state's top juniors and is a scorer.  He averages 18.6 points per game.   The Raiders make up for a lack of size by moving the ball well and running.  They've scored 91 points or more 4 different times this season.  That includes 112 in a 30 point thrashing of Minnetonka.

Bettendorf comes in as the second ranked team in Iowa's big school class.  They have a pair of players signed with D2 schools, guard Cole Clearman (Missouri Western State) and wing Kendall Jacks (Wayne St).  Jacks averages 10 points a game.  Guard Dylan Sortillo averages 11.8 PPG.  6'7" forward Nick Baer leads the team at 16 points a night and can step out and shoot it.  Cretin won't have a good matchup for him.

Czar's Pick: Bettendorf.  High school teams struggle shooting in Target Center.  Cretin-Derham Hall is a jump shooting team. Bettendorf is good enough to make the Raiders pay for not making jump shots.

Game 3: 12:45 PM #2AAA De La Salle (4-3) vs St. Rita (Chicago, IL) (5-3)
De La Salle comes in off back to back losses to national powerhouse Findlay Prep and #8AAAA Eden Prairie.  Stanford signee Reid Travis is ranked #40 in the nation by Rivals.com but hasn't played all season due to a foot injury.  But the Islanders are still loaded.  Junior point guard Jarvis Johnson is ranked #68 nationally by Rivals.com.  He leads the Islanders with 16 points a game.  He's an amazing athlete and a very good passer.  He's high on Minnesota's radar.  Sacar Anim is another one of the state's top juniors.  The defensive minded wing averages 14.7 points per game.  Senior guard Geno Crandall can score in bunches.  He'll attend North Dakota next season. 

Chicago St. Rita is one of the top teams in the tough Chicago Catholic League and a defending division champion.  6'7" forward Vic Law is ranked #86 nationally by Rivals.com and will attend Northwestern next season.  He has a game of 22 points and 20 boards to his credit this season.  6'6" junior guard Charles Matthews is ranked #11 nationally and has Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan St, Ohio St and Marquette on his list of 10 schools.  He's been nursing a left ankle injury.  During that time, his senior brother Dominique has been outstanding.  He has offers from SMU, Toledo, UW-Milwaukee and Chicago State.  6'8" junior power forward Myles Carter is ranked #119 nationally by Rivals.com.  He has offers from Providence, Memphis, VCU and Xavier on his list.  St. Rita was 2-2 in the prestigious Iolani Classic in Hawaii over the holidays.  Carter registered a triple double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks in one of the games there.  He also had 11 blocks in another game there and 16 blocks in another game this season.

Czar's Pick: Chicago St. Rita.  Without Reid Travis and with Carter protecting the rim, De La Salle will have to make jump shots.  They aren't a jump shooting team and in the big venue I can't see them making tons of them.

Game 4: 2:30 PM #1AAAA Apple Valley vs #1 6A Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, KS)
Both of these teams return to the shootout from last year.  Apple Valley features point guard Tyus Jones.  He's ranked #5 nationally by Rivals.com and will attend Duke.  I expect a monster game from him on the big stage.  The Eagles are so much more than him though.  The state's top sophomore big man Brock Bertram anchors the front line.  The state's best freshman Gary Trent, Jr starts on the wing.  Tre Jones, Tyus' younger brother, comes off the bench as the best 8th grader in the state.  Forward Dennis Austin has the bulk of a power forward combined with the height and quickness of a guard.  Robert Tobroxen is a lanky sharpshooter on the wing.

Blue Valley Northwest returns their entire roster from last year's Kansas state championship team in class 6A.  Remember they handed De La Salle their only loss of the season at the shootout.  Coach Ed Fritz won his 500th game that day.  Expect some fun strategy from him and his staff for contending with Tyus Jones.  His son Vince is part of a loaded backcourt that features 3 D1 players.  Vince will attend Sacred Heart next season.  Ben Richardson will attended Loyola of Chicago.  Star Clayton Custer is ranked #90 nationally by Rivals.com and will attend Iowa State.  All 3 can handle it and knock down shots.  Forward David Salach will attend D2 Washburn and will likely be the one to contend with Bertram inside. 

Czar's Pick: Blue Valley Northwest.  Apple Valley loses to DLS if Reid Travis plays and Blue Valley Northwest beat a better De La Salle squad last year.  So as much as I like going with Apple Valley, I just can't do it.  I do expect it to be a very good game.  Keep an eye on Brock Bertram in this one.  Will coach Zach Goring be able to stay with him in this one or will he have to sit to give Apple Valley better matchups?

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