The Timberwolves Shootout returns on Saturday with 4 of Minnesota's top teams taking on 4 top teams from around the midwest. Here's what I'll be watching for.
9:15 AM #2AAAA Apple Valley (11-1) vs #6A Omaha Central (NE) (7-2)
Nebraska powerhouse Omaha Central is a new visitor to the shootout. The Eagles won 7 out of 8 state titles in a run before last season. Head coach Eric Behrens moved on to a college job but the tradition remains. 6'7" Senior forward Magay Agau leads the front line charge. Their junior guard duo of Christian Harmon and K'zhan Jimerson is solid. Soph center Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler is a D1 prospect inside.
Gary Trent leads the charge for Apple Valley on the perimeter with 21.1 PPG. He's the top sophomore in the state. Junior post Brock Bertram is a mountain inside averaging a double-double of 14.8 PPG and 11.3 RBS. Star frosh Tre Jones plays the point but often goes unnoticed in the high powered Eagles offense. Cam Kirksey has had a break out season at forward with much improved offense. He averages double digits and he's a standout defender. Jordan Bolton has also broken out to the tune of almost 16 PPG.
Prediction: Kirksey and Agau should be a fun matchup as will Chandler vs Bertram. Bolton and Jones will get a stiff challenge from the Omaha Central guards. I'll take Apple Valley in a close one.
11:00 AM Cretin-Derham Hall (8-3) vs #3AAAA North Scott (IA) (6-1)
North Scott is from the Quad Cities area in Iowa. North Dakota commit Cortez Seales was outstanding on the wing with 30 points and a dominating 2nd half in their December win over De La Salle. Point guard Marlon Stewart is a Creighton commit and capable of taking a game over. Guard Grant Graham is one of the best defenders in Iowa.
We'll miss out on a great point guard matchup as Donnell Gresham has been out of the Raiders lineup. Guard Joe Rosga just went over 1000 career points, he's the glue for this group. Wing Sam Neumann is a Montana State commit. He became the school's all-time leading scorer this year. Frosh Daniel Oturu sees time off the bench and has D1 upside.
Prediction: Junior wing Jordan Ammons has become CDH's defensive guy and I expect him to see time on Seales and Stewart. Sam Neumann was great here last year with 39 and 3s from another zip code. He'll need to duplicate that for the Raiders to win. No Gresham is too big a loss for this game. North Scott too disciplined, they win by 10.
12:45 PM #1AAA De La Salle (6-2) vs Morgan Park (Chicago, IL) (10-3)
Morgan Park comes in ranked #5 this week in the Chicago Tribune top 20. Morgan Park is the 2 time defending class 3A champion in Illinois. Guard Marcus LoVett leads the way for Morgan Park. He's ranked #91 nationally by Rivals.com and has Illinois hot after him on the recruiting trail. Junior guard Charlie Moore also one to watch.
De La Salle is the 3 time defending class 3A Minnesota champion. Minnesota commit Jarvis Johnson will likely matchup with 1 of those guards during the day. The explosive guard runs the show for the Islanders. Wings Sacar Anim (mid to low D1 prospect) and Josh Collins (North Dakota commit) will see most of the duties guarding LoVett.
Prediction: Expect hard-nosed in your face man to man defense from both sides. Both teams very good in that regard. Who can make more plays off the bounce is the big question. De La Salle just doesn't have the fire power they've had in years past. They'll keep it close but I don't see how they score enough to win. Morgan Park by 6
2:30 PM #1AAAA Champlin Park (12-0) vs #8 D2 Rice Lake (WI) (6-3)
The story here is Rice Lake's Henry Ellenson. He's 17th ranked player nationally according to Rivals.com. The Marquette commit went off for 48 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to Minnetonka in early December. He very mobile and built like a tank and does everything for the Warriors from bringing the ball up to knocking down 3s to dominating in the post. The problem is that he doesn't have much help. Guard Ben Widdes is the only other notable threat.
Champlin Park has their star soph Theo John as a starting matchup for Ellenson. John has the athleticism and length but he's still foul prone so the question will be how long can he stay on the floor. JT Gibson has arguably been the player of the year in the state so far this season. He averages over 19 a game. He had outstanding performances in their wins over Hopkins (with Amir Coffey), Cretin-Derham Hall and put the icing on the cake with 38 in a win over Apple Valley. He has plenty of help too. Soph Point Guard McKinley Wright is a D1 prospect averaging 14+ per night. Wings Marty Hill and Jeremy Johnson are an athletic duo who fill their roles well and combine for almost 28 points a night.
Prediction: Henry Ellenson gets his and entertains the crowd. Champlin Park does some double teaming to force somebody else to beat them. Gibson with another solid performance. The Rebels get out and get some transition buckets. Too much firepower here for Champlin Park, give me the Rebels by 15.