The Czar's annual trip to Las Vegas for the July recruiting period has completed. 5 years of Vegas now in the books. Here are some of the sights and sounds of my trip.
Probably the biggest theme for me for the trip was all of the point guard play. Here's a list of no fewer than 10 high profile PGs I saw and its not necessarily all inclusive. Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, Frank Jackson, Jaylen Fisher, Eric Hester, Kobi Simmons, Payton Pritchard, Jaquori McLaughlin, Trevon Duval (2017), Alex Barcello (2017), Jordan McCabe (2018). McLaughin and Pritchard had Wisconsin following them and as a Badger fan I'd be very happy if Bucky got either one. My 1st game featured Ball vs Smith. Ball is a bigger Tyus Jones type (terrific passer). His mom and pop team (literally his parents coaching his team with him and his 2 brothers playing with many of his high school teammates) played an old Loyola Marymount style with his youngest brother playing the Jeff Fryer role. The entire team had the "if it feels like leather" green light. Entertaining but not the greatest basketball and Ball's team ended up getting blown out. Friday featured a bunch of fun close games in the Fab 48 in their top division. Main player highlight there was Thon Maker in the 1st game of the day but also saw the Colorado Chaos cause major chaos with 2 late 3s before giving up a buzzer beater to Team Thad.
As to Minnesota teams, a great showing. 12 teams in the Las Vegas Classic were a combined 39-23, 11 teams in the Fab 48 were 41-20. D1s 3 teams in the Adidas Summer Championships were 14-4. That's 94-47 (or 2 out of every 3) overall. The D1 15s won their 15U bracket. WOTN Nicols made the championship of the Gold Bracket at the Fab 48 but needed to make their flight. That meant Select Altenhofen would finish 8-0 and win that title. Fury Johnson 15s lost in the 2nd bracket championship in Bigfoot. MN Warriors went 5-1 and lost by 1 in the quarters to the eventual champ of their bracket. D1 16s lost in the quarters to the eventual runner up. Big story line locally was Minnesota Fury Wilde taking out EYBL rep Meanstreets easily in the 1st round of championship bracket. They saw a double digit lead cut to 3 before pulling away. Heat Northwest, Heat Vang, Select Ohnstad, Select Altenhofen, Fury Johnson, Fury Wilde, D1 16s, D1 15s, MN Warrors, MN Lockdown 15s all won their pools. Fury Zurn had a great late night matchup against Mac Irvin Fire that they couldn't finish late otherwise that would have been a signature win and pool title as well. In the D1 16s bracket loss to Utah Prospects, Goanar Mar put on one of the best games I've seen him play as he tried to bring D1 back from double digits down but they ended up getting no closer than 2. Other local players that played well when I saw them include (in no particular order) David Lindstrand, Austin Slater, Race Thompson, Zach Theisen, Charlie Irmiger, Matthew Hurt, Steffon Mitchell. Over half of the NSIC was out in Vegas following the local kids too which is as many of those schools as I can recall seeing out there in my time.
The Grub and the Goons
Quality food at all the sites provided to the college coaches. That's also good for the pocket book. Quality chicken at Adidas. Amazing cinnamon roll flavored mini cupcakes at the Fab 48. The neighboring Irish Pub is always good for lunch on Wednesday before heading out to a week full of games. As always, plenty of Pepsi consumed too. The more I see of Vegas, the more shady it is. Plenty of scary creatures on the streets (insert your own joke about me here) which make even me pay attention. Did get a chance to saunter through The Fremont Street Experience on the way back to the airport on Saturday. Think massive full time block party. I do need to find time to do the zip line over the street sometime.
Always have to make time to hit the tables in Vegas. After last year's huge losses, a basketball saying came to mind. There comes a time when summer asks what you did all winter. Czar put in his fair share of off-season work to make sure that disaster didn't happen again. Night 1 wasn't anything special but I did walk away with fair gains. Night 2 it all came thru as I made a big run. Night 3 was the casino's night as they got all their losses back. I tried to weather the storm figuring the bad stretch would pass but just never got thru it. I entered Night 4 dead even and stepped up to higher stakes tables but with less decks so that changes the odds I had prepped with. After a very rough start, I made the critical decision to switch tables (something I didn't do on night 3) and got back above water for a very tidy profit. So Czar leaves victorious for the 2nd time in 3 years, always a good feeling. But especially nice knowing the preparation paid off, literally and figuratively. 2 major differences in my play this year that helped. Playing possible busts vs dealer non bust cards (e.g hit 16 vs a dealer 17) and soft hands (like double soft 15 vs a 6). For those wondering, it was not my hot play that caused the Cosmopolitan to burst into flames on Saturday. Just remember folks as we always say in honor of De La Salle coach Dave Thorson, #GrindersWinGamblersLose