2016 AAU 1st Open Period Quick Look

After a long weekend in St. Cloud, its time for the 1st open period of the 2016 spring season.  Of course that means all the leagues (except Sanford which goes back to back in mid-May) will be in session so that really limits the field for others.  Here's where our teams will be.

The big fish on the block of open spring tournaments locally is NY2LA Spring Extravaganza at Hopkins and Eden Prairie.  Comets, Select and Grassroots will have teams in the league portion of this along with SPTS members Dakota Schoolers, Omaha Crusaders and WI Playmakers.  Those games are at Hopkins.  Eden Prairie has most of the open division.  That includes many other Minnesota squads like Heat, WOTN, MN Warriors, SW MN Stars, Real Athletics and the Howard Pulley 16s playing up just to name a few.  Pulley's younger kids also playing in the other levels.  Also from out of state, ND Phenom, ECI Prospects, SD Attack, RAS Milwaukee, WI Jets and DTA Devin Harris Superstars.

Howard Pulley's EYBL crew will be in New York for the 1st weekend of EYBL play.  Once again Pulley's schedule is very tough on Memorial Day weekend (last EYBL weekend) so they'll want to get off to a good start.  Its only 3 of the 16 games, but 2-1 will feel much better than 1-2.  0-3 would be a disaster.  Powerhouse Hoops MN (formerly MN Lockdown) will also be in the New York area for a different event. 

Midwest Live is down in the Des Moines area.   MN Fury will have all their teams there.  D1 Minnesota will have both of its 15s and the 16s Prospects team there.  Twin Cities Finest will have both its 17s there.  Crossfire Weege in the 17s will also be playing.  Heat MacDonald (did I spell that right Wibi?) also there after a 15U runner up finish to the Comets in St. Cloud last weekend.

So where are the other 3 D1 Minnesota teams you ask?  They are in Dallas for the 1st weekend of the Adidas Gauntlet series.  D1 MN Prospects 17s are in the Silver division.  Other 2 teams are in the Gold divisions.  McKinley Wright was my MVP of the Comets Shootout last week.  He looks to continue his high level play in the open period.  I'm expecting lots of attention on Nate Reuvers as well after a big high school season that has generated Minnesota and Wisconsin offers.

Finally in Chicago, MN Phenom's 17s and 16s make the trip along with MN Ice.  BBA Force and Pentagon 16s from South Dakota also making the trek there.

2016 Comets Shootout Preview

Its time to for the full blown kickoff of the 2016 AAU Season with the annual Comets Shootout.  Here's some of what I'm watching.  Sunday plays out the quarterfinals to the end, good games.  The early 2 or 3 games are pigtails, round of 32 and round of 16.  Nice to have a bracket, but not having pools means most of Saturday's play is blowout city.  But early in the year anything can happen and we did see a couple of early round upsets last year on Saturday.

In the top quarter of the bracket, I expect the hosts Comets Lewis to have no problem reaching Sunday's quarterfinals.  Great additions of Wayzata's Ryan Lindberg and Gavin Baumgartner and Hopkins' Simon Wright for that squad.  Only question I have is a backup point guard to Bryce Irsfeld.  Fury Kallman and WI Playmakers Hjelter are on the other side of the quarter.  Fury Kallman vs Comets Lewis in a sleeper quarter final game.  Rocky Kreuser for Fury Kallman is going to be a problem matchup for many of their opponents this year.

In the 2nd quarter of the bracket, its D1 Minnesota's top team.  Heat Vang and high-flyer Parker Fox are on the other half of this quarter.  Expect D1 Minnesota to have no trouble here.  Looking forward to see how D1 rotates their front court trio of Nate Reuvers, Goanar Mar and Matthew Hurt.  McKinley Wright, Ishmael El-Amin, Jericho Sims, Jack Sorenson and Jack Hutchinson also on display for that loaded team.

Now to the bottom half and quarter #3.  Minnesota Warriors and Select Ohnstad are lined up for what I see as the top round of 16 game.  That's at 10:00 PM Saturday night.  Mitch Ohnstad playing at least 3 sophs from his WOTN 15U squad last year on this team.  ECI Prospects are on the other side of this quarter with the 2 top 2017 prospects in North Dakota.  That's post Jordan Meidinger and guard Siman Sem.   Plus they have more D2 level talent around them in guys like Lucas Mayer and Justin Engg.  I like ECI over the Warriors in the quarters.  But the Warriors being together for years always makes them a tough out in this tourney.

In the bottom quarter, you have the Fury top group and D1 Minnesota's 2nd team on separate sides.  Not a cake walk section as Comets Kirchner, WOTN Nicols and Real Athletics House are also in this quarter of the bracket.   Zach Hanson from WOTN is the sleeper kid to watch in this group.  WOTN Nicols vs Comets Kirchner is the only real interesting game I see in the round of 32.  Fury Zurn vs D1 MN Prospects is a very good quarterfinal.  I'll take Fury to barely hang on.

So that leaves Comets Lewis vs D1 Minnesota and ECI Prospects vs Fury in the semifinals.  I think Fury's tough game vs a scrambling fast paced D1 MN Prospects squad takes it toll.  Give me ECI to take on D1 Minnesota in the final with D1 Minnesota taking the trophy.  D1 Minnesota vs Comets sure to gather a ton of interest as it could be the highest profile Minnesota on Minnesota battle we get all year at 17U.  That would also be true if Fury Zurn would make the final.

In 16U, I see a pretty wide open event.  No top team from D1 (they're in Wisconsin this week), no Pulley, no Powerhouse Hoops etc means you don't have a whole lot of high profile 2018 guys playing.  I have to take the home team, Comets Stumpf, as my favorite.  Brevyn Spann-Ford gives them a 3/4 combo guy who's a difficult matchup.  Cam Jackson and Kyler Kluge make up a small backcourt that can score it.

But there's a group of teams that can jump up here.  Heat Reese knocked off D1 last week (granted in a scrimmage with no Race Thompson) but they've rebuilt that group into one that will be much improved.  Tayler Johnson and Odell Wilson from Minneapolis North are nice additions there.  Select Altenhofen is also a nice group that will be very competitive.  They have a very solid perimeter group.  Fury Wilde has to be discussed here as well, but they're not quite what they were last year.  Matt Todd has moved on to Pulley and that deprives this crew of a major difference maker.  ECI has a couple of top 5 North Dakota kids so they'll be solid here as well.   Crossfire Swanson and Comets Servaty are other squads that could surprise.  So while there's not star power, you have a nice group of very respectable teams.

2016 AAU Opening Day in Iowa

Its April and that means its time to get on the road for the AAU Season.  I open my season with a day trip to Ames, IA.  Its the Super 16 hosted by All Iowa Attack.  Its my 1st trip to the All Iowa Attack Fieldhouse and what an amazing building it is.  4 courts in an entirely retro feel.

I had a chance to take in all 3 of the games for the Howard Pulley 17s and more than a game's worth of their 16s.  Both were playing in the top 17s bracket which is a 6 team round robin setup.  The 17s would go 3-0 and the 16s 1-2.  The Phenom 17s opened 0-2

Howard Pulley 17s
All Iowa Attack 17U Black 86-48 win
Omaha Elite 17U 67-54 win
All Iowa Attack 17U Red 78-42 win

Howard Pulley 16s
All Iowa Attack 17U Red 66-53 loss
MN Phenom 17s 78-48 win
Omaha Elite 17U 74-66 loss

MN Phenom 17s
Omaha Elite 61-36 loss
Howard Pulley 16s 78-48 loss

Don't have full information on the Phenom 17s roster but Irondale guard Sean Sutherlin is one of their top guys.

As to Howard Pulley, they were able to get everybody's feet wet with lots of playing time which means the event serves it purpose.   As expected they go 4 guard around either Theo John or Daniel Oturu.  Pulley's man to man defense was really aggressive getting after people.  Brad Davison knocked down shots and was very good all around all day.  Tre Jones was very good as well.  I really like DJ Hunter for this squad.  A guy who doesn't need shots and can defend multiple spots.  He played his role well as the 5th starter.  Isaac Johnson off the bench has the ability to be good in that role too.  Gary Trent did his usual scoring in limited minutes with the bench seeing extra minutes.  Gabe Kalscheur came off the bench and they ran lots of sets for him.  That results in 6 3s in the 1st game of the day.  Jeremiah Coddon played a lot of point guard off the bench.  But I'd rather see Brad Davison get those back up minutes to allow Coddon to create off the ball and give Davison more time on the ball where's he more comfortable.

The game vs Omaha Elite was a very good test for the Howard Pulley 17s.  Omaha Elite's starting backcourt has offers from Nebraska-Omaha and South Dakota.  Forward Logan Strom has football and basketball offers from South Dakota State.  Center Isaiah Chandler played here in the 2015 Timberwolves Shootout.  He has division 1 upside as well.  So despite losing a player or 2 to Adidas sponsored Chauncey Billups Elite, they're still very talented.  But despite a very quiet game from Gary Trent, Pulley would open a 38-19 halftime lead mainly due to their defense.  The 2nd half they would coast a bit.  Omaha Elite would try to make it interesting with Small and Chandler making plays in the 2nd half but they never got it to single digits.  Pulley would go on to win by 13.

The Pulley 16s have freshmen Courtney Brown (East Ridge) and David Roddy (Breck) starting for them.  This team struggled all day on the offensive end.   Its an athletic group with 3 or 4 good point guards.  However there's no real inside threat and not much shooting.  Matt Todd is in a spot similar to Brad Davison where he's a PG who has the ball all the time and creates for his team in HS but is now playing mostly off the ball (Ryan Larson playing PG).  So expect some time for him to adjust to that role.