A Furious Weekend

Its the 2011 Minnesota Fury Shootout.  The 14U squad that I help out with was in action all weekend so I didn't get a chance to take in much else, but I still had plenty to see in that short time.  Combine that with Walking Tacos all weekend (4 in total) and it was a fine weekend.  I even showed restraint by resisting the Domino's Pizza all weekend.  Tough call.

The unknown MN Cagers squad took on the Dakota Pride in a 16U pool game on Saturday morning.  While it was a downpour outside, the Cagers took it to the Pride inside to the tune of a 10 point second half lead.  The Pride recovered to force overtime and then knocked down a buzzer beater to win 53-51. 

Other tidbits from the 17U games over at Eastview saw Freddie Young (formerly of Brooklyn Center then prep school last year) return to the metro to join Grassroots.  Darrion Strong has also joined them moving over from the PNR 16s.

Then its back to Eagan for the rest of my weekend.  The 15s didn't disappoint.  Nick Carroll's Fury Black cardiac kids again entertaining.  They came from 16 or 18 down in the last 5:30 against MN Elite to win a super pool game.  Fury got the tie with 30 seconds left then forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass.  They held for 1 and Wheeler Baker got loose in the lane for the game winner with 2.6 left.  58-56 Fury Black wins a thriller.  That's after MN Elite put a real hurting on them in the quarters of the PNR tournament a month ago.  Then its to the dungeon (back sport court at Eagan) where Heat Select lost a super pool game to the Comets 61-59 on a Christian Pekarek 3 at the buzzer. 

MN Elite got some entertainment in the quarterfinals as the Heat team they were playing had their coach tossed late in the first half.  They held off the top Comets squad (having a very good year) in the semis and took out Heat Select for the 15U title.  But its the Heat Select vs Fury Black game in the semis that proved to be another thriller.  Fury Black gets down big again but rallies back in the last minute to force overtime.  In the OT, Heat Select misses a free throw for the lead.  Fury pushes the ball back and Heat tries to take a charge.  Its a blocking call 25-30 feet away from the basket with 1 second left and Fury is in the double bonus.  Oh my.  1st FT is no good but the 2nd is up and in for a 75-74 Fury Black lead.  Time out Heat.  Out of the time out, Eden Prairie's Andre Wallace channels Christian Laettner as he gets the 3/4 court pass and banks in a turnaround 3 from about 25 feet on the right wing at the buzzer to win it.  Holy Cow!  Fury Gold took out Fury Blue again to win the 16s title.  Would have loved to see that Fury Gold team play in Denver.  Fury Blue 17s took out Grassroots to win the 17s title.

The Czar's 14s
Now its time for a Point of Personal Privilege.  No that's not the boot in the backside that many of us would like to give the MN Legislature today.  Most of my weekend was spent eating walking tacos between the games of the Magic Black 14u team that I help coach.  We had the lead most of the way on Friday night vs the MN Warriors, that's Rosemount head coach Brian Schnettler and his young guys, but gave away a 6 point lead in the last minute and lost by 2.  Give the Warriors credit for making us pay with 8 points for the 4 late game mistakes.  Interesting note that the game started out with 1 referee for the 1st 6 minutes.  Thank you traffic.  We bounced back on Saturday afternoon with a 39 point win over the MN Suns to move on to the 6 team title bracket on Sunday.

After trailing by 7 at the half to the MN Crush, we came back to win by 10.  A tale of 2 halves in that one.  The Crush squad had already faced tourney pressure earlier in the day by winning with points in the 8 AM game to make the bracket.  That Crush crew has a talented Burnsville kid that you'll hear more about down the line.  In the semifinals, we defeated Grassroots by about 20 to earn a rematch with the MN Warriors.  After I forgot to put the numbers in the official book (DOH!), the kids responded by jumping out to a 27-10 lead, up 20 at the half and we go on to win the 14s title 54-30.  We played the Sunday games without one of our top kids.  We've now won 9 out of 10 to improve to 14-7 on the year.  5-1 with me actually on the bench, thank you very much.  2 really tough losses when I'm keeping book though, including Friday night and a 20 foot loose ball heave at the buzzer against Magic White at the Magic Tourney last month.  Disturbing trend there.  That said it has been an entirely local schedule.  After playing the last 4 weekends, its a much deserved and needed weekend off before playing MYAS state in 2 weeks.

On the road in Iowa

Minnesota made its biggest road trip of the year by walking, running, or dancing its way south to the Kings of the Court tourney in Des Moines.  Not only teams but tons of local referees made the trip for this tourney that used 13 different buildings.  Unlike the Texas Lightning 8th graders, I didn't travel coach in my own bus.  I was also fortunate not to be eaten by the life size polar bear in the lobby of Des Moines North High School.  Speaking of food, a nice variety week with stuffed french toast at IHOP, Outback and a pulled pork sandwich at the outstanding Kingdom Hoops facility which runs circles around (Not so) High Performance Academy.  5 nice hardwood courts with 1 sportcourt.  Here's some of the sights from my weekend.

Friday Night
A late afternoon departure but the day starts with a bang.  MN Heat Weimar 15s give up a wild 3 at the buzzer to Kingdom Hoops II to go to OT.  Then Kingdom holds for the entire OT and scores with 4.3 seconds left to win 52-50 in OT.  Howard Pulley's top 15s took out IA Pump N Run 2 52-34.  Then my technology goes haywire on me and I'm ready to make a clay pigeon out of it so live updates for the rest of the night are ruined.  Its off to see the end of the PNR 17s with Ian Theisen (16s off) as they win 64-27 over IA Central Elite.  Glory 16s beat Kingdom Hoops 2 54-47.  Heat Elite 17s win 69-55 over IA Mavericks Wilson.  Magic Superfriends run away from Heat Lesewski in the second half.

Saturday Pool Play
The day starts with a look at the start of the Iowa State AAU Tournament.  The top All Iowa Attack team with D1 stars Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, and Kyle Abrahamson (all top 150 kids).  They played without star PG Marcus Paige and still won 77-27.  Iowa Barnstormers were up 30 in their game before it became unwatchable.  Then its next door to Des Moines North and greeted by the life size stuffed polar bear in the lobby.  Heat Elite 17s beat EOTO Black 68-36.  EOTO Gold with Evan Battle lost by 7 to the Omaha Crusaders.  Then the PNR 15s started off 34-0 and blew out IA Magic 85-11.  Henry Ellenson 24 points.  Down 30-0 and Magic airballed a free throw, just 1 of those days.  Glory 16s also blown out.  Heat Ogorek 16s hung around with top Mokan squad until last 10 minutes and lost by 25.  Pulley White 17s with Siyani Chambers and Quinton Hooker won their pool with a 96-53 win.  Southside pounded the ball inside and beat ECI Select to win their pool.  Joey King 18 in the first half of that one.

Saturday Bracket Play
Then one of the best games I saw on the weekend as Fury Black 15s came from 10 down in the second half and beat Kingdom Hoops I 55-54.  Kingdom Hoops played without Jay Knuth (maybe top frosh in IA) who was injured last week at Sabes.  MN PNR 15s got off to a quick lead and beat MN Elite by 12 in the first round.  Heat Select 15s also won to setup the matchup with PNR.  MN Ballers (replacement for 43 Hoops who played 17s at Select tourney) and Ultimate Hoops both win to force a quarterfinal matchup.  Fury Blue 16s made a late run and almost came from 8 down late but lost 51-48 to Kingdom Hoops 1.  HP White 17s come from 3 down in last minute to beat Magic Superfriends 63-61.  Heat Elite 17s lost to ECI Prospects 76-75 on an AJ Jacobsen buzzer beater.  PNR 17s were 1 down at half before beating the Iowa Barnstormers 69-51 (no James Harrington for Stormers).  The day ends with a really fun 14u game between Alex Illikainen's MN Cyclones and Texas Lightning.  Have to love an 8th grade team with their own decked out tour bus.  30-29 Cyclones at half but Lightning with a 38-35 lead late before Illikainen comes up with a great high low post feed for a layup, his own post move, 1 free throw and puts back the miss on the 2nd.   Kobe Critchley 4-4 FTs to seal the 49-44 win.  The day ends with the top brackets filled with Minnesota teams.  4 teams in 15u, 3 in 16u and 3 in 17u.

Sunday Bracket Play
MN Fury Black and MN Heat Select both get blown out in the quarters.  MN PNR in a surprise thrashing took out Heat Select 61-28.  Heat with no answers for a 3-2 zone.  Mokan Red took out Fury 57-37.  Trailblazers took out MN Heat Frank.  Ultimate Hoops took out the MN Ballers 60-46 in the 16u quarters.  HP 16 Black took out Kingdom Hoops 1 50-48 in overtime in the quarters in a very entertaining game.  Kingdom Hoops using 3 fouls to give at the end of regulation and then smartly not using the 4th as Pulley put up a prayer at the regulation buzzer.  Joey King in foul trouble but Southside pulls away and beat ECI Prospects 72-59 in the 17 quarters.  HP 17 White took out Prime Time 84-61 in another 17U quarter.  Then Southside took on PNR in the semis.  An 18-4 run gave PNR a 35-25 lead that was cut to 4 but a late 12-0 run gave the Pumps 58-44 win.  Kingdom Hoops I came up clutch against HP White 17s to win 76-69.  Lots of missed free throws both ways down the stretch in that one.  In the silver bracket Heat Ogorek and Heat Altena (top 2 MN Heat 16u teams) played an intense game with Heat Ogorek hanging on 40-36 to win their half of the Silver bracket (2nd place pool finishers)

Kingdom Hoops defeated MN PNR 76-59 to win the 17s.  All Iowa Attack Moore with Peter Jok defeated Howard Pulley 16 Black 56-51 for the 16U title.  MN PNR took out the other Mokan team in the 15s 47-42 to win the 15u title.  Net Gain defeated MN Cyclones 47-38 to win the 14U title.

Players that caught my eye
Tyson Kalien - Magic Superfriends.  He shot the lights out against Heat Lesewski and played well against Pulley.

Justin Pahl - Heat Elite 17s.  10 3s in 2 pool games including 6 3s and 29 points in their 2nd pool game.  He also had 18 points and 4 3s in their opener.

AJ Jacobsen - ECI Prospects.  He nailed a buzzer beater to knock Heat Elite 17s out of the 1st round.  Then he put the Prospects on his back in the first half against Southside with Joey King in foul trouble.  Prospects played without their other star Daniel Yale.

Wally Ellenson - MN PNR 17s.  He was the lightning rod during the 18-4 run that put PNR over the time against Southside as he got the rim and was able to finish at will. 

Latrell Love - Southside.  Not the biggest or most mobile post player you'll see but you can't help but notice that he's very productive and finds ways to score.

Dexter Werner - ECI Prospects.  The big man from Bismarck had a great battle with Joey King inside and more than held his own rejecting King on more than 1 occassion.  He had the flop of the tourney guarding King in the post and drawing the charge.

Some local conference shuffling

For 2011-12, there's been plenty of talk about the new Granite Ridge Conference but locally I'm seeing some realignment as well.  Let's line up the dominoes.

First, Providence Academy moves over to the Tri-Metro from the MCAA.  Size wise this makes sense as Providence has been growing like a weed.  Makes for some very entertaining DLS vs Providence girls games too.  That fills out the Tri-Metro at 12 teams with the same divisional scheduling they've done in the past.  Providence is the western most school so somebody has to move to the east division.  St. Paul Academy is the pick (very logical) making the league look like this.

West: Blake, Breck, Brooklyn Center, De La Salle, Minnehaha and Providence
East: Concordia, Mounds Park, St. Agnes, St. Anthony, St. Croix Lutheran and St. Paul Academy

That leaves the MCAA at 9 teams.  I'm reading that the MCAA changed their bylaws last year to allow non-christian schools.  Lester Prairie was placed in the league by the MSHSL after being denied by the MCAA so that doesn't quite count.  They combined athletics with existing MCAA member Holy Trinity after entering the league if I remember correctly.  It appears PACT saw that, reapplied for membership (previously denied under the old bylaw) and was admitted as the 10th team.  That makes since since PACT played almost a full MCAA schedule anyway and is similar size and location.  Traditionally the MCAA schedule has 1 game against each team and then the conference tourney.  Now it appears they've broken the mold and will play a 13 game divisional schedule.  With the league schedule ending in mid-February, it looks like the tournament could still be played and be done in time for Bethany and SW Christian to still start early state tournament play.

North: Maranatha, Legacy, West Lutheran, Heritage and PACT
South: New Life, Bethany, Trinity, Southwest Christian and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity

Sad thing about these moves is that the annual Heritage vs Providence trophy game appears to be off the schedule.

It also appears that there will be a new Metro Charter Conference playing in 2011-12.  Think back to the days of the old Metro Lakes Conference before it dissolved and some of the schools ended up in the EMAC.  Prairie Seeds Academy, Minnesota Transitions, FAIR Downtown, St. Croix Prep (new to the varsity scene this year, played JV schedule last year), Math and Science Academy and a couple more that are escaping me (e.g Spectrum and Four Directions).

2011 Sabes Tourney weekend recap

The longest weekend of the year has concluded with the completion of the 2011 Sabes Invitational and 2011 Meg Vang/Minnesota Heat Tournament.  I had a chance to visit both tournaments, I'll add some of what I saw, but first some of the odd.

I had 3 separate times where a player saw an unoccupied trainers station and me in the vicinity with my press pass on and asked me if I was a trainer.  That included Hopkins' Zach Stahl asking if I could tape his ankle.  LOL!  So to all of you, no I'm not a trainer and no I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn last night, though it would have been tempting as late as we went.  No, the Emperor can't do it either despite being a highly trained medical professional.

Tried to hit Jimmy John's for lunch on Saturday and they were out of bread.  That's like a bank being out of money.  So it ended up being replaced with double set of fries and extra grease on the double cheeseburger at McDonalds.  Not good for the Czar's ever expanding waistline.

As to the High Performance Academy facility, 2 back courts have sideline against the wall, 1 other court has a cage about a foot off the end line.  Only 2 baskets per court which isn't great for practice purposes if you want to do stations or anything like that.  A major mistake in the scheduling of officials in this one by having the officials move from court to court.  That means that if their game gets behind they also hold up the next game that they're going to officiate.  That meant that the late game Saturday night didn't start until around 10:45 PM instead of the scheduled 10:10 time.   Teams get a break and move court to court, no need to move the refs around.  11:35 PM and game still had 12 minutes left.  Winner had to come back at 9:10 AM, that's a bit much.

Heat Tourney
We'll start simple with the 16U and 17U finals late Sunday at Bethel after completion of the Sabes.  I was hoping for pizza after a long day but no such luck.  WOTN took on 43 Hoops in the final.  43 Hoops impressive in the tourney blowing out MN Southside by 30 in the semis and then taking a 22 point halftime lead in the title game before winning the championship 53-31.  7 triples in the first half for 43 Hoops, 3 from Sean Scott.  All of this without Marcus Marshall who sat out due to a knee injury suffered last week at the Jayhawk.  Nick Sanborn productive for WOTN who also had an appearance from Brett Rasmussen.  The second half was slow paced and all about jump shooting for 43 as they coasted home.

The 16U title game also featured 43 Hoops (didn't even realize they had a true 16s but I'll pay attention now) taking on Fury Gold.  43 Hoops with Washburn's Nick Anderson (stud!), Johnson's Waylon Johnson, Dion Bradley (Highland Park, but rumored transfer) and MCA's Isaiah Hanson on the roster.  I come over from the 17s final with 8 minutes left and Fury Gold leading 36-32.  That must have been the jinx because Fury finishes the game on a 20-3 run.  Back to back 3s and a technical foul in a timeout start the run.  The bottom falls out from there.  Fury Gold wins the 16s title 56-35.

Interesting note from the tourney that brought back memories of the heat at the Best Buy Summer Classic last July.  The track surrounding the courts at the Bethel rec center became an ice rink thanks to the humidity yesterday so late games had to be moved last night.  Always something to make the life of a tournament director interesting.

2011 Sabes Invitational Recap
Pool Play
To the long part of the weekend, but there was a 35 second shot clock.  It opened Friday night with the Howard Pulley 15 Black squad taking out MN Elite 58-42.  Gaelin Elmore and Stephon Sharp with easy buckets inside and quality guard play from Kamali Chambers and Ben Fiers.  They hold Andrew Grosz to 5 points as Elite had plenty of good looks that just didn't go in but the Pulley squad played awfully well. 

Then the story of the night (and maybe the weekend).  Magic Superfriends hung around and took a 41-40 lead on the Pulley 17 Black squad with 10 minutes left. Pulley looked to pull away up 10+ late, but a pair of missed front ends and clutch shooting allowed Magic to tie the game late.  Then a Pulley miss and Rodney Owens (as a Packers fan it pains me to say this but OWENS, OWENS, OWENS! is appopriate in this case) runs out for a layup with 2.1 left to win it 69-67.  Many thought Pulley had the game wrapped up and went to watch other games and missed this insane ending.  Who else this year will be able to say they beat 43 Hoops and Pulley's top team?  The irony is that Magic went on to lose their other 2 pool games and finish last in the pool.

Matt Thomas 5 of his 7 3s in the 1st half on his way to 30+ points as the WI Playmakers 16s beat the Illinois Warriors 68-58.  Really like how MJ Delmore runs the point for the Playmakers.  Isaiah Austin did appear for Texas PRO and while KC PNR did hang around, there was just too much talent to overcome.  Texas PRO wins 75-60.  #2 ranked Isaiah Austin is 7'1" and has skill like 6'1" player, just crazy skill.  Played pseudo point guard and center on weekend.  Comets big loss to St. Louis Eagles in 16s.

To Saturday (longest day of my basketball season with the late games) and it starts with Ray Allen Select in the 15s.  First possession and I see them running ... (you guessed it).  But they ran counters out of it so I was actually warming up to it.  Love the game of guard Riley LaChance for them.  Also in 15s, KC PNR gave up 17-3 run to St. Louis Eagles but countered with 13-0 run and won an entertaining game 48-42.  MN Elite had a chance down 1 but missed in the last 5 seconds to lose 65-62 to Team Nebraska.  Then later its deja vu as Team Nebraska almost comes from 7 down to Pulley 15 Black before falling 72-70.  MN Elite beat the Playmakers to get a win in pool play.

Matt Thomas and the Playmakers out dueled All Iowa Attack and Peter Jok to the tune of a 60-51 win.  Thomas 25 before missing the evening session for prom.  Jok scored 28 included last 3s to keep it close.  Major shock in the 16s as the 2nd Schoolers club opened a 20 point second half lead on the top Pulley 16s before winning by 7.  Comets beat the 2nd Pulley squad in 16s 70-38.  Jok came up clutch late with back to back 3s as AIA beat the Illinois Warriors 50-48.

Bracket Play
St. Louis Eagles 2 knocked out MN Elite 62-56.  TC Force gave St. Louis Eagles a game before losing 51-45.  That TC Force squad is largely East Ridge kids.  Comets 16s lost 44-35 to Chicago Demons.  Howard Pulley Black 16s over HP White 16s 68-41. 

Playmakers 16s and KC Keys had a crazy ending.  Playmakers missed a front end with 20 seconds left up 1.  KC fouled with 3.5 left and they take a time out they don't have but no technical.  1 of 2 FTs is good.  Playmakers pass after make is intercepted and Keys race back only to miss the layup at the horn that would have won it so we'll play OT.  Toby Hegner with 2 offensive rebounds leading to a putback with 25 seconds  left that ultimately wins the game 58-56.

A fun Sunday morning in early bracket play.  In 15u quarters, St. Louis Eagles 2 over HP Black 53-44.  Quality 16u session with Kingdom Hoops giving up 7 point lead late but they get a putback with 5 seconds left in double OT to win 55-54.  Schoolers Blue holds off Playmakers (Comets semis rematch I think?) 65-64 as Playmakers had ball down 3 with 3 seconds left.  Matt Thomas was back from prom for that one, wonder if he stayed up all night?  Would have made sense with a 2 hour trip and post prom.

Howard Pulley 17 Black then ran out to 15 point lead on St. Louis Eagles with 11:40 left.  Then Eagles came back with a 19-3 run to take the lead.  A pair of Cameron Biedscheid FTs with 1:49 left gave the Eagles an 8 point lead and it looked over.  But Pulley had 2 chances at 3s in the last 12 seconds that would have tied the game before falling 67-64 in the 17u quarters.  Cory Arentsen came up with clutch 3s in the comeback for the Eagles.  While HP played really well in the 1st half, the rest of what I saw was forced shots and questionable chemistry.  Very surprising to see a team with 2 outstanding point guards give up double digit leads.  Isaiah Zierden showing again that he can fill it in a hurry when hot.  Eagles sat their starters in an apparent disciplinary move until 8:18 left in the first half and trailed 19-11 when they came in.

Ray Allen Select ended up rolling to the 15U title 77-57 by beating St. Louis Eagles 2.  Kingdom Hoops got down 20-8 but came back to lead 16s title game 33-32 at half.  St. Louis Eagles pulled away in 2nd half to win 72-57.  Treyvon Young opening eyes for Kingdom Hoops.  Nolan Berry 23 points to lead the Eagles.  Eagles 17s took on Texas PRO for the title.  Cameron Biedscheid relatively quiet all weekend for the Eagles.  Isaiah Austin stepped up huge with a triple double (blocks) as Texas PRO won the title 70-63.  Daniel House outstanding all weekend for Texas PRO.  Texas PRO just did survive KC PNR 17s in the semis winning 53-51.  KC star Gavin Thurman had an open 3 at the buzzer that would have won it.

Speaking of KC PNR, their 17s are the best team I see in HS or AAU in running a set and getting what they want.  Here's an example with 2 reads.

Shooter in right corner.  Post on left block and top of key.  Guards on wings.  Post swings ball from top of key to left wing (away from shooter).  The post follows his pass into a ball screen.  Guard comes off it and post rolls into swinging gate/elevator screen on left block to shooter coming to left wing (misdirection).  If guard turns down the ball screen and drives left baseline (sucker play to make shooter's defender think help), the big rolls to middle of lane and both bigs screen away for the shooter to come to left wing behind the ball.  Both are really tough to guard and they ran these for a truckload of 3s against Texas PRO.  They got KJ Pritchard open look after open look using these.

2011 MN Heat Tournament Preview

The 2nd annual Minnesota Heat Invitational is this weekend.  Its headquartered at Bethel with 23 gyms in the north metro being used for over 200 teams.  All pool games are Friday and Saturday with all of the brackets on Sunday.  Here's what I'd watch.

Its a very respectable local field at 17U with MN Southside, WOTN (possibly with Kyle Baumann again?), 43 Hoops, Magic Superfriends and the MN PNR 15s playing up.  The quarterfinals could feature a Magic Superfriends vs 43 Hoops grudge match.  Superfriends beat 43 Hoops in pool play before 43 Hoops made a run to the final.  MN PNR 15s vs WOTN is another possible matchup of pool winners in the quarters.  Southside vs 43 Hoops in a projected semifinal is a game worthy of a tourney final.  All bracket games are at Bethel.

The top 2 Heat teams, Magic Black 16s (top Magic team, will they have Gregory Wesley back with them), Fury Black 15s, 43 Hoops 15s, Fury Gold and Fury White are all in the tournament.   Only the pool winners make the championship bracket.  Magic Black vs Fury Black 15s is an interesting quarterfinal possibility.  All bracket games are at Bethel.

The 15U division is just 2 big brackets.  Losers from the 1st game of the title bracket drop into a consolation bracket.  The top Comets team, an east metro group (likely Johnson kids) and the tNBA 14s playing up are some of the participants.

Minneapolis Select, MN Cyclones (Alex Illikanien, Kobe Critchley et al), All Iowa Attack, the top teams from 43 Hoops and the Magic Black team that I'm an assistant coach for are in a very nice bracket.  Semifinals and finals are late Sunday afternoon at Irondale.

Some notable players to watch
Marcus Marshall - 43 Hoops
Nate Kratch - 43 Hoops
Marcus Tyus - 43 Hoops
Joey King - Southside
Darian Pittman - Magic Superfriends
Rodney Owens - Magic Superfriends
Reed Travis - MN PNR 15s
DJ Pollard - Fury Gold 16s
Alex Illikanien - MN Cyclones 14s

2011 Sabes Invitational Preview

Its the 11th annual Howard Pulley Sabes Invitational.  This year the event moves to the new High Performance Academy in Eagan.  Here's what I'll be watching.

The top Howard Pulley squad tops pool A with the guard trio of Tyus Jones, Siyani Chambers and Isaiah Zierden leading the way.  CJ Neumann and Kyle Washington man the middle.  The infamous TBD, Nebraska Express and a Magic team (Tillman?) fill out the pool.

Pool B is the pool of death with the top Comets squad, St. Louis Eagles and top Playground Elite team in the pool with the Chicago Demons.  Tyler Vaughan and Joe Burt lead the Comets backcourt and keep an eye on forward Jal Rial.  Playground Elite looks to have a very deep roster with guard Duane Wilson, forwards Arroyo Edwards and Kevin Mays with Cinmeon Bowers and Philip Nolan inside.  The Eagles feature Notre Dame commit Cameron Biedscheid on the wing.  He put on a show here last year.  Willie Wiley mans the inside as one to watch.  Eagles vs Playground Elite at 3:30 on Saturday.

The Dakota Schoolers are in pool C.  They usually have a player or 2 from SW MN to watch and this year is no exception.  Ellsworth's Casey Schilling and Redwood Valley's Michael Busack are 2 of the top players on the squad.  Big Zach Kraning mans the middle (played well in TWolves shootout vs Roseville) and guard Skye Warwick showed unlimited range in St. Cloud.  The 2nd All Iowa Attack squad is in the pool (top team is in Indiana so no Marcus Paige et al).  KC PNR 17s are in the pool with 6'7 F Gavin Thurman but this is one of the worst KC PNR 17s teams in a while.  MN PNR blew them out then gave up a big lead late when they played in Denver but they were better last weekend in their home tourney.  Texas Pro is also in the pool.

Pool D features the top Kingdom Hoops squad with Wesley Staten and Casey Kasperbauer.  The KC Keys and Illinois Warriors are also in this pool.  Warriors were a powerhouse Nike program until recently.  Wisconsin Playmakers with Matt Van Sycoc fill out the pool. 

Pool E is the pool that has to play all the pigtail games just to make the final 16.  The 2nd Howard Pulley team with Jake Wright is here.  Will Dallas transfer Gregory Wesley be with them this weekend is a storyline to watch.  The 2nd teams from Kingdom Hoops and Playground Elite are here.  The KC PNR 16s are playing up and justly so.  They get great guard play from Travis Jorgenson and Connor Frankamp.  Frankamp will play on the U16 USA team with Tyus Jones.  This squad was final 4 in Denver after knocking out Fury Blue.  Would not be shocked to see them win the pool.

Howard Pulley's top 16s feature Harry Sonie, Renard Suggs, Robert Ben and Grant Kellogg.  Their pool has the 2nd Schoolers team, 2nd Kingdom Hoops team and the Chicago Demons.  St. Louis Eagles and the top Comets team highlight the 2nd pool with the 2nd Howard Pulley squad.  Keep an eye on Nate Huot from the Comets.  Comets vs Eagles 9:45 Friday night.  Pool C has the top Kingdom Hoops team.  Also in the pool is the top Schoolers team with Trevor Jacobsen who was final 4 in St. Cloud.  Playground Elite and KC Keys round out that pool of death.  Pool D has the top All Iowa Attack team who its said will have stud Peter Jok with them this weekend. Also the top WI Playmakers team who lost to HP Black in Kansas last week but won St. Cloud is in this pool.  Star shooting guard Matt Thomas is back for the Playmakers.  6'9 Toby Hegner and 6'8 David Jesperson (tourney champ buzzer beater in St. Cloud) are 2 more to watch.  Playmakers vs AIA 11:10 Saturday morning is worth watching.

Teams I would watch are the Howard Pulley Black 15s (Stephon Sharp and Kamali Chambers are 2 notables) , MN Elite with 8th grader Andrew Grosz (6:30 Fri night they play HP Black for state bragging rights).  KC PNR 15s won the Jayhawk last week in 3 OT after playing an OT in the semis.  They also blew out MN PNR in the 15U title game in Denver.  Ray Allen Select was the runner up at the NY2LA event in early April.  Keep an eye on 6'4 F Jonathan Carson and 6'7 center Ricky Landers for them.