Vegas 2017 Part 1 (MN Teams)

The annual adventure known as the Las Vegas recruiting period has completed for 2017.  So much to talk about that I'm going to split it into 2 parts.  This post will deal with the Minnesota teams that I saw.  The next post will be the lighter side of the trip and the other hoops I saw.  9 of the top 10 Minnesota 17U teams were in Vegas (WOTN season was done).  I had a chance to see 8 of those teams and saw the game that 43 Hoops would have played in had they won their bracket opener.  So here are my thoughts in order of viewing.

Howard Pulley
Pulley is the one team in this group that I saw twice.  They lost their opener to E1T1 on Wednesday.  Very good use of a soft trap to get the ball out of Tre Jones hands.  That held him to 12 points in that game.  Tre rebounded to outplay LSU commit Javonte Smart in the 5th place game of The 8.  But that was another game where his shot left him.  3-12 FG but ended with 19 points, 6 board and 8 assists.  Gabe Kalscheur combined for 7 triples in those 2 games. David Roddy's hot shooting in game 2 was a big factor.  Jarvis Thomas very active in both games and even knocked down a 3 in each game.  Disappointing end to the tourney with a big loss to NY2LA champ Team Blaze Select and Ohio St commit Musa Jallow.  They finish 2-2.

Grassroots Sizzle
Sizzle played a Wednesday showcase game in the Fab 48 vs 1 Family.  1 Family had a quick turnaround with only 1 session off to cross town after a tough 4 point loss.  Jalen Suggs and 1 Family star Nassir Little both played well but ended up leaving with injuries.  Javonni Bickham and Tayler Johnson would pick up the slack and get THE NATION a win.  Johnson impressive all weekend.  They would beat Belmont Shore in their pool finale to reach the championship bracket.  They lost the opener to Nike South Beach who then forfeited the next game.  That meant a rematch with fellow UA member C2K Elite which they lost.  We'll ignore that since they shouldn't have been in it anyway and on the schedule it shows as a forfeit.  They finish 3-2.

D1 Minnesota
Matt Hurt had a quiet 2nd half in the game I saw vs Compton Magic.  Beyond that though he was terrific.  Race Thompson stepped up in that 2nd half and finished with 23 points.  Calvin Wishart continued to play well at the point guard spot.  D1 would finish 3rd in the Creators Cup by knocking off eventual tourney champion Team Loaded VA.  They lost to the Iowa Barnstormers in the tourney quarterfinals to finish 5-2.

Comets Lewis
The game I saw had the Comets lose a NY2LA league rematch with the WI Swing.  Joe Hedstrom had 15 of his 20 points in the 1st half of the game.  Purdue and Wisconsin 2 big names there to watch him.  Ultimately though, the Swing made big shots in the 2nd half and hung on late.  That put the Comets 2nd in pool play.  They advanced to the semis of the Gold Elite bracket to finish 5-2.

The rest of these 17U games were in Saturday bracket play.  My luggage and I hiked over 4 miles to see these and they didn't disappoint.

Powerhouse Black
Powerhouse won their pool and drew Portland Basketball Club of the EYBL in the 1st round of bracket play.  Portland BC featuring Barrow, AK native and top 50 national player Kamaka Hepa.  Powerhouse played without Jarius Cook who was injured earlier in the tourney.  But the Powerhouse guys didn't care.  After trailing by 7 in the 1st half, they would open up a 12 point second half lead.  Both Gach with a big first half.  Josiah Strong would make big shot after big shot.  Portland BC would rally to tie behind their big guards which Powerhouse had no answer for.  Tie game at the end of regulation, Portland BC trying to give 5 fouls to close the clock out.  Both Gach with a catch and 1 dribble pullup for 3 that he got hit on and its good but waved off.  Dig thru my twitter feed for the video.  Spirit of the call right but easily could have counted for the win.  Hepa would miss late in double OT but Portland BC would put it back for a 60-59 2 OT win.  Both Gach 20 pts and Josiah Strong 17 pts with terrific games.  Nate Hendler with a very good game off the bench as well.  Powerhouse finishes 3-1.

Fury Wilde
Fury took on Griffins, a collection of players including John Stockton's son and coached by none other than Stockton himself.  We get to bingo him immediately for not turning his lineup in to start the game.  You could really see the Utah Jazz influence on his team too.  Hard cuts and UCLA action both shown and were staples of the old Jazz offense.  They also had a really good big guy that Fury had no answer for.  Fury really struggled in this one until late.  But Michael Jones would keep Fury close.  Drew Galinson with a late 3 to make it a 2 possession game and Fury would hang on from there.  Jones with 22, Galinson with 10.  Joey Whitlock 3 big 3s to help do some zone busting for 9.  Fury.  They would lose in the Platinum championship semis to finish 5-1.

Select Ohnstad
Select's bracket day was strange.  They were given a 1st round bye but their opponent sat in the main gym and didn't show up.  Game ends up being a forfeit.  But no time wasted as Select only had to wait another 90 minutes for their next game.  San Antonio GATA played a nasty 1-2-2 matchup and gave Select fits.  Select would make a shot and GATA would have an answer for a 33-20 lead in the 2nd half.  Luke Martens the only Select player able to get any offense to work.  Select would finally start making some shots.  The biggest being by Nick Fulford who buried 3 huge 3s down the stretch.  that brought Select back from 5 down with 3:30 left to 1 up with 1:20 left.  Select would hang on from there to win 51-47.  Luke Martens with 17 in the game.  He would go for 30 and hit a 3 to force overtime on championship day.  Select goes 7-0 and wins their Platinum championship bracket.

Fury Antl
Fury Antl came into Vegas hot but struggled to a 1-2 mark in bracket play.  That means we get the infamous 9 PM game and on Saturday night no less.  A detached auxiliary gym means no air conditioning and no game in the main gym.  Add in a full day of sweaty kids and fans in the gym and you can fill in the rest.  This made the old days under the track at Jefferson during the AAU State Tourney look like a picnic.  Their opponent was the Dallas Razorbacks who have a fun and athletic squad.  Offense in the 1st half very hard to come by with a 16-15 halftime score.  Razorbacks getting only 1 bucket in the last 7:45.  Max Bjorklund carried the Fury offense.  His 3 point play with 1:15 left tied the game.  Fury would get a stop and take timeout with 37.8 left.  Razorback player gets in the Fury huddle while ref is cleaning up a wet spot.  Fans start going nuts about it, kid gets shoved out of the huddle and gets a T.  Fury goes on to win 48-45 with Bjorklund scoring half of those.  Fury Antl would go on to sweep their bracket and win the Copper Elite championship.  They finish 5-2.

Lower Levels
Also have to give mention here to the Heat MacDonald and Heat Bui 16s that I saw play on Thursday night.  Heat MacDonald had no trouble winning their pool and they made a run all the way to their Platinum championship final before losing.  They finish 6-1.  Heat Bui and their Bethel offense was really fun to watch.  We had to invoke the up 50 media must leave mercy rule for their game.  They won a rematch with School Boys to open bracket play.  They lost their Platinum championship semifinal to finish 5-1. 

What I didn't see
43 Hoops 17s swept their pool and lost in 1st round to go 3-1.  D1 16s swept their pool before losing in the 2nd round of bracket play.  They finish 4-1.  Select Jaryan 16s finished 0-4.  Both Fury 16s won their pool but lost in 1st round to finish 3-1.  School Boys also swept their pool before losing to Heat Bui in the 1st round, 3-1 finish. 
D1 15s steamrolled their 3 pool opponents and their 1st bracket opponent before losing in the 2nd round.  They finish 4-1.  43 Hoops 15s started with a win over the Oakland Soldiers but lost their last 3 games for a 1-3 finish.  Fury Zurn won their pool and lost in 1st round for a 3-1 finish.  Select Gaddis 15s finished 2nd in pool and made a run to the Gold Elite championship game before losing.  They finish 5-2.

Thoughts from 2017 GPA

Another quality weekend at the Great Plains Alliance in St. Cloud.  Champioship games in St. Cloud never seem to disappoint and they didn't this weekend either.  We had 2 overtime title games and the other was a tight classic.  Here's some of the notes from what I saw.

Powerhouse Red won the 17U bracket over Comets Lewis in a 70-69 overtime thriller.  Powerhouse rallied from 5 down in the last couple minutes of regulation to force the OT.  Josiah Strong with a couple of big buckets late.  The Comets would get a late hoop but Powerhouse would see Colton Codute go coast to coast to beat the regulation buzzer.  The Comets had 1 last chance in OT but Matt Todd's lane fadeaway at the buzzer was off.

The game was a very fun coaching chess match as 6'10" center Joe Hedstrom for the Comets ended up guarding the 5'10" PG Codute for a significant portion of the game.  Powerhouse would show a Golden State like "death" lineup with Jarius Cook, Josiah Strong, Anthony Davis, Duoth Gach and Michael Schaefer to start the 2nd half.  I was really hoping to see more of that group just for the humor value.  Very logical lineup too as you wouldn't want Hedstrom chasing any of that group around the 3 point line.  But the leadership and defense of Codute is really hard to take off the floor.  Jarius Cook hit a couple of big 3s in the game and as the biggest stockriser on the Powerhouse squad he did not disappoint.

Powerhouse looked like they would steamroll the MN Eagles in the semis.  Schaefer had 25+ thanks to hot shooting before fouling out.  Codute also fouled out and the roof almost caved in.  Powerhouse saw a 25 point lead with 12 minutes left shrink all the way down to 6 with 2:40 left.  But the rally would fall short.

Speaking of rallies and hot shooting, another great game on the weekend in 17s was ECI Prospects vs Wisconsin Shooters.  Preston Maccoux of the Shooters showed a smooth stroke leading the Shooters to a 14 point halftime lead.  ECI would rally to take a late lead.  But a Grant Basile layup and 2 free throws in the last minute would lead the Shooters to the last 8 points of the game and the victory.  Maccoux didn't play on Saturday and the Shooters fell to Select Ohnstad in the quarterfinals.

Credit to WI Playmakers Clark for their performance.  They took Comets Servaty right down to the final 6 seconds on Thursday night before a Jordan Belka 3 did them in.  Then they won a couple of bracket games before falling to Comets Lewis in the quarterfinals.  Speaking of Belka, the Rogers forward is one of the hottest names coming out of the event as he starts to rack up a bunch of D2 offers.

SD Attack won the 15s last year at the GPA and defended that title in 16s with a 77-73 win over Comets Stumpf.  Even more impressive when you consider they did it without star PG Sawyer Schultz (has Augustana offer).  That left Noah Freidel as the main attraction and he did not disappoint.  He made tough shots all weekend and had 36 in the championship game.  Its a fun squad to watch as they execute good offense well, play rock solid defense and don't make mistakes. 

The biggest story of the 16U bracket has to be Wayzata G Jacob Beeninga.  He was fantastic all weekend and finished it with 42 points in the championship game.  The mano-a-mano battle with Friedel in that game will be remembered for a long time. 

Beeninga and White Bear Lake's Sam Schwartz for Heat MacDonald were the leaders for their squads in the semis.  Beeninga had a big first half with 16 of his 22 points and Schwartz brought his crew back in the 2nd half to finish with 19 points.  A late Beeninga steal and free throw would finish the game.  Comets Stumpf won that semifinal 58-55.

WOTN Swedberg lost to the eventual champs in the quarterfinals but won their other 4 games of the weekend.  Lakeville North forward Tate Staloch played well and definitely helped himself.  Fury Zurn played up in the 16s and drew the champs in the round of 16s.  But Fury also won their other 4 games to win the consolation championship.  They knocked off a talented ECI Prospects squad and solid Heat Wright and Real Athletics squads along the way.  ECI's Isaac Undlin was a physical inside presence that caused problems and Mitch Larson showed nice range on his shot over the weekend.

In the 15u bracket, WOTN Davis won the title 68-62 in OT over Comets DLR.  6'8" C Steven Crowl from Eastview looks like he'll be a nice compliment to Tate Machacek on the Lightning frontline.  Add in a shooter like Gabe Bassett from Farmington and forward Reid Gastner from Lake City and you have a nice squad.  They played very well in Sanford League play and extended that here.