Friday, April 30, 2010

Lynx Cubs Drop Pre-Season Opener

It was pretty obvious from the get-go that the Lynx were not going to open their pre-season schedule with a win today. But, of course, that wasn't the objective. The objective was to look at some young talent. And, so, the Lynx should be given credit for having a good, sharp focus. If the objective is to look at young talent, in other words, then why put any other kind--such as, experienced talent--out there to muddy things up?

So the Lynx roster today consisted of 8 players, 2 of whom had a total of 3 years of WNBA experience, and who scored a total of 4 points per game in the WNBA a year ago. Their opponent, the Chicago Sky, brought 13 players with a total of 47 years of WNBA action and who scored a cumulative total of 64 points a year ago.

The surprise is not that the Lynx lost, it's that they didn't get demolished. The final was 87-78, and it was a 2 possession game (81-76) as late as 1:30 of the 4th quarter. The Sky's Tamera Young quickly scored the next 4 points to put the game out of reach.

As to that young talent: Who among them, exactly, is going to be a contributor once Nicky Anosike, Rebekkah Brunson, Quanitra Hollingsworth, Charde Houston, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba and Lindsay Whalen show up? And, how about when Semone Augustus and Candice Wiggins return from their current injuries?

Well, it's always tempting to say, None of the above, but that had best not be the case. The Lynx, after all, got Monica Wright of Virginia, who was listed as a guard/forward in today's program (a forward?), early enough in the 1st round that if she can't play, the entire organization looks like a bunch of idiots. Still, one would have to say, honestly, that her debut was something short of overwhelming.

Yes, she's strong and athletic, reasonably quick with pretty good overall skills. But if the primarily responsibility of the average 3/4 is to score, her 5-for-17 shooting (including 1-for-4 from long range) is cautionary. She was especially in accurate in a catch and shoot mode. Better was a little dribble penetration into the lane, and a stop and pop from 10 to 15 feet. And it's probably true that she was trying to do too much, given that most of her teammates were highly unlikely to contribute a bunch of points. So her assist to turnover ratio (1.0, or 4 and 4) can be overlooked, but her 3 boards and 1 steal are not particularly impressive.

Then there's returning veteran Rashanda McCants. Her biggest problem is she plays the same position as Wright--well, okay, Wright's guard/forward, McCants a forward/guard. Still, their signature moves are the same. The quick burst into the lane, and the stop and pop. Like Wright, McCants is no catch and shoot scorer. And, like Wright, her defense, rebounding, passing, etc., are all pretty mediocre. In fact, in McCants' case, all have the appearance of being performed by someone who finds them to be a deadly boring way to spend your time on the basketball court.

Obviously, she's not ever going to be ahead of Wright in the pecking order around these parts, but I thought that Gabriela Marginean of Romania and Drexel University was almost more impressive than Wright. She hit 3-of-7 FG and 6-of-6 FT for 12 points, led all players with 9 boards and added 2 steals. He assists to turnovers was 1.0 (1 to 1). The only problem is she's a bit of a 'tweener, a 4 in a 3's body, a small 4 or a slow 3. Still, her skills are highly developed and she's got a very high basketball IQ.

Looking at their roster, the Lynx must be hoping against hope that veteran Nuria Martinez can back up Whalen at the 1. I mean, Wiggins is a combo, but she won't be playing for awhile. Martinez is a true 1 and she shows the ability to take the ball and the bull (by the horns) and lead a team. The fact that she's not much of a scoring threat probably doesn't matter much at this level, but the fact that she's gonna get burned on defense is another story. Still, her line gets one's hopes us. 4-for-8 shooting, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, 7 boards and 3 assists. The 6 turnovers, well, not so much.

Beyond that, it's very hard to see any of these women contributing to a winning effort in the WNBA. Jessica Adair is a very wide-bodied 6-4 post from George Washington who showed the ability to score down low (14 points) and get to the FT line (4-for-5). And 5 offensive rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks are a pretty good line. She's aggressive, but her fundamentals, especially her footwork, are pretty rudimentary.

As for the rest, well, it was fun to see Gophers Ashley Ellis-Milan and Brittany McCoy not get completely out-classed, though AEM's 5 turnovers and McCoy's blown wide-open, breakaway layup had an air of familiarity about them. And Vanessa Gidden, a big from Hofstra, is a step behind Adair on every dimensions--she got stuffed at least 3 times. They'll be the 1st 3 of these Lynx to return to civilian life.

The Lynx broke to their biggest lead of the night at 5-0 on a Wright 3 and an AEM jumper. The sky quickly took the lead at 7-5. A 3 by Martinez, on an assist by Wright, gave the Lynx their last lead for a long while at 8-7, but the Sky soon led 14-10, then 18-12. The Sky's bigs repeatedly were beating the Lynx down the floor, so that the Lynx' guards had to help early in the Sky possessions, which is a tough way to set up a defense. As a result, the Sky's 6-2 forward Tamera Young scored 6 of the last 10 points of the 1st quarter for a 27-20 Sky lead.

Chicago stretched it out to 32-22 and 34-24 in the 2nd, but the Lynx went on a 15-4 run to take their last lead of the night at 39-38. McCants had 2 buckets and 2 assists during the run, while Wright scored 6 including a clean pick and breakaway lay-up to give the Lynx the lead. Thus awakened from their slumber, however, the Sky responded with a 9-4 run for a 47-43 half-time lead. The Lynx hit 15-of-29 2 pointers in the half, but just 1-of-6 3s.

The game was exceptionally closely called for a total of 61 fouls, including 6 on Adair, who was allowed to stay in the game because the Lynx were short of bodies by this time. McCants did not play in the 2nd half due to an undisclosed problem. Ellis-Milan, Marginean and Gidden all finished with 5 fouls.

The Lynx got within 48-47 on a pretty baseline drive by Adair but awakened yet again, the Sky responded with a 13-0 run. By the end of the 3rd, it was 75-59 as the Lynx made just 2-of-15 2s in the quarter. Chicago's biggest lead was 78-59 at the 9:00 mark, but once the Sky went to the very end of the bench, then the Lynx were better. The Sky stayed stuck on 81 for about 7 minutes, during which time the Lynx cut the deficit from 81-63 to 81-76, as Adair contributed 6 points and 2 boards. But, once again, the Sky woke up from their slumber and put the game out of reach again.

Three Stars

1. Shameka Christon, Chicago 17 points
2. Tamera Young, Chicago 18 points, 6 boards, 2 steals
3. Monica Wright, Minnesota 18 points, 4 assists

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just for the Hell of It

All-Time Minnesota All-Stars

C- George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers. Regarded as the best player in the history of the game in his prime. And, he made the Lakers the greatest team ever to play the game, with 7 world championships.

F/C- Kevin McHale, Hibbing HS, Minnesota Gophers. Obviously, he gets credit for his Hall of Fame NBA career with the Boston Celtics as well.

F- Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves. NBA MVP in 2oo4, arguably one of the 10 best players in the world in his prime.

G- Marty Rolek, Mpls. Edison HS, Minnesota Gophers. Best guard the Gopher men have ever had, led them to the 1937 Big 10 title and earned legitimate, consensus all-America honors.

G- Lindsay Whalen, Hutchinson HS, Minnesota Gophers. Best guard the Gophers (men or women) have ever had, led a generally pretty downtrodden program to the Final Four.

Second Team

C- Randy Breuer, Lake City HS, Minnesota Gophers, Minnesota Timberwolves. People always want more from a fellow this size. But, c'mon, people. He is one of 3 kids ever to win a Minnesota state high school championship (2, actually) and a Big 10 title as a Gopher. And, he once scored 40 points in an NBA game.

F/C- Vern Mikkelson, Askov HS, Hamline University, Minneapolis Lakers. All-American, all-pro, Hall of Fame. What more do you want?

F- Janet Karvonen, New York Mills HS. Showed that girls can play this game the way it is meant to be played.

F/G- Whitey Skoog, Brainerd HS, Minnesota Gophers, Minneapolis Lakers. It's been said that he invented the jump shot. Well, that's bunk, but it shows you how well he shot the thing. A starting guard for an NBA champion, scoring 13-14 points per game at his peak.

G- Khalid El-Amin, Mpls. North HS. Regarded by some as the greatest boys high school player Minnesota has ever produced, and then led the Connecticut Huskies to a national championship.

Third Team

C- Jim McIntyre, Mpls. Patrick Henry HS, Minnesota Gophers. People always want more from a fellow this size. Rewrote the HS and Gopher record books, 2-time all-American. Now vastly underrated in the historical memory.

F/C- Mark Olberding, Melrose HS, Minnesota Gophers. Another of those kids who is legitimately regarded as one of the greatest HS players Minnesota has ever produced. Overpowering in HS, and a solid Big 10 caliber player as a freshman.

F- Hal Haskins, Alexandria HS, Hamline University. Set a state tournament scoring record as a senior in 1943, then after serving in the military earned all-America honors and led Hamline to the 1949 NAIA national championship.

G- Coco and Kelly Miller, Rochester Mayo HS. Led Mayo to the state tournament as 8th graders in 1993, then won state titles in 1995 and 1997. In 2000, at the University of Georgia, they won the Hickok award as the best amateur athletes in America. Kelly also played for the Minnesota Lynx 1 year.

Honorable Mention


4. Ron Johnson, New Prague HS, Minnesota Gophers
5. George Tuck, Mpls. Central HS, Minnesota Gophers
6. Mychal Thompson, Minnesota Gophers
7. Howie Schultz, St. Paul Central HS, Hamline University
8. Janel McCarville, Minnesota Gophers
9. Linda Roberts, St. Paul Central HS, Minnesota Gophers
10 (tie). Frank Wachlorowicz, Little Falls HS, St. John's University
Laurie Trow, Rochester John Marshall HS, St. Thomas University


4. Carol Ann Shudlick, Apple Valley HS, Minnesota Gophers
5. Jim Fritsche, St. Paul Humboldt HS, Hamline University
6. Jim Brewer, Minnesota Gophers
7. Bob Zender, Edina HS
8. Rick Rickert, Duluth East HS, Minnesota Gophers
9. Kris Humphries, Hopkins HS, Minnesota Gophers
10 (tie). Johnny Norlander, Virginia HS, Hamline University
Clint Wager, Winona HS, St. Mary's University


4. Harold Gillen, Stillwater HS, Minnesota Gophers
5. Lou Hudson, Minnesota Gophers
6. Frank Lawler, Minnesota Gophers
7. Swede Carlson, Mpls. Edison HS, Minnesota Gophers, Minneapolis Lakers
8. Arnold Oss, Minnesota Gophers
9. Willie Burton, Minnesota Gophers
10 (tie). Isaiah Dahlman, Braham HS
Martin Norton, Mpls. Central HS


2. Kevin Lynch, Bloomington Jefferson HS, Minnesota Gophers
3. Dick Garmaker, Hibbing HS, Hibbing JC, Minnesota Gophers, Minneapolis Lakers
4. Tony Jaros, Mpls. Edison HS, Minnesota Gophers, Minneapolis Lakers
5. Trent Tucker, Minnesota Gophers
6. Sam Jacobson, Park HS, Minnesota Gophers
7. Johnny Dick, Buhl HS, Minnesota Gophers
8. Willie Warhol, Mpls. Edison HS, Minnesota Gophers
9. Joel McDonald, Chisholm HS, St. Cloud State University
10 (tie). Laura Coenen, Minnesota Gophers
Ray Williams, Minnesota Gophers


6. Erling Platou, Minnesota Gophers
7. Archie Clark, Minnesota Gophers
8. Terry Kunze, Duluth Central HS, Minnesota Gophers
9. Tayler Hill, Mpls. South HS
10. Bobby Jackson, Minnesota Gophers
11. Voshon Leonard, Minnesota Gophers
12. Slater Martin, Minneapolis Lakers
13. Darryl Mitchell, Minnesota Gophers
14. Dick Seebach, Red Wing HS, Minnesota Gophers
15 (tie). Fred Enke, Rochester HS, Minnesota Gophers
Kelly Roysland, Fosston HS, Minnesota Gophers

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cory Joseph Chooses Texas

Blood is not thicker than water and Cory Joseph, rated as highly as #4 among next year's college freshman by one rating service, won't be coming to the University of Minnesota. Joseph, who plans to play maybe 2 years of college ball and then turn pro, wants to play in an up-tempo system, according to his prep school coach, who went on to say that all of Cory's final 5 schools--except Minnesota--play up-tempo. Texas most of all, and so that's where Cory will play.

Wow, how did the Gophers ever get into Cory's final 5? Well, his brother Devoe is Minnesota's point guard, that's how. But even that wasn't enough to overcome the fear that, somehow, Tubby wasn't going to do as good a job of preparing him for the NBA.


And so the Gophers are left with a pretty run of the mill recruiting far.

Elliott Eliason is a post from Chadron, NE, whom he led to the Nebraska state title game where he scored 14 points with 5 blocks in a losing (46-40) cause. He's variously described as short as 6-9 or as tall as 6-11, and has him rated as the #27 post in his class. They expect him to redshirt and add some muscle before being ready for Big 10 play.

Austin Hollins, a 6-4 shooting guard from Germantown, TN, is the #34 2 at (#64 at ESPN). He is the son of former NBA guard Lionel Hollins. He is described as "a silky smooth shooter who can get buckets."

Oto Osenieks is a 6-8 forward from Carbondale, IL, and originally from Latvia. ESPN describes him as "a slender face-up big man with the shooting range to extend the defense" and has him as the #281 recruit from the class of 2010. And where Cory Joseph grades out at a 96 on ESPN, Hollins is an 89 and Osenieks a 73.

Finally, Maurice "Mo" Walker is a 6-10 post who, like Devoe and Cory Joseph, hails from Canada but came to the U.S. to play high school ball. He is the #24 post on (but #9 on ESPN). "A mountain disguised as a man, he uses his size to...wear down the opposition...on both ends...." He is a childhood friend of both Josephs, and said that he wants to play with Cory. I guess that's not going to happen.

Meanwhile, along with Joseph, the Gophers also lost a shot at point guard Ben Brust, a teammate of Osenieks in high school, when it was ruled that he could not sign with another Big 10 team after getting a release from a letter of intent with Iowa.

But there's another new recruit on the horizon, too. Local boy Kevin Noreen pulled out of his agreement to attend Boston College when Al Skinner was fired. He was rumored to have worked out for several coaches last week, and the StarTribune now confirms that Tubby was one of them. ESPN grades him out at 92, and as the #34 power forward.

Without Noreen, the Gophers now have 14 players on the 2011 roster, barring any redshirts that might occur. But, consider that 3 of them may not play--point guard Justin Cobbs is thinking of transferring, Al Nolen is trying to regain his academic eligibility, and Trevor Mbakwe is in court this summer dealing with a situation that kept him on the sidelines all of last year. And, we'll assume that Royce White really is done as a Gopher and that Paul Carter, who wants to play in the Chicago area to be near his sister who has cancer, is really gone.

So, worst case, the roster might look like this:

Starting Lineup

C/F--Colt Iverson
C/F--Ralph Sampson
F--Rod Williams
PG--Devoe Joseph
SG--Blake Hoffarber


C-- Elliott Eliason, a likely redshirt
C--Mo Walker, a freshman
F--Dominique Dawson, a walk-on
F--Oto Osenieks, a freshman
G--Bryant Allen, a walk-on
G--Austin Hollins, a freshman

That's an OK starting lineup but the bench--once again, ouch! Nothing that Mbakwe, Noreen and Royce White couldn't make a lot better very very fast.

The Strib article that announced Joseph's decision said, as we have said here, that this renders the class of 2010 as pretty darn ordinary. But, it says, this comes on the heels of 2 highly regarded recruiting classes. Well, the class of 2008 still looks good, with Iverson, Joseph and Sampson leading the Gophers to those 3 wins in the Big 10 tournament last month. But only one player from the vaunted class of 2009, Williams, is certain to be a Gopher next year.

So, if I had to guess today what the future will bring for Golden Gopher basketball, I would have to say that it doesn't look good once the class of 2008 finished up its eligibility in 2012. The 2012-2013 season is shaping up as a toughie.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 2010: North Tartan Off to a Fast Start

The summer season is just getting underway, and already the North Tartan girls basketball club is racking up some notable accomplishments. Overall, North Tartan teams went 30-2 last weekend.


The flagship 17U's, coached by Gerard Courey, went 5-1 in the prestigious Boo Williams Nike Invitational in Norfolk, VA. That was good for the championship of the Silver division (9th place overall). Tartan hammered Florida Essence 63-44 in the Silver final. Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer, and Mariah Clarin, Princeton, were singled out for their play in an early round victory, but in the end it was point guard Rachel Banham, Lakeville North, who was selected to the all-tournament team.


The 16U's did their older sistas one better, winning all 5 games and claiming the Gold (overall) championship in their division. One highlight was overcoming a 5 point deficit to the home team, Boo Williams, to win 44-39 in the semis. Then, in the final, they beat the Arkansas Mavericks 49-39. According to the Tartan Web site, they "played great defense and frustrated" their opponents, giving up an average of 36 points per game. Becca Dahlman, Braham, and Whitney Tinjum, Chisago Lakes, led the 16s in scoring with 37 points over 5 games, while Mikayla Bailey of Osseo was next with 34. Bailey also was singled out for her defense in one of the early round games. The team is coached by John Hedstrom, formerly the Minnetonka boys coach.

15U Blue

The 15U Blues, coached by Ray Brodeur, won the Gold division of the Midwest Elite Showcase at Menomonie, WI, beating the Minnesota Stars (Walters) 54-49 in the final. Whitney Olson, Cambridge, led the Blues in scoring in 2 of the 4 games (with 11 and 14 points). Kayla Hinton, Woodbury, and Talayiah Rich, Mpls. North, led in the other 2 with 8 and 7, respectively. Kim Campbell of Kennedy, Micaela Diers of New Life, and Ellie Zeller of St. Anthony were also among the leading scorers.


The 14s, coached by Dave Johnson, took 5th place in the Minnesota Fury Spring Showdown, Silver division, with a 3-1 record.

Clarissa Ober of Glencoe-Silver Lake led Tartan in scoring in 1 game (14), in rebounds in 3 of the 4 games (7, 9 and 5), in blocks twice (4 and 3), and in steals once (2). Hayden Becker of Andover led in assists twice (5 each). Madison Dorn of Parkers Prairie (22), Morgan Frye of Chanhassan (11) and Tyra Johnson of Eastview (10) also led in scoring once each.


The 13U, coached by Rico Alexander, went 5-0 and won the Silver championship at the Midwest Elite Showcase. They went 4-0 in their pool, then beat Minnesota Stars Bebo 47-41 in the final.

The 12U matched the 13s, winning their division (Bronze) in the Midwest Elite Showcase with a 4-0 record. They are coached by Jake Kuppe.

And the 11s, coached by Darcy Holle, were not to be outdone, winning an MYAS tournament with a 3-0 record.

The Tartan Web site does not publicize the individual contributions of the 11s, 12s and 13s, but some of the prominent players on those rosters include Grace Coughlin, Benilde-St. Mary's point guard and Micaela Noga, Parkers Prairie (13s), T.T. Starks, Mpls. North (12s), and Hannah Hedstrom, Minnetonka, and Briana Lathrop-Barnes, the 6-foot 6th grader from Kennedy (11s).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cory Joseph Sweepstakes Drags On

Cory Joseph didn't make his college choice known yesterday, as had been rumored. Instead, with the nation's top 2 point guard recruits committing to Kansas and Kentucky yesterday, Cory is now the #1 point guard recruit still out there. He reiterated that his top 5 choices are Connecticut, Minnesota, UNLV, Texas and Villanova.

At UConn, they're saying that Texas is a threat, because Joseph's high school teammate Tristan Thompson has signed with the Longhorns. At UNLV, they're saying Minnesota might be the leader because Cory's brother Devoe and "another close Canadian friend" Mo Walker are there.

With the Gophers coming off a disappointing season--other than those 3 big wins in the Big Ten tournament--and with a number of players graduating and/or otherwise leaving the program at the end of the year, this recruiting class is big in both senses of the word. 6 kids. And vitally important to the Gophers' future.

And, so, it seems that the caliber of kids Tubby has already signed and/or is pursuing is maybe a cut below what one might hope. Except for Cory Joseph. That's how big Cory is to this program. He's probably the difference between competing for a Big Ten title and a continuing string of 5th or 6th place finishes.

Cory said he needs another week, maybe 2 to decide.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Girls HS All-Star Games

In the finals, 1A surprised 4A by staying close, but 4A prevailed 82-68. For 3rd place, 2A bounced back from a terrible thrashing the night before to beat 3A 89-70.

After the games Carissa Wolyniec of DeLaSalle won the 3 point shooting contest.

In the 1st round, 1A shocked 3A 91-90 and 4A hammered 2A 95-47 in the 1st round of the Minnesota Girls Coaches Association all-star series Friday night, April 16, at Macalester.

Here, IMO, are the all-stars' all-stars.

First Team

C- Cassie Rochel, Lakeville North, 4A, Wisconsin. The Rochel bashers got some ammunition on Friday night as Cassie committed 3 fouls in 8 minutes of the 1st half and sat out for a good long stretch. Still, she had 6 points, 3 boards and a block in those 8 minutes as 4A ran out to a 52-21 half-time lead. But she just flat out took over in the 2nd half, scoring another 6 with 7 boards and 7 blocks. If you haven't seen her lately, you probably haven't seen her this aggressive in going to the rim with the ball, even putting it on the floor and creating her own shot from 10-12 feet out. And then, just for fun, Rochel made it to the finals of the 3 point shooting contest, with 12 3s. Then she scored 11 more points on Saturday, and she was named the 4A MVP after being announced as Ms. Basketball earlier in the day.

F- Katrina Newman, Barnum, A, Minnesota-Duluth. A bunch of kids contributed to Class A's big comeback on Friday (17 down at 10:00, still 12 down at 3:16), but Newman was pretty much the only one who could score consistently, and so she did. 18 in the 1st half, or A would have trailed by a lot more than 48-40. 11 more in the 2nd. Then, it was Newman's steal and 2 that sparked the comeback at the 3:16 mark, and it was her bucket at 0:45 that gave A its 1st lead, 89-88. Then after a 3A score, Newman hit the game-winner at 0:04.5. In addition to her 29 points, she contributed 8 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals. Then on Saturday she scored 12 points, and was named the 1A MVP.

G- Angela Christianson, Alexandria, 3A, Drake. Right up until the final minute, Christianson was the MVP of the Friday night game, only to see her team overtaken by an unlikely Class A comeback and her own contributions overshadowed by Newman's. But here's a kid who had a remarkable career at Alex, who made all-state as a sophomore and then came up as the forgotten arm, failing to make all-state as a senior. That was a big mistake, but maybe it is why she asserted herself so powerfully last night with 26 points, 10 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals. And then, oh yeah, by the way, she hit 17 3s to advance to the finals of the 3 point shooting contest. She scored 18 to lead 3A again on Saturday. She led all scorers with 44 for the 2 games, and was named the 3A MVP.

G- Tyisha Smith, Mpls. South, 4A, undecided. I hadn't seen Smith play this year, but I know that she hurt her knee late in 2009 and got off to a slow start last fall. But I am happy to say that she is back, all the way back. It was her lightning quickness and on-ball defense that set the tone for 4A in their romp over 2A. She had 4 steals in the game's first 4+ minutes as 4A ran out to a 17-0 lead. She finished with 8 points, but 6 of them came in those 1st few minutes when the game was won, and she also finished with 7 steals, 5 assists and a couple of boards. She is "undecided" about college, meaning that college coaches have shied away from her because of her knee. But, wow, can she play. Then on Saturday she scored another 8 points for a total of 14 on the weekend.

G- Bree Holleman, Hancock, A, Southwest State. Her mom, Class A coach, didn't start her daughter on Friday night, and gave a lot of minutes to her other guards. It almost cost 1A the game. But when crunch time came, Bree had to be on the court for A, and she was, and she along with Newman was the difference. She hadn't scored as of the 3:00 mark, but hit 3 3s down the stretch. And, then, she broke down the 3A D and penetrated from the right wing to get the assist to Newman for the game-winning bucket. Along with the 9 points, she finished with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. On Saturday, she scored 13 to lead 1A.

Second Team

C- Jade Geif, Lakeville South, 4A, Navy. As if 2A didn't have enough problems with Cassie Rochel, when Rochel went to the bench, Geif came in and pretty much dominated, too. She finished with 11 points, 10 boards, 3 blocks, a steal and an assist. Then on Saturday she led 4A with 13 points, and led them over the 2 days with 24.

F- Jodi Batzel, F, Dover-Eyota, Concordia St. Paul. A big strong kid, but mobile in and around the paint (not perimeter mobile). 8 points, 4 boards, 3 steals on Friday, and led all scorers on Saturday with 21.

F- Molly Duehn, Burnsville, 4A, Northern Colorado. A nice all-around game on Friday with 13 points, 3 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists and a block. She also advanced to the finals of the 3 point shooting contest. On Saturday she added 9 more points.

G- Haley Thomforde, Eastview, 4A, Moorhead State. Thomforde was on the court with Smith for that early 17-0 run that put the Friday game away for 4A, and Thomforde's 8 1st half points were instrumental in setting the tone for her team. She finished with 13 points, 2 steals, 2 rebounds and an assist. Other than that, she played within a team concept, she moves the ball, she moves without the ball, she doesn't make mistakes. On Saturday she scored 8.

G- Brooke Brown, Chaska, 4A, Northern Iowa. Kind of an afterthought among 4A's star-studded roster, at least Friday night. Still, she got to the rim with impunity and finished with 9 points, 2 steals and a block. No assists, however. On Saturday she scored 12.

Third Team

C- Megan Quiram, Cannon Valley Lutheran, A, Concordia St. Paul. A bit (6-4) strong kid with pretty fair low post skills, she'll still be a project for coach Fessler at Concordia, as she spent her high school career against as weak of opposition as you can find in the state of Minnesota. She needs to show that she can speed things up a little bit, and learn to stop bringing the ball down where kids a foot shorter than she can snatch it away. Time will tell. But last night, Class A would have been totally lost without her down low. She took contact well, scored when hit, got to the FT line and made her FT. You can build on that. 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist. She was held to 4 points on Saturday.

C-F- Amanda Barton, Waterville-EM, 2A, Northern Iowa. Big, strong kid. At 6-2 will have to show that she can play away from the hoop a little bit. 20 points for the weekend.

F- Megan Waytashek, Centennial, 4A, South Dakota State. Just as people were beginning to grumble that Waytashek hadn't done anything, she took over as the leading scorer in the 2nd half. She finished with 13 points and 3 assists. Just 1 board, though. She added 9 points on Saturday.

F- Ali Dunkelberger, Waconia, 3A, undecided. She's not the quickest or the most athletic, and her ball-handling skills are pretty marginal for the next level. But she knows how to play the game and she can score. Her line is 15 points, mostly on mid-range jumpers but she also canned a 3, 4 boards, 2 assists and a block. She added 8 points on Saturday.

G- Jessica Finck, Bertha-Hewitt, A. undecided. Her line--9 points, 3 assists--isn't great, but Class A coaches Holleman and, er, Finck, had her on the court at crunch time and her team came back to win. So there.

Honorable Mention

Taylor Young, F, Edina, 4A, St. Thomas. Young was instrumental in getting 4A off to the devastating start with 10 1st half points, 4 boards, a steal and an assist. But she tweaked the knee she initially hurt in the section final against Chaska (and, apparently, favoring the knee, she now has a sore achilles area as well). So she sat out all but the 1st minute of the 2nd half and sat out Saturday. She made Saturday worthwhile, however, by announcing her college choice, which had been widely rumored for several months.

Best Coaching Job

I'm tempted to say Paul Goetz of 4A for having the audacity to put Rochel, Geif and 6-2 Moorhead post Miki Stephenson all out there at the same time, late on Friday. What was that about unless somebody wanted to test the sturdiness of the new Leonard Center floor. But the best coaching job was clearly that of Jodi Holleman of Hancock and Class A. She did her damnedest not to favor her own kid, at least on Friday, but in the end talent told the tale and Holleman did what she had to do to win. And did.

3 Point Shooting Contest

2 players from each roster advanced.

Christianson 17. Wow.
Duehn 13
Rochel 12! Who knew?
Rachel Hansen, Minnehaha 11
Abby Fragodt, Benson 10
Dunkelberger 10
Jade Pelzl, Rushford-Peterson 9
Sarah Myhre, Barnum 9

You will note that as a technical thing Carissa Wolyniec didn't qualify for the finals. I don't know if somebody withdrew but Wolyniec participated and won.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Up Next: HS All-Star Games

The high school season hasn't quite ended. Still up are the boys and girls all-star games, sponsored by their respective coach's associations.

The boys will play April 9 and 10, at St. Cloud and St. Paul, respectively. There are four games among four teams--Blue, Gold, Green and Maroon--and each team is a mix of players from the various classes. Blue, coached by Jeff Evens, features Chad Calcaterra, Joey Cuperus and Martin Wind, among others. Gold, coached by Greg Miller of Armstrong, will have Trevor Gruis, Mark Hoge, Mike Rostampour and others. Green, coached by Randy Carlson of Belle Plaine, feature Alex Hanks and Kevin Noreen. And Maroon, coached by Rich Newman of Barnum and generally regarded as the favorite, have Alec Brown, Dyami Starks and Jacob Thomas, among others.

For more information about time, location and team rosters, go to

The girls will play the following weekend, April 16 and 17, with all games at the new Leonard Center at Macalester College. Unlike the boys, the girls feature one team from each class, Class A, Class AA, and so on. A couple of years ago, Class AA dominated the event. This year Class AAAA, with Cassie Rochel, Megan Waytashek, Taylor Young, Brooke Brown, Haley Thomforde and others, should win easily. But the event also gives you one last chance to see girls like Sari Noga, Katrina Newman, Rachel Hansen, Laura Melquist, Angela Christianson and Carissa Woyniec play under the auspices of their high schools.

For more information, go to

Then it's quickly on to AAU and MYAS play.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boys Minnesota High School All-Star Series

The "Robbinsdale" Gold, led by Armstrong coach Greg Miller and Cooper post Darryl Jones, were the surprise winner of the boys all-star series, edging the favored Maroon 87-85 in last Saturday's final game at Macalester. Gold held the explosive Maroon to 42 fewer points than they had scored the night before at St. Cloud State, and Jones and Mike Rostampour of Henry Sibley combined to score 40 points for the Gold. Guards Dyami Starks of Duluth East, Jacob Thomas of Columbia Heights, and Eric Tengwall of New London-Spicer combined for 41 for Maroon, but Gold's Jones, Trevor Gruis of Ellsworth, and Dan Kornbaum of Little Falls shut down Maroon's inside game.

Maroon routed Green 127-101 on Friday night as Thomas scored 21 for the winners, and Shaun Condon of MACCRAY scored 24 for the Green. Gold beat Blue 108-97 in the other Friday night game as Jones with 20, and DeLaSalle's Jalen Jaspers with 17 led their respective teams. Calvin Godfrey of Cooper also impressed for Blue with 15 points, 17 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks. Green edged Blue 118-117 on Saturday for 3rd place as Demitri Conwell of St. Paul Johnson and Andy Seidlitz of Armstrong took the honors with 24 and 22 points, respectively.

Scores and Leading Scorers

Friday at St. Cloud State

Gold 108 Blue 97--Darryl Jones, Cooper/Gold 20 points
Maroon 127 Green 101--Shaun Condon, MACCRAY/Green 24 points

Saturday at Macalester

Green 118 Blue 117--Demitri Conwell, St. Paul Johnson/Green 24
Gold 87 Maroon 85--Jones 24

Minnesota Hoops All-Tournament Team

Trevor Gruis, C, Ellsworth/Gold 22 pts (+9 reb/5 ast Friday)
Darryl Jones, F, Cooper/Gold 44 pts
Calvin Godfrey, C, Cooper/Blue 24 pts (+17 reb/5 stl/3 blk Friday night)
Mike Rostampour, F, Sibley/Gold 3o pts (+13 reb Friday)
Jacob Thomas, G, Columbia Hts/Maroon 35 pts
6th: Dan Kornbaum, C, Little Falls/Gold 18 pts (+ 13 reb Friday)

Second Team

Dyami Starks, G, Duluth East/Maroon 29 pts (+3 stl Friday)
Taylor Filipek, C, Willmar/Blue 30 pts
Jordan Riewer, G, Staples-Motley/Gold 13 pts (+ 7 ast Friday)
Peter Crawford, F, Benilde-St. Margaret's/Maroon 25 pts
Eric Tengwall, G, New London-Spicer/Maroon 21 pts
6th: Yuriy Malashenko, Jordan/Maroon 21 pts

Third Team

Jalen Jaspers, G, DeLaSalle/Blue 34 pts
Shaun Condon, G, MACCRAY/Green 30 pts
Chad Calcaterra, C, Cloquet/Blue 23 pts
Andy Seidlitz, G, Armstrong/Blue 33 pts
Taylor Hanson, F, Minnehaha/Maroon 20 pts (+8 reb Friday)
6th: Demetri Conwell, G, St. Paul Johnson/Green 30 pts

Saturday, April 10, 2010

T-Wolves Draft Taking Shape, Sort Of

Last December I wrote about the Timberwolves' 2010 draft. As of today they've got the #16, 26, 32, 43 and 47 picks. Oh, yes, and their own 1st round lottery pick. If the lottery goes true to form, the Wolves would have the #2 pick, and it's also true that they'd have the 2nd best chance to land the #1 pick. But of course the Wolves have never failed to drop in the lottery.

In a Nutshell

So the odds are the Wolves won't get #1 or #2 (John Wall or Evan Turner) but take small forward Wesley Johnson with #3, #4 or #5. He won't turn out to be the best player available at #3, but he lacks the downsides that the other top prospects bring. He's the safe choice. Then they go with post Hassan Whiteside at #16 if he's available, and if he's not Gordon Hayward of Butler would be an intriguing choice if he decides to enter the draft. If neither of them is available, see what you can get in trade. At #26, it looks like combo guard Elliot Williams, and then at #32, #43 and #47 there will be some big big projects, in both senses of the phrase, such as Jerome Jordan, Dexter Pittman and Miroslav Radjuljica.

And Now Back to the Analysis

So, assuming the Wolves' historic luck holds true, they'll have a #3, #4 or #5 pick in the upcoming draft. And, wouldn't you know it. It looks right now like there are 2 obvious #1 and #2 picks and then a huge gap down to #3. I haven't seen a mock draft yet that doesn't have John Wall at #1, and better than 9 out of 10 have Evan Turner at #2.

So if the Wolves get #1 or #2--and if I'm David Kahn and I want to show the world what a genius I am--I don't pick Wall at #1 and I don't pick Turner at #2. Of course, if I guess wrong I'll be a laughingstock and I'll be out of a job about a decade faster than Kevin McHale. Wall, in other words, is the safe choice, but on the other hand, I'm not sure he'd be wrong to grab Turner even at #1. And if Turner's available at #2, he'd be a dad blamed fool to pass him by. As mediocre as Jonny Flynn has been as an NBA point guard, the fact is the team needs a go-to guy who can put the ball in the freakin' hole more than it needs an upgrade over Flynn, and Turner is that upgrade. He may not be Kevin Durant, but he's the closest thing in 2010.

But if the Wolves slip below #2, it gets to be a crap shoot. And that's just what it's been for the Wolves of the years. They go out shooting for big game, and come home with crap. So let's see what kind of crap is available below #2. Of course, there's always a chance that some moron will go ahead and take somebody besides Turner at #2, and he'll be available at #3, but he won't slip any more than that. So the consensus at #3, 4 and 5:

The Envelope Please

#3. DeMarcus Cousins, 6-11, freshman, power forward and center, Kentucky. Wall and five of his teammates, having accomplished an appearance in the Elite Eight, figured they'd done enough for Kentucky Wildcat basketball and all announced their entry into the NBA draft on the same day. My heart bleeds for John Calipari. But anyway, they say that Cousins' greatest attributes are his size, strength and length, and he has a scorer's mentality. (He scored 16 ppg in his only year as a Wildcat on .558 shooting. And he gets to the FT line 7 times a game.) Some say he's got nice skills, others say he's raw. His weaknesses include playing out of control from time to time, losing his composure and losing interest in the proceedings, and that he's not receptive to coaching. And, then, on top of everything else, they say, "Think Eddy Curry." What is this man doing at #3? Still, if your time frame is 3-5 years, maybe he's your guy, but the Wolves need help right away. Pass.

#4. Derrick Favors, 6-9, freshman, power forward, Georgia Tech. In this case they say, "Think Antonio McDyess in his prime, or Al Horford," which is much more intriguing than the second coming of Eddy Curry. Favors does it all--inside. He's got power and quickness, and leaping ability and a wide wingspan. He runs the floor and has soft hands. (He scored 12 ppg on .610 shooting. Not bad.) On the other hand, his ball-handling isn't very good, he can't put the ball on the floor, and therefore he turns it over (2.5 times per game for Tech.) So I dunno. Let's see who else is available.

#5. Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-8, sophomore, small forward, Wake Forest. "They" say that Aminu is strong, a very good ball-handler, and versatile. He can put the ball on the floor and he is at his best in transition. They say, "Think Marvin Williams or Josh Smith." But, his shot selection is not so good, and he turns the ball over. And on top of that, he's kind of a 'tweener, and he's got no J, no mid-range game. Ouch. (Then how did he score 16 ppg?) Bottom line: A 'tweener who can put the ball on the floor but not in the hole. Might as well keep looking.

#6. Ed Davis, 6-9, sophomore, power forward, North Carolina. Once again, "Think Al Horford." Well, here's a thought. Package up your #3, if that's what you get, and Jonny Flynn, and move 'em for the real Al Horford. No? OK. Then here's a guy who is 2 to 3 years away from being Al Horford, because he's got "glaring offensive weaknesses," who had a "disappointing sophomore year" for a team that "underachieved." This guy has T-Wolves written all over him. But, hey, he scored 13 ppg on .578 FG shooting and blocked 3 shots a game. Still, it sounds like Favors is the real deal among faux Al Horfords. Pass.

#7. Wesley Johnson, 6-7, freshman, small forward, Syracuse. A poor man's Evan Turner, as best as I can tell, though, no, they don't say, "Think Evan Turner," they say, "Think Eddie Johnson or Shawn Marion." Well, OK, I'll think about Eddie Johnson or Shawn Marion. He's quick, he's a leaper, he has that wide wingspan. On the other hand, he relies too much on the J instead of taking the ball to the hoop. He shot just 4 FT per game for the 'Cuse. Still, if I can't get Evan Turner or John Wall, and I kinda want a guy who can fill it up, maybe this is the guy. He's only #7 by way of consensus, but and both had him at #3. And, get this, Hoop Doctors had him #2. They're the only mock draft out of a baker's dozen that I looked at that didn't have Turner at #2. So if you can't get Turner, maybe this is your guy.

One of the nice things about Johnson is he doesn't have to displace one of your two best players--Al Jefferson and Kevin Love--whereas that's where Cousins or Favors or Davis has got to go. Rather, Johnson slots in at the 3 behind, well, behind somebody initially but by year 2 he ought to be doing what, well, Eddie Johnson and Shawn Marion did, which is to make the guy who picked you in the draft look damn smart.

If the Wolves don't get that #1 or #2 pick, there are lots of ways to not look smart and probably only 1 or 2 ways to save the day. I think Wesley Johnson is one of those ways.

The Rest of the Rest

The Wolves have 5 additional draft picks. I haven't checked the latest permutations, but recently they would have been #16, 26, 32, 43 and 47. Now, none of those is worth a damn unless you're, er, smart. So what would be a smart play for the Wolves with those other 5 picks?

Well, 1) if somebody is dumb enough to give you a proven NBA talent for any of them, grab it.

If not, 2) go big. There seem to be a bunch of big guys who are slated to go anywhere from 16 to 26. They do not include Cole Aldrich, who is projected at #8. In no way shape or form is he a #3 and he's not gonna last to #16, sorry.

1. Hassan Whiteside, 7-foot, freshman, center, Marshall. Whiteside may not last to #16 either. I've seen him projected anywhere from #3 to #15. He is one of these miracles of science. Not at all widely recruited a year ago, now he's suddenly a potential lottery pick. But, hey, he became the #1 shot blocker in the country this year, and scored 13 points on 52 percent shooting (47 percent from the so-called charity stripe or, more to the point in this case, the torture chamber). But he's an athlete. His daddy, Hassan Arbubakkr (hey, my spell checker crashed!), is a former Minnesota Viking. A project, as they say.

2. Solomon Alabi, 7-1, sophomore, center, Florida State. Another project, to say the least, Alabi has that big wingspan, he's mobile and has great leaping ability, all of which serve him well on the defensive end of the floor. On offense, he is raw, lacking polish, inconsistent,"he does not have much confidence with the ball in his hands," and his team "will need to be extremely patient with the post repertoire." Another project.

3. Jerome Jordan, 7-foot, senior, center, Tulsa. "Jordan's physical profile makes him a prospect...outstanding size, a huge wingspan...adequate athleticism." He is way ahead of even Whiteside on the offensive end with "an array of drop-step(s)...hooks...and turnaround jump-shots." He gets to the FT line more than almost anybody. Wow, he's your guy. But no, "Jordan is often slow to react on the defensive end, even when defending the ball." So, sorry, the T-Wolves need more D, even at the expense of some O down low. Pass.

4. Dexter Pittman, 6-10, senior, center, Texas. "A mammoth of a man," he has dropped 70 pounds from 360 to 290. "His quickness, agility and feel for the game continue to improve year after year." But stamina remains a major issue, leading to fatigue, foul trouble and difficulty getting up and down the court. They say, "Think Stanley Roberts," though they go on to say that his work ethic is excellent. Still, ouch.

5. Miroslav Raduljica, 6-11, center, Serbia. "Has the physical attributes to be an NBA player...a skilled and mobile player with effective moves on the low post and a high basketball IQ." Sign 'im! On the other hand, he "lack(s) aggressiveness" and "appears to be afraid of contact." Then don't contact him.

The bottom line: If Whiteside is available, grab him, project or no. If not, package up some of these picks for a proven NBA journeyman talent, if you can.

And Another Thing

There is one other player who sneaks into more than one of the Wolves' mock drafts at the #26 spot. He is Memphis shooting guard, 6-4 sophomore Elliott Williams. The Duke transfer became the go-to guy in Memphis' offense this year and put himself "firmly on the radar for the 2010 draft." He impacts the game "with his speed in transition (and by) turn(ing) the corner off the bounce." He is, however, one-handed and he struggled late in the year when defenders overplayed his left hand. But, he also drew a lot of double-teams and showed the ability to get the ball to open teammates with almost 4 assists per game, and some even project him as a 1. Don't be surprised if Williams is one of those next 5 picks.

And, finally, one of the more intriguing possibilities is Gordon Hayward, Butler's 6-10 sophomore power forward and star of the NCAA tournament, whom projects as the Wolves #16 pick. Hayward is a great pure shooter, with a "high, quick release with range out to the NBA 3-point line." And he moves well without the ball, understands spacing and gets out in transition, all plusses for a 6-10 guy. Most people don't project Hayward that highly, however, and the fact is he doesn't match up anywhere on the defensive end. Still, as a 6-10 3, maybe the match-up problems will be the other guy's. But he also hasn't decided to enter the draft. Most people project him around 20 to 25 and, who knows, another year of college could be worth millions of additional dollars to him. Or not. But, if he's in and if he's available, he'd be a very intriguing choice for the Wolves.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

2010 Season in Review

Well, it's all over except for the Minnesota Timberwolves' last 9 losses.

And it sure seems like the higher up you go, the weaker Minnesota basketball seems to be right now. After the Timberwolves, in other words, you've got the Gophers, then D2, then D3, and finally the high schools. The Gopher men had that great run in the Big Ten tournament, to be sure, and the St. Cloud State men made it all the way to the D2 Final Four. But, otherwise, the Gopher men and women took it more than they dished it out, and our small college teams washed out maybe faster than ever, especially at the D3 level.

Meanwhile, the best of the best was definitely at the high school level.

Story #1A and #1B--Lakeville North girls and St. Paul Johnson boys finish unbeaten and undisputed as the best of the best

And they took different routes to that goal. For Lakeville North (32-0), guard Rachel Banham (a Gopher recruit) and post Cassie Rochel (soon to be a Wisconsin Badger) made up a devastating one-two punch, and they were named co-metro players of the year by the Strib for their trouble. North finished up 32-0, and only 2 of the 32 wins were by a less than double digit margin. In the state tournament Chaska, expected to be their toughest competition, was dispatched 76-46. Their 10-point win over White Bear Lake in the AAAA final wasn't as dominating but, coming on the heels of a nearly flawless season, it was good enough to put North among Minnesota's best girls teams ever.

Meanwhile, St. Paul Johnson (32-0) went 11 deep with quick, aggressive kids who make the extra pass and sublimate their individual skills to their team as much as anybody I've ever seen. Coach Vern Simmons is Minnesota's coach of the year for getting his kids so much on the same page, and keeping them interested through a conference season in which they were barely challenged. Being a Class AAA team, the Governors couldn't prove in March that they are Minnesota's best team. So, thank goodness they had the chance to do it in December in a thrilling 86-78 win over Hopkins, one of the greatest regular season games I've ever seen. And while it was a team effort all the way, junior guard Estan Tyler was the first among equals, scoring 13 points a game but, more importantly, running the show on the floor. Their 59-55 win over Grand Rapids in the AAA final wasn't as dominating as people thought it should be, but on the heels of a nearly flawless season, it was good enough to keep them #1 among the boys of 2010.

Story #2--Three days in Indianapolis

The Minnesota Gopher men (21-14), er, struggled, shall we say, in 2009-2010. They opened the season ranked 18th and 25th in the nation, and were ranked as high as #16 when they defeated #10 Butler, which in the end went all the way to the Final Four, on November 26. But rather than the upset of Butler, it was 3 subsequent losses to Portland, Texas A&M and Miami that proved prophetic. More bad losses to Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan (twice) relegated the Gophers to 6th place in the Big Ten at 9-9.

Then came 3 days to remember, or 3-and-a-half, maybe. First came a 76-55 blitz of Penn State as Devoe Joseph scored 15 with 3 assists and 3 steals. Then a 72-67 overtime shocker over #11 Michigan State as Joseph again led the way with 17 points and 4 assists. Third was a 69-42 demolition of #6 Purdue as Minnesota ran out to a mind-boggling 37-11 half-time lead. Finally came the Big Ten title game against #5 Ohio State. The Gophers stayed within 42-40 at 13:41 but got completely overwhelmed down the stretch as the Buckeyes made 12 shots in a row to win going away 90-61. Joseph and Lawrence Westbrook combined for 31 points for Minnesota.

The turning point seemed to be when the sophomores Joseph, Ralph Sampson and Colt Iverson decided that they would just have to do it themselves. No more waiting around for the seniors to do it. Which bodes well for the future of Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the 2010 season went more to the form of the season as a whole rather than of those 3 days in Indianapolis. The Gophers exited the NCAA tournament quickly at the hands of Xavier, 65-54.

#3--Double Day not a myth after all

Friday, March 26, was Double Day at the state tournament, as 3 of the 4 Class AAA and AAAA semi-finals went into extra innings, er, overtime--and not one but two of 'em in each case. First up was unseeded Grand Rapids versus #2 seed DeLaSalle in Class AAA. The Islanders led most of the way until a Michael Johnson 3 gave the Thunderhawks a 38-35 lead at 4:05. DeLaSalle tied it up at 40 on a Jalen Jaspers lay-up at 1:16. The Islanders took the early lead again in OT, but an Eric Stark jumper gave Grand Rapids a 47-45 lead at 1:02. A jumper by Jonah Travis tied the game for the 13th time, but Travis missed the FT, and it was on to the 2nd OT. The Islanders again took the lead but 3 Kevin Rabbers FT put the Thunderhawks ahead for good. The final was Grand Rapids 57 DeLaSalle 53. Stark led all scorers with 20, and DeLaSalle made just 13-of-29 FT.

Next up was #1 seed Hopkins and #4 Henry Sibley. This turned out to be one of the most intense and physical games you could ever want to see. The Royals ended up setting tournament records for most FT made and attempted in a single game at 39-for-58. All 5 Sibley starters fouled out, and yet it was not a particularly closely called game. There could easily have been more than 59 fouls called. Each team led 4 times and there were 3 ties in the 1st half, yet Sibley led by as many as 9 at 34-25 and 35-29 at the half. Hopkins caught up at 41-40, and led until Dante Grant hit a 3 at the buzzer to tie it up at 69. The Royals led through most of the 1st OT until a Jimmy Ryan 3 gave the Warriors a 1 point lead at 0:18. Joe Coleman made a FT at 0:07 to tie it up, but missed the 2nd. By this time Sibley was playing with 4 subs and guard Jordan Jackson, but when Jackson too fouled out at 2:07 and Hopkins ahead 82-80, the Warriors hopes pretty much died. The Royals out-scored them 8-2 the rest of the way for a 90-82 final. Coleman and Jackson led all scorers with 25 points apiece.

Finally, #2 seed Eden Prairie versus St. Cloud Tech. Eden Prairie led by as many as 11 at 34-23, but Tech caught up at 46-46 at 4:06. It was 48-all at 2:05 and neither team scored again in regulation, nor until there was 1:40 left in the 1st OT which ended at 52-52. Tech started the 2nd OT with 5 points by Scott Nystrom and 2 FT by Alex Hanks to lead 60-56, and Eden Prairie never caught up. The final was St. Cloud Tech 62 Eden Prairie 58. Nystrom and Hanks combined for 45 of Tech's 62 points.

Tech and Eden Prairie tipped off at about 9:25, almost an hour-and-a-half late, or maybe about 15 minutes before the should ordinarily have ended. It was a long night at the Target Center.

#4--St. Cloud State men get to Final Four

Minnesota small colleges fared poorly in national competition this year, especially in D3, continuing a trend of recent years. Thank goodness for the St. Cl0ud Huskies, who made it all the way to the D2 men's Final Four before bowing out. Key victories include a regional win over NSIC regular season champion and #8 rated Mankato State 83-71 on the Mavericks home court. This was followed by a thrilling 84-75 OT win over Augustana. The Huskies led the game 17 times, Augustana 12 times, and there were 17 ties. Then in the Elite Eight the Huskies upset #8 Midwestern (Texas) 92-88 as Taylor Witt scored 43 points. But the bubble burst in the semis when Indiana (Pa.) beat St. Cloud 76-70. Senior post Matt Schneck was the NSIC player of the year and also earned all-America honors for his efforts.

#5--Macalester women come back from the brink

The folks at Macalester are sick to death of hearing about the dire straits into which their women's basketball program had fallen. Still, in order to truly appreciate the 2010 Lady Scots team, you have to know that in 2005 its predecessors were unable even to play out their schedule for want of enough healthy women to don the blue and orange. And this wasn't something that just happened overnight, either. By the time the 2004-2005 season was suspended, the Lady Scots were 16-72 for the 21st century.

Coach Ellen Thompson came on board after that infamous season and recruited a class that included forward Trina PaStarr, post Ann Baltzer, and guards Eartha Bell and Danielle Johnson. Now seniors, the foursome led Macalester to a series of upset wins and an 11-2 start in the MIAC. Four straight losses derailed their title hopes, but the Scots finished the conference season at 16-6 (with as many wins as in 5 years earlier) before a play-off 60-52 loss to St. Thomas ended their season. Baltzer, who contributed 17 points and 6 boards per game and shot .569, was my pick for MIAC regular season player of the year.

Player of the Year

1 (tie). Rachel Banham and Cassie Rochel, Lakeville North girls
2. Kevin Noreen, Minnesota Transitions boys
3. Matt Schneck, St. Cloud State men
4. Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson boys
5. Alec Brown, Winona boys

Team of the Year

1 (tie). Lakeville North girls
St. Paul Johnson boys
2. St. Cloud State men
3. St. Thomas men
4. Macalester women
5. Barnum girls

Coach of the Year

1. Vern Simmons, St. Paul Johnson boys
2. Andy Berkvam, Lakeville North girls
3. Kevin Schlagel, St. Cloud State men
4. Ellen Thompson, Macalester women
5. Steve Fritz, St. Thomas men

Game of the Year

1. St. Paul Johnson boys 86 Hopkins 78
2. Hopkins boys 90 Henry Sibley 82 (2 OT), AAAA semi-finals
3. Minnesota men 69 Purdue 42, Big Ten tournament semis
4. Gustavus men 56 St. Thomas 51, ending record 32-game MIAC winning streak
5. St. Cloud State men 92 Midwestern St. (Texas) 88, NCAA D2 Elite Eight

How Did I Do?

My pre-season awards and predictions were the kiss of death, basically. I had the Gopher men and coach Tubby Smith as the team and coach of the year. And of my 6 pre-season player of the year candidates, only 1 made my post-season top 5.

Pre-Season Players of the Year:

1. Rachel Booth and Joe Scott, St. Thomas
2. Sari Noga, Parkers Prairie
3. Kiara Buford, Minnesota
4. Lawrence Westbrook, Minnesota
5. Kevin Noreen, MN Transitions, and Cole Olstad, Plainview-E-M

Monday, April 5, 2010

Girls High School Wrap

Lakeville North--Best Ever?

Lakeville North finished up 32-0, and absolutely demolished a highly regarded Chaska team 76-46 in the semi-final of the Minnesota girls state basketball tournament. A more run-of-the-mill 10-point win over White Bear Lake followed in the final. But many people wondered, Is Lakeville North the best girls team ever out of Minnesota?


How quickly people forget. St. Paul Central 2007, that is. At the post, Cassie Rochel of North gets the nod over Georgie Jones of Central, to be sure. At the big forward spot, Apiew Ojulu has a lot of upside, but Megan Howard was a hard-nosed, hard-working, lunch-pail type of player who did more damage than Ojulu has done this year, though she may not have looked as intimidating doing it. Then, on the perimeter, Central's Angel Robinson, Kiara Buford and Theiarra Taylor are all high D1 players. Only Rachel Banham among Lakeville's guards can make that statement, though Hannah Hughes, Jaya Perkins and Taylor Stewart make a nice deep squad. And as great as Banham is, have you really forgotten Angel Robinson already? She was dazzling.

So, suffice it to say that North left no doubt whatsoever who was best in 2010. And, as to posterity, well, #2 ain't bad.

The Best of the Rest

Barnum did to Class A what Lakeville North did to Class AAAA, steam-rolling Nashwauk-Keewatin 55-23 in the 1st round. Parkers Prairie and Gatorade Player of the Year Sari Noga was next to fall 61-52 as the Bombers pulled away from a 40-39 lead over the final 9 minutes. In the final it was again a 2nd half rally that put Goodhue away as a 4-point half-time Barnum lead grew to as many as 17 points. The final was 43-31. Katrina Newman scored 56 points and added 22 boards for the Bombers, and her sister Jessica Newman added 43 points and Sarah Myhre another 37. Noga was the top overall scorer in the tournament with 69 points.

Meanwhile, there were surprises galore in AAA and AA. In AAA, DeLaSalle came in undefeated and ranked and seeded #1, but fell to Hill-Murray 61-48 in a semi-final. In AA, Sauk Centre was favored after easily defeating one of the pre-season favorites, New London-Spicer, 45-32, in the sectional. But the Mainstreeters were dominated in turn by 2007 state champion Pipestone 52-37. Pipestone then lost to Braham 51-47, and Braham lost in turn to unrated Minnehaha 64-46 in the final. Rachel Hansen led the Redhawks with 22 points in the final and 64 for the tournament. 6-4 post Katie Adams added 40 points and a Class AA-best 35 rebounds and 17 blocks.

The Class AAA final made up in drama what the Class AA final may have lacked. The Pioneers led by as many as 9 in the 1st half and by 5 at the half. Benilde took its 1st lead at 25-24, but Hill-Murray was back in front 38-34 at the 1:00 mark. Josie Dillon hit a 3 on a baseline drive and assist by Itisha Alexander, and on the ensuing in-bounds Alexander stole the Pioneers' pass and got the ball to Dillon for the lay-up at 0:38. The Red Knights added 2 more FT while Hill-Murray did not score again. Tessa Cichy scored 34 in the upset win over DeLaSalle and finished as the top AAA scorer for the Pioneers with 67 points.

Minnesota Hoops All-State Tournament

Cassie Rochel, Lakeville North 14 pts/13 reb/5 blk
Tessa Cichy, Hill-Murray 22 pts/8 reb/6 asts/4 stl
Rachel Hansen, Minnehaha 21 pts/3 stl
Rachel Banham, Lakeville North 17 pts/3 asts
Katrina Newman, Barnum 19 pts/7 reb
6th: Alexis Foley, White Bear Lake 15 pts/10 reb

2nd Team

Laura Melquist, Rochester Lourdes 19 pts/13 reb/7 blk
Sari Noga, Parkers Prairie 23 pts/12 reb/3 asts/2 blk/4 stl
Olivia Antilla, Benilde 14 pts/8 reb
Andrea Whitney, Sartell 18 pts/14 reb/4 blk
Itisha Alexander, Benilde 10 pts/5 reb/4 asts/3 stl
6th: Rebekah Dahlman, Braham 18 pts/7 reb/4 stls

3rd Team

Marissa Grossfeld, Wayzata 14 pts/12 reb
Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer 27 pts/6 stl (1 game)
Brooke Brown, Chaska 20 pts/2 stl
Liz Hoglo, Northern Freeze 21 pts/7 reb
Onye Osemenam, Maranatha 15 pts/9 reb/7 blk (1 game)
6th: Tyseanna Johnson, DeLaSalle 18 pts/8 reb

Consensus All-State

Rachel Banham, Lakeville North
Kayla Hirt, Bemidji
Sari Noga, Parkers Prairie
Cassie Rochel, Lakeville North
Megan Waytashek, Centennial

2nd Team

Angela Christianson, Alexandria
Tessa Cichy, Hill-Murray
Rebekah Dahlman, Braham
Katrina Newman, Barnum
Taylor Young, Edina

3rd Team

Brooke Brown, Chaska
Alexis Foley, White Bear Lake
Rachel Hansen, Minnehaha
Julie Kruse, Maple Grove
Suriya McGuire, Mpls. Roosevelt

Coach of the Year

1. Andy Berkvam, Lakeville North
2. Josh Thurow, Minnehaha
3. Randy Myhre, Barnum
4. Erin Herman, Hill-Murray
5. Jeremy Post, White Bear Lake

Final Top 50

1. Lakeville North 32-0
2. Edina 26-2
3. White Bear Lake 29-3
4. Maple Grove 27-3
5. Chaska 24-7
6. Benilde-St. Margaret's 30-2 AAA
7. Eden Prairie 21-7
8. DeLaSalle 31-1 AAA
9. Eastview 20-9
10. Mounds View 24-4

11. Prior Lake 21-7
12. Hill-Murray 25-6 AAA
13. St. Michael-Albertville 22-7
14. Hopkins 19-9
15. St. Francis 25-5
16. Minnehaha 24-9 AA
17. Barnum 31-2 A
18. Sartell-St. Stephen 24-7 AAA
19. Wayzata 17-15
20. Bloomington Kennedy 20-7

21. Centennial 21-7
22. Parkers Prairie 28-3 A
23. Minnetonka 18-10
24. Mpls. South 22-7
25. Rochester Lourdes 30-3 AA
26. Bemidji 25-2 AAA
27. Braham 28-5 AA
28. Mpls. North 18-9 AA
29. Mpls. Roosevelt 18-10 AA
30. Mpls. South 22-7

31. St. Croix Lutheran 25-2 A
32. New Prague 20-10 AAA
33. Osseo 19-9
34. Buffalo 20-6
35. Willmar 23-4 AAA
36. Burnsville 16-11
37. Cambridge-Isanti 22-7
38. Orono 20-8 AAA
39. Hawley 28-1 AA
40. Richfield 20-7 AAA

41. Waconia 22-6 AAA
42. Alexandria 22-6 AAA
43. Worthington 19-6 AAA
44. North St. Paul 17-11
45. Northern Freeze 28-2 A
46. Pipestone 23-5 AA
47. Sauk Centre 26-3 AA
48. New London-Spice 25-3 AA
49. Watertown-Mayer 21-7 AA
50. Southwest MN Christian 23-5 A

Get 'Em Next Year

A few teams are still celebrating, but for most it's time for the perennial cry, "We'll get 'em next year." Well, who's gonna get 'em next year?

Among Minnesota's girls high school teams for 2010-2011:


1. Lakeville North again
2. Eden Prairie
3. Prior Lake
4. Bloomington Kennedy--Section 2AAAA loaded again
5. Hopkins
6. Edina
7. Centennial
8. Buffalo
9. Eastview
10. Shakopee

AAAA All-Stars--Rachel Banham, Apiew Ojulu, Jackie Johnson, Shayne Mullaney, Morgan Van Riper-Rose, Aubrey Davis, Brianna Williams, Katybeth Biewen, Kahla Becken, Alex Beckman


1. Mpls. North
2. DeLaSalle
3. Benilde-St. Margaret's
4. Hill-Murray
5. Mankato West
6. Princeton
7. Bemidji
8. Holy Angels
9. Red Wing
10. Big Lake

AAA All-Stars--T. T. Starks, Tyseanna Johnson, Sarina Baker, Khadidjah Schumpert, Tessa Cichy; Mariah Clarin, Kayla Hirt, Tesha Buck, Martha Alwal, Whitney Tinjum


1. Braham
2. Pequot Lakes
3. St. Peter
4. Hawley
5. St. Croix Lutheran
6. Watertown-Mayer
7. Esko
8. Sauk Centre
9. Jackson County Central
10. Rochester Lourdes

AA All-Stars--Rebekah Dahlman, Emily Lueck, Ann-Marie Brown, Kayla Hulsebus, Marissa Janning, Kali Peschel, Shelby Hanssen, Bree Woelber, Alyssa Kerkhoff, Ashley Olson


1. Martin Luther
2. Maranatha Christian
3. Northern Freeze
4. Parkers Prairie
5. Barnum
6. Minneota
7. Goodhue
8. Buffalo Lake-Hector
9. New Life
10. New York Mills

A All-Stars--Alexis Long, Onye Osemanam, Liz Hoglo, Micaela Noga, Jessica Newman, Allison Muhl, Courtney Hinsch, Cara Lutes, Rebecca Schmidt, Riley Nordgaard


Rachel Banham, Lakeville North, Ms. Basketball
Kayla Hirt, Bemidji
Tessa Cichy, Hill Murray, jr.
Apiew Ojulu, Lakeville North
Rebekah Dahlman, Braham, soph.

Second Team

Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer, jr.
Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie, jr.
Kali Peschel, Sauk Centre, jr.
Mariah Clarin, Princeton
Shayne Mullaney, Eden Prairie, jr.

Third Team

Onye Osemenam, Maranatha Christian, soph.
Riley Nordgaard, Canby
Aubrey Davis, Bloomington Kennedy
Cara Lutes, New Life
T. T. Starks, Mpls. North, 8th grade

Coach of the Year

1. Tara Starks, Mpls. North
2. Mike Gidley, Prior Lake
3. Jodi Geistfeld, Martin Luther
4. Jim Hammond, Maranatha
5. Jon Dale, Pequot Lakes

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Boys High School Wrap

St. Paul Johnson is the Best of the Best in 2010

As it turns out, the mythical 2010 state championship ("the best of the best") was decided not in March 2010 but in December 2009, when the Governors of St. Paul Johnson defeated the perennially powerful Hopkins Royals 86-78 in the finals of the Best Buy Holiday Classic. It was a fast-paced, entertaining, hard-fought win the the Governors and coach Vern Simmons.

Hopkins led only twice, once at 8-6. From there Johnson went on a 13-4 run that they then extended to 20-10 for a 26-18 lead at 8:30 of the 1st half. The Royals fought back to tie it up at 29, then took only their second lead of the night at 44-42. The Governors responded again with a 16-3 run for a 58-47 lead at 12:05. Still Hopkins would not go away and fought back to within 1 at 64-63 and 66-65. But they never quite caught up, and Johnson made 9-of-13 FT down the stretch to ice the win.

People say that Johnson is small with 2 6-5 guys. And of the 6 guys who scored in double figures tonight, 5 are listed as guards. Still, Johnson gave up nothing in the paint, and what little they gave they more than made up for with their quickness, scrappiness and fearlessness. What they demonstrate, most of all, is that in the modern game of basketball, short guys can pound the boards a lot better than big guys can get out and run and handle the ball against an aggressive defensive scheme.

Junior guard Estan Tyler led the Governors against Hopkins with 20 points, and he was named MVP of the Best Buy tournament. Three months later he was named to the Strib's all-metro team as well as most all-state teams. Forward Maxie Rosenbloom, one of those short 6-5 guys, was named metro player of the year by the Pioneer Press.

State Tournament Time

By the end of March, however, it wasn't obvious that Hopkins wasn't playing a little bit better ball than the Governors. What's most surprising is that both had close calls along the way to their 4A and 3A state championships, respectively.

The Royals needed 2OT and all 5 Henry Sibley starters to foul out to emerge with a heart-stopping 90-82 win in the semi-finals. The final was more of a formality, however, as Hopkins won going away 76-56 against unseeded St. Cloud Tech. Joe Coleman, Marvin Singleton and D.J. Peterson made the all-tournament team, though Peterson will be remembered more for directing the universal hand signal for "jerking off" at the Sibley adult section after the semi.

Johnson demolished Hutchinson and Winona 80-37 and 80-55, respectively, though it's true that Winona had a 1-point lead as late as 11:59 of the 2nd half. Then, like Hopkins, the Governors came up against an unexpected, unseeded opponent in the final, in this case the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks. And the Thunderhawks pushed the Govs right to the end, leading as late as 39-38 at 13:13, and trailing 56-55 at 0:49 before losing 59-55. Tyler, Rosenbloom and Roosevelt Scott won all-tournament honors for Johnson.

Sibley's Jordan Jackson and Johnson's Estan Tyler were the 2 tournament MVPs as chosen by Minnesota Hoops.

In Class AA, New London-Spicer and Crosby-Ironton played for the state title for the 2nd time in 3 years, with the Wildcats emerging victorious both times. This time it was 62-52 as NLS took an early 14-4 lead, led 34-22 at the half and never trailed. Mark Hoge scored 27 for the Rangers, and was the Class AA MVP, and Jayme Moten scored 19 for NLS.

In Class A, Kevin Noreen closed out a remarkable career with more than 4,000 points and a state title as Minnesota Transitions Charter beat Sebeka in the final 61-52. Things looked bad for the Wolves early on, as Noreen fell hard to the floor and played in obvious pain--it was learned afterward that he had ruptured his spleen. Sebeka ran out to a 13-4 lead, and led by 2 at the half. But MTC shot 64 percent in the 2nd half to Sebeka's 33 percent, and Noreen had 24 points, 15 boards and 9 blocks for MTC to easily win Class A MVP honors.

Minnesota Hoops All-Tournament Team

Marshall Bjorklund, Sibley East
Alec Brown, Winona
Mark Hoge, Crosby-Ironton, Class AA MVP
Jordan Jackson, Henry Sibley, Class AAAA MVP
Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson, Class AAA overall tournament MVP
6th: Kevin Noreen, Minnesota Transitions, Class A MVP

2nd Team

Mark Blacklock, Winona
Jalen Jaspers, DeLaSalle
Casey Shilling, Ellsworth
Marvin Singleton, Hopkins
Eric Stark, Grand Rapids
6th: Tyler Vaughan, Braham

3rd Team

Joe Coleman, Hopkins
Joey Cuperus, Sebeka
Alex Hanks, St. Cloud Tech
Scott Nystrom, St. Cloud Tech
Cole Olstad, Plainview-EM
6th: Jordan Smith, Orono

Consensus All-State Team

Marshall Bjorklund, Sibley East, AP Player of the Year
Kevin Noreen, Minnesota Transitions, Mr. Basketball, Minnesota Hoops PoY
Alec Brown, Winona
Jacob Thomas, Columbia Heights
Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson

2nd Team

Joe Coleman, Hopkins
Trevor Gruis, Ellsworth
Jordan Jackson, Henry Sibley
Marvin Singleton, Hopkins
Dyami Starks, Duluth East

3rd Team

Chad Calcaterra, Cloquet
Alex Hanks, St. Cloud Tech
Mark Hoge, Crosby-Ironton
Cole Olstad, Plainview-EM
Zach Riedeman, Forest Lake

Coach of the Year

1. Vern Simmons, St. Paul Johnson
2. Dan Elhard, Grand Rapids
3. Matt Cordes, New London-Spicer
4. Mike Trewick, St. Cloud Tech
5. Tim Dasovich, Henry Sibley

Final Top 50

1. St. Paul Johnson 32-0 AAA
2. Hopkins 30-2
3. Henry Sibley 25-7
4. Grand Rapids 29-3 AAA
5. St. Cloud Tech 27-5
6. Winona 29-2 AAA
7. Champlin Park 24-6
8. Eden Prairie 26-5
9. Cretin 23-6
10. Robbinsdale Cooper 25-4

11. DeLaSalle 25-6 AAA
12. Benilde 24-5 AAA
13. New London-Spicer 32-2 AA
14. Forest Lake 24-5
15. Orono 24-5 AAA
16. Duluth East 20-9
17. Osseo 22-6
18. Apple Valley 20-8
19. Plainview-EM 30-3 AA
20. Minnesota Transitions 30-3 A

21. Columbia Heights 22-7 AAA
22. Crosby-Ironton 30-3 AA
23. Stillwater 20-7
24. Little Falls 20-10 AAA
25. Sebeka 30-3 A
26. Ellsworth 27-6 A
27. Tartan 20-8
28. Staples-Motley 24-6 AA
29. Eastview 18-12
30. Minnehaha 26-5 AA

31. Sibley East 23-5 AA
32. MACCRAY 28-1 A
33. Lakeville South 20-9
34. Hutchinson 25-4 AAA
35. Mayer Lutheran 26-3 AA
36. Buffalo 21-7
37. Braham 28-5 AA
38. St. Paul Central 20-6 AAA
39. Morris 25-3 AA
40. Anoka 19-9

41. Shakopee 21-7
42. Waconia 22-4 AAA
43. Jordan 23-6 AA
44. Springfield 25-2 A
45. Lakeville North 18-10
46. White Bear Lake 17-10
47. Chaska 17-12
48. Mahtomedi 21-8 AAA
49. Willmar 19-10 AAA
50. New Prague 19-10 AAA