Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The U and the 2012 and 2013 Girls

EDIT 1-19-10: The University of Iowa announced yesterday that Kali Peschel of Sauk Centre had committed verbally to becoming a Hawkeye. I had her (below) as a U of M recruit. But in listing the schools she was considering, the St. Cloud Times listed Marquette, Creighton, Colorado State, Dayton, Illinois State, North Dakota, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. No Minnesota. Which would suggest to me that she had not been offered.

Especially since she also said that playing in the Big 10 was her goal.


Today's announcement that Whitney Tinjum of Chisago Lakes will be attending the University of Wisconsin brings the recruitment of Minnesota girls back to the front burner. Tinjum is rated #4 among the girls in one rating (gPrep) though only #11 in another (kjasr). None of the 10 girls rated ahead of Tinjum in either ranking has verballed yet and, so, enquiring minds want to know who Pam Borton and the Minnesota Gophers are going to get.

They'll have at least 4 scholarships available for (high school) 2012s, since Kiara Buford, Brianna and Nicole Mastey, and Jackie Voigt are (college) 2012s. Yet, so far, Borton has gotten only 1 verbal for the class of 2012. And she is a controversial choice, guard Mikayla Bailey of Osseo, who ranks just 18th, and only 13th among the guards, in her class.

Not only that, but Bailey was quoted as saying that Borton told her she would be the only 2012 the Gophers were going after. Say what? With 4 scholarships available? And depth problems looming if only 1 recruit comes in? That doesn't make sense. And yet, confidence among Gopher fans that Borton can successfully recruit a Big Ten-worthy roster is low enough that anything can be and is imagined. Like, the U sitting on 3 scholarships for a whole year in hopes of hitting the jackpot in 2013.

I mean, look at the Minnesota kids playing in the Big Ten as we speak, but for Iowa: Kachine Alexander, Hannah Draxten and Kamille Wahlin. For Indiana: Georgie Jones (who started at Marquette). For Michigan: Courtney Boylan and Kate Thompson. For Ohio State: Tayler Hill. Wisconsin: Alyssa Karel, Tara Steinbauer, Cassie Rochel.

And for Minnesota: Buford, the Masteys and Voigt, and Katie Loberg and Sari Noga, among others. It goes without saying that the Minnesota girls playing elsewhere in the Big Ten would thrash those playing for Borton at the U.

And then there are the kids playing elsewhere such as Marquette (Angel Robinson) and in the former Big 12 (Brittany Chambers).

Now, in fairness, it must be said that when Borton recruited Buford, Brianna Mastey and Voigt, recruiting services called it a top 20 class and Gopher fans generally were pleased, myself included. Wahlin looked like a significant miss right from the git-go but, hey, 3 out of 4 ain't bad. 2009 was an obvious bust, however, as Pam hung in there for Tayler Hill right up to the bitter end, whereas in hindsight it seems obvious Hill was never going to wear the maroon and gold. And by getting strung along by Hill rather than cutting bait, Borton lost the consolation prizes, both Chambers and Theairra Taylor.

Everybody pretty much agreed that the 2010s were not going to be difference-makers, but it still hurt to know that the #1 player among the 2010s, Rochel, wanted nothing to do with the Gophers.

Then came the 2011s and Pam locked up the obvious talents--Banham and Hirt--early on and dared the Iowas and Wisconsins to scuffle for the rest, which meant Anne Marie Brown (Wisky) and Beth Doolittle (Iowa). Nobody thinks either of them is a real loss for the Gophers. The question, however, is whether Banham and Hirt will live up to their reputations in a way that the 2008s have yet to do.

That brings us to the 2012s and 2013s. During last spring's girls state tournament, Borton happened to sit down next to me (I mean, she sat in an empty seat and I happened to be next to it). She doesn't know me from Adam, but I must say she was quite personable to me. We ended up talking about younger, high school talent--Noga happened to be on the floor at the time. I asked who she liked among the 2012s and she said, How about the 2013s? OK, so everyone agrees that the 2013s are Minnesota's next great class, best since at least 2007.

But again, that's no reason to kiss off the 2012s when, again, Minnesota will have 4 scholarships available. For the 2013s, playing her hand straight up, Borton will have 2 (Cotton and Loberg leaving). So hold 1 back and make it 3 and 3. Here's where I'm at.


1. Please, sign up Jackie Johnson yesterday and be done with it. I don't care about foot and leg issues. A week ago Amanda Beckman and Anne Marie Brown had healthy legs, today they both have torn ACLs. There are no guarantees. Just sign the best kids, and Johnson is it.

2. I'm going to put Kali Peschel here because, aside from the fact that she is really something Peschel, there are rumors that she is going to end up a Gopher anyway. She would be a solid addition, somewhere between a Kiara Buford and Katie Ohn, somewhere between Brianna Mastey and a Jackie Voigt, somewhere north of Sari Noga. Not a starter, at least not on a winner, perhaps, but a solid contributor.

3. Well, I have to put Mikayla Bailey here, don't I, or else I have to go ahead and sign up 4 girls and, indeed, forego a 3rd girl from the 2012s.

4. If I was going to do that--sign up 4 2012s and 2 2013s--then, well, the highest rated are all guards--Brittney Scherber, Alexis Foley. Marissa Janning, Tessa Cichy--and not only am I not blown away, I've already taken care of that position with Banham, Bailey and Peschel. So I might be willing to reach down a bit for some size in the person of McKenzie Hoelmenn of Lakeville North (rated #8 and #21) or Gracia Hutson of Hopkins (rated in the 30s and 40s but busting out as we speak). Or, I might sit on it until 2013.


OK, this is tough. Lisa Bluder is hard on the trail of Becca Dahlman, and this has caused a panic among Gopher fans, who would view losing Dahlman to a Big Ten rival as Armeggedon. And let me say, Dahlman was 100 percent improved in December versus March. She's stronger (I mean, seriously stronger, obviously she's been lifting) and she's gotten a lot better with her decision-making, not just ramming it into the lane everytime, come wild shots, turnovers and high water.) Still there's other talent out there: Nia Coffey, who is quicker and 4 inches taller; Allina Starr, an inch short but much stronger; and Tyseanna Johnson, all-around the most dazzling athlete in her class.

1. Well, I'll still take Dahlman. Nobody is a proven quantity. The ratings have shifted all over the board in the past year, and they'll keep shifting. So it's a crap shoot. And, given genetics, Dahlman seems like the best bet.

2. But speaking of genes, it's also hard to pass on Richard Coffey's little girl, Nia Coffey. She's turning the ball over too much--as much as Dahlman did a year ago, more than Dahlman does now. But Richard Coffey is my favorite Gopher ever and since it's a crap shoot, sentiment rules the day. And those 4 extra inches of size that Coffey brings to the table.

3. As much as I would hate to lose Tyseanna Johnson, #3 has got to be Savanna Trapp and I have never even seen her play. She could just as easily turn out to be the 2nd coming of Amber Dvorak, but can you really take that chance? Because she could just as easily be the 2nd coming of Jenna Smith, only much bigger. But I can't really move her up to #2 if I've only got 2 scholarships for 2013.

4. The real question is whether I can find a fourth! If the 2013s are really that good, I'm thinking hard on this. Both whether and (if so) who? T. Johnson is rated #2 and #6. Jade Martin is #3 and #5 but I prefer T. Johnson. Tesha Buck is #4 and #6 but too methodical, not intuitive enough for this level. Starr is #4 and #7 but how to pick her ahead of her teammate, T. Johnson? You can't. Jessica January is #6 and #10 but she's a 5-6 version of the 5-10 Coffey. Can't give up that extra size for the same package of skills.

And with Trapp in the mix, you don't need to go fishing too deep for size but if it's a project you want, you could do worse than 6-3 Emma Lange of Caledonia, who could be a 3.

But, no, after Dahlman and Coffey, I guess I would spring for Trapp and then, and then, and then...okay, Tyseanna Johnson. She seems to have the most upside.

So imagine, if you will, a Gopher roster come 2013-2014 that looks like this.

Center--Dvorak (sr.), Trapp (fr.)
Forward--Clay (sr.), Kellogg (sr.), Riche (sr.), Hirt (jr.), Johnson (soph.)
Guard--Noga (sr.), Banham (jr.), Bailey (soph.), Peschel (soph.), Dahlman (fr.), N. Coffey (fr.)

Is this really any better than what the Gophers have now? Are we barking up the wrong tree with a strategy of grabbing the best Minnesota girls? Maybe that's the problem? Well, Dvorak and Trapp will not be the centers, they would be a fairly short crew of 6-2 Riche and Johnson. I assume Trapp would need a year or two of seasoning. They would not be better than Loberg and Dockery. But the forwards--let's say Kellogg and Hirt--would be an improvement over Voigt and Mastey. And the guards--probably Banham and Noga at this stage--well, Banham would give them their most dynamic guard since you-know-who, but the rest? I'm not sure they would be a step up from Antoine, Buford and Cotton. A year or two from now (i.e. after 2013-2014) the guard play might be even better despite losing Banham, but with Dahlman and Coffey.

Still, overall, this has been a fairly sobering exercise. There's no guaranteed path for Pam Borton and the Minnesota Gophers to climb back to the top of the Big 10 unless (most likely) Banham and/or Dahlman is truly the 2nd coming of (okay, I'll say it) Lindsay Whalen. But there is a guaranteed path to failure, and that is letting Minnesota's best high school girls continue enrolling at Iowa and Wisconsin.


  1. Not in my nature, but I really feel compelled to post a comment. You’re a little hard on the girls don’t you think? I follow the South Suburban conference as I love girls/women’s basketball, but your comments about Jade Martin leave me wondering what planet you live on?? She’s just 10 games into her sophomore season (not a junior!) yet you are already writing her off because potential isn’t cuttin’ it anymore?? I hear she scored 28 against Burnsville the other night but hey, ok, if I believe you maybe that was a fluke. I decided to test that theory so I went to girls bball hub to look at her stats and wow….she’s averaging 17 points per game in the South Suburban Conference…one of the toughest in the state…as a sophomore….yet you write, “my goodness, has she disappeared so far this year?” Really?? The top player in the state - the fabulous Rachel Banham - also plays in the South Suburban conference and averages 19 points per game as a senior….only 2 points more than sophomore Jade Martin….am I missing something? Is it because Bloomington Kennedy isn’t ranked this year? Ok - but they have a fairly young squad. Then you go on to talk about another player who is the same age as Jade Martin and say “she’s the player that Jade Martin was supposed to be” as if Jade Martin had graduated, never having reached her potential, when in reality Jade Martin still has another two and a half years of high school ball left!! If you don’t want to see Jade Martin as a MN Gopher…that’s fine….but let the girl be… would be pretty disheartening to read that your career is over and your just into your sophomore season of high school ball…….don’t think the girls don’t catch wind of what you’re writing….Apparently averaging 17 points a game in the South Suburban conference as a sophomore is your definition of “disappearing”…and that’s truly disappointing……And Jade Martin, if you do happen to catch wind of that negative comment, don’t even worry about it ….just keep on playin’ ball…and know that you’re progressing just fine…

  2. basketballfan,

    You are right and I was wrong, Jade is still a 10th grader. And they say time flies. It seems like she has been around forever. And I saw as soon as I wrote that that she got 28 points the next night out. I have seen her play 1X this fall and it seems as if everytime I checked a box score, she was scoring 2 points and that did happen a couple times, but my generalization from that was too strong. Again, you are right.

  3. In fact, basketballfan, you are entirely correct. So, I have edited my comments re. Jade Martin, which were both unfair and unkind.