The coaches association all-star series was played Friday night and Saturday at St. Thomas. For the 2nd straight year, A shocked AAA on a last-second shot in the first round, and AAAA defeated AA and A to win the tournament championship.
I sent semi-final game reports over to my buddy Kevin at kjasr.com. Here I just want to say, Who is the best of the best?
Center--Nobody wants to be a center anymore. There were just 6 posts listed on the 4 rosters, and the 2 girls of note are Beth Doolittle and Katelyn Adams. I've never been a big Doolittle fan. She's not quick. She's not strong. But she has made herself a hell of a player. Her fundamentals (footwork, shot technique, etc.) are terrific. She has nice soft hands. She catches the ball, she excels at geometry (she finds an angle to the basket and a release that allows her to put the ball in the hole). She passes the ball out to the open player. I don't know about Iowa. Does she get up and down the floor quickly enough? Is she strong enough? But for somebody who's not the most natural and athletic of players, she has used her intelligence and has worked hard and, oh, I already said it: She has made herself a hell of a high school player, and she has given herself a chance to succeed at the next level. I don't know that she will, but I don't know that she won't.
Katelyn Adams is clearly number two. You can't teach size, and she is bigger and stronger than Doolittle. She actually has more range on her jump shot than Doolittle. She blocks shots somehow without a lot of quickness. She just has an instinct of where to be to get a piece of the ball without fouling. She handles the ball and passes the ball. But her footwork and geometry down low are not in the same class as Doolittle's.
The other all-star centers were Martha Alwal, Kaylani Edwards, Ellen Ferry and Karli Meyer. Alwal has never met a shot she couldn't block, but all other skills are a work in progress.
Forward--Wow, only 11 forwards! Everybody wants to be a guard! Unless you're really a post, then you want to be listed at forward. That would be Ashlynn Muhl and Megan Stuart. Both are listed at 6-2, but of the 2, Stuart is bigger and stronger and more mobile. Muhl can step out and hit the 3 but she's down low the rest of the time. Stuart, meanwhile, plays 10-15 feet out quite a lot. So she's got a head start on Muhl on becoming a real forward.
But if it's a big forward you want, Mariah Clarin is already there. She's been a forward all her life. And, yeah, she's "only" 6-feet tall and, no, she doesn't shoot the 3. But when AAA needed a bucket at crunch time, she got them 3 on a dribble drive, in transition and on a back door cut. Not quite as strong as Stuart, but quicker.
Then there's Katy Winge and Sarina Baker. Winge is built like a guard and Baker plays like a guard. Winge does a little bit of everything, and has great court awareness and court sense. Baker is a scorer without a conscience who has been a bit turnover prone against elite competition.
The other forwards include Cara Lutes, Keely Deadrick, Lindsay Kaminski, Karlee Ilgen and Tiana Runck and Allie Sannes.
Guards--Okay, so that leaves a lot of guards. So first, let divide them up. You got your 1s, you got your 2s, and you got your combos. Some may disagree, but here's how I see 'em
Point Guards--Bona fide pass-first guards. Not just willing to pass the ball now and again, but they get the ball to open players in the right place at the right time. This is not to say they can't score. But they're better with the ball in their hands. That would be Rachel Banham, Brianna Williams, Jenna Dockter, Alyssa Kerkhoff and Kahla Becken.
For the 1st time in her life, Banham looked "beaten" against Eden Prairie in the state tournament. Last night she deferred to her teammates. She did not assert herself. What's with that? I hope the 2 events are unrelated. But where was that Banham swagger? Still, she's got the best overall court awareness and court sense of the group, she's an excellent ball handler, she has among the best outside shots and is among the best in transition. The only weakness might be penetrating out of the half court set. She doesn't have either the strength or the quickness to get off a shot in traffic.
Actually I am tempted to call Williams a combo. She plays within a team concept. Not a "scorer" in the sense that she takes the ball to the rim when the motion creates a lane, not when there are defenders waiting for her, not as a pre-determined sort of thing. And that's a good thing, by the way. But when there's a lane, she can capitalize quickly, before the D can adjust. She is the quickest of this group. Good court awareness and court sense, good ball handler, very quick in transition, can penetrate out of the half court set. Not a good outside shot. Overall, Banham is a more skilled player but Williams has the edge in quickness. OTOH, Banham had 4 assists Friday night, Williams none.
Dockter is a hard-nosed, aggressive kid in the Eastview mold. Not as skilled and not as quick as Banham and Williams, but she has very good court sense, she's a good ball handler, a good outside shooter, and she can penetrate. I am also tempted to call her a combo because she does move very well without the ball.
I had never seen Kerkhoff and I thought she looked good in the context of what was a disastrous night for AA. She is small but she can jump. Good court sense, okay ball handler, good shot, can penetrate but she is small. Going D2 while Dockter is D3.
Becken does a bit of everything. The only question is her athleticism, her quickness, not that it's a weakness, just not a strength. But she the kind of court awareness that befits a coach's daughter.
The other "1" was Jen Ulveling.
Scoring Guards--Bona fide shoot-first, ask questions later, guards, i.e. Michelle Young, Satorria Rule, Kaeli Kraska, Morgan Van Riper-Rose, Amber Sorenson.
Young is quick-on-quick, a transition 2 par excellence. At her best creating havoc on defense, then transitioning and getting to the rim where she can finish. Tentative in the half court, definitely not a 1.
Rule's game is the dribble-drive. She dominated the game last night in the opening minutes then, having made her statement, she relaxed a bit and disappeared much of the rest of the night. The only problem is that when she's doing her thing, her teammates are not particularly engaged except cleaning up the boards.
Kraska has made herself into a lights-out shooter. Her 3-ball is what kept AAA in the game last night in its loss to A. She can score other ways, too. But she is way careless with other aspects of her game. The scorebook shows 2 turnovers. OMG, 6 would be closer. And she's not big and not strong. But she is still a very useful player for what she does. Which is score.
Morgan Van Riper-Rose has always been a great instinctive scorer. She knows where to go on the court to get open, and she puts the ball in the hole. She is dependent on teammates who get her the ball, which doesn't play too well in an all-star setting.
The other "2"'s include Laura Margarit, Charlotte Overbye, Connor Nagle and Chelsey Frydenlund.
Combo Guards--This means they can (and do) do both things--score and dish--in balance. Not shoot-first, per se, not pass-first. Just, whatever I can do to win-first. And the winner is Jessica Newman. AAA put a fair amount of pressure on AA's guards, for an all-star game anyway. And while everybody was feeling everybody else out, Newman just went out and ran the offense and protected the ball. Lots of kids in this game seemed put off by the fact that they hadn't really learned and internalized the X's and O's. Newman just played basketball. She finished with 14 points and 5 assists. No guard on any of the 4 teams did her better on both.
I had never seen Jena Chuba before and she is terrific. Very dynamic, very active, 10 points and 5 assists. Does a bit of everything, but she is very small.
Many of the others listed as "combos," well, it's just that after their game I couldn't tell you which they were better at.
In Morgan Haider's case, I mean that as a compliment. She is very small, however.
Jessi Corrick knew where to be and what to do, she just didn't always do it.
And Liz Hoglo was totally mis-used by Class A coach Jeff Buffetta--i.e. at the point. Hoglo, if you've seen her you know she is a scorer. Running the point was not her cup of tea. Her 5 turnovers were as generous as Kraska's 2. I mean, possession after possession after possession, at times. And it took her away from stuff she can do. She should be posting people up, not handling the ball 25 feet from the hoop.
Finally, Jamie Bresnahan is listed as a guard, so in this case "combo" just means, say what? Bresnahan is a 6-1 inside defender of great skill. She has some offensive skills and value. But playing guard, either guard, is not one of them. If she had been listed as a forward, I would have her right around Winge.
So there you have it. To summarize:
Friday Night All-Stars
C- Beth Doolittle, Hill Murray and Class AAA
F- Mariah Clarin, Princeton and Class AAA
G- Jenna Dockter, Eastview and Class AAAA
G- Michelle Young, Woodbury and Class AAAA
G- Jessica Newman, Barnum and Class A
C- Katelyn Adams, Minnehaha and Class AA
F- Megan Stuart, Roseville and Class AAAA
G- Brianna Williams, Hopkins and Class AAAA
G- Tori Rule, Mpls. South and Class AAAA
G- Jena Chuba, Orono and Class AAA
C- Martha Alwal, Worthington and Class AAA
F- Ashlynn Muhl, Minneota and Class A
F- Sarina Baker, Minnehaha and Class AA
G- Rachel Banham, Lakeville North and Class AAAA
G- Kaeli Kraska, Totino Grace and Class AAA
NOTE: This is Friday night only.