Once upon a time, guards in basketball did what guards do everywhere. They guarded. They were the defensemen of the court, defensive specialists. Heck, during the "dead ball era" from about 1922 to 1937 many teams even played what was called a "back guard" or a "standing guard." He stayed near mid-court just to make darn sure the other guy didn't get an easy basket, a breakaway. If that meant that the offense went 4-against-5, well, that's why I call it the "dead ball era." It was more important to keep the other guy from scoring than it was to score yourself. And so the best athletes were guards, and the best athletes on many basketball teams scored near zero points. They rarely took a shot, many of them. That was the "off guard" of the day.
Now, of course, you have your point guard, your ball-handler. And your off-guard is your "shooting guard," one of your main scorers. Defense? Well, sure, I'll create a turnover now and again, but guard the basket? That's for the big guys now.
So yes there's been a changing of the guards, and so yes the following is a mish-mash of "off guards" from different eras. One a defensive specialist, the other offensive. It wasn't easy ranking these guys, trust me.
Top 20 Off-Guards State Tournament
1. Cody Schilling, Ellsworth 2006-2007-2008. The only boy ever to lead the tournament in scoring 3 times, he also holds the career record of 267 state tournament points. Not incidentally, also led Ellsworth to 2 state titles.
2. Willie Warhol, Mpls. Edison 1935-1936-1937. Led the 1937 state champs who were regarded as the greatest team ever to that point. Earned all-tournament honors in 1935 and 1937. If Schilling exemplifies the modern off(ensive)-guard, Warhol was the greatest of the defensive guards of that day.
3. Earl Moran, Moorhead 1928-1929-1930. Another of the great defensive guards, and 1 of only 2 boys to make all-tournament 3 times in the single class era. The Spuds appeared in the state final in all 3 of Moran's years and they were the 1st repeat champion in 1928 and 1929.
4 (tie). Joe Coleman, Hopkins 2010-2011 and Blake Hoffarber, Hopkins 2005-2006. Which one was the better high school player? I dunno, you tell me. Hoffarber of course made the most famous shot in tournament history, that has to count for something. But each was the MVP for a 2-time champion, which not too many guys can say.
6. Ben Johnson, DeLaSalle 1997-1998-1999. Led the Islanders to 3 state title games and 2 state titles in 1998 and 1999. Led all scorers in 7 of 9 games, with a high of 35 in the 1998 final.
7. Jake Sullivan, Tartan 1998-1999-2000. The Titans were bounced out of the Class AAAA tournament in the 1st round in 1998 and 1999, though Sullivan was named all-state both times. In 2000 they won it all as Sullivan led Class AAAA with 82 points in 3 games.
8. Fred Enke, Rochester 1917. Another of those great defensive guards. He went on to win all-Big 10 honors as a Minnesota Gopher "back guard," but not before leading Rochester to the 1917 state title.
9. Dick Seebach, Red Wing 1933. Seebach is 1 of just 3 Minnesota men ever to win a state high school basketball title and then a Big 10 title at the University of Minnesota.
10. Jim Hill, St. Paul Central 1967. Led all scorers in 1967 with 94 points, the 3rd most ever to that time behind Ron Johnson and Jim McIntyre.
11. Terry Porter, Marshall 1963. Led the Tigers to a surprise state title, scoring 64 points in 3 games.
12. Skip Schaefbauer, Elk River 1993. Led all scorers with 84 points in 3 games, including 34 in a semi-final OT loss.
13. Charles "Buzz" Bennett, Duluth Central 1950. Led Central to the 1950 state title. A throwback to the days of the defensive specialist, Bennett, who was 6-3, famously guarded Robbinsdale's 6-7 center Don Dale in the state finals and "held" him to 22 versus the 31 he had scored in the semis. In the section finals he had guarded 6-10 Bill Simonovich.
14. Bob Ackland, St. Louis Park 1962. Led St. Louis Park to the 1962 state title.
15. Jeff Wright, Edina 1966-1967. Helped Edina to the first 2 of its 3-peat champions,
16. Blaine Joerger, Staples-Motley 1995. Led all scorers in 3 of 4 games in leading the Cardinals to runner-up in the 1st Sweet 16 tournament in 1995. His 28 points vs. Mpls. North in the final brought his total to exactly 100. Yes, he had a 4th game but, still, he is 1 of just 5 boys to score in triple figures in a state tournament.
17. Anthony Tucker, Minnetonka 2008. Led all scorers in all 3 games en route to the 2008 Class AAAA final, with 27, 28 and 27 points.
18. Jerry Butler, Mpls. Roosevelt 1956-1957. Also a throwback, a defensive specialist, Butler actually played the center position in 1957 after playing at a guard spot in 1956.
19. Dick Kaess, St. Paul Washington 1943. Led Washington to the 1943 state title, he was one of the 1st 2-way who scored a little while also playing great defense.
20. Jordan Smith, Orono 2011. Led Orono to the Class AAA title.
Top 20 Off-Guards Overall
(Players listed in Bold Face are not on the list above.)
1. Jake Sullivan, Tartan 2000. First Minnesota boy to score 3,000 points. See #7 above.
2. Willie Warhol, Mpls. Edison 1937. See #2 above.
3. Blake Hoffarber, Hopkins 2005. See #4 (tie) above.
4. Cody Schilling, Ellsworth 2008. See #1 above.
5. Jon Hagen, Belview 1957. Scored a (then) record 2,198 points.
6. Tom McDonald, Chisholm 1982. Scored 2,221 points, #3 all-time at that time.
7. Ben Johnson, DeLaSalle 1999. See #6 above.
8. Troy Bell, Holy Angels 1999. Scored 2,491 career points.
9. Joe Coleman, Hopkins 2011. See #4 (tie) above.
10. Earl Moran, Moorhead 1930. See #3 above.
11. Fred Enke, Rochester 1917. See #8 above.
12. Charles "Buzz" Bennett, Duluth Central 1950. See #13 above.
13. Jordan Smith, Orono. Scored 2,574 points, made 384 3-point FG (#2 all-time), shot .475 on 3s (also #2 all-time) and 87 prcent on FT (#3). Also see #20 above.
14. Mitch Ohnstad, Faribault 1996. Scored 2,805 career points, #3 at the time.
15. John Retica, Hibbing 1976. Led Hibbing to 1975 and 1976 tournaments. Was better than his teammate Kevin McHale.
16. Blaine Joerger, Staples-Motley 1995. See #16 above.
17. Terry Porter, Marshall 1963. See #11 above.
18. Skip Schaefbauer, Elk River 1993. See #12 above.
19. Bunk Harris, Duluth Central 1913. Central declined to enter the 1st state tournament in 1913, opting to play in the national tournament instead, finishing 3rd.
20. Jim Malosky, Crosby-Ironton 1946. Played in the 1944, 1945 and 1946 state tournaments, finishing 2nd in 1944 but losing 2 games each in 1945 and 1946. C-I was rated #1 in the state in 1946 before being shocked by Lynd 58-47 in the 1st round. Malosky led all scorers in 1 game each in 1945 and 1946.