Sunday, March 20, 2016

100 Years 100 Stars: Getting to the Point: 20+ Best Point Guards Ever

Ah, the "point guard." Up until the 1970s or '80s, people would have said, what's that? A point guard? Well, he's the ball-handling guard. But even that wouldn't have meant much until at least the 1940s, because the forwards did most of the ball-handling before that. The forwards and the center, and up until the 1930s, mostly the center. The center was the play-maker like a center in ice hockey.

And, using the ice hockey analogy, what do you think guards did? They guarded people. They were the defensemen. Up until the '40s. After that, there was a ball-handler, maybe, or maybe just one guard was better than the other. But then that guy would be both your ball-handler and your scorer.

So anyway, short story long, there's some arbitrariness to assigning guards before 1970 or thereabouts as a "1" or a "2" but so be it. Here goes.

Top 20 Tournament Point Guards

It's shocking how few of the big name point guards played in more than 1 tournament.

1. Khalid El-Amin, Mpls. North 1995-96-97. Led North to only the 2nd-ever 3-peat at the highest level and a 3-year record of 81-4. Led all scorers in 5 of 11 games en route to scoring a then career record 228 points over the 3 tournaments. Went on to lead the University of Connecticut to an NCAA title.

2. Russell "Butsie" Maetzold, Red Wing 1920-21-22. Led the Wingers to the 1920 and '22 state titles. Always said that they would have won in 1921 as well, except that 2 starters from that team were left home with the flu. 4-time "all-state" at Hamline, then coached Hopkins to 1952 and '53 state titles.

3. Kevin Lynch, Bloomington Jefferson 1986-87. Led the Jaguars to the 1986 and '87 state titles and a 2-year record of 49-4. Went on to play for the Minnesota Gophers in the NCAA Elite Eight.

4. Terry Kunze, Duluth Central 1961. Led Central to the 1961 state title. Went on to start for the Minnesota Gophers.

5. Barry Wohler, Bird Island-Lake Lillian 1980-81. Led Bird Island to 2 Class A titles, each of which was won in 2OT. Wohler made last-second, game-saving shots in both finals and in the 1st round in 1981. Played college ball at Minnesota and St. Cloud State, then coached Orono to the 2011 Class AAA title.

6. Jeff Nessler, St. James 1972. Led the Saints to the 1972 Class A and overall titles, scoring 80 points in 4 games including 31 in the Class A semi-final. Then in the Class A final, he hit a half-court shot at the final buzzer to beat Chisholm 57-55. Then he led all scorers with 22 in a 60-52 win over Mounds View in the overall final.

7. Lawrence McKenzie, Mpls. Patrick Henry 2001-02-03. Played on 4 champions, starting for the last 3. Went on to play for the Minnesota Gophers.

8. Ruben Epp, Mountain Lake 1939. Led Mountain Lake to the 1939 state title with a huge 37-31 upset of Mpls. Marshall. Went on to play for the Minnesota Gophers.

9. Jordan Taylor, Benilde-St. Margaret's 2007-08. Led the Red Knights to 2nd place in 2007 and the Class AAA state title in 2008. Led all Class AAA scorers with 82 points in 3 games in 2008, including 43 against St. Paul Como Park in the 1st round. Went on to earn all-America honors at Wisconsin.

10. Zach Kiekow, Osseo 2001. Led Osseo to the 2001 state title and a 30-1 record. In fact, they were undefeated against Minnesota competition, losing only to nationally #1-ranked Oak Hill Academy (VA).

11. Ronnie Henderson, Mpls. Marshall-U 1976. Led Marshall-U to the 1976 Class A title with an OT win over Mankato Wilson. 

12. Tom Kezar, Austin 1958-59. Led Austin to 5 wins in 6 tournament games, good for the 1958 state title and 3rd place in 1959. Led all scorers in 3 of the 6 games, with a high of 28 in the 1958 semi-final win over Willmar, 61-56.

13. Art Lillyblad, Red Wing 1933. Led the Wingers to the 1933 state title, then went on to start for the Minnesota  Gophers.

14. Byron Suttles, Mpls. Washburn 1994. Led Washburn to the 1994 Class AA title. Led all scorers with 17 points in the 66-65 final win over Hopkins.

15. Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson 2010-11. Led the Governors to the 2010 Class AAA championship with a 32-0 record and a regular season win over Class AAAA champion Hopkins. Lost a huge upset to New Prague in the 1st round in 2011. Led all scorers with 20 points in the 2010 final, a 59-55 win over Grand Rapids.

16. Rod Skoog, Brainerd 1954. Led Brainerd to the 1954 state title, leading all scorers with 19 points in the final, a 49-47 win over Bemidji.

17. Bill Schiffler, Woodbury 1983. Led Woodbury to a huge upset of Coon Rapids, 56-50 in OT, in the 1983 Class AA final, though the Royals finished undefeated 24-0.

18. Tydan Storrestan, Pelican Rapids 2009. Led Pelican Rapids to the 2009 Class AA title, scoring 34 in an 80-68 win over St. Bernard's and point guard Jordair Jett. He led all Class AA scorers with 76 total points in 3 games.

19. Greg Thone, Luverne 1964. Helped Luverne to a surprising 1964 state title after coming into the tournament with a 17-5 record. Luverne is better remembered for John Beyer and Del Jessen, but Thone led all scorers in the 1st round (20) and in the final, a 72-66 win over Rochester John Marshall, with 26.

20. Siyani Chambers, Hopkins 2010-11. Helped the Royals to the 2010 and 2011 Class AAAA titles and a 2-year record of 61-3.

Top 20 Point Guards Overall

1. Khalid El-Amin, Mpls. North 1997. See #1 above.

2. Marty Rolek, Mpls. Edison 1934. Was so good that, immediately after his senior year (still in the spring of 1934), he joined a senior men's team and led them to the state AAU title. From there he went on to earn all-America honors and lead the Minnesota Gophers to the 1937 Big 10 title. Could not get past Mpls. South in the Minneapolis Conference or old District 18, so did not play in the state high school tournament.

3. Russell "Butsie" Maetzold, Red Wing 1922. See #2 above.

4. Terry Kunze, Duluth Central 1961. See #4 above.

5. Kevin Lynch, Bloomington Jefferson 1987. See #3 above.

6. Paul Lehmann, DeLaSalle 1957. Led the Islanders to 3 state titles under coach Dick Reinhart. Then started for the Minnesota Gophers until a torn ACL took away his signature quickness.

7. Pat Foschi, Virginia 1975. One of the most heavily recruited Minnesota schoolboys ever, started his college career at Kentucky. Oddly for a point guard, he finished his high school career among Minnesota's best rebounders with 1,183. Could not get past  Chisholm with Bob, Paul and Mike McDonald in old Region 7.

8. Adam Boone, Minnetonka 2000. Beat out Jake Sullivan for the 2000 Mr. Basketball award, and started his college career at North Carolina. Finished up at Minnesota.

9. Jordan Taylor, Benilde-St. Margaret's 2008. See #9 above.

10. Lawrence McKenzie, Mpls. Patrick Henry 2003. See #7 above.

11. Ronnie Henderson, Mpls. Marshall-U 1976. See #11 above.

12. Mike Cielusak, Mpls. Edison 1927. Played in the 1926 tournament but lost in the 1st round to heavily favored Gilbert 29-11. Could not get past eventual state champ Mpls. South in 1927. Went on to play for the Minnesota  Gophers, where coach Dave MacMillan picked Cielusak as 1 of the 2 best guards he coached (from 1927 to 1948).

13. Art Lillyblad, Red Wing 1933. See #13 above.

14. Barry Wohler, Bird Island-Lake Lillian 1981. See #5 above.

15. John Retica, Hibbing 1976. Hibbing's 1975 and '76 state tournament entrants were described as Retica's team, though center Kevin McHale was an important contributor. Retica led all scorers in all 3 Hibbing games in 1975 with 20, 23 and 19 points. In 1976 Retica played despite an injury and was not particularly effective. But for the injury, both his and Hibbing's standing might be different.

16. Jeff Nessler, St. James 1972. See #6 above.

17. Ruben Epp, Mountain Lake 1939. See #8 above.

18. Gene Glynn, Waseca 1975. Played in the 1974 and '75 tournaments, losing a pair of upsets to Mound and DeLaSalle and settling for 4th and 5th place. Scored 73 points in 3 games in 1975.

19. Bernie Raetz, Red Wing 1953. Led the Wingers to the 1953 tournament as the highest scoring team in Minnesota history. Unfortunately they drew defending (and, soon, repeat) champion Hopkins in the 1st round, losing 59-47 with Raetz fouling out in the 1st half! Red Wing bounced back with a record 84 points in the consolation semi, then beat Madelia for 5th place 77-62 as Raetz scored 28.

20 (tie). Orris Jirele, Austin Pacelli 1958. Led Pacelli to the 1958 Catholic state title, then played point guard for St. Bonaventure when the Bonnies were rated as highly as #3 in the nation (1961).
20 (tie). Tom Kezar, Austin 1959. See #12 above.

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