Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lynx outlast Storm, one down 6 to go

The Minnesota Lynx opened defense of their WNBA title with, well, not one of their better games. But it was good enough to defeat the Seattle Storm 78-70 at Target Center. The series now shifts to Seattle, with game three (if necessary) back home on Tuesday.

The Lynx ran out to an early 9-1 lead but Seattle tied it up at 15-15. The Lynx led by 10 late in the 2nd quarter, and 57-40 late in the 3rd, but the Storm again came back to within 6 at 69-63, 71-65 and 73-67 inside of a minute-and-a-half in the game. But Seattle never led, and the Lynx made 5-of-6 FT down the stretch to ice it.

Seattle was 16-18 this year after winning the WNBA title as recently as 2010. But 3-time league MVP Lauren Jackson missed most of the year, first playing with the Australian Olympic team and later with a hamstring injury. Jackson came back in the final week of the season and tonight she contributed 12 points and 3 boards for the Storm.

More instrumental in Seattle's gutsy showing was bench play from veteran Tina Thompson and rookie Shennika Stricklen, who combined for 22 points and 14 rebounds between them. The Wolves' vaunted bench scored just 5 points on this night.

And Seattle's league-leading defense kept 'em in the game, too. Minnesota shot 46 percent for the night, but made 8 straight shots to start the 3rd quarter (Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen 2 FG each) to take that 57-40 lead. The rest of the night the Lynx shot 37.5 percent including 36 percent in each of the 2nd and 4th periods.

Whalen led all scorers with 20 points and added 6 assists. Augustus scored 19 points, Maya Moore 16 and Rebekah Brunson 12. Moore added 7 boards and 5 assists, and Brunson added 11 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

The Lynx out-shot the Storm 46%-40% from the field, 40-29% on 3s and 79-56.5% on free throws. (Actually Seattle's FG shooting percentage was 39.6, and so the Lynx improved to 18-0 when holding opponents below 40 percent.) And a good thing, too, as they lost the possession game. Minnesota had just 3 offensive boards all night, Seattle had 6, and the turnovers were 12 for Seattle and 13 for Minnesota.

The Lynx are trying to become the 1st WNBA repeat champion since L.A. way back in 2001 and 2002. The Sparks opened their playoffs with a come-from-behind 93-86 win over San Antonio on Friday night, while Connecticut and Atlanta won 1st round games in the East. Atlanta was the only team to win on the road, taking Indiana 75-66.

WNBA Awards

Tina Charles of Connecticut was named MVP Thursday night, while Kristi Tolliver of L.A. was named Most Improved and Renee Montgomery of Connecticut won the 6th Player award. And yet another Connecticut player, Kara Lawson won the Sportsmanship Award. Angel McCoughtry of Atlanta, Charles and Whalen won Performance Awards for leading the league in scoring, boards and assists, respectively. No word on Rookie of the Year as of yet.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Alvin Ellis verbals Gophers

The Gopher men got their 1st verbal from the class of 2013 today (Monday, September 24). He is Alvin Ellis, a 6-4 wing/shooting guard from Chicago DeLaSalle. He had offers from Northwestern, Kansas State and Wichita State, but selected the Gophers after making his official visit here this past weekend.

Ellis is rated just #475 in his class nationally by Rivals/ESPN, but another service has him as one of the top 5 from the state of Illinois. These represent totally opposing points of view as the top 5 from Illinois would under ordinary circumstances be an easy top 100 recruit. Then again, he's rated as only 2 stars, which would match up with the 475 more than it would the top 5.

Still, he's said to have great "athleticism" and a lot of "upside." His "jump shot is his go-to weapon." He is characterized as "a go-to scorer."

Ellis' verbal was particularly welcome as 2 other Gopher recruits have recently announced their college selection...and it wasn't Minnesota. E.C. Mathews is going to Rhode Island and Cedric Hankerson to Boston U!

But returning to Ellis, there are those who are high on him. But the consensus is that he's not a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination. Time will tell.

Stabresa McDaniel verbals Gophers


Stabresa. Stabresa McDaniel.

And she looks like a pretty good get. She's a 5-10 wing who scored 15.3 ppg for Dallas Skyline (28-5) last year, and played her club ball with DFW Elite Gold this past summer.  McDaniel visited Minnesota just last weekend, returning home on Sunday the 23rd and then announcing her choice on Monday the 24th.

She picked the Gophers over Texas, Texas Tech and North Texas.

What they say about her mostly is that she's "active." She has an "active motor." She's "always on both ends of the floor." She's "relentless and "consistently productive."

She "rebounds well for her size." She "defends." She "put(s) the ball on the floor and get(s) to the rim." She "can legitimately handle the basketball in the open floor." She is "capable of knocking down the mid-range jumper off of the catch." She has "good overall physical strength."

She is rated as the #56 wing nationally by ESPN/HoopGurlz.

Like I said, a good get. Maybe the next Kionna Kellogg (albeit a little smaller)?

Lynx lose 2 of 3 going into playoffs. So what?

The Minnesota Lynx open the defense of their WNBA title on Friday (September 28) at the Target Center against the Seattle Storm having lost 2 of their final 3 games. So what?

Well, it's fair to say that the Lynx and their fans expect a repeat, but that it won't be easy and an upset in the Western Division finals is not out of the question. Assuming they get by the Storm (16-18) which, frankly, seems likely, they'll get the L.A. Sparks or the San Antonio Silver Stars. The Sparks hammered the Lynx 92-76 last week while it was the Stars who clobbered the Lynx yesterday 99-84.

Still, the Lynx finished up with a stellar 27-7 record, compared to 25-9 for Eastern Division leader Connecticut, 24-10 for L.A. and 21-13 for the San Antonio Silver Stars. None of that means a whole lot, of course. Any of these 4 has the talent to win the WNBA title, it's a question of who plays best over the next 7 to 10 games. But it does get the Lynx the home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and everybody knows that that's a pretty good deal maker.

The Five

What else is a deal maker for the Lynx is--well, everybody knows about their 3 Olympians--Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen. But seriously, I prefer to think about their starting 5 including Rebekah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin. All 5 of them are back from the 2011 championship edition of the Lynx, and the fact is that as a 5 they've been better than they were a year ago.

Last year the team's MVP was either Augustus or Whalen, and between the 2 of them they split enough of the vote to finish 5th and 6th in the voting. This year it's Augustus and Moore who have stood out, and who will split up the MVP voting and probably finish 5th and 6th, or maybe 4th and 5th. All 3 played great ball and contributed mightily to the U.S. Olympic gold medal this summer. Nobody can put a dynamic trio on the court like these ladies.

Augustus remains the 1st option. She finished the year with 16.5 ppg on 49 percent shooting with 4 boards and 2.5 assists just for good measure. (Last year she was at 16.2, 50 percent, 3.5 boards and 2 assists.) Not only that but she's become the Lynx' defensive stopper, more often than not being assigned to the opponent's top perimeter threat.

Moore has, of course, come on like gangbusters, as everyone expected her to do. She overtook Seimone for the team scoring lead with 16.6 ppg on 47 percent shooting, and added 6 boards and 4 assists (compared to 13 ppg, 44 percent, 5 and 3 a year ago).

Lindsay seems to have slipped, I suppose. She's not mentioned as the team's MVP anymore. But 11.5 ppg on 51 percent shooting with 5 assists and 4 rebounds in hardly child's play. (Last year she was at 13.6, 51 percent, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds. The bottom line is she took 68 fewer shots than a year ago.) And anybody who saw the Lynx flounder against L.A. last week with Lindsay out for the night knows what a difference she makes regardless of what the box score says.

Meanwhile Brunson and Taj have more than held their own in the paint with 20 ppg, 14 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks between them. (Last year it was 18.5 ppg, 15 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals.)

The Bench

But, along with Moore, the biggest improvement has been in the Lynx bench, and specifically rookie Devereaux Peters and 3rd year Monica Wright. Peters is scoring 5 points with 4 boards on 57 percent shooting, and has come on like gangbusters just recently--10 ppg, 11 boards, 3 assists and 3 blocks per game these past 3 outings. Wright is up to 8 ppg on 45 percent shooting versus last year's 5 and 37 percent.

As a Team

And as a team they've improved on most of their numbers from a year ago, out-scoring opponents by 10 (86-76) versus 8 (82-74) a year ago. They're out-rebounding 'em 38-31 versus 36-30 in 2011. They're out-shooting 'em 47-40%, while a year ago it was 46-41%. And they're getting 21 assists per game versus 18 a year ago, while opponents got 15 each year.

So the 2012 Lynx look better than their 2011 alter ego.

The Challenge

But the challenge is not to be better than the 2011 Lynx, it is to be better than the 2012 Sparks, Stars, Sun and so forth, and all of their main challengers look better than a year ago, too. Connecticut, #1 seed in the east, is 24-9 right now versus 21-13 a year ago. L.A. is 24-10 compared to a mere 15-19 last year, when Candace Parker missed 15 games and the Sparks missed the playoffs. San Antone is 20-13 versus 18-16 last year, when they nevertheless carried the Lynx to a 3rd game in their Western semi-final series.

Fortunately we'll only play one of L.A. and San Antone, because those are a couple of tough hombres. Personally I think we'll get the Sparks, if only because they (the Sparks) have the home court advantage against the Silver Stars in the other Western semi. But they also have the WNBA's best player who won't win the MVP award in Parker. Her numbers are slightly inferior to Tina Charles' and so the award will go to Tina. But at crunch time, personally, I'd rather not face Parker. But in addition to Parker being healthy, L.A. also has a more mature Kristi Toliver, who raised her scoring from 11 ppg to 17.5 this year, and her assists from 3 to 5. She's become, simply, one of the WNBA's premier point guards, surpassing San Antone's Becky Hammon in the process.

But the bottom line is the Lynx are the better team. As we saw (above) they out-scored their opponents by an average of 10 points (86-76). For L.A. it was 84-78, San Antone 82-77 and Connecticut also 82-77.

The Lynx out-shot their opponents (all FG) 47-40%. L.A. 46-42, San Antone 44.5-43, while the Sun were 43-43.

The Lynx out-rebounded our opponents 38-31. L.A. 37-34. San Antone and Connecticut were both out-rebounded 33-35 and 34-35, respectively.

Again, that's too many advantages. Besides, when the Lynx lost to L.A. and San Antone--first, against L.A. Augustus was just back after missing 3 games with a sprained right foot, and Whalen was sidelined with a cold. Against San Antone, it was Brunson who got a rest (of course, it should be pointed out that San Antone rested both of its big guns, Sophia Young and Becky Hammon).

But Wait, What About Seattle

Yes, I'm overlooking Seattle, which is probably not a good idea considering they were WNBA champs as recently as 2010 (to go with a previous title in 2004) and boast 3-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson (2003, 2007, 2010). Jackson played in just 9 games this year, but is now back from a left hamstring injury. And with Sue Bird, whom Geno Auriemma called "the greatest point guard on the planet," also in the lineup, Seattle might be described as a dark horse.

Or maybe not. I think not. The Lynx have trouble matching up with elite post players, but Jackson is no longer playing on the level of Charles and Parker. And Lindsay Whalen neutralizes Bird as well as any point guard in the league. And the two of them just don't have enough help. Lynx in 2.

Then in the Finals

L.A. falls short of the WNBA finals, winning 3 games at home (2 against San Antone and 1 against the Lynx) but none on the road. That means they're 2-1 in the semis, but 1-2 in the division finals. And the Lynx will move on to face Connecticut and likely MVP Charles.

Here's why. Because the Lynx have too many weapons, too much balance and too many smarts. They'll take what the opposition gives them. And they'll play with all the intensity that its opponents can possibly bring, and then some.

And that is also why they take the Sun. But this one goes a full 5 games for the 1st time since 2009, and the Lynx again prevail 3-2. Tina Charles, Kara Lawson and Renee Montgomery typically give the Lynx fits, but Olympian Aisha Jones has been slowed by injury and that could be the fatal blow to the Sun's championship dreams.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Old-Time Boys Basketball Coaches You Should Know About

Congrats to the 2012 electees to the coaches halls of fame.

• The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association has elected Franz Boelter of Faribault Bethlehem, Ron Causton of St. Paul Highland, Don Roberts of Simley and Bruce Young of Long Prairie.

• The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association has elected Bill Quenette of Moorhead, along with 5 others representing other sports besides basketball.

• The Minnesota State High School League has not announced its 2012 inductees. Its most recent selections are Ziggy Kauls of Mounds View and Dean Verdoes of Henry Sibley in 2011.

Good choices all. But perusing the list of Hall of Fame members of each group, I was struck by one thing. Where are all the old-timers? By that I mean coaches whose primary claim to fame came before 1960. I mean, this is practically the entire single class era, 1960 being the 48th year of the state tournament, whereas we are now headed into the 53rd year since 1960.

Yet, the MBCA, for instance, has just 11 Hall of Famers who coached primarily before 1960 versus nearly 100 since then. The MSHSCA has 12 out of maybe 40 basketball coaches. That hardly seems equitable.

The problem, of course, is that so little is known about the old-time coaches...or so little was known. A lot more is known now, largely thanks to research by Matt Pederson, the face behind Minnesota Basketball Records.

But, just for the record, the old-time coaches who have made all 3 Halls are Ove Berven, Austin; Wayne Courtney, Mpls. Roosevelt; Mario Retica, Austin St. Augustine, Buhl, Hibbing; and Louis Todnem, Mankato.

Totally Missing

First, here are some coaches who are missing from all 3 of the Halls mentioned above--the MBCA, the MSHSCA and the MSHSL.

1. Ray Parkins, Mpls. Edison. Parkins brought Duluth Central to the 1922 tournament, but if elected he would surely be wearing an Edison hat. The Tommies made 6 state tournaments under Parkins, winning it all in 1937 with a team that was widely regarded as the best Minnesota team ever before WWII. Not only that, but he developed a number of great individuals over the years including:

• Mike Cielusak, class of 1927, later named by Gopher coach Dave MacMillan as one of his 2 best guards (MacMillan coached 1925-1948)

• Willie Warhol, class of 1937, star of that greatest of Edison teams, later a Minnesota Gopher

• Don "Swede" Carlson, class of 1938, later a Gopher about whom MacMillan said was the best defensive player he ever coached

• Marty Rolek, class of 1934, Gopher all-American in 1937 and 1938

• Tony Jaros, class of 1940, who set a slew of Minneapolis and Minnesota scoring records and later played for the Gophers and for the Minneapolis Lakers

Parkins retired in 1943 after coaching for, maybe, 25 years or so.

2. Dick Reinhart, DeLaSalle. Granted, he coached through 1969. But his reputation was made with 4 straight state Catholic titles at the end of the 1950s (and 7 overall). He finished at 373-107, the wins ranking #9 at the time of his retirement.

3. Edwin McKee, St. Paul Mechanic Arts. Coached the Trainers from 1916 to 1928, won the state title in 1925, runner-up in 1916. Still the top coach in St. Paul history on winning percentage (125-48, .765).

4. Harry Nelson, St. Paul Washington. Won 237 games from 1938 to 1959, the most in St. Paul history at the time of his retirement, and the state title in 1943.

5. Frank Cleve, Mpls. Patrick Henry. This guy had to be a greeeeaaattt coach! He was the very 1st guy ever elected to the MN Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Then, he led Concordia (Moorhead) to its only MIAC (basketball) title over a period of 60-some years in 1931. And, finally, he taught Jim McIntyre to play the game, and the 2 (and others, of course) combined to win the 1944 and 1945 state titles.

6. Leonard Froyen, Braham. Went 402-176 from 1931 to 1967.

Missing from 2 of 3

1. Harvey Roels, Chisholm. The greatest coach in Minnesota history is a member only of the MBCA Hall of Fame. Had 499 wins, #1 in the state, at the time of his retirement after almost 40 years on the bench in 1954. He took the Bluestreaks to 6 state tournaments including 5 in a row from 1930 to 1934, winning the title in 1934.

Not only that but Harvey Roels kept the running game alive during the so-called "dead ball" era. In the 1920s and 1930s, most Minnesota teams played a slow, ball control style of game. The 1926 state title game ended with a score of 13-9. As late as 1933, it was 16-13. But Roels' state tournament teams were mostly known as "Point-a-Minute" teams. And Chisholm had such success that most Iron Range teams copied Roels' strategy. That's why Iron Range teams were so popular at the state tournament. They, and (usually) only they, ran with the damn ball. Fortunately, the dead ball era ended with the abandonment of a jump ball after every made basket in favor of the concept of alternating possession.

2. Glenn Hanna, Moorhead. Made it to 7 state tournaments including 6 in a row from 1926 to 1931, and was the 1st coach to repeat in 1928 and 1929. Yet he is a member only of the MBCA Hall.

3. Chet Bisel, Lynd, Lamberton. Won 344 games, which was good for #7 at the time of his retirement in 1956. Not only that, but he shocked the Minnesota basketball world in 1946 with an all-out fast break by Lynd, the likes of which had never been seen before in the state. Lynd shocked Crosby-Ironton and Stillwater to become the smallest school ever to make the single-class final before losing in the final to Austin. Bisel is a member of the MSHSCA Hall.

4. Bun Fortier, Bemidji. Not really an old-timer but is often linked with Ove Berven, so I don't want you to think I forgot about him.

2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

1. Butsie Maetzold, Hopkins. Somehow Butsie has failed to get the nod from the MSHSL, though he's got the other 2. Reputed to have won 508 games while losing just 62, though a survey of their records does not appear to support such a claim. But then add the 1952 and 1953 state titles.... He also won 90 percent of football games over the same period....

2. Lloyd Holm, Red Wing, Duluth Denfeld, St. Louis Park. The only coach to take 3 different schools to the state finals. Holm also won 542 games, #1 in state history at the time of his retirement. But also missed out on the MSHSL Hall.

3. Herman Woock, Crosby-Ironton. Also missed out on the MSHSL Hall despite 6 state tournament appearances, including runners-up in 1944 and 1947.

4. Fred Kellett, Brainerd. Another who missed the MSHSL despite 368 career wins, #10 at the time of his retirement, and a .739 winning percent, #9 to this day. He also won the 1954 state title.

The Best of the Best

To the MBCA, MSHSCA and MSHSL: If any of these guys is missing from your Hall of Fame, elect him today.

1. Roels, Chisholm 1934
2. Maetzold, Hopkins 1952-1953
3. Courtney, Mpls. Roosevelt 1956-1957
4. Parkins, Duluth Central, Mpls. Edison 1937
5. Berven, Austin 1946, 1958
6. Reinhart, DeLaSalle 1954-1957, 1959, 1961-1962
7. Holm, Red Wing,  Duluth Denfeld, St. Louis Park 1947, 1962
8. Retica, Austin St. Augustine, Buhl, Hibbing 1942
9. Hanna, Moorhead 1928-1929
10. McKee, St. Paul Mechanic Arts 1925

11. Bisel, Lynd, Butterfield 1946
12. Woock, Crosby-Ironton 1944, 1947
13. Fortier, Bemidji 1954, 1961
14. Kellett, Brainerd 1954
15. Cleve, Mpls. Henry 1944, 1945

16. Froyen, Braham 1953
17. Burt Munson, Mountain Lake 1946-1947, 1952

18. Nelson, St. Paul Washington 1943
19. Todnem, Mankato 1949
20. Walter Chapman, Mpls. Marshall

Monday, September 10, 2012

Minnesota Boys Rankings

New 2014 boys recruiting rankings are out from

Tyus Jones, Apple Valley point guard, is ranked #5 in his class. Schools listed are Arizona, Baylor, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Marquette, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio State, Pitt, Providence, UCLA, Washington, Washington State. These are schools that have offered, though I suspect there are more not listed,

Rashad Vaughn, Armstrong off guard, is rated #15. Let's just say his list is about as long and includes many of the same schools, including the U of M. Big 10 schools include just Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Reid Travis, DeLaSalle forward, dropped from #31 to #44. He too has a long list of schools, though the caliber is slightly below that of Jones and Vaughn. Big 10 schools include Minnesota, Michigan Statem, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Lynx: Wow!

If the Lynx were ever going to lose, this was the game. On the road. At one of 4 teams to beat the Lynx this year. Seimone Augustus is out with a foot injury.

But, no. The Lynx dominated the 2nd quarter 25-11 to take a 47-29 half-time lead and never looked back. OK, San Antone got within 59-50 after 3. But with Sophia Young (20 points) the only Silver Star in double figures, they couldn't keep it going and the Lynx pulled away in the 4th for an 81-62 final. A shockingly easy win, again, with Seimone on the sidelines.

Maya Moore again led the way with 18 points and 12 boards, though Rebekah Brunson was right there, too, with 15 and 12. Lindsay Whalen and Monica Wright, starting in place of Augustus, each scored 11. Minnesota shot 55 percent, San Antone 36. Our bench, even with Wright starting, out-scored the Stars' 22-15.

With wins at L.A. and now San Antone, the Lynx are 5 up in the division and 3 up overall for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Even with 5 of 6 remaining games on the road, the Lynx seem likely to hold on to that advantage, and that would seem to double the likelihood of a repeat WNBA title. Well, if L.A. and San Antone can't play the Lynx any tougher than they have recently, even the home court might not matter.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SDSU Continues to Recruit MN "Bigs"

For the 1st time since 2007, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will not have a 6-foot-plus freshman forward from Minnesota on their roster.

Still, there are 5 such women on the SDSU roster this year: Mariah Clarin, Leah Dietel, Hannah Strop, Megan Stuart and Megan Waytashek.

And not only that, but the parade will be resumed in 2013 and 2014. The Minnesota high school class of 2013 will be represented in Brookings by Tiffany Flaata of Prior Lake and Clarissa Ober of Glencoe-Silver Lake.

Here's a post from 2 years ago that explored this phenomenon, with some more new material at the end.

Wow, what is it with the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits women's basketball team? I mean, aside from the fact that, under coach Aaron Johnston, they've become the #1 team in the Ninth Federal Reserve District.

What I mean is that, with a verbal from Mariah Clarin of Princeton, SDSU is now officially hoarding all the 4s (big forwards) from Minnesota that it can get its hands on. This coming year they'll have junior Jenna Sunnarborg from Osseo, sophomore Leah Dietel from Jordan, and freshmen Hannah Strop from New Prague and Megan Waytashek from Centennial. All of that on top of Maria Boever of Worthington, a 2010 graduate, and Stacie Oistad of Sartell, a 2009 grad.

Of course, it would be silly to question whether there's a method to the madness. Of course there is. Johnston became the Jackrabbits' interim head coach late in the 1999-2000 season, and in 10-and-a-half years he's won 248 games while losing 76 (.765). Lest you complain that much of that came in D2, well, that's wrong. It's already 6 years since SDSU joined D1, and they've been even better in D1, winning 143 while losing 43 (.768). Against the Big 10, they're 5-3 (.625). I don't know how Johnston hasn't been picked up by a major school.

So if you're on a roll, and the Jackrabbits most assuredly are that, you keep doing what you're doing. And one of the things they've been doing, again, is hoarding those 4s from Minnesota. Oistad was the prototype. As a senior (in 2009), the 6-footer started 10 games, played in 35 for an average of 21 minutes and scored 8 points with 4 rebounds.

Of course, Oistad had some other notable Minnesotans as teammates, specifically guard Megan Vogel from St. Peter, class of 2007, who finished up as the Jacks' #2 all-time scorer with 1,850 points.

But sticking to the forwards, the next Minnesotan was the 6-1 Boever. Her main claim to fame in these parts (Minneapolis-St. Paul) is making the game-winning shot at the buzzer in a 59-58 upset of the Gophers at Williams Arena in 2007. In 2010, she led the Jacks in scoring and rebounding at 14 points and 7 boards.

Next on board was the 6-2 Sunnarborg, who started 13 games and played in 33 this past year as a sophomore. She scored 8 points per game with 4 boards in 16.5 minutes of play. Meanwhile, the 6-1 Dietel started 4 games and played in 23 for a total of 17 minutes, and shot 50 percent to Sunnarborg's 46 but attempted barely one-quarter as many shots as Sunnarborg did. So she scored just 4 points per game with 4 boards. Sunnarborg also blocked 41 shots while Dietel blocked just 1. That would seem to say something about athleticism or aggressiveness or something.

Joining the fun next year will be the incoming freshmen Strop, a 6-f00ter, and the 6-2 Waytashek, both of whom can play further away from the hoop than Dietel or Sunnarborg but who can also mix it up pretty good inside. Waytashek is probably the most highly regarded Minnesotan the Jacks have ever lured down to the briar patch and one would expect her to contribute right away while Strop, like Dietel, might need a year to get her bearings. This might be Brookings, SD, but it's still D1.

Finally, there's the 5-11 Clarin. She's a 4 in high school and her main claim to fame is her leaping ability. She hasn't been asked to show anything away from the hoop, and so she hasn't. So, as a 4, she seems a bit undersized compared to the girls who have come to Brookings ahead of her. We'll see.

EDIT/New Stuff:

In 2011, Sunnarborg joined the starting lineup and scored 13 points with 4 boards and shot 51 percent in 24 minutes. Dietel played 19 minutes as a sophomore, while Waytashek played 17 and Strop 14, both as freshman. The 3 scored 11 points among 'em, with 9.5 rebounds. The Rabbits went 19-13.

In 2012, Sunnarborg closed out her career with 14 points and 6 boards in 26 minutes, while shooting 44 percent. Dietel, now a junior, again played 19 minutes. Strop played 13 minutes as a sophomore. Clarin and Stuart played a combined 11 minutes, and scored 5 points with 3.5 rebounds between 'em. Waytashek played in only 6 games due to injury. All 3 of the returnees, in other words, saw their production decline, and none of the 5 (other than Sunnarborg) shot as well as even 40 percent.

So the 2013 roster now includes:

Clarin, now a sophomore. I had rated her as the #14 recruit in MN in 2011.
Dietel, now a senior. #19 in 2009.
Strop, now a junior. #16 in 2010.
Stuart, now a sophomore. #17 in 2011.
Waytashek, still a sophomore due to her injury a year ago. #4 in 2010.

You'd have to say the whole group has not really blossomed for coach Johnston. On paper, Waytashek, #4 in her class and scoring 4 ppg as a freshman, has the most upside, though we will have to see how she has recovered from her injuries. Dietel has been a particular disappointment, her scoring actually falling from 4 to 3.5 ppg between her sophomore and junior seasons. She has been dogged by a particular reluctance to shoot the ball, as if she thought that Brittney Chambers was still out there with her. She averaged just 3 FGA in 19 minutes last year, less than 1/3 as many as Sunnarborg took.

Still the prospects for 2013 are good. 2 of 4 full-time starters--Ashley Eide and Steph Paluch --return, along with Dietel and Katie Lingle, who split the 4th starting spot. I would expect Waytashek to be the 5th starter if she is healthy.

As noted above, Tiffany Flaata and Clarissa Ober join the Rabbits roster next year. Flaata is a mobile 6-2 forward who plays a little bit young for her age--i.e. she is still learning the game and how to use her size. Ober is also 6-2 but is a clear inside player and presence. I have Ober as the #22 player in the MN class of 2013, and Flaata just #39, making her by far the lowest rated of the many MN "bigs" recruited by SDSU over the past decade (almost).

Then among the 2014s comes Ellen Thompson of Chaska, another 6-2 "big." She plays the post, but more and more she is playing the 4 as Kendall Baab continues to mature for Chaska. I have Thompson as the #6 player in her class, making her the highest rated prospect on this list other than Waytashek. So in 2015 the Rabbits will have seniors Clarin and Stuart, sophomores Flaata and Ober, and freshman Thompson from Minnesota, carrying on in the tradition of Oistad, Boever and Sunnarborg.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Carl J. Calabrese

Carl J. Calabrese has died. Those who attend Carl's services will probably know him through his work as a 3M executive, and through his family and his church. Not many will know much about his basketball exploits. There may be no one in attendance who saw him play, I don't know. His career was a long, long time ago.

But it was a notable basketball career. Carl hailed from St. Mel's high school in Chicago, and came to Winona to play at St. Mary's College under Moose Krause. These were the best teams St. Mary's has ever fielded, to this day. Krause had been an all-American at Notre Dame, and later had a massively successful run as Notre Dame athletic director. At St. Mary's he had the great good fortune to recruit 2 great players--Calabrese and Clint Wager from Winona. He was also the 1st coach in history to take his team to an away game, at Notre Dame as it happened, via air travel.

In 1939, Wager was a freshman, a 6-5 post, and Calabrese a sophomore forward, and St. Mary's tied perennial power Hamline for the MIAC title. Wager and guard Frank Vaicks made all-MIAC 1st team, Calabrese made the 2nd. Key games were a 29-28 win over Gustavus and a 41-40 OT win over St. Thomas in which Wager scored 13 points. They also beat cross-town rival Winona Teachers 45-32 asw Wager again scored 13. Winona and Hamline represented the Northern Teachers and MIAC, respectively, in the NAIA national tourney.

In 1940 St. Mary's won its only outright MIAC title with just 1 loss. They beat Winona Teachers 47-36 as Wager scored 16, Concordia 58-33 as Wager scored 25. Wager added 20 as St. Mary's defeated Augsburg 44-34 to clinch the title. In total, Wager scored 162 points for a 13.5 average, both MIAC records. Wager and Vaicks again made 1st team all-MIAC but Calabrese did not repeat as 2nd team all-conference. Despite finishing 2nd, Hamline again went to the NAIA tournament.

In 1941 St. Mary's finished a distant 2nd to undefeated Hamline but this year St. Mary's went to the NAIA. Hamline beat St. Mary's 38-37 in a key matchup as Wager scored 21 and Calabrese 14 (35 of St. Mary's 37 points). St. Mary's beat Macalester 64-35 as Calabrese scored an MIAC record 35 points. For the season Calabrese scored a new record 177 points, breaking his teammate's record.

Wally Johnson of Gustavus was also in the running for a season record but St. Mary's hammered the Gusties in the final game of the regular season and Wager out-scored Johnson 22-1. Calabrese scored 15, enough to get the record. This time, Carl was 1st team all-MIAC, Wager 2nd.

In addition to Krause's success as Notre Dame AD, Wager also had a successful post-St. Mary's career, playing both NFL football and pro basketball. Calbrese's post-St. Mary's success was of a different sort, outside of athletics. He taught for awhile, then joined 3M where he retired 42 years later as GM of the Industrial Specialties Division. He also has 5 children, 16 grand-children and 19 great-grand-children.

An Improbable Win for the Lynx, Who Eye Homecourt Advantage

The Minnesota Lynx roared back from a 25 point deficit late in the 1st half to defeat the Atlanta Dream in a rematch of last year's WNBA finals. The Lynx outscored Atlanta 6-2 to close out the 1st half and to begin getting back in the game.

But the heavy lifting came in the 3rd quarter, and much of it by Rebekah Brunson who scored 10 points in the period on just 2-of-6 FG and 6-of-8 FT, while adding 8 boards, 4 on each end of the floor, a block and a tie up leading to a change of possession.

Maya Moore added 8 points including 2 FT at 1:11 that got the margin into the single digits going into the 4th quarter.

Moore then hit a pull-up jumper at 5:47 of the 4th to get the Lynx within 4, and 17 seconds later blocked an Atlanta shot, leading to a transition 3 by Seimone Augustus on an assist by Candace Wiggins. Suddenly it was a 1 point margin. A minute later Moore hit a 3 on a assist by Taj McWilliams-Franklin to tie it up. Moore scored 2 more buckets, then assisted on a Taj bucket with 30 seconds remaining to tie it up once again. Taj followed with a block to force OT.

In the 1st OT Atlanta needed a driving layup by Angel McCoughtry at 0:00.3 tie force the 2nd OT. In the 2nd OT the Lynx hit 5-of-7 while the Dream hit just 2-of-6 with 3 turnovers. Still it was only a Taj bucket from Lindsay Whalen at 42 seconds that put the Lynx ahead for good.

The Lynx out-shot Atlanta 43-40 percent and 31-24 on the 3, and out-scored the Dream from the line 26-14. But the Lynx lost the possession game with 19 turnovers to 13 for Atlanta, and 17 offensive boards to 18 for the Dream.

Still the Lynx won the game on the inside as Moore and Brunson combined for 38 points and 30 boards. But Atlanta guards McCoughtry and Lindsay Harding outscored Seimone and Lindsay from the backcourt 53-27. In a statistical oddity, each of the Lynx' 5 starters shot the ball 13 times from the floor.

The Lynx move to 23-4, 3 games ahead overall and 4 within the division in the battle for homecourt in the playoffs. But 6 of the Lynx' final 7 games are on the road including 2 at San Antonio and 1 at L.A. A 3-4 finish would not be a surprise. San Antone gets 6 of 8 at home with road games only at lowly Seattle and Tulsa (18-35 between them), while L.A. get 4 of 6 (and all of its last 4 games) at home with an eastern swing to Washington and New York (a combined 16-40). San Antone could easily go 7-1 and L.A. 6-0 down the stretch.

If that happened:

Minnesota 3-4 finishes 26-8
San Antone 7-1/23-11
L.A. 6-0/25-9

Connecticut, meanwhile, gets 4 of 7 at home, but lost to Phoenix at home last night to drop to 20-8. A 5-1 finish is not unlikely, which gets 'em to 25-9.

So I still think the Lynx will get home court throughout the playoffs, despite a tough finish to the regular season. But it could be a close call.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lynx Find the Secret of Laugher vs. L.A. Sparks

The Minnesota Lynx discovered the secret to beating the L.A. Sparks Tuesday night at Target Center. All you gotta do is hold all-world post Candace Parker to 6 points on 3-of-8 shooting with 6 boards and 5 turnovers.

It only adds to the fun, then, if L.A.'s other all-star, point guard Kristi Tolliver, scores 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting while comitting 6 turnovers.

And, thank goodness, because Parker and Tolliver's teammates played plenty well enough to win with an average amount of help (which would mean about 37 points per game) from the two.  Parker and Tolliver shot 4-for-15 (27 percent) while the rest of the Sparks shot a solid 26-for-47 (55 percent).

Meanwhile, the Lynx hit 10-of-their-1st-14 shots to take an early 20-10 lead, but the Sparks stormed back to within 20-19, then took a 26-24 lead in the 2nd period. But that, and 2-0, were their only leads of the night as the Lynx took leads of 41-37 at the half, 66-55 after 3, and 88-71 in the late going. The final was 88-77.

Chalk most of that up to Maya Moore who scored 23 points with 9 boards. She shot 9-of-18 while her teammates were just 23-of-58 (40 percent). But more than her scoring was Moore's defense. 7 of the Lynx' 11 steals were hers, and those steals led to perhaps as many as 7 or 8 breakaway layups, and those easy buckets were ultimately the difference in the score.

The Lynx, in other words, were outshot 46 percent to 42, but got off 14 more FGA than the Sparks.

Still, the game did not feel like it was over until we got inside of 3 minuites. Aussie Jenna O'Hea hit 4-of-5 3s including a pair in the 4th quarter that got L.A. within 66-60 at 8:51 and 79-69 at 4:50. Parker followed with a finger roll and it was 79-71 at 4:23.

But the Lynx responded with a Lindsay Whalen 2 + 1, a 3 by Seimone Augustus, and another Whalen layup off Moore's 7th and final steal and, at 87-71 at 2:54, now it was over.

Augustus matched Moore's 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, while Whalen and Candace Wiggins added 12 and 10. Augustus also was the primary defender versus Tolliver, while Mama Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored just 4 points but added 8 boards and 5 assists and she was the primary defender on Parker.

The Lynx bench contributed 19 points, but was out-scored again, 32-19. Once a strength for this team, the bench has not looked good at all since the Olympics. But Wiggins had a nice game, and Amber Harris added 6 points. Still, the bench looked like it was just holding on until the starters got rested and got back into the lineup.

But make no mistake. This was a tremendously physical game and the Lynx gave better than they got. The Lynx absolutely positively play the game very, very hard and at a high rate of speed. If you wanna beat the Lynx, you've got little choice but to try to shut down both Moore and Augustus, and that's a mighty challenge.

Still, this was an almost perfect effort from the Lynx, especially by their oft-maligned defense. As a result, the Lynx are now 4 games ahead of L.A. in the race for home court advantage in the playoffs within the division, and they're 3 games ahead of Connecticut overall. Good thing, too, as 6 of their remaining 8 games are on the road including 2 at San Antone and 1 at L.A. Next up: Atlanta at home this Friday at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

100 Years Ago Today

100 years ago today it was of course early in the fall 1912-1913 school year. No one alive at the time can have anticipated that the most momentous basketball season in Minnesota history was about to unfold.

The Minnesota Gophers

The season opened with the Minnesota Gophers' earliest practice sessions ever on December 1. But no amount of practice could hide the fact of Coach Louis J. Cooke's worst team. It had lost the services of its entire starting 5 including Frank Lawler, the Gophers' only Big Ten scoring champion before 1967 and voted as late as 1950 as the greatest Gopher ever.

The Gophers started out 2-1 and 3-3 with wins at Purdue and Iowa in the Big Ten. But forward Dobie Stadsvold was lost to a leg injury at mid-season and Minnesota lost its last 5, including home games with the two Big Ten teams it had already defeated. The Gophers' official record book shows them finishing up at 3-8. But counting 2 games against Hamline, including an embarrassing 30-15 loss, I see Minnesota winning 4 and losing 9.

The biggest news was not the team's inept performance, however, it was a decision by the U to ban the suggestive new dance, the tango, from the Gophers' traditional post-game dance. Between the losing record and the ban on the tango, attendance (and revenues) plummeted to the point where the very survival of the program seemed in doubt. As a result, the basketball program was for the first time allocated supplemental funding out of student activity fees.

Senior Men's Ball

With the Gophers down, the best team in Minnesota was probably whomever Lawler was playing for on any given day. Mostly that was a group of U alumni who called themselves the Ineligibles, but he also played for the Minneapolis militia, Company F, and north Minneapolis' Ascension Church.

When the Duluth Boat Club led by Bunk Harris, also star of the Duluth Central high school team, finished its season with a 9-1 record, it wanted the opportunity to play for a state championship. So it invited the Ineligibles, Company F, the Ascensions and others to Duluth for a tournament. All declined and, with their incestuous and interlocking rosters, could hardly have played in the same tournament anyway.

There's no reason to think the Boat Club could have stayed with any of them. Duluth's one loss was to the Shamrock Club of Superior, WI. On a late January visit to the Twin Cities, the Shamrocks were demolished by the Ascensions 58-17 and also lost to St. Joseph's Church 19-11.

Duluth Central Takes 3rd in the Nation

But Harris, on the other hand, was almost surely the best high school player in Minnesota, and Duluth Central the best high school team--better than Fosston's state champions. Central declined to play in the 1st state high school tournament, traveling to Chicago for the national high school tournament instead. There they beat the high school legends from Crawfordsville, IN, 34-16 as Harris scored 16 points. Central lost to the host team from Evanston, IL, 37-23 in a semi-final, then defeated Canton, OH, 27-11, for 3rd place against vastly tougher competition than that faced by Fosston in Northfield.

Small College Ball Takes Off

Meanwhile, small college ball took a giant step forward with the founding of the MCC, forerunner of the MIAC. Hamline won its 1st of 3 straight MCC titles, while Carleton embarked on a program that would make them the dominant small college basketball power within 3 years. But for the time being, Hamline's champions were led by "Slip" Little and Grant Jacobson, both of whom had played for the mythical state high school champions of 1911 from Madison, MN.

But the caliber of ball in the small colleges was as of yet quite weak, as evidence by a January game between the St. Paul and Winona YMCAs. Winona won easily 51-30 as Parr, still just a junior at Winona High School, scored 32 points. Jacobson scored 16 for St. Paul.

An "Excessive Desire to Win"

But, all of this action took place against a backdrop that troubled advocates of amateur athletics.

George B. Aiton, Minnesota's Inspector of State High Schools, had commented as early as 1901 about what he characterized as an "excessive desire to win.... All athletic contests should be generous and free-hearted. The general desire should be for good work on both sides.... Visiting teams should be...greeted generously.... Contests should be an exchange of courtesies, never of jeers."

Harvard Dean LeBaron Briggs said in December 1912: "Coaches, in their eagerness to win, need constant watching; players here and there make you ashamed of and for them; but Harvard is get rid of unsportsmanlike conduct (and) dirty play...."

Now, on the very day of the Gophers' 1st practice of the 1912-1913 season, came word that Michigan had been expelled from the Big Nine (later the Big Ten). The conference had decreed that athletics must be entirely under the control of the faculty. Michigan's athletic board was made up of only half faculty, and half of students and alumni. The Wolverines would only return to the Big Ten in 1918.

Then on January 25, 1913, the Jim Thorpe affair burst into the open. Thorpe--American Indian, football and track star, winner of the 1912 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, the world's greatest athlete--was charged with accepting payment for playing summer baseball in 1911. Four days later, his amateur status was declared forfeit and he was stripped of his gold medal.

Summer baseball had bedeviled college administrators for years, and just one month before the Thorpe case became public the NCAA had proposed that "no college baseball player should play on a summer team." George Huff, athletic director at Illinois, responded, "Rules make liars...not amateurs."

Professor Alexander Meikleljohn, president of Amherst College, characterized college athletes as "intellectually knock-kneed, spavined, toeing in and stumbling over themselves academically."

Eligibility was a concern at all levels. Were the student-athletes representing the educational institutions--both high schools and colleges--indeed students, or athletes only? Were they making normal progress toward a diploma or degree? Did they have the intelligence, the knowledge, the skills to earn a diploma or degree? Or, were they mercenaries, hired guns whose job it was to form winning athletic teams?

Like Jim Thorpe, were they being paid? High schooler Bunk Harris--and many other high school student-athletes--played senior men's ball, and might just as easily have been paid to do so as not. Now that they thought of it, secondary educators wondered, were they being paid to play for their high school?

Basketball had been invented in 1891 by Dr. James A. Naismith, an instructor at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, MA. The game had been aggressively marketed by the YMCA's as offering mental, moral, spiritual and ethical, as well as purely physical improvement, among young Americans. It built character, in short.

The Y's had long since ceased being the game's primary promoters and rules-makers, ceding those roles to the colleges. By 1915 the Ys threw in the towel. Their game had now been found to build bad character rather than good. The Ys withdrew from any and all roles in the governance of the game.

Fred B. Hill and Carleton College

It was against this backdrop that the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournament was founded at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, the first such tournament being staged on April 1 through the 4th, 1913.

Carleton was in fact a hotbed of YMCA activity, including the athletics. Carleton Prof. Dean Weigle spoke to the Minnesota statewide YMCA conference on the subject of "Christianizing the World" little more than a month after the first basketball tournament. Weigle was also president of the Minnesota Education Association, whose annual meeting had been held at Carleton the previous December. They keynote speaker was Dr. Luther Gulick, in 1912-1913 the executive director of the Russell Sage Foundation, but in 1891 director of the YMCA School in Springfield. It had been Gulick who assigned Naismith to create a game for use in keeping people active and fit indoors during the winter season.

Rev. and Prof. Fred B. Hill was a Carleton grad, class of 1895, and was remembered as pitcher on Carleton's baseball team of that time. AFter graduation, he went out east, to the Harttford Theological Seminary, where he was ordained as a minister of the Congregational Church in 1903. While there, he also wooed and won the hand of one of America's wealthiest heiresses, Deborah Sayles. He returned to Carleton with his wife as Professor of Biblical Literature in 1907.

Soon after, Edward J. Cowling also came to Carleton as its new president with a focus of raising money to support the college's educational mission. The Hills bought Cowling a house, and they bought him a lifetime membership in the Minneapolis Club, which became the base of operations for Cowling's fund-raising. It would one day be the oldest existing membership to the club.

In 1907, the Hills announced that they would fund the construction of a gymnasium on the Carleton campus. It was dedicated in 1910 with the name Sayles-Hill Gymnasium not Fred and Deborah but in their parent's names. It was at the time the finest facility for a game of basketball in the state of Minnesota. Carleton hired its first faculty coach and athletic director, Maury Kent. This also marked the year in which the school's football, baseball and basketball teams became a permanent feature.

Rev. Hill was named chairman of the faculty committee on athletics.

In January 1913 it was announced that Prof. Leal Headley would give a series of lectures about Carleton at various Minnesota high schools. His objective would be to bring more young men to campus. Carleton's enrollment was about two-thirds women. The school desired to have "a substantial equilibrium of the sexes which characterizes a normal, well-ordered community." It was also observed that Headley's recruiting efforts might help enhance the quality of Carleton's athletic teams.

It was just two weeks later that the idea of a high school basketball tournament at Carleton was first broached. We now know that Hill had been approached by his former baseball teammate, Carleton grad W.H. Hollands, now school superintendent at Stillwater, MN. Stillwater had a crack basketball team, and Hollands was sure it was the best in the state. So he suggested to Hill that Carleton host a high school tournament.

Hill thought it a terrific idea, and announced that he would personally pay the travel expenses of the participating teams, so that no otherwise worthy team would be precluded from participating by the cost. With a man of Hill's stature advancing the idea, the Carleton administration quickly fell in line, and the tournament was held April 1-4, 1913, at the Sayles-Hill Gym.

A banquet was held on Thursday night to honor the participating team, after which it was decided that a committee should be formed to assure that there would be a tournament again in 1914 and beyond. The assembled administrators elected Hill as its chair. Three years later the committee took the name of the Minnesota High School Athletic Association, and it is this group that the Minnesota State High School League cites as its predecessor. Hill, thus, was the 1st presiding officer over what would one day become the MSHSL.

The committee quickly established eligibility rules for student-athletes, and limited tournament participants to no more than 2 games against non-member schools. If a school wanted to play in the committee's tournament, it would play by the committee's rules. Suddenly there was a mechanism whereby the behavior of the schools and their representatives (the athletes, the coaches, the administrators, etc.) could be controlled or at least influenced. Teams and individual student-athletes were disqualified from tournament participation in 1915 and 1917.

The Aftermath

By 1935 the tournament had long since removed to the Twin Cities and for the 1st time crowds of more than 10,000 people came out to see the Saturday night finals. The tournament suddenly had achieved a cachet such that Minnesotans wanted to know something of the tournament's history. It was in this environment that Claude J. Hunt was 1st identified as the tournament's founder.

Hunt had succeeded Kent as Carleton's athletic director, and it was Hunt who led the football team to its greatest glory, a 24-0 record in his 1st 4 years and an average margin of victory of 49-1. In 1916 Carleton defeated Chicago of the Big Ten, 7-0. Carleton basketball under Hunt also won its 1st 3 MIAC titles. Hunt retired as Carleton AD in 1931, becoming publisher of the Faribault Daily News.

With a modicum of research, it is easy (and would have been easy in 1935) to ascertain that Hunt was not yet a member of the Carleton faculty, had not yet arrived in Northfield from his native Indiana, in 1913. Yet, in 1957 and again in 1963, Hunt was introduced to state tournament crowds in half-time celebrations as the "founder" and "father" of the tournament, and was even given a plaque that identified him as such.

Hill--the true founder of the tournament--meanwhile, had died in the influenza epidemic of 1919. He had just returned from an assignment to the war zone in Europe, where he observed the conditions of the fighting men for the American YMCAs. His objective was to identify ways in which the Ys could support America's troops overseas. Upon Hill's death, the Northfield News wrote, "Mr. Hill had made himself such an important servant of the community, had given so generously of himself and his means to every worthy cause that made life more worthwhile in the Northfield community, that to carry on without him will be difficult indeed."

It seems likely that the high school athletic establishment simply wanted a living hero in 1935 and Hunt obliged them.

1912-1913 In Summary

All-State Team

Frank Lawler, the Ineligibles, Company F, the Ascensions--Player of the Year

"Bunk" Harris, Duluth Central, Duluth Boat Club
Ralph Movold, Fosston High School
"Slip" Little, Hamline College
R. M. Rosenwald, the Ineligibles, Company F, the Ascensions

Fred Chicken, the Ascensions, Company F
Fred Nord, St. Joseph's, Company F
Francis J. "Dobie" Stadsvold, Minnesota
Al Rehder, Red  Wing Company L
Peter Guenther, Mountain Lake High School

Curt Timm, Planview High School, Plainview AA
"Bee" Lawler, Minnesota
Will Sheehan, Luverne High School
Parr, Winona High School, Winona YMCA
Grant Jacobson, Hamline College, St. Paul YMCA

Team of the Year

1. Fosston High School 14-1, 1st Minnesota State High School champion

2. Duluth Central High School, 3rd place in national high school tournament
3. The Ineligibles
4. Company F
5. The Ascensions
6. Hopkins Athletic Club
7. Chaska
8. Hamline College
9. St. Joseph's Church
10. Red Wing Company G

Coach of the Year

Rev. Fred B. Hill, Carleton College, founded the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournament

Game of the Year

1. Fosston High School 29 Mountain Lake 27, state high school tournament final

2. Duluth Central 34 Crawfordsville, IN 16
3. The Ascensions 46 Fond du Lac, WI, Company E 27

4. Fond du Lac, WI, Company E 35 St. Joseph's 34
5. Winona YMCA 51 St. Paul YMCA 30

6. St. Joseph's 16 The Ineligibles 15
7. Chaska 23 Fond du Lac, WI, Company E 20
8. Mountain Lake High School 31 Stillwater 24
9. Luverne High School 26 Mankato 22
10. Hopkins Athletic Club 43 The Ascensions 28

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

25-50-75 Years Ago

The times they area-changin'. Looking back on Minnesota basketball, and basketball in general, from 2012-2013, well, change is what it's all about.

In 1938, the center jump after every basket had just been abolished. You could no longer aspire to control the ball throughout the game and to shut out your opponents. From now on, you'd have to score some points.

In 1963, the solution to scoring some points came down to the low post, the "J" and the fast break.

By 1988, the 3-point shot was in place, though the modern transition game hadn't yet been fully formed. Meanwhile, girls and women's ball continued to gather steam.


The center jump was gone but that's not to say anybody had figured out what it meant. What I wrote above, well, that's the way things went over the next, well, 25 years, by which time the low post, the "J" and the fast break were in place.

In 1938 a lot of teams went about business as usual. The Minnesota Gophers under coach Dave MacMillan played ball control basketball par excellence. And after some down years, it had finally paid off in a Big 10 title in 1937 (10-2, 14-6). And the 1938 team had both All-America guard Marty Rolek and leading scorer John Kundla back. An early win over highly regarded Long Island U. at Madison Square Garden 56-41 put the Gophers on the national map.

But a 1-4 stretch included losses in the 1st 3 conference games, and even a 9-game winning streak to close the season did not enable Minnesota to catch up to 1st place Purdue. The Gophers finished 9th in the conference in scoring ahead only of last-place Chicago, but the Gophers were 1st in the Big 10 in defense. Rolek repeated as All-American.

Just for the record, the 1938-1939 Gophers won their 1st 10 conference games for a 19-game conference winning streak, but they lost 5 of 9 down the stretch.

The high school tournament final was also a low-scoring affair as Thief River Falls won its 2nd title of the decade 31-29 over Minneapolis North. In 1932 Thief had finished up with the best record in Minnesota high school history at 23-0. Now they did the same thing at 28-0.

Elsewhere Hamline (for the 6th time in 7 years) and Winona Teachers won the MIAC and Northern titles, and the Rock Spring Sparklers and All Saints Church were the best senior men's teams.

Player of the Year--Marty Rolek, Minnesota Gophers
Coach of the Year--Dave MacMillan, Minnesota Gophers
Team of the Year--Minnesota Gophers
Game of the Year--Minnesota Gophers 56 Long Island U. 41


Scoring was at or near an all-time high in high school, college and pro ball about this time. Yet, Bloomington came into the state high school tournament as the favorite based on its status as "the best defensive team ever." Well, the best defensive team ever lost to Cloquet in a huge 1st round upset 87-67. Cloquet, behind Mike Forrest and Dave Meisner, scored another 87 in the semi, and went into the final against Marshall as the prohibitive favorite.

Instead Marshall upset the Lumberjacks 75-74 in what many still call the greatest state final of them all. It just goes to show you that a run 'n gun, fast-breaking team simply cannot put three games together at the state tournament. The supportive evidence includes Lynd 1946 and Wabasso 1997.

Augsburg, led by 6-9 Dan Anderson, won the MIAC and the NAIA district title for the 2nd of 3 straight times, and became one of the few Minnesota teams since Hamline's 1951 national champions to win 2 games at the NAIA tournament.

The Minnesota Gophers went 8-6, 12-12.

Player of the Year--Dan Anderson, Augsburg
Coach of the Year--Glenn Mattke, Marshall
Team of the Year--Marshall
Game of the Year--Marshall 75 Cloquet 74


Jessica Beachy and Concordia (Moorhead) put women's basketball in Minnesota on the map with a 65-57 win over St. John Fisher to claim the NCAA D3 national championship with a 31-1 record.

Meanwhile, Rocori, DeLaSalle, Edina and Tracy-Milroy won a series of 4 lackluster state high school finals.

And the Minnesota Gophers went (women) 5-13/9-19 and then men 4-14/10-18.

Player of the Year--Jessica Beachy, Concordia (Moorhead) women
Coach of the Year--Duane Siverson, Concordia (Moorhead) women
Team of the Year--Concordia (Moorhead) women
Game of the Year--Concordia (Moorhead) 65 St. John Fisher 57

Summary: The Best of 1913-1938-1963-1988-2013

Top Players 

1. Marty Rolek, Minnesota Gophers 1938
2. Jessica Beachy, Concordia (Moorhead) 1988
3. Dan Anderson, Augsburg 1963
4. Nia Coffey, Hopkins 2013
5. Frank Lawler, The Ineligibles 1913

Top Coaches/Administrators

1. Fred B. Hill, Carleton College 1913, founded state high school tournament
2. Dave MacMillan, Minnesota 1938
3. Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins 2013, likely 3rd straight state title
4. Duane Sivertson, Concordia (Moorhead) 1988
5. Joe Hutton, Hamline 1938

Best Teams

1. Concordia (Moorhead) 1988 (31-1)
2. Hopkins girls 2013, likely 3-peat
3. Fosston 1913
4. Minnesota Gophers (16-4) 1938
5. Marshall 1963

Best Games  

1. Marshall 75 Cloquet 74 1963
2. Fosston 29 Mountain Lake 27 1913
3. Concordia (Moorhead) 65 St. John Fisher 57
4. Thief River Falls 31 Mpls. North 29 1938
5. Augsburg 56 St. Cloud State 55 1963

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lynx Point Toward San Antone, L.A.

The Lynx returned to action this week after a 6-week layoff for the Olympics--or, rather, for 6 weeks of Olympic basketball in the case of Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen. 2 easy wins have the Lynx thinking again about home court advantage and about defending their WNBA title.At 17-4, the Lynx have now clinched a spot in the playoffs, the earliest they have ever done so.

But the victims were Washington 98-69 and Tulsa 83-59 with a combined record of 8 wins and 33 losses.

Better tests will follow this week at Seattle and Atlanta, both 10-11. Seattle remains without Lauren Jackson, former WNBA MVP who is still with the Australian national team, and lost to the L.A. Sparks 82-71 at home in their return to WNBA action. Atlanta has its Olympians, Angel McCoughtrey and Erica de Souza of Brazil, back but lost at Indiana 86-72 last night. The Lynx should win these games, even on the road.

That gets the Lynx to San Antone at home on Tuesday, July 28, by which time the Lynx could be 19-4 and the Stars 17-6 (with a loss at L.A. this Thursday).

A week later on Tuesday, August 4, L.A. comes to town. By now the Lynx could be 21-4 and L.A. 21-6. 

Then the schedule gets tough. The Lynx finish with 6 of their last 7 games on the road, 2 at San Antone,  1 at L.A.  and home court advantage in the playoffs on the line. Right now a 25-9 finish seems likely. L.A. finishes with 4 home games and appears destined to finish in the 27-7 range. For the Stars, a win over the Lynx at home on the last day of the season could mean a 26-8 record, and could send the Lynx on to the road even for the conference semis. That is how tough this Western Division is. Road wins at L.A. and San Antone may be necessary for the Lynx to get home court advantage in the playoffs.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lynx Dodge a Bullet

The Minnesota Lynx stayed unbeaten since the Olympics break with a harrowing overtime win over the San Antonio Silver Stars at Target Center Tuesday night.

Lindsay Whalen scored off the opening tap of the OT period and the Lynx went on to score the 1st 10 points of OT to lead 89-79 at 2:35. Whalen finished with 8 points and 2 assists in OT among her 15 points and 8 assists for the night.

The Lynx squandered a 71-62 lead with 5:44 to go. Jia Perkins gave San Antone their 1st lead of the 4th quarter 78-77 with a 3 ball, and Jayne Appel added a FT. Maya Moore answered to tie it up with a 2 at 1:07, and the Lynx sweated out 2 misses by Becky Hammon in the final seconds.

The Lynx got 19 offensive boards on the night to the Stars' 7. Rebekkah Brunson got 5 of those and a total of 20 boards to go with 17 points. The Lynx out-shot San Antone 44 percent to 42, but after 4 quarters it was San Antone 43 percent Minnesota 39. The Lynx made 7-of-9 in OT, San Antone just 1-of-6.

Seimone Augustus and Taj McWilliams-Franklin each scored 19. All 5 Lynx starters were in double figures, but San Antonio's bench out-scored the Lynx' 35-12.

The Lynx go to a league-best 20-4, San Antone drops to 17-7. But in splitting in their last 2 games, including taking the Lynx to OT at the Target Center, the Silver Stars showed themselves to be a solid contender in the WNBA West.

Can Lynx Repeat?

The MN Lynx open the 2nd half of the 2012 season as the defending champions of the WNBA, with the best record in the league to date, and with questions, questions, questions! There was a league-record 10-0 start, then a stellar 13-1 record after 14 games, just 1 win short of the league record for a 1-loss start to a season. But then came 3 straight losses (before a pair or wins), and suddenly the sky was falling! Or, was it?

Well, the Lynx finished up the pre-Olympic schedule with 2 more wins, albeit against the hapless Tulsa Shock. But then came the Olympics in which the Lynx and only the Lynx had 3 players--Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen--and all 3 have performed very well for Team USA. Moore has been steady especially in adding some rebounds and assists to her point total. Whalen led the team in scoring in the pre-Olympic exhibition season at 11 ppg, and provided a lift in a late 3rd quarter-early 4th quarter run in which the U.S. finally took control against a scrappy Croatian team.

So those 3 losses have been...well, no, they haven't been forgotten and Lynx fans worry about the following.


1. Is the inside defense tough enough? In all 3 of those shocking July losses, the Lynx got torched by posts Sophia Young, Candace Parker and Tina Charles. Of course, doesn't everyone. But clearly these are 3 posts the Lynx are probably going to have to face and defeat in order to repeat as WNBA champs. And Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault was quoted as saying, after his team surprised the Lynx at the Target Center, that "we thought we could go at Taj," and so they did.

It didn't help that Rebekah Brunson was hurting that night and finished with 3 points in 18 minutes while the Lynx were out-rebounded 48-38. But, overall, the Lynx are getting about 11 offensive rebounds to 10 for their opponents, where a year ago the edge was 11-8.

It also didn't help that rookie Devereaux Peters missed that game with a broken hand. She has played more and better than anybody had a right to expect, scoring 5 points with 3 boards in 13 minutes. Likewise, back-up post Jessica Adair, with her 3.5 points and 2 boards, was out after knee surgery.

But as the injuries get healed and/or sorted out, the question remains, Are the Lynx tough enough to handle the league's elite posts? The jury is pretty clearly out on that one as it relates to taking on elite players like Young and Parker and Charles

2. Can the Lynx make and/or stop the 3-ball? Surprisingly, the Lynx are shooting 42 percent and their opponents only 34 on the 3-ball. But the fact is that the 3-game losing streak was caused by the 3-ball more than anything else. Consider:

• San Antone made 13 3s and shot 52 percent. Minnesota shot 50 but only made 5. Becky Hammon, whom Lindsay Whalen usually handles with aplomb, hit 7-of-13 and scored 23 points. Hammon was +9, Whalen was -15.

• Kristi Tolliver of LA made an insane 6-of-6 3s and scored 29 points. The Sparks made 50 percent of their 3s, overall, the Lynx 35 percent. Whalen was -7.

• Connecticut's Kara Lawson made 3-of-7 3s and scored 22 points. Lawson was +13 while Whalen was -13.

3. What is wrong with Lindsay Whalen? As noted above, Hammon, Tolliver and Lawson ate her up. Lindsay scored 29 points with 12 assists in the 3 losses and was a cumulative -35.

For the year her minutes are down from 28 to 26 anther scoring is down from 13 ppg to 11. Her assists are down from 6 to 5. She is shooting about the same at a solid 51 percent. So she is having almost the same season, statistically. But last year she was the Lynx' best player. This year that's clearly not been the case. Her back-up, Candace Wiggins, has been better in several games down the stretch to the Olympic lay-off.

If she's tired, she's going to come back even more tired versus several 1s, including Hammon and Tolliver and Lawson, who aren't playing in the Olympic games, whereas Lindsay is.

Still, that one would even ask the question, What's wrong with Lindsay?, is based on the assumption that she can and should be playing at a very, very high level. Hey, she's Lindsay! So let's put it this way. How high of a level will Lindsay be at after the Olympic break? MVP level? All-Star level? Or something less? Clearly the Lynx need more than a "minus" performance from Lindsay to repeat as WNBA champs.

4. Will the real Maya Moore please stand up? Overall, Maya seems to be just about the same player she was as a rookie, deferring to the more veteran players. Her scoring is up from 13 ppg to 15, her rebounds down from 5 to 4, her shooting up from 44 to 46 percent, and her minutes steady at 28. A good journeyman performance, especially when you consider her youth and the caliber of veterans that she is deferring to.

But at times--and with increasing frequency--she's been the Lynx' best player. She scored an average of 26 points with 8 boards in the 2 Tulsa wins to close the 1st half of the season. But she had disappeared in the San Antonio loss with just 4 points.

Maya has been in the league long enough and has the obvious talent that she can begin dominating if she puts her mind to it. And if Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen are going to struggle a bit more than they have in the past (i.e. 2011), then Moore has to assert herself more than she's done so far.

5. Can the Lynx repeat? Well, of course they can. But will they!

If comes down to match-ups. And as well as the San Antonio Silver Stars are playing the year--and as well as they played versus the Lynx on Sunday, July 1--they don't concern me half as much as the LA Sparks. The Sparks with the WNBA's best player in Candace Parker have the potential to be a powerhouse by the end of this year.

• In the post there's Parker with 19 points and 10 boards per game.
• At the big forward spot you've got rookie Nneka Ogwumike, already contributing 14 points, 7.5 boards and 51 percent shooting.
• At the small forward, Delisha Milton-Jones is at a respectable 10 points and 5 boards.
• Point guard Kristi Tolliver is coming into her own, increasing her scoring from 8 to 9 to 11 and now to 17 ppg with 5 assists, almost twice her career average.
• Veteran guard Alana Beard adds 9.5 points but shoots just 37 percent.
• The bench is a little thin with only Marissa Coleman and Jantel Lavender making a significant contribution, but Coleman is shooting just 30 percent.

Then there's Connecticut with MVP candidate, center Tina Charles at 19 points and 11 boards. Still, I prefer Parker, and Parker's supporting cast is better.

But can the Lynx beat the Sparks in the playoffs? Well, home court advantage could be crucial. Right now the Lynx are 15-4, San Antone is 13-5 and LA is 15-6 in the West. Connecticut is also 15-4 and leads the East.

But can the Lynx repeat? Sure they can.

• The Lynx are out-shooting their opponents by a ridiculous 49 percent to 39 percent, out-rebounding them 37-31, and out-scoring them by 12 points (87-75).
• Connecticut is our-shooting opponents only 44-43 percent, and the rebounds are even at 25. That doesn't sound like a league champion to me.
• San Antone is at 45 percent versus 43, and is being out-rebounded 33 to 35. Ditto.
• Which leaves LA, already defined as the toughest threat. They're at 44 percent to 42 percent for their opponents, and the rebounds are 38-34. Their margin of victory is just 82.5-79.

So, sure, the Lynx can repeat. All it should take is doing the things they've done--out-shoot and out-rebound the opposition--while also shoring up the inside D, making more and denying more 3s, and getting Lindsay and Maya consistently untracked.

So, finally, will the Lynx repeat? Against the field, yeah. But against the LA Sparks in the Western Division finals, it will come down to holding on to the post-season home court advantage and making Candace Parker play like somebody other than the best player in the league. That will be a tall order.

Gophers Girls Guard Glut

It seems like only yesterday that Pam Borton's Gopher women had a serious lack of depth at the guard slot. Barring injuries, no more. Here are the guards on the 2012-2013 roster and verbally committed in future years.

Senior--Leah Cotton
Junior--Sari Noga
Sophomore--Rachel Banham, Alex Ionescu
Freshman--Mikayla Bailey, Shayne Mullaney

2013--Joanna Hedstrom
2014--Kenisha Bell, Grace Coughlin

At this rate, the 2014-2015 Gophers will have 7 guards and barely enough roster slots for everybody else. Not only that, but a few highly recruited guards remain in the pool, uncommitted--girls whom the Gophers badly want to recruit and would welcome with open arms.

2013--Rebekah Dahlman
2014--Carlie Wagner
2015--T.T. Starks, Viria Livingston, Maddie Guebert, Kanani Ascuncion
2016--Nia Hollie, Taylor Koenen
2017--Cecile Keiger

But the question is quality, not quantity.


Rachel Banham took Gopher Nation by storm as a freshman last year, earning freshman all-America first team honors as well as Big Ten freshman of the year. Her 1st season ranks 7th on the Gophers all-time single season scoring list, and she ranks 8th in field goals, 3rd in field goal attempts, 5th in 3-point shooting percentage, 5th in free throw percentage and even 7th in defensive rebounds.

It's difficult to see much improvement of a purely individual statistical nature. Where improvement is needed, and anticipated, is in her team's 19-17 won-lost record (15-17 regular season, 6-10 regular season Big 10). And such an improvement would surely mean better movement on offense--ball movement, player movement without the ball, etc.

The Gophers last year out-shot their opponents 42 percent to 37.5 (35-33 percent on 3-pointers and 74-67 percent from the free throw line). They out-rebounded their opponents 41-36 (though only 14-13 on the offensive glass). But they averaged 11 assists and 17 turnovers, a truly horrifying ratio. Opponents averaged 13 assists and 16 turnovers.

The fact is that Banham is a score-first, pass-second point guard who had 17 more turnovers than assists. When the Gophers scored their biggest win of last season over Ohio State at Williams Arena, it was Kiara Buford handling the ball for long stretches of the game.

So how to deploy Rachel Banham is an open question. Leah Cotton, the senior, is probably the 1st option as a running mate, though her 35 percent shooting and propensity for turnovers is a problem. As a practical matter, that leaves freshmen Mikayla Bailey and Shayne Mullaney as possibilities. My personal opinion is that Mullaney is a better ball-handler and passer than Banham. I would give her the ball and play Banham at the 2 spot and see what happens.


Leah Cotton moves on, while Joanna Hedstrom moves in. But, of course, until Rebekah Dahlman decides where to play will be the big news. If she decides to become a Gopher, she moves into the starting lineup with Banham in a heartbeat. If not, Mullaney remains the best option unless she has proven otherwise in 2013. I don't really expect that Mikayla Bailey and Joanna Hedstrom are Big 10 caliber players. So, yeah, actually, depth remains a bit of a problem. Unless, that is, Dahlman is on board.


Kenisha Bell and Grace Coughlin are in, Sari Noga is out. But, again, the really big news will be whether Carlie Wagner is coming to the Barn or not. Though, frankly, even if she does, the starting lineup remains what it was last year--Banham running with either Dahlman or Mullaney. One or more of the freshmen could redshirt and depth would not be a problem. That is, if Dahlman and Wagner are on board. If not, then Kenisha Bell is pressed into service as a freshman.

The pecking order in other words is Dahlman, Mullaney, Wagner, Bell, Hedstrom, Coughlin and Bailey. The real question, if Dahlman becomes a Gopher, is whether she will be better than Banham.


Banham is gone. The starting lineup from among those already committed to Minnesota is Mullaney and Bell.  Or, better yet, it's Dahlman and Wagner.

And, best of all would be Dahlman and Wagner with two of the following four incoming freshmen--T.T. Starks, Maddie Guebert, Viria Livingston and Kanani Ascuncion--setting Minnesota up for the future.

2016-2017 and Beyond

OK, too hard to project out any farther than this.

But in summary the question, again, is quality not quantity. In the short-term, is there a running mate to help the Gophers capitalize on the Rachel Banham era? Cotton? Noga? Mullaney? Who?

And longer-term is there a solid Big Ten caliber guard to succeed Banham after she's gone?

Despite the depth of guards that Pam Borton has already recruited, Rebekah Dahlman and Carlie Wagner remain the keys to the Gophers' recruiting success at the guard position.