Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lynx Go for 2 Out of 3

Winning is tough. I mean, winning consistently, over the long term. Just about the time somebody is pronouncing somebody as a dynasty, poof. "Now that you've found it, it's gone. Now that you feel it, you don't. So don't get any big ideas. They're not gonna happen."

So it is with the Minnesota Lynx, I fear. They had their moment, or moments. An unexpected WNBA title in 2011. An unexpected loss in the 2012 finals. "Now that you've found it, it's gone."

And so for 2013. "Don't get any big ideas. They're not gonna happen."

Unless I'm taking the wrong lesson. Now that another title is unexpected, maybe now's the time. But here's the deal. 2 years ago, Lindsay Whalen was the Lynx' MVP. Last year it was Seimone Augustus. If the Lynx are going to contend for, much less win another WNBA title, it will be because it's Maya Moore's turn.

Maya Moore has more skills and more ability and more potential than Whalen or Augustus. Until that potential is realized, the Lynx are not going to repeat. Until all those skills coalesce into production, they'll be a good team, maybe a very good team, but not a great one. And if she waits too long, well, her supporting cast won't be there for her. This is the year, maybe next, for Maya to be the WNBA MVP that she once seemed destined to be--after that it will be Brittney Griner. This is the year for her to stop deferring and take charge.

That is the game plan for another title. Last year's game plan, even 2011's game plan, well, "Now that you've found it, it's gone."

The 1

It all starts with the 1--point guard--Lindsey Whalen. Don't get me wrong, Lindsey is still pretty indispensable to the Lynx' success. Ya gotta have a 1 these days. And Lindsey will certainly remain among top half of WNBA 1's, meaning she's 1 of the top 6, maybe still 1 of the top 4. I mean, last year she was 1 of just 4 1s with better than a 2-to-1 ratio of assists to turnovers.

Lindsey Whalen, MN 5.4 assists/2.1 turnovers = 2. 6 assists/turnover
Sue Bird, SEA 5.3/2.2 = 2.4
Kara Lawson, CT 4/1.8 = 2.2
Lindsey Harding, ATL 4.5/2.1 = 2.1

Only Lawson from this list returns. Bird is out with a knee. Harding has moved to L.A. where Kristi Toliver officially moves over to the 2.

And Becky Hamann (5.3 assists/3.2 turnovers) is out (injured) at San Antone. In the West you've also got Sam Prahalis (4.5/3.0) back in Phoenix and Skylar Diggins newly ensconced in Tulsa.

In the East, Jasmine Thomas (2.8/2/2) moves from Washington to Atlanta, Courtney Vandersloot (4.6/3.3) is back in Chicago, Briann January (3.9/2.4) is back in Indiana, and Cappie Pondexter (4.3/3.1) is back in New York.

And along with leading the 1s in assist/turnover ratio, the fact is that Lindsey is also the only 1 who shot 50 percent from the floor last year. Lawson shot 49 percent, Toliver 49, Bird 46, Hamann 44, Pondexter 43, Harding 42.... All-Star or not, Lindsey has to be the most underrated player in the WNBA.

And yet here I am, trying to underrate her. But the fact is she's 31 years old. Her scoring came down from 14 ppg to 12 last year, her assists from 6 to 5, her shooting percentage from 51 to 50.5. OK, that's splitting hairs. And even if Lindsey continues those trends, scoring 10 points with 4 assists, she'll still be 1 of the top 4 1s in the league.

And most importantly, how does she stack up against key opponents who they're likely to meet in the playoffs? That would be Harding, Prahalis, January and Lawson. And, frankly, while she didn't match up so well with January last August, I see that as a bit of a fluke. Lawson is the only 1 playing for a championship contender who has the potential to outplay Whalen this coming playoff season.

And, yet, overall, a bit of a decline seems inevitable to me.

The 2

Like Whalen, Seimone Augustus is a veteran, which is a double-edged sword. The question is whether she's a veteran in her prime or a veteran entering into a decline phase. Seimone increased her scoring last year from 16 points per game in 2011 to 17, but her shooting dropped from 50 percent to 48. You might infer that she's hit her peak, but it's tough from those numbers to infer that there will be a dropoff. Unlike Whalen, she's on the low side of 30, though at 29 years she's pretty close.

The bigger question would seem to be whether she's got the fire. The Indiana Fever doused her fire a little bit in last year's final, frustrating Seimone to the point that the effort didn't seem to be there the last game or 2. The fact is that Shavonte Zellous, who was only starting because Katie Douglas was hurt, ran rings around Seimone and her teammates.

How will she match up in the West--with, say, Alana Beard or Kristi Toliver of L.A? DeWanna Bonner or Diana Taurasi of Phoenix? Well, we'll have to see how Taurasi comes off of pretty much a lost injury year, and how Toliver does at a (somewhat) new position. Toliver's quickness (like Zellous') and/or Bonner's size figure to give Seimone a workout, while Beard and even Taurasi would seem to be better match-ups.

Here is a position, however, (unlike the 1) where the best of the West are at their best, so Seimone holding form would seem to be a pretty crucial requirement for the Lynx' continued success.

The 3

OK, here she is, Maya Moore, the key to continued success by the Minnesota Lynx. Sure, she's got a great supporting cast. But she's the young 'un of the group, just approaching her 24th birthday. She's the one who is still on the rise. Her scoring jumped from 13 as a rookie in 2011 to 16 last year. Her rebounds and assists each went up 1 and her shooting percentage went from 44 percent to 46. A similar increase this year would get her to 19 ppg, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 48 percent shooting. Nothing less will be needed to get the Lynx back to the winner's circle, in my opinion.

In the 21st century, she along with Taurasi, Augustus and Brittney Griner have won 2 college player of the year awards, and Connecticut teammates Sue Bird and Tina Charles did the same. Candace Parker probably had the greatest season any of them has had, however, winning college PoY honors and then WNBA MVP honors in the same year (2008). Taurasi and Charles have also won WNBA MVP awards. Maya is next in line, the next player regarded as having that sort of ability. But she's best make it happen now before Brittney Griner passes her by.

But of course she won't match up head-to-head with Griner or Taurasi or Tina Charles or Candace Parker. It seems that most of the top players are guards and centers. All the more reason why Maya should dominate most every night. Is Maya Moore going to be the best forward in the West, maybe in the WNBA, or isn't she? A title hinges on the answer to that question.

The 4

Rebekah Brunson is 31.5 years old. Her scoring the past 3 years was 11 points, then 10, then 11. Her rebounds were 10, then 9, and 9, and her shooting percentage was just 43, then 51, and 50.5 percent. In 2 pre-season games so far this year, she is at 10 and 8 and 47 percent in 5 fewer minutes than she played during the 2013 season. Can she keep it up? I think yes, but I also think that Devereaux Peters will be taking a few more minutes. Last year Brunson got 27, Peters 14. This year it will be more like 24 and 17. Peters shot 56 percent (5.5 percent better than Brunson, but Brunson had a rebound every 3 minutes versus Peters' 3.7 minutes). Still, here is 1 position where the next generation is pretty much ready to go.

For whatever reason, it looks like Brunson will match up with much tougher opponents than Maya Moore at the smaller forward position. In the West, Nneka Ogwumike of L.A. is the defending Rookie of the Year. As a rookie she scored 14 ppg on 53.5 percent shooting, compared with Moore's 13 and 44 as Rookie of the Year the previous year. Elsewhere there's Tamika Catchings of Indiana, playoff MVP a year ago, who lit up the Lynx with 22 ppg in the finals.

While Moore should dominate, Brunson will be successful if she holds her own against some of the other WNBA title contenders.

Then There's the 5 Spot

Taj has moved on and Shaq McCarville is back! Great things are expected of McCarville, who is after all a local legend after her time at the U of M with Lindsey Whalen during the glory years. But the fact is McCarville is just 6 months younger than Whalen--31.5 years old--and carrying around 215 pounds on her 6-2 frame can't have been an easy thing all these years. The fact is that Janel has taken the past 2 years off from WNBA play, though it's true that she played overseas in the winter. So what should one expect of Janel McCarville in 2013?

All we've really got to go by is 1 pre-season game. She played 1 and sat 1. She played 21 minutes, scored 4 points on 33 percent shooting, and had 1 (count 'em, 1) rebound, 1 assist and 2 steals.

If Janel doesn't work out? Amber Harris has scored 3.4 ppg on 40 percent shooting with 2 rebounds in 10 minutes of play over 2 years. Deveraux Peters scored 5.3 ppg on 56 percent shooting with 4 rebounds in 14 minutes as a rookie, but she is only 6-foot-2. Well, that's the same as Taj and Shaq, but of course she is 50 pounds lighter than Shaq. Brunson, 6-2 and 20 pounds heavier than Peters, could be a better back-up in the post with Peters moving in at the 4.

Frankly, this looks like a problem.

The Bench

We've already talked about Peters, who will be a solid WNBA player some day...maybe sooner than later.

Then there's Monica Wright, who is now a solid WNBA player. A 5-10 swing player, Monica has scored 8.5 ppg on 40 percent shooting over 3 years with the Lynx. Last year she scored 8.6 ppg on 46 percent shooting in 19 minutes per game. She is ready and will now take over the Candace Wiggins role as the #1 perimeter sub.

Amber Harris will get some minutes.

Then there are the rookies Rachel Jarry, Lindsay Moore and Sugar Rodgers. Jarry, a 21-year old, 6-1, forward from Down Under, can play. She scored 15 points in 2 pre-season games on 4-of-7 shooting including 1-of-2 3s and 6-of-7 FT. She had 8 rebounds and 3 assists, but 5 turnovers. Moore and/or Rodgers will play as much as needed, and no more, but some minutes will be needed.

Two years ago the Lynx were considered to have a great bench as the 2nd 5 scored 22.5 ppg in 60 minutes. Last year depth became an issue as Wiggins, in particular, struggled. Now the Lynx are not a deep team, having just 2 proven producers off the bench. Harris and/or Jarry are going to get a shot at making a contribution and, if they're not ready, again, that's a problem.

The Sum of the Parts

A basketball team is, of course, not just 5 individuals like a golf or gymnastics team. Chemistry, teamwork, whatever you want to call it, it is vital. And over the past 2 years, the Indiana series to the contrary notwithstanding, the Lynx have had it. Coach Cheryl Reeve gets a lot of the credit for that, but so does Lindsay Whalen. And I think that Augustus and Brunson and Taj and Maya have all proven themselves to be good teammates and good team players.

Can they keep it up as people's roles change a little bit. This year's team will by necessity be more Maya and more Monica and a little bit less of everybody else. Can it make the transition?

So that's what's needed--a transition. The fact is they don't actually have to improve to contend for and even to win the WNBA title. They were 27-7 2 years ago when they won the WNBA title. They were 27-7 last year when they finished 2nd. 27-7 would probably get 'em the home court advantage throughout, again. Heck, 22 wins would have gotten 'em the home court advantage throughout in 2011. Last year 25 and 26 would have gotten 'em the home court in the division and in the finals. As a generalization, 20 wins will get you into the finals.

So improvement is not needed. Just a smooth transition to the Maya Moore era. Say, 24-10, which might get the home court throughout, certainly in the 1st round. But a little bit of a fall-off should be expected while transitioning, and because the competition is going to be better.

The Competition

In the West, that would be L.A. and Phoenix. San Antonio and Seattle will be down, with Becky Hammon and Sue Bird out. Tulsa will be competitive for a change, but nowhere near a contender.

In L.A. the frontcourt of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike is intimidating enough, but now there's Lindsay Harding in the backcourt and Kristi Toliver running free at the 2. The question is whether Parker will be an MVP candidate again or merely an All-Star. As a rookie she scored 18.5 ppg on 52 percent shooting, and made 42 percent of her 3s. She scored 21 ppg 2 years later, but she has never shot as well as her rookie year since. Last year she scored her 2nd lowest total (17.4 ppg) on her worst shooting percentage (.481). The Sparks need more from a player with her jaw-dropping athleticism.

In Phoenix, it's just a question of when it all jells. Griner in the post. Taurasi back from injury, 6-4 DeWana Bonner, 6-2 Candace Dupree, 6-1 Penny Taylor.... But it certainly didn't jell in time for the opener, a 102-80 loss to Chicago as Sky rookie Elena Della Donna outplayed Griner by a wide margin, Griner's 2 dunks to the contrary. But Phoenix seems a little weak at the all-important 1 with 2nd year Sam Prahalis. I mean, I love Sam Prahalis but she's going to get better than 4.5 assists and 3 turnovers, and 35 percent shooting, it's just a question of when.

In the East, Connecticut and Indiana are the teams to beat. Connecticut has the WNBA's other great post in Tina Charles, the 2012 MVP, plus Kara Lawson, but they don't have a lot of help. Indiana has the WNBA playoff MVP Tamika Catchings but, frankly, I consider their title to be a fluke, one that will not be repeated.

In short, whoever makes it out of the West will win it all. Of course, I would have said--I did say--the same thing last year.

The Prediction--Who's in the Playoffs


Los Angeles 25-9
Minnesota 24-10
Phoenix 23-11
San Antonio 14-20


Connecticut 23-11
Indiana 21-13
Chicago 20-14
Atlanta 15-19


L.A. 2 San Antonio 0
Minnesota 2 Phoenix 1
Connecticut 2 Atlanta 1
Chicago 2 Indiana 1

L.A. 2 Minnesota 1
Chicago 2 Connecticut 1

L.A. 3 Chicago 0

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Girls AAU, Part 2--the 14s (14 minute halves)

The 2017s and younger play 14 minute halves. Here's what I saw among the 2017s and 2018s. North Tartan won them both. The 2017s edged MN Fury 2017 Blue 45-42 for the title, while the 2018s defeated 43 Hoops 44-35.


Tartan, led by guards Danielle Schaub, Deanna Winston Temi Carda and Ann Simonet, had a whole series of competitive games, beating MN Suns Kolden 58-45 in the quarter-finals, Thunderbirds 53-32 in the semis in a game that was closer than it sounds, and finally Fury 45-42 in the final.

Tartan also took 3rd place as Tartan West defeated Midtown Monarchs 47-38, lost to Fury 54-50 and defeated the Thunderbirds 50-47. I think all of this represents more competitive games than in many of the classes.

Players who stood out include:

1. As already mentioned, the Tartan guards. I said before relative to another age group, that maybe the Tartan system makes their guards look good, or maybe it's the Tartan guards making the coaches and their system look good. But across many age groups--and especially among the younger ones--Tartan looked more like a high school team, well-drilled and stressing ball movement and teamwork, where many of these teams look more like all-star teams, lacking in the cohesion that Tartan seems to achieve.

In this case, you've got 4 outstanding guards. Schaub and Winston are just 5-4ish but super-quick and use that to make life miserable for opposing ball-handlers. Schaub is more of an offensive threat right now, scoring 25 points in the 3 games I saw to Winston's 11. Schaub had 10 steals in the 3 games. Carda is a little bigger (5-6) and, whereas Schaub and Winston are quick enough to run away from contact, Carda is tough enough to absorb it and keep on going. Simonet is also 5-6, and led Tartan with 12 points in the semi and scored 19 points in the 3 games.

2. Gabi Haack, 5-8 guard from Elk River, led Tartan West Steuber to 2nd place in the Qualifier and 3rd in the tournament. She had 20 points, 4 boards and 3 steals vs. the Tartan regulars in the Qualifier final, and led all Qualifier scorers with 52 points.

3. Anissa Krauss, 5-10, guard, Tartan and Azaria Reed, 5-9, forward, Osseo, both play for the Thunderbirds. The T-Birds put the most physically gifted starting 5 out there of any team. Strong, quick. But teamwork was somewhat lacking. Krauss gets to the rim but I saw her shoot 4-for-19 in 1-and-three-quarters games. Reed overpowers people inside, though at 5-9 it remains to be seen whether she can do that at the next level.

4. Bailey Helgren, Metro Stars Black and Edina, is huge (6-foot-4) but mobile and athletic. I saw her finish in transition, I saw her shoot the 3. Sky's the limit.

5. There were a whole bunch of good posts, the best of whom did not play in the title game. Along with Helgren, there's Miranda Crenshaw of Midtown Monarchs, Danneka Voegeli of Winona and Tartan Silver, and Amara Karypis of the Thunderbirds.

6. The champions from Tartan played Mikayla Hayes (Park Center) and Erin Navrail (Albany) in the post. Compared to the posts mentioned above, these are thinner girls who may not be posts at the next level. Both are in fact listed as forwards on the Tartan roster but, trust me, they were in the post for Tartan. Navratil led Tartan in the Qualifier final with 14 points and added 5 boards. In the final final she scored just 2 points but had 7 boards. Hayes had 11 points and 14 boards in those 2 games plus 6 points in the semi-final.

7. Kirstin Klitzke, Metro Stars Black, and Claire Killian, Fury Dahled, both from Watertown-Mayer. Klitzke moved without the ball, found seams in the defense, received some nice passes (mostly from Bailey Helgren) and finished inside. Killian did it all in the final. Well, she scored just 4 points but added 8 boards and 3 assists.

8. Lexie Jones of MN 36ers was #4 in the Qualifier with 37 points, while Maizie Diehl of MN Stars Amundson and New Prague was #5 with 33 points.

9. Noelle Tomes of Tartan Silver and Lake Middle School in Woodbury is small even by Schaub-Winston standards and got bounced around a bunch vs. Midtown Monarchs. But she is quick and tough and led all scorers with 14 points.

10. Monarchs guards Unique Longs (Cooper) and Audrey Gadison (Benilde) play like veterans. In fact, I believe Gadison is a 2018 and playing up at this level.


The top 4 seeds all advanced to the semis where Tartan beat Fury 32-26 and 43 Hoops beat NC Heat 49-40. In the final Tartan beat 43 Hoops 44-35. Once again it was Tartan's guards--and specifically, its point guards Maesyn Thiesen, Sam Haiby and Erika Hicks--leading the way and making Tartan look like a very well-oiled machine. I say that recognizing that the 3 scored just 16 points in the 2 games, and that Tartan had 17 turnovers in the final vs. just 10 for 43 Hoops.

But in the semi Tartan got 21 offensive rebounds to just 5 for Fury, while in the 2nd game Tartan out-shot 43 Hoops 38 percent to 29 percent. Tartan's motion was better, and good things happen when you keep moving, with or without the ball.

Tartan defeated 43 Hoops in the Qualifier final as well, 44-38.

1. Chrissy Carr, 43 Hoops, big forward, led all scorers in the final with 14 points. Once her team fell behind she started to put the ball on the floor and go to the rim, and nobody could stop her. She is coach Chris Carr's daughter.

2. Tartan's guards Thiesen, Haiby and Hicks. Didn't score much on Sunday, but Haiby was the #4 scorer in the Qualifier.

3. Kayla Mershon, 6-1, and Sydney Stapleton, 5-8, Tartan forwards. #3 and #2 scorers both in the qualifier and in the final. Mershon at 6-1 has everybody oohing and aahing and why not, but right now Stapleton is the slightly larger scoring threat. Stapleton scored 12 in the final including a pair of 3s, while Mershon had 8 plus 5 boards and 2 blocks.

4. Alexis Mathews of Centennial and N.M. Aftershock DuBois led all scorers in the qualifier with 23.

5. Zoe Hardwick, 43 Hoops and Eden Prairie, post. Scored 8 points with 11 boards in the Qualifier final, and was tied for #4 scorer in the Qualifier overall. Was held to just 1 point in the final final but with 7 boards.

7. Katey Brattland, guard; Megan Walstad, forward; Mariah Alipate, power forward-center; all 43 Hoops. Alipate scored 8 points with 6 boards in the Qualifier final; Brattland was the #6 scorer (tied) in the Qualifier overall; and Brattland and Walstad were next after Carr with 6 points each in the final final.

8. Fury's Elizabeth Edinger, Kali Jo Grimm and Lynnea Helman, all forwards. Were among the top 20 Qualifier scorers, and pushed the eventual champions from Tartan all the way in the semi.

9. Madi Kerzman, Tartan and Becker, 6-1, post. Another big Tartan body and a presence inside.

10. Sophia Findell, Bailey Becker, Sidney Zieske and Whitney Dold, next best scorers in the Qualifier with 18 points apiece.

2019 and 2020

I do not rate the 2019s and 2020s and did not see any of their games.

2017 and 2018 All-Stars

Here I am restricting myself to girls I saw play over the weekend.

C- Bailey Helgren, Metro Stars 2017 Black and Edina
PF- Chrissy Carr, 43 Hoops 2018 and Eden Prairie
SF- Sydney Stapleton, Tartan 2018 and Centennial
PG- Danielle Schaub, Tartan 2017 and Park Center
SG- Temi Carda, Tartan 2017 and Lakeville North

2nd Team

C- Miranda Crenshaw, Midtown Monarchs and Eastview
PF- Kayla Mershon, Tartan 2018 and Minnetonka
SF- Megan Walstad, 43 Hoops 2018 and Apple Valley (?)
PG- Gabi Haack, Tartan 2017 West and Elk River
SG- Anissa Krausse, Thunderbirds 2017 and Tartan

3rd Team

C- Danneka Voegeli, Fury 2017 Gold and Winona
PF- Azaria Reed, Thunderbirds 2018 and Osseo
SF- Kali Jo Grimm, Fury 2018 and Norwood-Young America
PG- Unique Longs, Midtown Monarchs and Cooper
SG- Karen Klitzke, Fury 2017 and Watertown-Mayer

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Timberwolves and NBA Mock Draft

Well, the T-Wolves managed for the 24th consecutive year to NOT improve their position in the NBA draft. Let's hope that that does NOT indicate that they're going to have a normal T-Wolves draft in the more important respect. That is, that they are NOT going to make some pick that quickly comes to be seen as an obvious faux pas, a lå Ndudi Ebi and Wes Johnson and Jonny Flynn and...and...and....

Toward that end, I'm here to help the T-Wolves and Flip Saunders make the right selection. Yeah, right. I'm the guy who suggested Wes Johnson a couple years ago, I admit it. If this was easy, then David Kahn could have done it. But it's not easy, not at all. But here is how the 2013 draft should go.

1. Cleveland. Those lucky Cavs. Only the 3rd worst team in the NBA but now proud owners of the 1st choice in the 2013 draft. Too bad 2013 looks like a historically weak and terrible draft. And, why not? How the hell do you know if Joe Blow can play in the NBA at the age of 19? It's like colleges recruiting 8th graders. You don't have a clue who's got the best future ahead at a point like that. But it's a free market and if 19 year olds want to play pro ball, who can tell 'em, No? The kids win, the teams lose. It's hard to argue against logic like that.

So anyway, Cleveland. They're not the worst team in the NBA, so they can actually draft to need. They've got a great young point guard in Kyrie Irving and couple of passable bigs in Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. They have Dion Waiters at the shooting guard. So what they need is a classic 3. Well, sorry, the "best available athlete"is either a 5 or a 2. What to do, what to do?

I say, well, 1st, I don't like Nerlens Noel. And Ben McLemore, well, everybody says he has the most upside, but he's also a little bit passive and is a big risk. So, I say, pick to your need, since the guy universally regarded as the #3 pick fits your need, and he's a guy with virtually no downside. He may never be as good as McLemore, but he will not blow up in your face. The pick is Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6-9, small forward, who people compare to Tayshaun Prince. If you're going to live to regret this pick, regret pickin' the guy who you thought might have helped you right away, rather than some guy who's going to come into his own after Kyrie Irving has already passed his prime.

2. Orlando. OK, now Orlando, unlike Cleveland, really is the worst team in the NBA. Their best players are Aron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson and, I don't know, who? Nikola Vucevic? Tobias Harris? Let's be honest. It doesn't matter. This is a team where you would replace their best player if you had a lottery draft pick and that was the best player available. So, who is the best player available? Again, it comes down to Noel or McLemore. I'm not that high on either one, but #4 is not an option. So I would go with Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, 6-11, power forward-center. He gives you a credible defensive presence. Who would give you as much of an assurance of an offensive presence? If there is anybody out there, by all means, pick 'im. But, I think, there's not.

3. Washington. Another horrible team that needs to start just by adding 1 credible professional, don't care what position he plays. McLemore, Oladipo or Bennett? Bennett, Oladipo or McLemore. But their 2 best players are guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. You still want to pick a guard? But, hey, Tony Bennett is a big stretch at 3 except, I suppose, in that city by the bay. So it says here that Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6-5, shooting guard, doesn't fall any farther than this.

4. Charlotte. And I guess they're the Hornets, again? Oh, joy. Conjuring up images of those powerhouse Charlotte Hornets of the past. And being the 2nd worst team in the NBA last year and getting the 4th draft pick? How's that Hornets thing workin' for ya?

But, seriously, like Cleveland a year or 2 ago, they at least have the 1st piece, that being a 1, and that being Kemba Walker. Then there's Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon, all sharing the 2. But the front court? Oy vey. So if the "best available athlete" is Oladipo, Bennett or Trey Burke, you go with the guy who can play in the front court, right? I mean, unless 1 of these other guys is Michael Jordan. But, you know what? He's not. So it's Anthony Bennett, UNLV, 6-7, power forward. Though at 6-7 and with an injury history, ya gotta wonder if that's the best that can be done at #4. And yet, Cody Zeller or Alex Len or Kelly Olynyk look like big stretches up here. So the newly re-christened Hornets will leave their heart with Tony Bennett.

5. Phoenix. With the demise of Steve Nash, everybody is waiting for the Suns to pick a point guard. And, as it happens, there's 1 lurking. But, seriously, the Suns' best player is a point guard. Goran Dragic. Surely you've heard of him. 15 ppg, 44 percent shooting, 7 assists, 3 turnovers. So who says Phoenix has to take a 1?

OK, but seriously, if Goran Dragic is your best player, you are not going to make the playoffs. But, again, you can make your best player be somebody better than Goran Dragic while replacing your 4th or 5th best player instead of your best 1, can't you. And that means Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 6-4, shooting guard, rather than his teammate Cody Zeller or Big 10 rival Trey Burke of Michigan . But, wait, seriously, Oladipo has more upside than Trey Burke? No, I didn't think so. But he also has much less downside, and he fits the need. So there you have it.

6. New Orleans. The Pelican briefs are another of those teams that would be happy to replace their best player if they could. Considering that would be Eric Gordon, they won't have the opportunity. The "best available athlete," depending on whether you like upside or the absence of downside, would have to be Michael Carter-Williams (a 6-6 point guard!?) or Cody Zeller. But in between there, with less downside that CW and more upside than Cody Zeller, you've got Trey Burke, Michigan, 6-1, point guard, and there are those in N'Awlins who see Burke as the next Chris Paul, or at least the next Kemba Walker. At a minimum he can upgrade the position over Greivis Vasquez.

7. Sacramento. I mean, Seattle. I mean, Sacramento. With Tyreke Evans, John Salmons and Isaiah Thomas, the Kings need some inside help a lot more than perimeter. At #7, that means Cody Zeller, Indiana, 6-11, power forward, who can help DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. Some people see the next LaMarcus Aldridge. Others wonder what they're smokin' but that's another conversation.

8. Detroit. After moving Tayshaun Prince, a forward would be an obvious need. Unfortunately, the 8th pick comes at a time when forwards are in short supply. The"best available athlete" looks like C.J. McCollum, Lehigh, 6-3, combo guard. So the Pistons will grab him, as they should. Maybe than can move a guard--whether Jose Calderon or Brandon Knight or Rodney Stuckey--for a bigger athlete.

9. Minnesota. Finally, the pick you've been waiting for. The conventional wisdom would be that the Wolves need a guard. I mean, their top 3 scorers last year on a ppg basis were Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and AK 47. But forget convention. You've already got a stretch 4 who is gonna hit a half dozen 3s for every dunk, and a 6-5 point guard from Mars. But, of course, there's no guarantee that the post from Jupiter is going to be back. What to do? Go unconventional some more. Pick Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6-6, point guard. Put him out there with Rubio and dare his teammates to keep up. Especially if coach Rick Adelman comes back, he can figure out a scheme to make use of another unconventional talent. Of course, after Flynn and Johnson, the Wolves might be  reluctant to pick another Syracuse player, and who could blame 'em?

10. Portland. The 'Blazers would seem to need somebody to help LaMarcus Aldridge inside. The only question is whether that would be Alex Len or Kelly Olynyk. Again, it's convention vs. un-convention, and upside vs. the lack of downside. I see Olynyk, for the record, as being unconventional and the bigger risk. So the team that took Damian Lillard last year (who?) can be counted on to take Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, 7-0, post, this time.

11. Philadelphia. Doh. Another team that needs some size and Alex Len, Maryland, 7-1, post, is right there for the taking. Philly has no reason not to take.

12. Oklahoma City. Aside from somebody who can keep Russell Westbrook healthy and in the lineup, the Thunderous ones would seem to need some size. Unfortunately, the size has all been consumed (Olynyk, Len) in this part of the draft. So why not just go with your strength. Another scorer. Shabazz Muhummad, UCLA, 6-6, small forward. Very unconventional.

13. Dallas. Don't get me wrong. The Mavs ain't bad. But they are ancient. So "best available athlete" would pretty much sum it up, and Dennis Schroeder, Braunschweig (Germany), 6-2, point guard looks to fill the bill. He would be a huge upgrade over Darren Collison and Mike James.

14. Utah. Another team that isn't bad, and yet they don't have anybody that's untouchable. "Best available" would seem to be Sergey Karasev, Triumph (Russia), 6-8, small forward. 

15. Milwaukee. This would seem to be a club that could use a little size to go with guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Some people like Rudy Gobert, but I'm not among them and I don't think the Milwaukee Bucks would miss something that is obvious even to me. So I think the Bucks go for Mason Plumlee, Duke, 6-11, power forward. There's not a tremendous lot of upside, but there's fairly little downside. What you see is what you get.

16. Boston. Another ancient team that can just as well grab the "best available" and start reducing the minutes of guys like Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce. "Best available" here is clearly Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia, 6-5, shooting guard.

17-18. Atlanta. A guy who can score would be good, followed by another guy who can score, or else a post. Gobert might be tempting here but Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State, 6-5, shooting guard is better. And then even just among the posts Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, 6-10, post might be a better choice. The pickin's are gettin' a little thin out here.

19. Cleveland. Having filled its greatest need, now's the time for the "best available." That would be Dario Saric, Cibona Zagreb, 6-10, power forward.

20. Chicago. A new athletic guard to run with Derrick Rose next year would be good, though it's true that you might have to reach a little right here. Still, Allen Crabbe, California, 6-6, shooting guard, is probably a reasonable risk.

21. Utah. I picked a small forward for them with their 1st pick. Now they could really use a guard, but there aren't many to choose from. Shane Larkin at 5-11? Not my cup of tea. Tim Hardaway? No. Maybe Erick Green of Virginia Tech. But still a reach. So let's go big. No, not Gobert, but Steven Adams, Pittsburgh, 7-0, center.

22. New York Nets. The truth is you're unlikely to upgrade anything at #22, but the Nets could hope to do so at the power forward spot. They could hope, but they wouldn't and couldn't accomplish it. Not that there aren't some power forwards out there, but they're projects, guys who probably won't contribute for 3-4 years. Still, Lucas Nogueira, Brazil, 7-0, power forward, is an intriguing talent and as good as you're gonna do at #22.

23. Indiana. How to get over the top, to compete with LeBron and Dwayne? Probably can't be done in the draft. But Shane Larkin, Miami Fla., 5-11, point guard, is about as ready to contribute as anybody. The upside is limited by his size, among other things, but he could play some minutes next year and add a little quickness to the Pacers bag of tricks.

24. New York Knicks. How to get over the top, to compete with Indiana? Size, size and more size would be nice. But, unfortunately, most of the size that's still available and projected to the 1st or early 2nd round is soft size. DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State, 6-7, combo forward, is undersized to be sure, but has the toughness to play inside, which is more than you can say for some of the 7-footers.

25. Los Angeles Clippers. How to get over the top...? The Clips also need size to complement Blake Griffin inside, and as we've already pointed out, the big guys who remain are a reach. But if you're gonna reach, reach for an old hand who's ready to go. That would be Jeff Withey, Kansas, 7-0, center.

26. Minnesota. Having added some size on the perimeter, the Wolves also will now be looking for size inside, and as we've already pointed out.... So Tony Mitchell, North Texas, 6-9, combo forward, is a bit of a reach in the sense that, while he's 6-9, he's probably a better fit out on the wing. But he's the best there is at this point.

27. Denver. How to get over the top...? Perimeter oriented in the extreme, Denver really needs some size. But finally you have to say, it ain't gonna happen. No more reaching for size. Best guy standing is Tony Snell, New Mexico, 6-7, small forward.

28. San Antonio. Here's a team that really can just take the best guy standing and at this point it's somebody with Michigan genes, either Tim Hardaway, Jr., or Glen Rice, Jr. I guess I prefer Glen Rice, Jr., NBA D-League, 6-5, swing man. 

29. Oklahoma City. Ditto. I mean, having picked Shabazz Muhammad at #12, I guess size would be nice, but we've talked about that. So, now, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan, 6-6, swing man.

30. Phoenix. Having picked Victor Oladipo previously, again, size would be nice. So who has more downside, Rudy Gobert or Giannis Antetekuompo? Both have some upside, physically. Gobert has been projected into the lottery by some. But neither has really done a damn thing with all those physical gifts yet, and frankly I don't think either one will. But somebody will find 1 of them irresistible, and I suppose that would be Rudy Gobert, France, 7-2, center. Best case, he'll be ready to contribute in 2018.

So, all in all, this is indeed a weak draft, and not many teams will be better next year because of the draft.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Girls AAU Summary--Better Late Than Never--Part 1

I saw 12 games in 2 days and have been through all of the published data. The AAU tournament is, frankly, about individual girls jockeying for position among their peers in the race for college scholarships.

Oh, and 2ndarily, it's about teams and programs. MN Fury, for example, won its 1st ever state title. That would be Ruth Sinn's 2016s, who upset probably the biggest favorite in any class, the MN Stars Martin 9th graders, led by 8th grader Jasmyn Martin.

Then there's the fact that big, bad Tartan, the Hopkins of the club world, won 5 of 7 titles last Sunday.

But 1st it's about the girls. The big takeaway from the 2016 final, for example (well, along with Fury's accomplishment), was Jamie Ruden, 6-2 post from Rochester John Marshall, being the obvious game MVP, plus Bri Miller, Lakeville South guard, scoring Fury's last 6 points and adding the steal that deprived the Stars of the game's final shot and instead gave her, Miller, the chance to be the one to make the buzzer-beater, which she did.

First, here are summaries of the 3 older age groups--2014, 2015 and 2016; or 9th, 10th and 11th; or 16U, 15U and 14U, whichever designation you prefer. These are kids who played 16 minute halves at the AAU.


#1 seed Tartan defeated #3 MN Stars Borowicz 67-53 in the final after the Stars had surprised Fury 60-48 in the semi. Tartan had defeated Fury to win the Qualifier 2 weeks earlier 61-46, and Fury had defeated the Stars 65-57 in pool play.

#5 MN Stars Hersch surprised #4 Metro Stars Black in a quarter-final 48-41, but then lost to Tartan 53-32 in the other semi.

Technically it's all 1 tournament, the Qualifier and the State Tournament. So where the teams and programs are concerned it came out 1) Tartan, 2) Stars Borowicz, 3) Fury, 4) Stars Hersch, 5) Metro Stars Black.

As for individuals, here are some girls who stood out.

1. Tia Elbert, Tartan and, er, Tartan. Led all scorers in the final with 18, where she distinguished herself as 1 of very few girls with a consistently reliable jump shot. She also was the 2nd leading scorer in the Qualifier 2 weeks earlier with 50 points.

2. Ellie Thompson, Chaska and Fury. Scored 56 in the Qualifier, then 13 with 7 boards, clearly outplaying Stars bigs Fernstrom, Norby and Alt, in Fury's semi-final loss.

3. After that it gets murky. Nobody excels every game in the chaos of the AAU. I guess I would take the bigs as a group from the champion Tartan next. Cayla McMorris out-scored Thompson 13-10 in the Qualifier final and scored 26 points total in the Qualifier. Chase Coley added 25. In the final final, Tonoia Wade stepped up with 11 points, Coley had 8 and 6 boards and dominated early. Sam Trammell added 7 points and a pair of blocks, McMorris 7 boards to go with 4 points. They overwhelmed the Stars big but, of course, so did the Fury's.

4. Then it's the Stars' guards. Grace Coughlin was the star of the win over the Fury. She kept her team in the game when they were back on their heels during the 1st half. Then Carlie Wagner stepped up in the 2nd half. Each finished with 15 points. In the final, Wagner led with 14 points while Coughlin got abused by Kenisha Bell. And it was Sydney Lamberty who led the Stars in the Qualifier with 35 points and, after a tough game vs. the Fury, she scored 7 points with team highs in boards with 4 and assists with 2 vs. Tartan.

5. Fernstrom and Norby got abused on Sunday but scored 81 points between them in the Qualifier.

6. Down-ticket Grace Sawatzke and Amanda Christianson of MN Comets had their moments.

7. The Stars perimeter players had a tough time on Sunday as well, but Hannah Grim was the #4 scorer in the Qualifier with 47 points. At times on Sunday I thought she looked better than Coughlin and Wagner though the final stat sheet, including the team outcome, would seem to indicate differently.

8. Kenisha Bell stripped Coughlin and left her in the dirt at the 10 second line and went in for an uncontested layup on 2 consecutive possessions early in the 1st half of the final final. Along with Elbert's jump shots in the 2nd half, those were the signature moments of what was called the tournament's feature game.

9. Mia Anderson of Duluth East and Northern Lights was the #3 scorer in the Qualifier--actually, #1 in points per game with 16.

10. And in the Out-of-Nowhere category, Gabby Smith of Bloomington Jefferson and MN Stars DeWitt scored 38 points in the Qualifier, and Danielle Gitzen moved up from the Fury 2015s to the 2014s on Sunday and played as well as any Fury guard not named Hannah Grim.


#3 North Tartan 15U (Herbrechtsmeyer) defeated #1 Metro Stars 15U in a tight game 42-37. It was Tartan's 2nd "surprise" of the day, the 1st being a 42-33 win over MN Fury 2015 Blue in a semi-final game. I say "surprise" because, well, it's never really a surprise when Tartan wins. I mean, here's a team featuring a starting lineup of Kanani Asuncion, Monica Burich, Courtney Frederickson, Hannah Schaub and Alex Wittinger, 3 of them probably top 5 and all of them top 10 in their class.

By comparison, Stars boasts Madi Guebert, #1 in her class, and Hana Metoxen, top 10, in my estimation, and Sofia Chadwick, top 15; plus Lyndsay Robson and Abi Scheid, arguably top 5 or 6, but in the 2016 class. So not quite the overwhelming talent that you expect of a #1 seed. And Fury has Jill Morton and Ali Greene, both rated in some top 10s. #4 seed Stars Taylor has Sydney Boike and Lexi Lee as its top talent.

So Tartan, frankly, has the best talent. The question is how they managed to lose in the Qualifier.

1. Madi Guebert, Eastview and Stars. #1 scorer in the Qualifier, where she led her team over MN Fury Peper in the final, with 49 points, and #1 scorer in the final final with 19 points. No other player on either team scored in double figures.

2. Alex Wittinger, Delano and Tartan. Has come out of nowhere the past 18 months. She's a strong, 6-1 inside player who thrives on contact. She was the #3 scorer in the Qualifier with 44 points and led her team in the final final with 8 points. All of the Stars bigs--Denk, Metoxen, Nowak and Scheid--combined for 9 points.

3. Courtney Frederickson, Tonka and Tartan. Steady as she goes.

4. After this it gets, er, murky. I guess I would take the championship backcourt of Hannah Schaub and Kanani Asuncion. Schaub is a classic 1 who protects the ball, get's 'em into their offense and provides good on-ball defense going the other way. Heady, smart, aware, though it's all in a very small package. You'd think she could get overpowered, but it didn't happen Sunday. Overall, despite Guebert's 19 points, Tartan did a good job of taking the Stars out of their offense, and Schaub was a part of that. Asuncion is bigger and more physically solid, and solid fundamentally on both ends of the court. They scored 12 points between them and, again while Guebert scored 19, the other Stars guards--Chadwick, Bilski and Vraa--combined for just 7. Schaub also scored 34 points in the Qualifier.

5. Marina Nowak, Rogers and Metro Stars. Scored just 4 points in the final but was the #2 scorer for the #1 team in the Qualifier with 30 points.

6. Brynn Murphy, Spring Lake Park and Fury Gold (Gold is Fury's 2nd team; Blue is the #1 color). Murphy, 6-1, is new to me. She was the #2 scorer in the Qualifier.

7. Lyrik Williams, this is the Armstrong Lyrik rather than the St. Paul Central Lyric. She was the #2 scorer (tied with Wittinger) in the Qualifier with 44 points.

8. Ali Greene, Mahtomedi and Taylor Hagen, Blooming Prairie, both Fury. Greene had a great Qualifier with 40 points total, and 7 points, 6 boards and 2 steals in the final. Hagen had an even better final with 10 points, 10 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. She scored 33 points total in the Qualifier.

9. On paper, Stars Taylor's best players are Malecha, Lee and Boike, but on the ground, this weekend, it was Jaycie Gerding, Centennial; Raven DuBois, Breck; and Hannah Johnson, Duluth East. DuBois and Gerding each scored 9 points in a quarter-final win over Suns McGowan, while Johnson had 3 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Boike, on the other hand, scored 34 points in the Qualifier.

10. Now I'm running out of folks. Hana Metoxen, Eastview and Metro Stars, didn't score in the final but scored 23 in the Qualifier while her summer teammate McKenzie Denk, Lakeville North, scored just 2 in the final but is a nice looking athlete.


As noted, Fury Sinn's 39-37 win over Stars Martin was by far the big upset of the week. Before it could knock off the #1 rated Stars, it also had to surprise the #2 rated Crossfire Robertson and Sarah Kaminski 49-38 in the semis. Stars beat Tartan 55-41 in the other semi. Stars had beaten Crossfire 61-48 in the Qualifier final. The top individuals:

1. Jamie Ruden, Rochester JM and Fury Sinn. Scored 12 points in the 1st half as Fury took control, sort of, of the game. She squares up, something many players don't seem to think of, and she hits the shot. Of course, control didn't last as Stars Martin seemed poised to snatch the win at the end, and Ruden was only able to score 2 points in the 2nd half. But forget the ebb and flow. In the end, her team won and she was the main reason why.

2, Jasmyn Martin, Bloomington Kennedy and Stars Martin. Her teammates forgot about her for 3/4 of the game. When they rediscovered her, suddenly Stars were back in the ballgame. She scored her team's last 10 points, 4 of them off the offensive glass and 4-for-4 of them FT, as her team battled back from 27-33 at a 5:13 timeout to tie at 37 with 2 minutes yet to go. She did turn it over on her last touch. She had 11 points with 3 assists, 3 steals and a block in the Qualifier final 2 weeks earlier, and was the #6 scorer in the Qualifier with 36 points.

3. Sarah Kaminski, Minnehaha and Crossfire. A player for whom defenses make special preparations, or else. Scored 41 points (#3) in the Qualifier, though Stars Martin has the talent needed to make her life miserable. She scored just 5 points as her team lost the Qualifier final 61-48, but she also had 4 assists and 9 rebounds.

4. Taylor Koenen, Shakopee and Rae Johnson, St. Michael-Albertville, both Fury Sinn. Koenen did not have a big game vs. Stars Martin, but who does. Still she was the #2 scorer in the Qualifier with 47 points, and had 4 points and 3 assists on 2-of-8 shooting vs. Stars Martin. Playing up from her true 2017 level, Johnson was probably the best guard on the floor during the final where she contributed 8 points and 3 assists. Koenen was better overall, outscoring Johnson 47-20 in the Qualifier.

5. Ashley Bates and Nia Hollie, Hopkins and Stars Martin. Bates was better with 37 points in the Qualifier to Hollie's 21, and 7 points in the final final to Hollie's 3. Bates also had 7 boards and 3 steals, Hollie 2 assists. As impressive as Hollie is, she does not find it easy to put the ball into the hole,

6. Allison Hinck, White Bear Lake and MN Heat Lund. Had a nice tournament, scoring 36 points (#6) in the Qualifier. Lund lost to Tartan 15U in the quarter-final round 39-38 and she was probably their best player.

7. Kiara Russell and Tyrah Spencer, Kennedy and Stars Martin, the 2nd string guards, and Alaina Jarnot, Maranatha and Stars Martin, who starts ahead of them. The 2nd stringers scored 11 points between them in the Qualifier final and 10 points between them in the final final. Jarnot had a nice Qualifier with a 4th-best 37 points including a team-high 13 points in that final. She failed to score in the final final, however.

8. Bri Miller, Lakeville South and Fury Sinn. Scored 6 points in the final final, It's just that they were Fury's last 6 points of the day. Miller also got the steal at 13 seconds that gave Fury and not Stars a final shot at the bucket. Miller took advantage, making a double clutch dipsy-doodle at the final buzzer.

9. Grace Allen, Minnetonka and Crossfire.

10. LaShayla Wright-Ponder, Benilde. A big strong girl.

All-16s (16 minute halves)

C- Jamie Ruden, Rochester John Marshall and Fury 2016
F- Alex Wittinger, Delano and Tartan 2015
F- Jasmyn Martin, Bloomington Kennedy and Stars 2017 (playing up at 2016)
G- Madi Guebert, Eastview and Stars 2015
G- Tia Elbert, Tartan and Tartan 2014


C- Bryanna Fernstrom, Chisago Lakes and Stars 2015
F- Ellie Thompson, Chaska and Fury 2014
F- T.T. Starks, Hopkins and Tartan 2015
G- Sydney Lamberty, Park and Stars 2014
G- Grace Coughlin, Benilde and Stars 2014


C- Bailey Norby, Forest Lake and Stars 2015
F- Chase Coley, Mpls. Washburn and Tartan 2014
F- Courtney Frederickson, Minnetonka and Tartan 2016
G- Carlie Wagner, NRHEG and Stars 2014
G- Sarah Kaminski, Minnehaha and Crossfire 2016

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Girls AAU: 3 2017 Quarter-Finals

Size matters. Just ask the 3 losers on Kennedy 7 in Friday night play in the 2017 AAU Girls Championship.

#7 Midtown Monarchs 13U 43 #10 North Tartan 13U Silver 30

It was closer than the final score. In fact, Tartan led 21-20 at 7:30 of the 2nd half when Miranda Crenshaw, a 6-0 post from Eastview took over. With the score tied at 20, she had pulled down offensive rebounds on successive possessions, sandwiched around a defensive board. She got fouled both times but missed 4 FT.

But now she converted a layup in transition on a feed from Audrey Gadison (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) to give the Monarchs the lead for good. A minute later she pulled down the defensive board, got fouled and drained 2 throws, then added another layup from Gadison, this time out of the half-court set. Suddenly it was 28-21 and Tartan would never get closer than 6.

In fact, after trailing 21-20, the Monarchs would scored on 9-of-11 possessions and 11-of-14. After Crenshaw’s 7 points during that stretch, 3 other Monarchs contributed to the run. Crenshaw led both teams with 16 points. She made 5-of-12 FG and 6-of-11 FT, and also led both teams with 10 boards, 5 on each end.

But it was inside defense that was the real difference. Crenshaw was just 1 of 5 6-footers who forced Tartan into 10-of-41 shooting. Only Helen McCauley (Forest Lake) added much offensive punch among the other 6-footers with 7 points. Kaylee Porisch (Coon Rapids), Brittany Bongartz (Anoka) and Shaelie Olson (Wayzata) only scored 2 points among them, but along with McCauley and Crenshaw completely shut down Tartan’s inside game.

Danneka Voegeli of Winona was Tartan’s only effective player inside. The 6-1 post scored 10 points with 7 boards. But when she was on the bench, which was quite a lot, Tartan was giving away 4 and 5 inches and 20-30 pounds inside. Voegeli’s Winona teammate Eden Nibbelink is also a 6-footer but she’s a perimeter player and scored just 2 points and no FG on the night.

That left the Tartan offense to Noelle Tomes, a quick and impressive but tiny (5-3) guard from Lake Middle School in Woodbury (I believe she’s headed to East Ridge). She scored 14 points on 4-of-10 FG and 5-of-6 FT, but got bounced around a good bit. Running mate Lauren Johnson, also of Lake Middle School, got bounced right out of the game in the 1st half, and that didn’t help either.

The primary victim of the Monarch’s inside defensive intimidation was Erin Baxter, an athletic 5-8 wing from Falcon Ridge Middle School in Apple Valley. She showed some great moves and got to the rim, but shot 0-for-7.

But while the game was closer than the final score, well, in another sense it wasn’t. The Monarchs converted 13-of-31 FT. So there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Trench Player: As tough as Crenshaw was, I haven’t even mentioned 5-5 Cooper guard Unique Longs, who gets the honors. All she did was direct traffic and make it all happen. She barely out-played Tomes in a great guard battle. In fact, Tomes outscored her 14-11, but Longs added 5 assists and Tomes none.

#5 Minnesota Thunderbirds 13U 47 #12 Fury 2017 Gold 25

The Midtown Monarchs wore out North Tartan Silver in the 1st game on Kennedy 7 Friday night. In the 2nd game, Fury 23017 Gold were worn out halfway through the 1st half. The Minnesota Thunderbirds were too big, too strong, too aggressive, too experienced, too everything.

Yet, Fury hung tough trailing 14-10 at about 6:30 after a 3 by Sarah Wittman (Burnsville). But after starting out 4-of-13 from the field, Fury missed their last 16 shots of the 1st half. Meanwhile the T-Birds scored on their next 3 possessions to lead 21-10 at 4:31. In fact, 8 of the T-Birds last 12 points of the 1st half came off the offensive glass, 5 of them by Azaria Reed (Osseo). It was 26-11 at the half.

It was more of the same in the 2nd half, as it was all Fury could do to keep the score somewhere in the neighborhood of doubled—28-14, 32-16. And after a Carley Benson (Chanhassan) bucket around the 7 minute mark, it was a respectable 34-20. But Porte (presumably the younger sister of Osseo's Ayo Porte) scored 3 buckets in 2 minutes down the stretch, and the final was 47-25.

(I never did find a T-Birds roster so I don't have any other info about Porte and I don't know who a couple of the T-Birds are. Sorry.)

Overmatched for quickness and strength, Fury couldn’t get open looks and finished shooting 8-of-50, and got blocked at least 8 times. Only Wittman and Caitlyn Peterson (Lakeville North) scored more than 1 bucket.

Meanwhile, the T-Birds had a track meet including a very successful high jump under the basket. They grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and coverted 7 of them into 14 points, many of those during that killer run late in the 1st half. Fury managed 7 offensive boards but could convert them into just 1 point, and that was their final point of the night.

The T-Birds were also stronger with the ball, scoring 16 points on 18 Fury turnovers, while giving up just 4 points on turnovers.

Reed led the T-Birds with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Porte added 13 points but needed 17 shots to do it. Anissa Krause (Tartan) had 8 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, but shot just 2-of-12.

Trench Player: Reed was overpowering.

#4 Metro Stars 13U Black vs. #13 Metro Stars 13U White

Remember when you were kids, and you’d choose up sides. You’d pick somebody, then I’d pick somebody, then you, then me. Well, it doesn’t work like that anymore. Metro Stars Black coach Jamie Waldo got to pick 10 kids and then, after that, Metro Stars White coach Arriel McDonald got to pick 10. Who do you think is going to win that match-up?

Well, they haven’t posted the score yet but you’ll have to trust me that Black won this ball game. It was 27-14 Black at the half, and I didn’t stick around for the 2nd half.

Black was not just a well-oiled machine but, wow, look at some of the parts—6-4 Bailey Helgren and 6-2 Annika Jank of Edina, along with 6-footers Sophia Hughes of Benilde and Mattie Rice of Orono. White’s tallest player is 5-11 Emily Cooley of Princeton. So leading 11-6, it was of course 5-7 Kirstin Klitzke of Watertown-Mayer who scored twice inside on feeds from Helgren at the top of the key.

5-6 Macy Hattlestad of Alexandria followed with a pair of throws and a 3 assisted by, you guessed it, Helgren, then Helgren scored 2 in transition after a defensive board and assist by Klitzke. This was right after Jank scored 2 in transition from Klitzke.

Kennedy 7 All-Stars

C-Bailey Helgren, Metro Stars Black (Edina)
F- Porte, Thunderbirds
F- Azaria Reed, Thunderbirds (Osseo)
G- Kirstin Klitzke, Metro Stars Black (Watertown-Mayer)
G- Anissa Krausse, Thunderbirds (Tartan)

2nd Team

C- Miranda Crenshaw, Midtown Monarchs (Eastview)
C/F- Danneka Voegeli, Tartan Silver (Winona)
F- Annika Jank, Metro Stars Black (Edina)
G- Unique Longs, Midtown Monarchs (Cooper)
G- Noelle Tomes, Tartan Silver (Lake Middle School)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

AAU State Tournaments This Weekend

Some say it's the big event of the summer season, some say it's not. I mean, it's not even summer yet, yesterday's 98 degree weather notwithstanding.

But I say it is. Where else can you see the 10 years and under state championship game, followed by the11s, then the 12s, and then the 13s.... Those are 8th graders in the class of 2017 for those of you keeping score at home. And then the 14s (9th grade/2016), 15s (10th grade/2015) and finally the 16 and unders, the 11th graders, the next senior class of 2014. 7 classes, 14 teams, back to back to back to...well, you get the picture.

You can't. There is nowhere else that you can see a parade of talent that will be Minnesota girls basketball for the next 7 years. Only on Sunday, May 19, at Bloomington Jefferson High School, Court #6.

But of course there are dozens of other teams (152 in all if my addition is correct), probably 500 games or more on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, culminating in those 7 state championship games. People talk about the state high school tournament being too complicated because you can't see every game or every team, or because there's more than 8 teams participating? Are you serious? This, my friends, is true head-swimming territory.

And that, of course, is just the girls. The boys are going on at the same time.... OMG!

But just to simplify it a little bit...if things go according to Hoyle (and, of course, they won't, but if they do), here's who you would see in Sunday's girls championship games. All finals, again, are Sunday, May 19, at Jefferson 6.

The full schedule is at http://www.aauevents.com/Documents/2013%20MN%20AAU%20State%20Championship%20Schedules.pdf

9:10 a.m. 6th Grade/Class of 2019/11 & Under

If all goes according to Hoyle it will be #1 Crossfire vs. #2 MN Stars Nelson. Crossfire defeated the Stars 36-30 at the Qualifier as Kallie Thiesen, 5-9 forward from Wayzata, scored 13 points with 7 boards in the final and a tournament-high 42 points in 4 games. Mimi Schrader, also of Wayzata, didn't score in the final but was the #3 scorer overall with 35 points. Taylie Scott of Maple Grove scored 8 and 32.

Post Destinee Oberg came up big for the Stars in the final with 11 points and 19 boards, and led her team with 21 points overall. Jordyn Wald of Forest Lake scored 8 in the final. Kacie Borowicz of MN Gym Rats was the #2 scorer with 40 points, but the Rats are seeded just #13 and therefore dropped down into the Classic bracket.

10:20 a.m. 5th Grade/Class of 2020/10 & Under

#1 seed North Tartan 10u vs. #2 MN Fury 2020. Tartan beat Fury 34-15 at the AAU Qualifier 2 weeks ago. Paige Bueckers, a 5-0 point guard from St. Louis Park, led NT with 34 points in 3 games, 2nd only to Ivy Edwards of the #8 seeded MN Gym Rats with 37 in 4 games. Katie Borowicz also of Gym Rats was 3rd with 33 points and yet another Rat, Kelsi Pederson, was 4th with 26.

The Rats open on Saturday morning with Tartan's 2nd string, the Silver. The winner of that game will get #1 Tartan on Saturday afternoon.

Jana Swanson, 5-10 forward from Cambridge-Isanti, was Tartan's 2nd option. Lauren Link from Shakopee led Fury in the final with 5 points and 7 boards.

11:30 a.m. 7th Grade/Class of 2018/12 & Under

#1 North Tartan 12& vs. #2 43 Hoops. Tartan beat 43 Hoops 44-38 in the Qualifier final. Kayla Mershon, a 6-1 post from Minnetonka, scored 13 in the final and 21 overall. Sam Haiby, a 5-6 guard from Moorhead, scored 6 and 19, and Madi Kerzman, a 6-1 post from Becker 2 and 14.

43 Hoops was led by Zoe Hardwick of Eden Prairie with 8 and 19 and Mariah Alipate of Jefferson with 8 and 12. The 2 combined for 17 boards.

Alexis Mathews of North Metro Aftershock led all scorers with 28 points in 3 games. Aftershock is seeded #10 and will have to upset #7 Metro Stars 12U to get a crack at 43 Hoops in Saturday's quarter-finals.

12:40 p.m. 8th Grade/Class of 2017/13 & Under

The top seeds here are #1 North Tartan 13U and #2 North Tartan West 13U. The former defeated the latter 62-52 in the Qualifier final. But Gabi Haack of Tartan West and Elk River outshone all of Tartan's 13s with 20 points in the final and a tournament-high 52 points in 4 games. Halley Busse from Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop added 11 in the final. Erin Navratil of Albany scored 14 for the Tartan regulars and Danielle Schaub of Park Center added 13. Navratil is 5-11, Haack is 5-8, Busse is 5-5.

Azaria Reed of Osseo and Annissa Krause of Tartan, both playing for the Thunderbirds, tied for 2nd in 13U scoring with 43 points each. The T-Birds are seeded #5.

1:50 p.m. 11th Grade/Class of 2014/16 & Under

You maybe noticed the games are a little out of order. Or are they? I guess somebody thinks this is sort of the feature game. Well, it depends. If #1 North Tartan Nike Elite plays #2 Fury Elite, then it will be. Tartan won the Qualifier final 61-46 as Tia Elbert scored 22 points and Cayla McMorris 13 with 7 (count 'em, 7) steals. T.T. Starks added 7 points, 7 boards and 4 assists. Hannah Grim led the Fury with 15 points, while Elle Thompson had 19 with 6 boards.

Top scorers for the tournament were Thompson with 56 points, Elbert with 50, Mia Anderson of duluth East and Northern Lights with 48, Grim 47 and Bryanna Fernstrom of MN Stars Borowicz 45.

Just for the record, the 2nd 5 was Taylor Thunstedt of Metro Stars Reiter with 39, Gabby Smith of MN Stars DeWitt 38, Anita McCoy of MN 36ers Keys and Baily Norby of MN Stars Borowicz 36, and Sydney Lamberty also of Stars Borowicz 35. Stars Borowicz is seeded #3 and their semi-final with the Fury, if it comes off, should be as much of a doozy as the final.

3 p.m. 10th Grade/Class of 2015/15 & Under

Should be #1 Metro Stars vs. #2 Fury Blue. The Stars beat the Fury in the Qualifier final 39-25 as Marina Nowak of Rogers scored 10 points and Maddie Guebert 8. Guebert led the 15s in scoring for the tournament with 49 points, Nowak scored 30.

Brynn Murphy of Fury Gold was next with 45, while Lyrik Williams and Alexis Wittinger of MN Suns Hill and North Tartan Herbrechtsmeyer, respectively, were next with 44. Ali Greene of the Fury also broke 40.

But Taylor Hagen of Blooming Prairie led Fury in the final with 10 points and 10 boards, Greene had 7 and 6. Wittinger and Hannah Schaub lead #3 North Tartan Herbie.

4:10 9th Grade/Class of 2016/14 & Under

This is the finale and maybe it's the feature game after all. If all goes according to, well, you know who, it will be #1 MN Stars Martin featuring Jasmyn Martin, Nia Hollie, Alaina Jarnot, Kiara Russell and Tyrah Spencer and more versus the #2 underdogs Crossfire Robertson led by Sarah Kaminski. The Stars hounded Kaminski in a 61-48 Qualifier final win, holding her to 5 points, but a respectable 4 assists and 9 boards. But Jarnot with 13, Martin with 11, Ashley Bates with 8 and 5 girls with 5 or 6 was just too much.

Karly Murphy of MN Heat Lund led all scorers with 50. Taylor Koenen of the Fury was 2nd was 47, while Kaminski and Jarnot were next with 37 each. Alison Hinck of Heat Lund and Martin scored 36. Fury is the #3 seed while Heat Lund is #5. It won't be too much of a surprise of the Fury ends up in the final.