Posted On: 04/30/17 11:58 PM
Day two of my Future Stars Classic experience was cut short before semifinal rounds, but there were some very entertaining 14U teams to see that I missed out on Saturday. Here’s the rundown in five takes:
Take One: Loudest team of the day award goes to the Elite Soldiers. They had defensive-minded athletes one through five and the bench was deafening. The Soldiers are a mix of west metro prospects, waterbug guards and sturdy post players. I especially liked 6-5 center Francis Nwakorie. He was a brick wall inside and moved interior defenders for point-blank buckets. Add slashing wing CJ Brown from Hopkins and Maple Grove point guard Jatai Dillard, and all three levels were taken care of on both ends for the Soldiers. They fell in the quarterfinal to Net Gain by 1 in double OT.
Take Two: The D1 Minnesota guards once again came through. I failed to talk about Chaska’s Luke Strazzanti enough on Saturday and he made me pay for it. In the quarterfinal against Team 1 Tyus 2021 Strazzanti was steady in getting to the rim, tacking on the exclamation point with the go-ahead floater and 10 seconds on the clock. Eddie Beeninga did his thing again with clutch late free throws. New name is Rochester Mayo’s Mo Hammadelniel. Mo played JV as an eighth grader for the Spartans this winter in the lead guard spot. He was consistent off the bench for D1 handling the basketball.
On the other side, Wayzata’s Kody Williams barreled through layers of D1 MN defense to earn charity stripe attempts. He opened up a lot of spots on the floor for Team 1 Tyus 2021’s role players to succeed. 6-2 forward George Jackson boarded like a fiend for them as well, mixing it up with the D1 bigs who had three inches on him. Spunky and fearless player, a Hopkins product.
Take Three: Net Gain’s gritty style. Jimmy Ware was the smartest ball mover I saw this weekend. He always looked for the extra pass and set up teammates well; that’s why he was on the floor at the end of these bracket games. Kai Fro runs this offense and scores in bunches too. The point guard has tight handles and balance to stay in the air through contact. Had a nice streak of a corner trey and a spin-o-rama prayer And-1 to get ahead of Elite Soldiers in the quarterfinal.
Take Four: MN Select was much smoother Sunday, especially offensively. Andrew Morgan showed some good flashes in the high post and Ryan Dufault got to the rim at will. That Waseca duo is very promising with the talent already in their high school program. Then Johntae Evans got into the offensive mix, using his length to shoot over opposing defenders and extend for layups. Good-looking group there.
Take Five: We save the champs for last. Heat Weierke outgrinded (outground?) the whole bracket to take home the FSC title. Their length top to bottom (Carter Weierke, Zach Thomas, Will Tschetter) plus excellent lead guard play (Reid Patterson) made it impossible to get any kind of edge. Weierke took some point forward duties in the late-game to capitalize on mismatches and then Patterson played off ball for a couple treys. They outlasted D1 Minnesota in the 14U championship. Willie, you got some players here! Congrats to them.
Thanks for the well-run event and for everyone saying hello when I looked lonely this weekend! Minnesota, the talent pipeline is anything but dry.