Posted On: 03/27/18 1:03 PM
The 2018-19 season is now the focus and today NHR looks at who will be the favorites in Class AAAA.
Repeat? The Raiders have a really nice player in Jaeden King who is surging towards the strong half of the 2019 talents but he is the only returning starters. Half of the Raiders off the bench were seniors too. CDH has a ton of holes to fill if they are to get by East Ridge and Tartan in the section next year. That said, talent is there to be a top ten team as there are good young players there.
The Favorites. This will be the toughest year ever to pick out a preseason number one. In fact, for the first time, it may take some spring/summer 17u/16u watching as well as some summer events like the Breakdown Summer Showcases, Sweet 16, and Gopher Team Camp to really figure out who should be the preseason number one.
There are certainly several contenders for that top spot and next year’s title. The East Ridge window is now open to the fullest. Courtney Brown Jr will be a senior, Ben Carlson a junior, and Kendall Brown a sophomore. There will be depth around them and a good coach on the bench. Lakeville North was just the third place team and top players Tyler Wahl and Tommy Jensen return plus this team seems to have three or four shooters come up from the varsity every year. Eden Prairie used five sophomores in their top seven and made the state’s final four. Don’t get me wrong, Kyler Kluge will be very tough to replace. That said, the EP sophomores play like experienced veterans and now Kyler Kluge, Austin Andrews, John Henry, and Connor Christensen will be. Who fills that Kluge role though?
You also have Hopkins, another serious team to look at for the preseason top spot. Although, they have to find a way to beat Wayzata in the playoffs as the Trojans have bested them the last two seasons. Hopkins has Blaise Beauchamp and Kerwin Walton ready to be their junior backcourt of talent while Zeke Nnaji and Dane Zimmer will be an excellent pair up front. This seems like a Ken Novak Jr style team he wins with, except he needs to find that worker guard/wing defender. Wayzata has The Gamer Jacob Beeninga returning along with Luke Paulson and a host of young talent. Jacob as a senior along with some great young players and Coach Schnettler on the bench is a combination that will be tough to match. There is also Park Center. The talent is there and I think next year’s senior group of Pirates will give them their best combination of talent and experience. That said, the Pirates have been ranked teams with D1 seniors (Losini Kamara two years ago, Jarius Cook this year) and they didn’t get to state. Maybe Tommy Chatman, Dain Dainja, Manny Tamba, and company will be the right formula.
Who Else? The list doesn’t stop there. I like the combo of Jack Middleton and Jacob Hutson leading the way for Edina. Rochester JM will be one of the top ranked teams in state next year, just like this year. They just have to get past that Lakeville North obstacle that for too many years has been in the way. JM may not have had as much talent this year as they did in years past but they were right there at the end with North on the final plays. JM played a great brand of team basketball this year and has a chance to be better next year with Matthew Hurt as a senior and some solid forwards and guards that we liked. Prior Lake is certainly in that mix. Sam Nissen will have to handle a lot of the guard load and nobody on the list we have ran through has a frontcourt like Dawson Garcia and Robert Jones. The Lakers were a top ten team at times this season and will be next year likely most or all of the season.
Can They Return to State? Looking through the list above you can certainly say that Lakeville North, Eden Prairie, and Wayzata have the talent to get back. As far as the teams in the state title game, CDH will have more back from their team while Apply Valley only played seniors in the state tournament. Maybe they will be next year’s Maple Grove? The Crimson had an entire new varsity rotation and it won 20 games and made state. Jared Rainey will lead the Crimson next season – once again – and if the team finds some size they have as good or maybe a better chance than most to get through 8AAAA. Back to Apple Valley, they will be a complete unknown as nobody has varsity experience. Forest Lake will graduate their top four scorers but Hunter Damon and John Schrader will be seniors capable of leading the team to state in a section that certainly they could win again. I don’t want to say I’m counting out Osseo, as that is not something you should ever do. Cornell Richardson now has the ball for the Orioles going forward.
Top 10 Potential. Chaska was top ten this year and Cole Nicholson back they certainly can be top ten next year. The Hawks need to find some scoring around him though. Tartan was a brand new team this year and put together a solid season. Three starters return led by Antwan Kimmons who is on the verge of a huge senior year. Watch out for the Minnetonka Skippers with Jalen Dearring and Cameron Steele as their top weapons and never count out Champlin Park with Bennett Otto, Kato Seeley, and Alex John returning. Shakopee has been rebuilding and next year should be the first section contending year for them with Charles Katona ready to become a top name.
Others. White Bear Lake has been building up. They had a good year and expect to have a great winter in 2018-19. Cambridge, Eastview, New Prague, and STMA have talented kids that could take them to good years. Owatonna won’ slip as far as one may think and now that that the Madsens have a year in Minnesota Gabe and Mason should be ready for good seasons at Rochester Mayo.