Posted On: 04/11/18 12:42 PM
Last weekend was the annual kickoff of Minnesota club season with the Comets Shootout taking place in St. Cloud. As always, a phenomenally run tournament and a big thanks to Chris Lewis and all Comets staff for the hospitality and fun.
At NHR this week we’re throwing a lot of names at you: established commodities with college staffs in frequent contact, guys who are just about ready to burst that bubble of recruiting, and the prospects we didn’t even know were prospects yet. I’m going to present a mixture of those names that caught my eye at the Whitney Rec Center at the 17U level, as well as storylines to keep close watch over as the grassroots circuit rolls on.
WOTN 16U. This group oozes potential. After adding a handful of talented south metro/southern Minnesota guys this year, the balance of skills across the board for this team will be scary for a long time. They have the size and strength (Eastview frontcourt pair Steven Crowl and Tate Machacek), the varsity experience and big-game guard play (Nate Heise and Ryan Samuelson) and the toughness/both-ends productivity (Reid Gastner and Dylan Bair). Trevor Davis’ crew will win a lot of games this summer and find themselves getting early college interest.
Steven Crowl (PF/C, 6-9, WOTN Davis/Eastview) – My first look at Crowl made me a believer. He’s got insane length for days, runs the floor extremely well and has soft hands. His finishing at the rim is very good too, but what stood out to me was his level of comfort stepping out to midrange and even beyond the arc to space the floor and hit those shots. His stroke looks very smooth and makes him a tough assignment at his size being able to shoot over the top of defenders. Made some strides even just throughout the weekend on the glass too.
Fury consistency. One of the best non-shoe programs in the Midwest, Fury continues to roll out scholarship-level/top D3 prospects along with great coaching. It’s why we saw two 17U squads in the quarterfinals, two 16U squads in the semifinals and two 15u squads in the round of 16 at the Comets Shootout. The 17U teams have some breakout guys on the rise and 16U will be making their cases as top 10 teams in the state.
Charlie Katona (2020, SF, 6-6, Fury Zurn/Shakopee) – I knew Shakopee had some great sophomore talent that propelled them into a promising high school season, and Katona was a large part of it; but seeing him play in person and just plain beat defenses every way possible was an eye-opener. His combination of size, strength, athleticism and speed was just too much for any perimeter opponent to keep up with. He spearheaded the Fury press in game 1 of the weekend and it led to a 30-0 lead within 7 minutes. Folks, he’s gonna be special.
Cameron Steele (2020, PF, 6-7, Fury Zurn/Minnetonka) – Loved what I saw from Cam this weekend because he had to play out of preferred position. He projects to be a stretch four because of his shooting and length, but Steele fought hard down low against centers with physicality and rebounding. He’s a lot bigger than he was even at the start of the high school season; I’ll be watching his progression closely.
Andy Stafford (2019, SG/SF, 6-4, Fury Wilde/Minnetonka) – He showed flashes of game-changing abilities last season with Heat Bui and now has transformed those flashes into consistencies. Andy is a legit 6-4 with great instincts for running fast break lanes, has awesome defensive anticipation on ball and off ball, and was the best offensive rebounder I saw all weekend. Gotta believe NSICs are going to poke around.
Reagan Tollefson (2019, PF, 6-6, Fury Wilde/Chanhassen) – A very solid two-way guy who had a couple big games for the Storm this season, Reagan complements his team by hitting open threes and taking on a tough big man assignment defensively. He’s an unselfish player with capacity to play within himself.
Outstate statements. The SE MN Lightning are a consistently tough team to beat in any Minnesota grassroots tournament, year in and year out. This year’s 17U is a blend of southern Minnesota and a couple Iowa kids. They always give teams a good run and will be top 25 all year most likely.
Ethan Matzke (2019, SF, 6-4, SE MN Lightning/Spring Grove) – Up close, Ethan is a monster. He has wide shoulders and one of the sturdiest frames ever for a wing player. That also gives him the flexibility to move up to power forward and work down low on both ends. He’s a very capable perimeter guy as well and can make you pay from several areas inside and out.
The Comets Stumpf team at 16U is very geographically diverse, grabbing all corners of Minnesota, and very talented corners at that. They pulled out a 16U second place finish and were led by an assortment of players who asserted themselves.
Noah King (2020, SG, 6-3, Comets Stumpf/Caledonia) – His leadership exuded intensely this weekend. Made a huge overtime bucket to be the deciding factor in the semifinal win for his Comets team. Another strong, built wing player who is a matchup nightmare. Loved his effort and hustle to win extra possessions and points.
Noah Puetz (2020, F, 6-4, Comets Stumpf/Marshall) – The southwest Minnesota high schooler was a main source of offense for the Comets this weekend and helped them to big wins throughout the winners bracket. He’ll get great exposure with this team and show schools down that way to keep an eye out down the road. At 6-4 he’s got great size to be a tough cover for the next two years.
Select Leafblad 17U’s sleepers. Love some of the under-the-radar guys on this team and how they’ll improve going into their senior seasons. A mix of efficiency and versatility along with straight hoopers makes up this team and they played better than I expected this weekend.
Malik Willingham (2019, 6-4, Select Leafblad/Waseca) – Walked by him and he is a legit 6-4 with length. Malik is a known scorer and has been for several years. I just always forget how smooth and effortless he makes it look. Any type of action you give him the ball in, he’s going to find ways to produce. D2s should be peeking.
Brad Winter (2019, 6-6 Select Leafblad/Winona) – A name I didn’t know coming in, but he made some pretty spectacular plays on defense and was very under control on offense. Has the ability to step out and shoot too. Winter is very athletic and will have opportunities to round out his skills often against top competition this year.