Battle at the Lakes: Championship Sunday

Grassroots
Dakotas

Posted On: 05/14/18 10:47 AM

The D1 Minnesota 17u and 16u teams are nationally ranked not just on their talent, but because of the way they play together.  On championship Sunday they put games away early leaving little doubt.  Prep Hoops finishes off a great weekend by running through the best of Battle at the Lakes.

Matthew Hurt

The Best at Their Best

D1 Minnesota improved their record to 19-1 on the year with a 6-0 weekend culminating with the 77-52 victory over the Kansas City Spurs.  Leading the way was five star talent Matthew Hurt.  Mr Efficient. From December 1 through last night the theme of basketball during Matthew Hurt’s junior season has been the way he plays within a system and produces big results without dominating possessions.

If you watched Rochester John Marshall this season you saw a team that used all of it’s parts and all of those parts around Matthew Hurt got better game to game.  Now look at D1 Minnesota, the talent is thick all the way down the roster.  But this team wins because of the way they play together and all of them are improving because of it.  Matthew Hurt is an essential part of that team basketball.  In the final Hurt scored his 26 points on 13 shots (eight makes).  In the semi-final against Team Rose the five star talent scored his 25 points on a dozen field goal attempts.

Two parts of Matthew Hurt’s game that aren’t discussed enough are his ability to pass the ball within the active offensive framework and how incredible he is moving off the basketball to cut and score or putback teammate misses for more point production.  At his size and court intelligence he is an impossible cover down so Matthew is getting at least three cuts/putbacks to score a game.  Also, the next time you watch Hurt play notice how quickly he moves the basketball to teammates and notice where he moves the ball because it’s always to a player in space or a player that will force an immediate defensive scramble.

There is also the fact that Hurt is a clutch player during the biggest games.  Matthew scored 51 points on 25 shots in the Final Four games.  Also clutch was Tyrell Terry totaling a quality 18 assists in those final two games.  The DeLaSalle point guard (who is approaching four star status) was challenged on Sunday by a loud Chicago opponent and what did that become?  The most angry, physical dunk I’ve seen Tyrell throw down in all of my years seeing him compete.  Tyrell’s distribution has to rank with the best in America for his age because his feel for the halfcourt offense and his transition production rate ranks with the best.

Tyler Wahl defending

Patrick McCaffery, Zeke Nnaji, Robert Jones, etc, they all played quite well too as this was a team effort.  That said Jamison Battle may have earned himself a Battle at the Lakes MVP trophy, or at least shared it with Matthew Hurt.  In the quarterfinal Jamison hit five threes in 100 seconds and took a single digit game, and made that sucker a blowout.  In the semis Battle hit a first half buzzer beater on his way to a four make game at the arc, and then in the final Battle was the second leading scorer with a dozen points.  It was a breakout weekend for the 6-foot-8 shooting forward and you have to start to wonder, is Battle the next guy in line for a major conference scholarship?  You don’t see impact shooters at his size very often.

Finally, one of the most overlooked parts of the D1 Minnesota run is the defensive assignments handed to Tyler Wahl.  He defended everyone including a quick little Chicago guard that Wahl beat to the spot time and time again harassing the poor kid into a whiney episode of complaints.  It’s such a luxury for a coach to say “who is the best on the floor?” regardless of position and then follow that with “Tyler’s got him”.  Also, I’m beyond tired of people wondering if Wahl is explosive, just pay attention.  Ask the numerous guys that ran away from Tyler so they wouldn’t get dunked on if Tyler is high level explosive.  He is and always has been.

The KC Spurs

Dalen Ridgnal

There couldn’t be a more fitting name for a team than the KC Spurs.  You look at this group and they don’t seem physically imposing for the most part, and it’s AAU basketball so a high rate of halfcourt execution and team defense isn’t something that one often expects.  But the KC Spurs bring these elements every weekend which is why they won the Midwest Live, the Proving Grounds, it’s why they were playing in the final of the Battle at the Lakes instead of one of the other shoe teams in the event, and it’s why they made a Jayhawk Invite run among several of their area peers.

Guard Mikel Henderson is “Mr Prep Hoops”.  In the three Prep Hoops events Henderson has played in he’s been excellent and when the Prep Hoops team saw him in Omaha Henderson was also a standout.  Mikel isn’t physically imposing as he’s about 6-foot-1 and needs to add some strength when he gets to college but his understanding of the game and toughness at his position his hard to match.  Defensively he always hounds the opposition, offensively his fast break execution leads to a nine out of ten efficiency rate, and a key reason the Spurs break teams down in the halfcourt is the way Henderson ignites the offense, and helps control the possession until a high percentage shot arrives.  For him or others.

This weekend Dalen Ridgnal was the man usually finishing those possessions. At 6-foot-6 at forward Dalen has been an explosive wrecking ball just blowing through defenses for boards and buckets plus that jumper is looking more comfortable every weekend.  Notice how Dalen gets separation as well physically making contact and then catching in space to quickly rise for those explosive dunks or improving jumpers.  Boards?  Dalen gets all of them.  Now it’s time to start seeing this man get opportunities at the next level.  The consistent results in a rare physical form are there.

D1 Minnesota 16s Explode

D1 Minnesota is one of the better Adidas teams and the Wisconsin Playground Warriors are a top Under Armour 16u squad.  It was a match-up that many hoop heads in the Midwest wanted to see and for a while, it was good.  Then the D1 Minnesota onslaught began, and it never really stopped.

East Ridge power forward Ben Carlson was very assertive this weekend on both ends of the court.  The 6-foot-9 four star forward challenged defenders with a dribble taking contact and scoring over the top, he challenged defenders trying to score through them and finishing at the rim, and defensively he aggressively rebounded and challenged shot attempts.  It was as physical as I have seen Ben play plus he was consistent.  Scored 16 in the quarters, 15 in the semis, and 19 in the final.  What was most impressive about the championship performance was that Carlson was struggling early to find his touch, so he changed his approach.  The face-up game wasn’t working so he once again actively scored with physical finishes.

Dawson Garcia

Carlson’s running mate is Dawson Garcia and the 6-foot-10 Prior Lake sophomore put his team on his back in the first half of the championship game extending the defense with three first half triples and scoring 13.  From there the court opened up and a wave of teammates than scored for the championship victory.  Garcia scored 18 in the title game showing range on that jumper plus he pulled rebounds off the rim quickly halting the thoughts of others from boarding and it still amazes most how well he handles at his size.

Is Austin Andrews a throwback?  I don’t like that statement because I think he is just highly intelligent and skilled around the basket.  That doesn’t have to be old school, that just means he’s productive and finds ways to score against defenders who aren’t as disciplined of players.  Plus if a defender is disciplined he’s usually a bigger player that usually doesn’t step to Austin 15 feet from the basket so Austin can just shoot it over the top.  The Gamer comes up big when the games are in question and his ability to use both hands, turn over either shoulder, step through in all directions, and use fantastic footwork ranks with the best.

Defensively the D1 Minnesota crew has a really nice pair in Brenden Lankford-Johnson and Dalton Banks plus Connor Christensen is one of my favorite defenders ever.  Lankford-Johnson turns guys and then when they turn he increases the pressure which is a rare ability that coaches love.  I would venture to guess that when Lankford-Johnson was on guys this weekend they shot 30 percent or less.  Banks is that fantastic footwork, deep stance, and high rare of effort defensive player that can be trusted to keep guys in front which is every bit as valuable.  Then add in Drake Dobbs and his second half three point barrage and you had a blowout from D1 Minnesota versus Wisconsin Playground Warriors that became overwhelming.

Warrior Success

Larry Canady

The Wisconsin Playground Warriors 17 and Under team made the Battle at the Lakes Final Four and their 16 and Under Team earned a spot in the championship game.  A highly successful weekend for the traditionally strong program at a solid event.

By now everyone has seen Jonathan Davis throw down a leaner against a Team Rose opponent Sunday but let’s get past that because what several saw on Sunday is that the 6-foot-4 sophomore guard from LaCrosse is more than just an explosive finisher.  Davis uses that explosive athletic ability to finish aggressively but he also uses it to explode out of a separation move into a pretty hanging pull-up jumper as well as basket finishes vaulting over the top of lengthy players to complete possessions.  Davis scored 18 in the championship game as he was one guy that was able to consistently navigate the heavy waters that is the D1 Minnesota defense.

Six-foot-2 wing Larry Canady of Racine Park also had a quality weekend battling at the lakes of Wayzata pushing his team to afternoon Sunday play. The KC Spurs help defenders consistently moved their way to Canady after he beat the first man but Larry was still able to make contested shots over positioned length for a solid 19 point semi-final performance.  Love how he attacked and then challenged bigger players at the rim.  Defended well too.

Six-foot-6 Playground Warriors fighter Quinn Cafferty seemed to enjoy the fight of basketball.  Wrestling in the post for position, fighting to contact before the board, setting the solid screen and moving hard off it, and scoring with a touch when he received his chances.  Double figure scoring option each game we watched.

Gabe Madsen‘s shooting touch is something to enjoy.  The lift he gets into such a soft touch is really something to enjoy because most don’t have that confidence of separation ability, form, and lift on the jumper.  Like his brother Mason Madsen, Gabe has good size for a guard and they have put together a very skilled ability with two more years to compete at the high school level.  Keep an eye on what they do at Rochester Mayo going forward as good things seem to be coming.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask the Question

An event like this leaves a person asking the questions: “could he be high major?” and “Is this a division one player” and “should this man be hearing from more D2 schools?” etc.  We are starting to wonder how long it will be before teams catch up and offer Jonathan Davis like Wisconsin did or when teams will get after our favorite Spurs Henderson and Ridgnal or will Jamison Battle be a high major guy?  The next one is “will Noah Freidel start getting some looks from division one schools?”

That question needs to be answered by the D1 level coaches in their meetings but what we can offer is that Noah was able to move within the offense and hit contested shots as well as hit open looks lacking a defender in his face.  It’s one thing when you do that in round one against a smaller team, but people need to start taking notice when a group of high major basketball players have a hard time stopping Freidel from making 7 of 12 attempts for a 17 point game with three triples.  The division twos in South Dakota are taking notice which is why Northern State, Augustana, and Sioux Falls were always there.

Final Notes from the Battle

  • Ale Rama of Sacred Hoops/Red Cloud (SD) High School was watch one each by three different Prep Hoops writers.  In each of those three games Rama recorded a 20+ point game (26, 29, 22).  The young man is a scorer and we look forward to tracking him through the rest of the summer.
  • A program that made a big impression at the Battle at the Lakes was the South Dakota Venom.  It’s a team of tough, hard nosed, educated team basketball players that gave every opponent their money’s worth.  Kade Stearns has grown from a shooter (which he still does well) to also being an excellent player and simply a tough competitor.  Jackson Miller as the favorite of many because he’s a battler that nearly hit a double-double a few times.  Another solid all around competitor is Mason Ritter who seemed to be the first guy to every loose ball, board, back on defense, and first up the floor on the break.  Finally Dawson Paulsen continues to makes threes with the best of them.  He ranked with the event leaders in three pointers made for the weekend.
  • Harounsa Sissoko of All Iowa Attack isn’t a player I know much about, but I definitely noticed because of the way he athletically was able to compete and put numbers in the book against other high major players.  At 6-foot-7 with that high level of agility and explosive gifts keep that name in mind.
  • Collin Lister likely earned the label of “scorer” this weekend not just against what he faces in high school or in the opening round of a tournament, against anybody.  Had a fantastic weekend recording numbers regardless of the opponent.
  • Another consistent shot maker this weekend was Ryan Wyganowski of Vantage Hoops.  He hit multiple threes and went for double figures in every game we saw and Hakim Daniels is really looking like a 2020 prospect to know.  Great frame with lefty skills.