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Posted On: 06/26/18 12:19 PM
The Breakdown Summer State Tournament matched several of the Class AAAA State title contenders on Sunday and what we saw was teams like Hopkins, Prior Lake, Tartan, Chaska, Wayzata, and others showing why they are in the conversation.
The Royals, What Should We Expect
You can count on one hand how many teams in the state of Minnesota will be able to match the depth of talent that Hopkins has next year. When you go down their bench and realize what is there right now, it’s hard not to think “should they be preseason number one?” Why should they be, and why shouldn’t they? After watching the Royals at the Breakdown Summer State Tournament we dive into reasons for both.
You start with Zeke Nnaji. Zeke is now a top 50 rated player nationally and he pushed himself to that spot because he learned how to fit into an outstanding D1 Minnesota basketball team that shares the ball and plays as a unit. Nnaji takes no possessions off meaning every time there is an open floor run he’s out in front of others or trailing. When shots go up Zeke moves straight to the offensive glass. When the ball is moving Zeke is quick to move off screens, cut off his pass, and basket cut for chances. Add that to his skills – plus a growth to 6-foot-11 – and you have a guy getting offers from Arizona, Indiana, and UCLA on top of the others.
But Zeke wasn’t playing this weekend as he rested an Achilles injury from USA Basketball try-outs. Standing out in his place were several players starting with Kerwin Walton. What? A Purdue offer they say? Oh we agree with it, and we agree more are coming. The jumpshot is a thing of beauty and that’s where things start but Walton has become more. Kerwin is physically growing in height, and his physique has improved. Walton is starting to show that he can be a Three AND D guy as he is playing better defensively plus his basket attack has improved using that length. Then you have Dane Zimmer looking more and more like a big D1s should look into, Andy Stafford transferring back to Hopkins, and some new guys stepping in. Guys like Andre Gray, a 2021 guard who had a superb weekend at both Gopher Team Camp and the Summer State Tournament, and Calvin Harris who didn’t discriminate among what shots he was blocking (6-foot-10 guys and 5-foot-10 guys all had their stuff swatted by Calvin).
The argument against? If Blaise Beauchamp is indeed going back west like many say he is, somebody has to step into that role both handling the ball and making outside shots plus the depth we talked about takes a hit. We are really big on Andre Gray as a sophomore (looking like a top five guy in state) but haven’t seen him quite enough to know if that would be his role. We feel strongly that Kerwin can handle the shooting part of things but the Royals may need a bit more. And let’s not forget that before we talk state tournament and a high ranking spot for the Royals, this group has to show that they can beat Wayzata and they have not done that in the playoffs the last two seasons.
Prior Lake for State!?!?
I’ve heard many talk about the leaders for state title talk and I don’t think enough people mention the Lakers. Keep in mind this team went 22-6 last year and spent most of the season ranked someplace in the top ten. Dawson Garcia, Robert Jones, and Sam Nissen were clearly their best three players and all three return for this next season. Experience? Without a doubt they have experience. Nissen will be a senior who scored a dozen a game last year and Robert Jones is a high major center that will also be a senior. In fact Robert Jones has played so well as of late that Minnesota has really picked up their interest him him in addition to Vanderbilt (has Penn State and Xavier offers).
This weekend there was a sequence that Dawson and Jones each outran guards for two dunks each and those came in the time of seven possessions. Jones keeps showing a shooting touch, the agility to get up and down the floor, and the length to annoy any big man from all corners of the country. Dawson Garcia was a 20 plus point per game guy as a sophomore and this weekend he averaged 26 points per game. Garcia’s skill level at 6-foot-10 is rare and his desire to get to the basket for production possession after possession is not normally seen in a player his size. I’m not about to call him Royce White, but I’m also not going to deny that there are some skill, agility, and size comparisons to be made there.
Also, Jackyse Jacox, Dylan Bair, and another 6-foot-10 guy Carson Schoeller give this team depth of size that nobody can match and a solid backcourt that can play with most.
Those Titans Love to Fight
If you play a Tartan Titans team you always have to be ready for a lot of noise, a lot of defense, and a lot of competitive basketball. It doesn’t matter who is on their roster they will battle teams. This weekend at the Breakdown Summer State Tournament the Titans beat Hopkins and then battled East Ridge in the semi-finals before the Raptors talented size got the better of them (Prior Lake did the same). Tartan would of liked to get another win out of the weekend but they earned the respect of many the way they played.
Leading the way was Antwan Kimmons, a tough point guard that plays with spirit on both ends. Kimmons is the head of the snake getting out ahead of the defense ball pressuring in a deep stance and forcing the first pass to be a struggle. From there Kimmons does a great job of mixing in his distribution with his scoring production in the halfcourt set and in the open floor few have the speed to stay with Kimmons. What we liked this weekend is that M’Akil Weems seems to be taking more steps forward and 2020 Joseph Kearney is showing the potential of being a second option to Kimmons and the next Titans standout going forward. Loved how Kearney competed on Sunday.
More from State
Wayzata is going to be a preseason top 3-4 team in state next year and their win over Park Center by 15 showed why. This will be a veteran club not only with Jacob Beeninga and Luke Paulson but also Connor Hale and Keaton Heide as well. Then you add in 2021 Kody Williams and 2022 Camden Heide (who was at baseball Sunday) plus a coaching staff that ranks with the best in the state and you have another legit contender.