Breakdown Summer State: East Ridge Earns Gold

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Posted On: 06/25/18 10:55 AM

On Sunday the Breakdown Summer State Tournament provided Minnesota a good look at the top contenders for the Class AAAA crown and the weekend winner was…. East Ridge.

East Ridge Brings it Home

Courtney Brown Jr

The champs of the weekend put their claim in as a top contender for the state crown by defeating Edina, JM, Tartan, and Eden Prairie, most in convincing fashion.  Ben Carlson and Kendall Brown looked every bit like top 50 level national recruits and veteran Courtney Brown Jr showed why I think more of mid-major America needs to step in and pick up the efforts.  The Raptors depth stepped up too with Pat Lynott and Zach Zebrowski both playing well.

Ben Carlson has added good weight to his frame and he has an agility edge as well as a skill edge on other bigs in this state.  Ben was outstanding at Gopher Team Camp on Saturday and then backed that up with a set of big performances on Sunday.  Carlson was able to push other bigs off the block and they weren’t able to hold him in post position so Ben picked up deflections, steals, and forced wings to rotate the ball.  Offensively Carlson moves around the floor like a professional tight end catching and finishing with little problem.

Courtney Brown Jr has the length you want in a small forward and he certainly has the agility for the division one position.  Brown is averaging double figures in the EYBL and has shown he is willing to defend.  What do college coaches say a concern is?  They want to know about his skills.  Well, I would first point to the EYBL shooting percentage of 40 plus percent behind the arc against the many zones played in that league.  Next I would look back on Sunday when Brown hit four threes early in the championship game against Eden Prairie opening up the game and leading to the title.  Brown had a tough game one shooting but responded from that with three excellent performances for the Raptors.  I expect a lot of coaches to be following Brown with Pulley in Chicago, Kansas City, and Las Vegas in July.

Then you have Kendall Brown, the 2021 guard that handles, attacks to score, and does it all at a young 6-foot-7 inches tall.  It won’t be long before the high major offers start coming.   Just Saturday Brown played very well in front of the Minnesota Gopher staff.  What I find most interesting about Kendall is his quickness into his move to the rim followed by his ability to control a player with his shoulder and/or hip once he turns the corner.  Kendall gets that leverage edge and then has the touch on the move to score plus the vision to find the talented forwards cutting for the score.

Mr Dobbs & The Eagles

Drake Dobbs

Sunday I earned a much bigger appreciation for the ability of Eden Prairie guard Drake Drobbs.  The way he took the vocal challenge of the Park Center guards and able to look them right in the eye and come right back at them not just verbally, but with game winning results.  Dobbs has the confidence to make the big plays when it counts.  He showed that putting Park Center away with late playmaking and he also put some daggers into Chaska both at the end of the half, and at the end of the game.  Drake’s ability to push the basketball and make the right play at a high pace was very impressive.

Warning! Hype Alert!  Sometimes you just get a confidence in a player and right now I am fully confident that the many scholarship schools that recruit this state at a couple levels should make that call to Connor Christensen and get the process rolling in a bigger way.  You want your practice to be tough?  You want your team to have energy?  You want a guy that is going to step up and defend a top opponent?  A guy that doesn’t take a lot of shots but seems to make a solid percentage of his feet set threes and will ALWAYS rebound actively?  A guy that actually sits in a stance and talks on D all the time?  That’s 2020 Connor Christensen.  It’s time schools.

The Eagles played only six guys last year when I viewed the team and two of those players graduated.  EP is still a minimal preseason top five squad with Dobbs, Connor, John Henry, and Austin Andrews returning but I feel like the team will have more depth next year. The long 6-foot-5 player that was dunking in Eagle Red yesterday, that’s Ariel Bland.  Bland is from Eden Prairie and he just returned home after moving out of state.  Then you have another 2020 (Bland is 2020 as well) in Lukas Dunford who is coming along nicely as a 6-foot-7 center, and Brenden Donohue is a solid player as well (another 2020).

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick, Jack Be Everything

Jack Middleton

It’s Monday morning and already I have taken six calls from schools after leaving Sunday’s event.  Everybody has an assortment of questions and everybody brings up Jack Middleton.  I want everyone to know that Jack Middleton gets everything out of his ability that he can but never does it at the expense of his team.  That is something that is rarely said about the best players.

In his three games on Sunday, Jack had 17 points and 15 rebounds against the D1 talent of East Ridge, scored 24 working to match the play of Matthew Hurt, and 26 going at the D1 high major size of Prior Lake.  A fantastic day of production playing against teams that not only have D1 players, but those three teams have a combined four guys ranked in the top 50 nationally (six guys with D1 offers) and Jack went at all of them for good rebounding numbers and double figure scoring production.  Everyone is aware that Jack is a high percentage shooter and a great defender, but this weekend we saw that Middleton is able to produce numbers as the go to guy playing against top competition.

Notes

  • The CDH Raiders have added three very talented players via the transfer route although only one played yesterday.  Trejuan Holloman (Mpls North) and Karsten Broadley (Fosston) were injured and didn’t play but Curtis Jones (Mpls South) got his first run with Amari Cater, Jaeden King, and the Raiders.  CDH had a couple tough games but this is a team that is full of new players.
  • The skill level of Dain Dainja totally amazes me.  His ability to score over either shoulder, his ability use both hands, and Dain’s ability to use a dribble to the rim is as good I’ve seen around here.  Spent a lot of time away from the basket on Sunday as he does have good handles and is a strong outlet passer, but his best work was being unstoppable on the block.  I honestly have a hard time remembering a Minnesota player at this stage being this skilled in the post. I would say in the last ten years the only guys at his level at this age were Nate Reuvers and Rocye White.  Oh, and one other guy…..
  • If you want to discuss skill I bring you Matthew Hurt, likely the most skilled frontcourt player in Minnesota that I’ve seen since first paying attention to high school basketball in 1991 as a seventh grader.  I have two more things to say about the gold medalist.  First off, he played six games this weekend and played his tail off leading a lot of new teammates against some of the best teams in the state.  I was able to watch his 36 points against Edina which is one of the quality teams JM beat in a two day span.  The other thing I want to point out is how unwilling some of the long time national services are to move him up in their rankigns.  You look at some of these national services and they keep replacing reclassified guys with random new “hot names” that blow up the charts.   What does Matt need to do, outplay them at national tryouts?  He’s done that.  And he was the most efficient player on the gold medal USA U18 team that had guys that are now in college programs and no player in 2019 throughout the country has a better offer list.  It amazes me how unwilling some of these long time recruiting gurus are to move Matt up higher on their lists.
  • Look for the second part of the Class AAAA State Tournament tomorrow as we cover the other six squads that were in the event at that level.