NHR State Tournament: Championship Sunday


Posted On: 06/4/18 1:22 PM

Heat Nelson and Fury Kline left Champlin Park on Sunday holding championship items signifying fantastic weekends.  NHR wraps up weekend coverage today honoring the best of June 3rd.

The Dynamic Duo

Ricky Eason

Jared Rainey and Ricky Eason did their best impression of Thunder & Lightning all weekend guiding Heat Nelson through five teams earning another weekend championship.  Rainey is a point guard from Maple Grove who led his team to the state tournament last winter while Eason is a shooter from Centennial that has found a confidence that has taken him past his label of “shooter”.

Rainey opened the weekend scoring 17 against a muscular Minnesota Magic team and then closed things down with two more double figure games on Saturday. For Rainey it wasn’t just about consistent numbers, it was who he performed against that grabbed attention.  Minnesota Mentality sent several defenders at Jared with high energy from a foot away and it didn’t phase the Crimson leader.  The SE Lightning used one of the top up and comers from Iowa to go at Jared in a verbal confrontation and it didn’t phased Rainey who matched Dylan Miller blow for blow.

Against Mentality Rainey stayed calm and used not just his skill to change direction and a quick step, but he also used his strength to leverage through areas for production.  Rainey put that game away with 11 of 12 foul shooting down the stretch and then took on a well positioned Lightning defense making one of the most acrobatic body control shots of the weekend at the rim followed by the smoothest 16 foot pull-up against a pair of defenders that you will see.  Jared Rainey is a guy with red hot rising stock and it all comes from his determined yet poised demeanor at lead guard.  Every possession his attack moved the defense and from there shooters feasted.

The shooter that often benefited from Rainey’s clearing of the defense?  Ricky Eason.  And only a few guys in Minnesota are stroking the ball as well as Ricky is right now.  Eason scored 18 in the semi-finals against Mentality and then had another 15 points with five rebounds and five assists in the win over the Lightning.  The stat line in the title game shows that Eason is doing more than simply making shots.  Ricky’s confidence has also led to an improved basket attack using a dribble or two and his increased effort on the defensive end including being a solid rebounding guard.  Add in that every player on Heat Nelson is a good passer and you have a state champion.

The Rise of the Fury

Jacob Hutson

As a team the Fury Kline squad continues to amass wins and deep tournament finishes.  As an individual prospect Jacob Hutson of Edina continues to show that there are more division one level bigs in the state of Minnesota than just the 2020s that play on the shoe circuits.  Two weeks ago Fury Kline made a run in their own tournament before losing to a very talented Greenwood Elite team out of Michigan in the 16s title game.  This weekend Fury Kline went undefeated earning a title with their defeat of Select Cave which build their record to 22-7.

Jacob Hutson is a 15 year old sophomore that has been getting the desired post position weekend after weekend supplying a target to throw to followed by balanced shoulder turns into short finishes.  His low post touch supplies shooting in the area of 60 percent and Hutson’s consistent results have given Fury Kline a weapon that most at this age don’t have.  This weekend Hutson showed that he is capable of more than the nicely played scores off the glass or the short swishes leaving defenders helpless.  In the 16u state tournament Hutson cut baseline to catch and throw down with two hands and later in that same semi-final game he ran the floor to catch and finish with a fluid dunk at full speed.  What’s even wilder about this talented young man?  He doesn’t turn 16 until August.  Jacob Hutson is the age of most 2021 talents in Minnesota and he’s performing at a high level against older players.

Fury has more size than just Hutson.  6-foot-7 Lukas Dunford of Eden Prairie is an excellent back-up to Hutson and then forwards John Henry (Eden Prairie) and Cooper Olson (Champlin Park) continue to be more versatile players than you first expect.  Six-foot-5 John Henry opened the title game with early double figure numbers showing off his gorgeous shooting touch and then finished the game with the clinching foul shots.  Olson is a strong 6-foot-6 that physically scores against position defenders but what’s been more impressive has been his ability to score on the move with the catch or with the dribble.  Gabe Bassett of Farmington continues to lead the team with his energy and then one of Sunday’s better performers was 6-foot-2 guard Kurt Olhues of Eagan.  Olhues broke the semi-final game open with three triples and then made a reverse that I still am not sure how he got to go.

A Confident Tone

Dylan Miller

When Dylan Miller tells you he is about to do something he usually follows through.  A storyline of this 17u season so far has been the SE Minnesota Lightning piling up wins with 18 victories in 25 games.  Leading the way has been Dylan Miller of Mason City, Iowa and while his team disappointed in the 17u title game early Sunday evening, Miller scored 21 going head to head with Jared Rainey and he did it while telling his Heat opponents it was going to happen.  Hands in the face of Dylan Miller?  Didn’t matter.  Scored with defenders all over him at the arc and at the basket totaling 21 points on only ten shots.  It’s not just the production, it’s the mental toughness as a competitor that everyone loves when they watch Dylan play.

The great thing about Miller is that his confidence is rubbing off on others.  Ethan Matzke has really turned a corner in his progress from injury.  This weekend he moved as well defensively and with the ball as he has since the injury not to mention the shooting stroke looks like it has fully returned.  You have all heard about the raw but talented Jarvorius Toney who at 6-foot-7 is explosive with a good shooting touch and impressive handles.

A Select Backcourt

Select Cave took some lumps playing in the NY2LA League as well as the SPTS but they have learned from those experiences and now looks like a winning ball club at the 16u level.  It was a 4-1 weekend for Select Cave finishing as the tournament runners up and a big part of their success has been their guard play.

Prescott, Wisconsin guard Parker Neilsen was one of the best players in this tournament.  Scored 19 points in the title physically dominating the guards trying to defend him not because he is a Dwayne Johnson clone but because he was tougher and smarter than the competition. Also, Parker Johnson of New Prague is a shooter that you have to chase to the corner and Joich Gong‘s potential continues to climb.  The guy that really grabbed attention on Sunday was Semaj Hart from DeLaSalle.  Scored 16 in the championship including the top dunk of the weekend going over the top of a defender and physically putting a stamp on a Fury jersey.

Malik’s World

Malik Willingham

The many different ways that Malik Willingham scored this weekend had everyone at the event marveling at his game and the sheer volume of shots made is what had college coaches immediately looking for contact information.

Floaters? So Soft.  The pull-up?  Nasty displacement of the defender. Attacks? Completed through multiple defenders.  Range?  Oh yeah.  And Malik seemed to hit a three from every spot on the arc in his five games played.  Malik had 34 points leading Select Leafbald over Select Ellis and he scored that on 13 of 20 shooting which is insane for a guard that has extra help on him.  In that game he made six triples plus grabbed nine boards and dished out six assists. He scored 25 points against graduated Minnesota Magic players and put up 19 in one half against Heat MacDonald.


State Notes

Connor Bich of Hermantown and Comets DLR was also one of the top weekend stories.  At 6-foot-7 Bich shot the ball at an extremely high percentage both from the arc and going at the basket.  Bich is a 2019 talent that defines the term “stretch four”.  Connor will be one of the better big man shooters in the state if he can continue to shoot the way he has been.

  • Elijah Barlue of Heat Nelson/Osseo has quickly become a favorite of anybody that watches him.  He’s like an X Games winner willing to go above and beyond for success in ways that others don’t want to, o
    Elijah Barlue

    nly he does it in a controlled way for the betterment of his team.  Boards, defense, more boards, more great defense, and active finishes.  That’s Elijah.

  • Champlin Park always has players. We talked about Cooper Olson before and now we must throw in Jacob Johnson, a wing from Champlin.  Johnson gave Heat Nelson a third scoring threat all weekend long making 4-5 baskets at the 17u level look routine. Most of his damage was done on the move to the rim.
  • Joshua Albers can shoot it like you would expect him to but I love the way he moves the basketball and plays within the Heat Nelson team concept the most.
  • Curtis Jones from Mentality Minnesota and Minneapolis South is on the edge of a special upperclassmen career.  He has taken to the coaching at South and then blossomed ever more this spring with the Mentality group.  His ability on the break is high quality but the way he created shots moving off of screens to clear defenders and score 17 in the semis was even more special.  Great weekend for Curtis.
  • This winter my first thoughts of Anthony Rayson were: tough defender, excellent feel for low block play, will be a great football prospect and a worker on the hardwood.  But Anthony’s game in the low post has really grown.  The footwork and added moves really helps his left hand touch.  When he learns to use that right he will be even tougher.
  • Julian Hutchinson also had a great weekend for Mentality.  He’s quickly become one of my favorite defenders and few players rebound like him at the one spot.
  • Nick Schaefer is known for his game changing shooting touch and he changed the game for Comets K with a momentum turning three second half treys and 16 points overall beating Comets DLR.