Posted On: 09/4/18 3:52 PM
At this point it’s obvious that DeLaSalle is the Class AAA favorite, constants Austin, Waseca, St. Thomas, Marshall, Columbia Heights and Mankato East will be good, and Princeton, Mathomedi, and Cooper will take step up, but who are the True Sleepers? NHR gives you five.
Bemidji. The Lumberjacks went 17-9 last year and bring back back most of their varsity rotation. Spencer Konecne is a 6-foot-8 big that scored a dozen a game last season plus he has Kade Peterson, Ryan Bieberdorf, and Colten Jensen back around him. Spencer is a player that we will be keeping a close eye on because of his size and production Ryan Bieberdorf was also a reliant producer in several ways. Peterson and Jensen were also started on what was really a balanced team.
Willmar. Noah Slagter scored 23 a game last year, found himself on the Mr. Basketball top 20 list, earned several awards, and was in many ways one of the top players in the state last year. Noah is now gone bringing attention away from the Cardinals but if anyone overlooks what is returning it will be a big mistake. Four of the top five contributors from Willmar’s 18-19 team are now seniors and that’s 6-foot-3 forwards Jake Evans, Drey Dirksen, and Ryan Slette plus guard Ty Roelofs returns as well. Losing a player the caliber of Slagter is big but the Cards have the pieces to recover, and be the section favorite.
Waconia. There are only a few teams that can match what the Wildcats schedule when it comes to the list of non-conference teams. They are always battle tested which helps when Waconia faces DeLaSalle, Cooper, Orono, BSM, and Roosevelt in section play. PJ Hayes is one of the better 2020 players in the state (scored 15 a game last year) and he will be rejoined by an experienced guard/wing group that also includes Alec Olson, Ryan Biehn, and Sam Nelson. Add in the excellent summer that Conner Schwob had and you have a group that could surprise a lot of people.
Northfield. Nobody thinks Austin is going to fall far but they did lose a lot of talent which gives an experienced group like Northfield a window. Mason Zick will be one of the best players in the section and he will have help from Blake Christensen and Mitchell Stanchina as Northfield should be around 20 wins again working their way into the top ten in state.
Hibbing. Hibbing went 19-8 last year and return Luke Lundell and Will Durie as seniors while Ayden McDonald had a double figure average 8th grade year on varsity. Luke is maybe the best shooter in the state you aren’t aware of after scoring 19 a game last season. Lundell and McDonald – a top freshman in Minnesota – will make a for a great 1-2 punch and they have Durie with them (another double figure scorer).
St. Paul Johnson
St. Paul Highland Park