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Posted On: 09/11/18 10:00 PM
Class AAAA looks wide open this upcoming season. With a number of traditional state powers entering something of a rebuilding phase and numerous up-and-coming programs, there will be a great deal of competition at the big-school level this winter. With that in mind, every team is looking for the slightest edge. Here are some that have a big edge in the frontcourt:
Prior Lake: It’s going to be tough sledding in the paint for whoever plays Prior Lake this year. The Lakers have two of the best bigs in the state in senior Robert Jones and junior Dawson Garcia. Garcia’s a top-rated national level recruit in the 2020 class and averaged more than 20 points per game as a sophomore. Jones just committed to Denver and had a great summer playing with D1 Minnesota’s 17U club.
Eastview: Eastview might enter the 2018-19 season as the favorite in Section 3AAA and a big reason for the optimism is the junior frontcourt pairing of Steven Crowl (12.8 ppg) and Tate Machecek (10.4 ppg). Crowl’s 6-foot-10 with a smooth outside shot and patient post moves while Machecek is an active interior player who will produce without a lot of drawn-up touches.
Eden Prairie: The Eagles might have the most talented team in the state thanks to a loaded group of juniors. That group is particularly impressive up front as Austin Andrews, John Henry and Connor Christiansen all complement each other extremely well. Andrews averaged better than 18 points per game and has an advanced offensive game in the mid and low posts. Christensen averaged better than 11 points per game his sophomore campaign and knocked down better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers. And Henry is a do-it-all wing who defends, knocks down perimeter shots and cuts effectively off the ball. Add in the transfer from South Carolina, Ariel Bland and the Eagles have an abundance of talent in the frontcourt.
East Ridge: East Ridge is another one of the most talented teams in the state and it starts up front with a pair of future D1 forwards. Courtney Brown and Ben Carlson are both in their upperclass years with multiple years of starting experience and they’ll be a handful on a nightly basis. Brown averaged better than 21 points per game as a junior while Carlson put up 19 as a sophomore.
White Bear Lake: The Bears won 15 games a year ago and return a frontcourt duo that averaged a combined 35 points and 15 rebounds. Jeremy Beckler put up better than 19 points and seven boards and was impressive this summer playing with Heat while Sam Schwartz — a Southwest Minnesota State commit — averaged 16.5 points and more than seven rebounds.
Rochester John Marshall: It’d be silly to pump out frontcourt lineups without mentioning Rochester John Marshall if only because Matthew Hurt is good enough to put up 40 points and 15 rebounds per game. He may do it this year as the Rockets will once again be one of the top teams in the state. Simon Werven is a returner in the frontcourt after averaging just under eight points per game and Lincoln Meister is a 6-foot-7 junior who could be a breakout candidate.
Hopkins: The Royals certainly don’t lack for talent in the frontcourt. Zeke Nnaji was terrific as a junior and had an even better summer playing with D1 Minnesota. His ability to do a lot of everything makes him perhaps the best forward in the state after Hurt. Dane Zimmer is a super glue-guy who sets picks, scores well inside and defends at a high level and Andy Stafford was a solid piece at Minnetonka before transferring back over to Hopkins.