Posted On: 10/29/18 5:51 PM

The Islanders of DeLaSalle had their streak end a year ago. Is that an issue?  Or is it time to start a new streak?  Based on Islander talent versus what the rest of the state has…..

Section 1AAA. How much will the massive talent graduation affect Austin?

There are so many familiar names from the Austin Packers that have moved on.  Hebrink, Gach, Moses, they are all gone.  Austin won’t slip much though. The Deng brothers (Dongrin and Ngor), Moses Idris, Medi Obang, and Teyghan Hovland all have the talent to get the Packers back to where they need to be.  Problem is experience and Northfield has more of it, plus talent.  However, the Raiders have lost six straight, and eight of their last nine to the Packers.  Plus, don’s sleep on Winona. 

Section 2AAA. Whose turn is it this year?

Waseca, Marshall, and Mankato East.  Year after year one seems to have more talent but then another seems to step into the state spot in the other’s place.  This year the favorite is Waseca but East and Marshall are right behind them.  All of these teams have young talent stepping into their prime, but Waseca has Malik Willingham. 

Section 3AAA. Can STA win a state tournament game?

St. Thomas Academy has been to state the last couple seasons ending a previous struggle to win their section.  The next step is figuring out a way to defeat a team at state.  Jack Thompson is one of the five or six best players in Class AAA and he has fellow seniors that can handle consistent roles.  The depth is what needs to be there for St. Thomas to earn a state tournament victory and with Jason Birr coaching that can be developed. 

Section 4AAA. Zephyrs are the favorite, but can they get past Columbia Heights?

The Hylanders earned second in state last season but lost a load of their line-up.  Don’t expect a Willie Braziel team to slip far.  The Zephyrs did win 21 games last season and return two of their three leading scorers back in J’Vonne Hadley and Zac Centers.  As far as Hadley goes, he’s likely the best junior in Class AAA hoops.  The Zephyrs have what’s needed to make state but CH is the obstacle. 

Section 5AAA. How much will Willmar really slip?  

Willmar returns everything but their top guy.  Delano?  Their star (Wishart) and most of their players graduated.  Monticello (Todd) did the same, but has a few guys ready to come forward.  Dassel-Cokato (Kaiser)?  Same story.  Willmar is different.  Noah Slagter is also gone but Drey Dirkesen, Ty Roelofs, and pretty much the entire rotation of Willmar’s 26-3 squad is ready for more wins.  Willmar isn’t likely to be 26-3 again but a chance for 20 more wins is there. 

Section 6AAA. The more things change…..

DeLaSalle might even be deeper this year.  They have a massive list of talented guards and wings that are all perfect for the Islanders to swarm teams.  Not to mention the best players in Class AAA are Islanders: Tyrell Terry (headed to Stanford) and Jamison Battle (George Washington).   Most teams in the section have talent but not a depth of it.  DeLaSalle has stars, depth, and the motivation to earn their titles back.  

Section 7AAA. Second in state?  Really?  Yep. 

Princeton, you won 20 games last year and all your main guys are back plus you added a talented transfer!  That’s the mix of a team that is preseason ranked very highly.  Coaches all love the underdog role to preach to their players but when you have a Jon Stimmler, James Flicek, Adam Williams, and Reilly O’Neil on your roster expectations are there. Time to win some games gents, you’ve been working towards this for years.  That is the ultimate motivation. 

Section 8AAA. Bemidji or Apollo?  

When it comes to big school basketball in either class the team that few know about is Bemidji.  Returning talent from a 17 win team that has guards and size, they have a state shot.  Then there is Apollo with a loaded junior class that has athletic size and hard working, attacking guards that are motivated to put Apollo back in the top ten polls. Fergus Falls and Alexandria have some stars as well, they will also be a factor.