Posted On: 11/19/18 5:15 PM
There is so much to be excited about on day one of the high school basketball season plus a massive amount of storylines to keep track of. But what are the five biggest storylines entering the year?
Is this the most open Class AAAA season in recent memory?
It’s been a dozen seasons of basketball since the favorites for the state title was this unclear. Teams like East Ridge, Eden Prairie, and Hopkins seem to have an edge because of size and talent but each of these squads also has big question marks: The Raptors have never made the state tournament, EP is talented but has no senior with varsity experience, and Hopkins has a great starting five but the depth is completely untested and a bit of an unknown.
There are several others that should go on the favorites list. Take Park Center for example. They have size, guards, and depth but they have to figure out how to beat Osseo and Champlin Park before state enters the conversation. Lakeville North is disciplined, strong, and physical with a great senior class and I feel they might be the favorite that’s a tad overlooked (when talking about teams that are picked to win it all). Rochester John Marshall has the state’s best player in Matthew Hurt but they need to conquer that Panther hurdle.
There are so many more teams to consider. Wayzata has knocked Hopkins out of the playoffs the last two years and they return Jacob Beeninga along with a lot of young talent. Champlin Park is big and deep, Chaska returns Cole Nicholson and other quality players, Edina’s pair of Jack Middleton and Jacob Hutson will keep them top ten level, CDH is the returning champ with a talented starting five (three of which are transfers so chemistry must be built), and then you have Tartan with a great 1-2 punch in Antwan Kimmons and Joseph Kearney.
Finally we have Prior Lake, a top five level squad with D1 talent (Robert Jones), a five star potential junior (Dawson Garcia), more size on the bench, and veteran guards. Prior Lake is right there with North, PC, Hopkins, EP, and East Ridge when it comes to elite talent level combined with size, experience, and depth.
Major Favorites Once Again
The DeLaSalle Islanders won six titles in a row and we all remember the various players dancing around the Target Center showing two, three, four, five, and six fingers representing consecutive titles. The latest memory though is Columbia Heights turning Tyrell Terry over at the end of the game in the state semi-finals ending the Islander title run.
So, is the run over? That’s an emphatic no. The Islanders not only have the best player in Class AAA basketball (Tyrell Terry) but they have the two best in Class AAA (Jamison Battle along with Tyrell). The Islanders will also be the most athletic team in Class AAA and the deepest. Julian Wright and Kameron Givens are talented seniors that will work great with Terry, Jalen Travis will move into the post, Cade Haskins will play on the opposite wing given the Islanders deadly shooters all over (Battle, Terry, and Cade), and lets not forget Semaj Wright, Andrew Irvin, and Park Center transfer Amir Whitlock. It’s easily the deepest Class AAA roster.
A Redhawk Repeat Seems Certain
Not championship is guaranteed. Injuries and upsets can derail massive expectations in a hurry. That said, as good as Class AA basketball is this year (I think if they combined AAA and AA this year, there would be as many AA teams at state as AAA squads) the Redhawks have so many advantages. First off, Jalen Suggs is the best guard in the state of Minnesota and he has two state titles to his name. Betting against another is straight foolish. Also, Minnehaha Academy is huge with D1 offered underclass men pair Chet Holmgren (sophomore) and Prince Aligbe (freshman). Add in Kaden Johnson and returning role players and it’s hard to see anybody pulling off the upset. If we had to pick a team that could? Minneapolis North is our preseason number two but their focus first has to be getting back to state (BC knocked them off last season).
Will the Section 2A teams be too beat up by state tournament time?
Four of the top five players in Class A basketball are in Section 2A (Augustana signed Isaac Fink from Springfield, Upper Iowa signed Baden Noennig of Mayer Lutheran, USF signed Jake Kettner of Minnesota Valley Lutheran, and Carter Henry of BOLD) and four of the top dozen teams in state are in this section including preseason #1 Springfield and preseason #2 BOLD. Last year Mayer Lutheran ran the gauntlet of tough games in section play (a sub-section semi in 2A is vastly different than a sub-section semi-final other places) but then didn’t have the ability to move through state with a veteran team. You could see that happen again this year as North Woods, Minneota, and R-T-R are all strong state title contenders.
Matthew Hurt of Rochester JM currently has 2,741 career points needing only 262 points to surpass the all time big school scoring record owned by Jake Sullivan of Tartan. Barring any type of injury Matthew Hurt will finish fourth all time in Minnesota scoring history. Also barring any type of injury the fifth leading scorer in Minnesota will be Isaac Fink of Springfield. The 2019 class should finish with two of the five highest scoring players in state history. As far as talent, it’s going to be historic in Minnesota this year once again. Matthew Hurt is a guarantee for the McDonald’s All American game and Zeke Nnaji is right there in consideration as a top 25-30 kid. As far as five star talent there is Matthew Hurt (2019), Jalen Suggs (2020), Kendall Brown (2021), and Trejuan Holloman (2022) who all have five next to there name someplace. Trent/Tre/Hurt/Suggs were billed as that two years ago but we all know Trent went to California for prep school. This year we truly have a five star kid in every class of Minnesota High School Basketball.