Posted On: 07/27/19 9:39 AM

What is the Hard Work Finals?  It’s the top 64 teams in the region seeded and competing in bracket play. It’s a dunk contest and three point shootout that took the roof off. And it was bringing in extra help to try and get a leg up on the competition. We break it down now!

Minnesota Talents Earns Dunk/3-Point Trophies

Eight high quality shooters braved the eyes of 500 or more of their peers shooting in the three-point contest.  There were some impressive results but it was Elijah Morris of West Central United (Perham HS) and Josh Brown of Minnesota Heat (Park Center) that put on a Steph vs Klay type of three point battle.  

Morris put the fear into all of his competitors with a 29 point performance as the very first shooter.  There was one point where Morris hit ten threes in a row and had the crowd counting along with him.  The final shooter of the round was Brown, and Josh beat the third highest total by making the money ball. 

Morris and Brown both shot well in the championship, but once again the money ball was the difference earning Brown the three point trophy.  What’s awesome was that Brown and Morris each shot twice, and they put together identical point totals with both rounds combined.  Brown earned the trophy with the better performance in the championship round.  Both represented Minnesota well.  

Ignatius Ejiofor

The dunk contest.  Five dunkers wowed the crowd in a fantastic atmosphere.  Six-foot-5 2021 Zach Spann of the Minnesota Magic (Eastview HS) and 6-foot-4 Ignatius Ejiofor (Irondale HS) competed for the dunk championship each earning “10s” from the Prep Hoops writers who were the judges.  Spann used his length and explosive bounce to impress the members of the Prep Hoops Circuit while Eliifor used power and agility to send the crowd running with each dunk.

Spann was the winner of the trophy but everyone had a great time.  What you also need to know is that both Spann and Ejiofor can play.   Spann was the 8th man as a sophomore on a 202 talent packed Eastview team that made it to state.  Ejiofor was the second leading scorer last year as a junior for Irondale. 

National Name & Game

Steven Crowl has played with D1 Minnesota this year but in previous seasons he competed with Wear Our the Net and developed into a quality player that earned his name on to the national radar.  Crowl has joined up with his old teammates on WOTN for the Hard Work Finals.  Initial result?  15 points in 15 moments including two threes, a few massive blocks, and those confident post move finishes that are starting to become a Steven Crowl trait.  

Myles Stute has lived in Washington DC the past three years but he’s from Minnesota where he played at Benilde-St, Margaret’s as an 8th grader. Myles is a top 200 recruit nationally who cut his list to Vanderbilt, Marquette, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Texas A&M, and Florida last week.  He played with Gain Elite in St. Cloud and is with Minneapolis FAB in the Hard Work Finals. 

Ariel Bland of Eden Prairie had a really nice season as the starting power forward for Howard Pulley.  You also may have noticed that he was on the Minnesota Select roster all season long playing with them when he was available.  This weekend Bland is definitely available meaning shooting space in the paint for Select opponents is not.  There was a time period in the first half where Bland blocked two shots, forced two terrible misses because of his length, and then his looming length forced a player to just turn around.  For the next five minutes the opponent only shot jumpers, until Bland sat down for a breather. 

Rise Up

Minnesota Rise is a program that continues to develop players, and continues to bring college coaches to games. Minnesota-Crookston, U of Mary HC, St John’s, Winona State, Minot St, Southwest MN State, St Olaf, Sioux Falls, Minnesota St Moorhead, and others watched as Wyatt Olson and Dunwa Omot led Rise to a one point won over the Illinois Blaze.  

Wyatt Olson

Wyatt Olson has had an injury plagued 17u season.  Half the reason the coaches jammed the sidelines was to finally get a look at Wyatt who was healthy enough to go battling an ankle injury.  How did he look?  Once again Wyatt showed his brilliance as a low post passer and as a physical body utilizing excellent footwork working to space to show off his show his soft touch.  Olson’s legend has slowly grown after leading his team to state last winter and then scoring eight field goals against Ben Carlson and Steven Crowl in May.  

Then you have Dunwa Omot, one of the top stock raisers (or risers, it’s a debate we as writers at Prep Hoops have been having and everybody has a different answer) on the Prep Hoops Circuit.  Few shoot the ball with the calm, confident demeanor that Dunwa does.  And even fewer combine that shooting with combo guard skills and a heavy work ethic.  Omot averaged 18 in St. Cloud this week and then topped that by scoring the game winner Friday night on a back-cut finish. 

Back to Back Upsets – Heat Presbi

In Minnesota we have Grassroots team rankings and in those rankings you see a couple things: 1) Heat Presbi doesn’t have the record they were hoping for, 2) Rise is 22-11 ranked 17th, 3) Fury K is 20-14 ranked 15th.  On Friday morning in St. Cloud at the GPA, Heat Presbi defeated a Rise squad (missing three starters) by a heavy margin.  Flash in the pan?  Nope.  Heat Presbi then opened the Hard Work Finals with a victory over Fury Kallman.  

Minnetonka wing Riley O’Connor attacked Fury K heavily off the bounce scoring 20 points.  Riley gave the Skippers 7-8 a game as a junior but he looks to have grown a bit from his listed 6-foot-2 winter height and he’s definitely improved his ball skill beating good Fury defenders for several field goals.  

Hard Work Region Notes

  • The team game of Connor Schwob and Sam Opsahl helped WOTN win their first game.  Schwob had one of his better rebounding games.  Parker Johnson hit four triples.
  • Ryan Thissen scored 17 for Select Cave in a win over All In Fig.  Ryan is become one of the more consistent scorers at the 17u level in Minnesota. 
  • Henry Abraham scored 16 and Noah Puetz totalled 12 points and 7 boards in a win over the Michigan Goonies. 

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