I don’t know what it is about this senior class. Most years, our player rankings are pretty stable by the time a class is in their senior years. This year, there is still a lot of jockeying going on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (meaning in the past 5 years) so many girls come out as whole new players in their senior years, suddenly showing a maturity and maybe a new skill or 2 that previously had eluded them. So there are lots of changes in our rankings.
First, here are the girls who made the biggest leaps up our rankings—not specifically the most slots, but qualitatively, who has shown the most improvement. And, second, there is a totally unusual number of girls who have just moved into the rankings now for the 1st time. A year ago we had 180 2018s rated. Last August we were up to 211. Now there’s 260.
1. Mary Burke, Mountain Iron-Buhl, 5-11, post. It is now clear that Burke has spent most of her high school career deferring to MIB stars Mya Buffetta and Chelsea Mason. But they’re gone now and this is Burke’s team and she has broken loose, averaging 26 points, 10 boards, 4 assists and 5 steals, with a high of 35-12-4-4 in the Rangers only loss to Roseau. She has a nice combination of strength and mobility, and plays with controlled aggression. She is headed to UM-Crookston, where she will do very well. She moves up from #37 to #17.
2. Sarah Wendt, Mounds View, 5-7, combo guard. I am sure that we had blown it with Sarah Wendt prior to this year but, let’s be honest, the Mustangs were not playing well and that didn’t reflect very well on the individual players. But now it’s a new season, a new era with a new coach in Ashlie Anzel, and so a team that went 4-23 last year has started out this year at 4-7 with a 68-66 shocker over Cretin just last week. Sarah scored 14 ppg last year and 16 this year, so it would appear she was much better last year than we gave her credit for. But better late than never, and she has moved up from #147 in our rankings to #66.
3. Sophie Findell, Irondale, 5-9, combo guard. Here’s another case of a team that is much improved and so the assumption is that the players have improved, too, which may be true or it may not. But, in Sophie’s case, yes, it’s true. A year ago she averaged 10 ppg with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. This year she’s 18-4-4-3. The biggest difference is she’s become a very confident and very accurate 3-point shooter. She’s also more active, more in attack mode, and so much more effective for herself and for her team. Sophie moves up from #173 to #83.
4. 5 from Park of Cottage Grove. Last year Park went 13-14, which is not bad, not in the Suburban East. Now, even with 2 straight losses by a total of just 10 points, the Wolfpack are 10-3, and we’re ready to admit that we have underestimated the talent that coach Stephanie Tolkinen has down in Cottage Grove. All 5 are scoring from 8 to 12 points per game, and all could be scoring 5 more playing for many other teams.
• Power forward Delaney Young (12 ppg) moves up from #135 to #96.
• Guard Riley Perryman (12 ppg) moves from #138 to #98.
• Guard Molly Wenner, coming back from an injury at 10 ppg, moves from #137 to #100.
• Guard Taylor Johnson (10 ppg) moves from #136 to #105.
• Guard Chloe Venegas, who was not previously rated but is scoring 9 ppg, moves into the top 250 at #162.
5. Karli Skog, Pequot Lakes, 5-9, point guard. Skog has taken over the 1 for Pequot and is having a stellar senior season, scoring 19 ppg. She has moved up from #174 to #114.
6. Erica Hicks, Champlin Park, 5-7, combo guard. Hicks dropped down out listing over the year, partly because she retired from summer ball prematurely and partly because she is pretty small. But the truth is that she makes up for her size with, well, possibly the best offensive skills in the state. She scores at the rim, despite her size, and just compensates for her lack of size with a super-high basketball IQ. Now comes word that she has no interest in playing college basketball. It’s time to get on with the rest of her life—except for one final season of ball at Champlin, where she has helped move her team up to #6 in our rankings. And she herself moves up from #36 to #20.
7. Emma Thuringer, Worthington, 5-10, wing. Always a great prospect, Thuringer has now moved from potential to production, scoring 18 ppg. She moves from #165 to #103.
8. Teana Hakamaki, Cromwell, 5-6, combo guard. OK, we admit that it’s been tough to keep all of the Cromwell Hakamakis straight in our mind, but for whatever reason we had underestimated Teana. Now, as a senior, she has really asserted herself as a ballhandler and playmaker and as a shooter and a scorer, averaging 19 ppg. She moves from #143 to #84.
9. Andrea Abrams, Eastview, 5-10, forward. It takes most girls awhile to force their way into the Eastview rotation and to get comfortable and to get productive, but Abrams has crossed that threshold. She’s been a vital part of the Lightning’s drive to #1 in our team ratings at the moment, and moves from #82 to #65 in our individual rankings.
10. Monika Czinano, Watertown-Mayer, 6-2, post. The Lizzie Odegard award for the most improved senior post goes to Czinano, who was already highly rated and highly regarded. She committed to the University of Iowa a year ago. But she has continued to improve her game and now moves into our top 10 for the class of 2018.
Top 10 Newcomers
48. Anna Counts, Providence, 6-2, post. It turns out she’s Mel Counts’ (look him up) granddaughter and she is celebrating her senior season by showing new energy on the court. She’s got great hands and feet, she’s mobile and active for a 6-2, with excellent post moves, and has emerged as a solid D2 post prospect, scoring 16 ppg.
62. Rachel Linsey, Maple Lake, forward. A volleyball star, she is also asserting herself on the basketball court, scoring 18 ppg and helping her team challenge for a spot in our Class AA top 25.
69. McKenzie Holgate, New Prague, 5-8, small forward. She’s still not what you’d call a star, but I don’t know how she hasn’t been rated until today. Better late than never, as she’s having a very productive senior season scoring 14 ppg.
81. Haley Grover, Bigfork, 5-9, wing. Another total oversight, Grover is a 1,000 point scorer who along with others in the senior class have made Bigfork the top challenger to Mountain Iron-Buhl in Section 7A. She’s scoring 13.5 ppg so far her senior season.
82. Olivia McCabe, St. Peter, 5-4, point guard. I think we missed McCabe because, frankly, I did not realize she was a senior. She went down late last year with a knee injury but she is back, and probably not 100 percent just yet. But she’s a very dynamic point guard who means everything to her team.
88. Olivia Witt, St. Croix Prep, 6-0, post. Witt was under the radar as a transfer who sat out last year. She’s a dynamic post who runs the floor and attacks the rim aggressively in transition and in the half court. If she were at Stillwater high, she’d be their best forward.
93. Justyna Butler, Cretin, combo guard. Missed most of the past 2 years with injuries, but she’s a skilled combo guard who knows how to play the game.
125. Allison Brown, Pine City, forward. One of those players who flies beneath the radar by doing everything well for her team, but not maybe being the best at any one thing. But there’s nothing much wrong with doing everything pretty well.
131. Gabby Robinson, Tri-City, point guard. Gabby’s one of those players who deferred to her elders throughout most of her career. But, now, as a senior, she was more than ready to be the go-to girl for her team.