Posted On: 05/27/19 5:22 PM
It’s halftime in the 2019 AAU season, time to take stock of what has happened to date, time to look ahead to what we can expect in June and July. This isn’t some scientific analysis of what has been – as usual I’ll leave the complex analytics to my friend Kevin Anderson. Rather it’s an off-the-top-of-my head, sitting-on-the-patio-in-the-sunshine recap of what we have seen to date. At least it was sunny when I started. Drum roll please…
Biggest story so far
- Hands down it’s the Minnesota Fury’s clean sweep of the top four classes at the AAU State Tournament. No other team has done it before and it probably won’t happen again as the Fury knocked off three strong North Tartan teams and Minnesota Stars 2023 Hersch to reach the pinnacle. Read my recap of Championship Sunday for all the details.
- Runner-up goes to the birth of the rivalry between North Tartan 2020 EYBL and Metro Stars 2020 Starks. Regardless of how it came to be – we’ll spare you the history – their two encounters to date have produced some terrific theater.
Best game to date
- North Tartan 2020 EYBL vs Metro Stars 2020 Starks. In their first meeting at the AAU Prelims it was an epic battle as Mallory Brake of Hastings won it 55-53 for North Tartan on a last second basket. All-everything point guard Paige Bueckers of Hopkins had 25 points in this ultra-physical, uber-competitive contest that saw her former teammate Lauren Jensen of Lakeville North turn in an outstanding performance with 16 points. I wasn’t able to watch the rematch at the AAU State Tournament but folks who did tell me that game was every bit as good as the first one.
- Runner-up goes to UVA 2021 Coley’s double-overtime win against Minnesota Comets 2021 Elite at the Prelims. It served as the undercard to the aforementioned North Tartan-Metro Stars contest, running long enough so as to delay the start of the main event. Frankie Vascellaro of Holy Angels led UVA with 25 points while Julia Bengston of Becker had 23 for the Comets.
Teams that have surprised
- Minnesota Suns 2020 Bluestar – De’Ante Michaud’s juniors continue to outperform expectations as they earned a 4th seed and a 4th-place finish at the State Tournament. This edition of the Suns is led by a trio of D1 prospects – NJ Weems of DeLaSalle, T’Naye Griffin of Park Center and Shayla Miller of St. Louis Park.
- Minnesota Stars 2022 Nilsen – Not much was expected of the Stars’ top freshman team following the exodus of three standouts, but Matt Nilsen’s crew continues to impress. They earned a top-4 finish at State. Edina’s Dorothy Stotts and Ella Campbell have been excellent while Rosemount’s Tayah Leenderts is among the state’s most improved players. Newcomers Ally Schultz (Lakeville South) and Jocelyn Plonski (Eagan) have been huge.
- North Tartan 2021 Elite – The departure of popular coach Grace Dickman to North Carolina could have been problematic for this talented group, but all fears in that regard have been allayed as Andy Berkvam has done an outstanding job. The continuous improvement of Johanna Langbehn (Elk River) and Jodi Anderson (Centennial) has been big, as has the arrival of point guard Lizzie Berkvam (Northfield).
Teams to watch in the second half
- MN P.R.E.P 2022 – This new squad is loaded with talent but has yet to come together into a single unit. Their play has been disappointing to be sure, but any roster that includes Kiani Lockett (DeLaSalle), Kaylynn Asberry (Como Park), Savannah White (DeLaSalle) and Sydney Runsewe (DeLaSalle) has to be reckoned with. Overlook them at your peril!
- Minnesota Rise 2020 Martin – Like many teams this spring, particularly those from Southern Minnesota, Ashley Martin’s squad has been playing shorthanded every weekend due to conflicts with spring sports and prom. If Gus Boyer of Waseca is on the floor the Rise are a legitimate opponent. We’ll be seeing more from her, along with Rachel Breck (Waseca), Sara Kottke (Buffalo Lake) and Margo Stoesz (Mountain Lake).
Best independent teams so far
- DTA Academy 2022 Blue – The St. Cloud-based squad continues to demonstrate that it can compete with the best. The team is loaded with young talent such as Nia Holloway of Eden Prairie (she received her first Big 10 offer last week), her Eagles’ teammate Myra Moorjani, and Princeton’s Maddie James, and they play a fun brand of basketball. DTA finished third at State.
- Honorable mention goes to Minnesota Elite 2023 Cade. Led by Kennedy Klick and Nicole Lillard of Maranatha and 7th grader Alivia McGill of Park Center, these girls have already won a pair of state championships. They finished third this year and are a team to watch.
- A shout out also to UVA 2022 Ware. While Minnetonka’s Desiree Ware grabs most of the headlines, her supporting cast has also been very good, including Hannah Herzig (Centennial), Leah Dengerud (DeLaSalle) and Cloey Dmytruk (Como Park).
Most exciting newcomers to date
- Priyanka Satish, Metro Stars 2023 (Eden Prairie) – This dynamic little point guard continues to impress with her skill and tenacity.
- Sophie Lahti, North Tartan 2023 Wolkow (Pine City) – The 6’0 forward is making an impact in her first go-around in AAU and will be a nice prospect.
- Charita (Tiny) Lewis, DTA Academy 2022 Blue (St. Cloud Cathedral) – Believe it or not, the lightning-quick Lewis plays high school hockey, not basketball. Might want to rethink that.
Newcomers to watch in the 2nd half
- Sierre Lumpkin, 43 Hoops Martin 2023 – Good bloodlines, raw athleticism and the desire to be great make this kid special.
- ZoeRae Thompson, Crossfire 2023 Dubose (Mounds View) – Her length and athleticism have caught our attention.
- Drew Johnston, North Tartan 2023 Wolkow (Roseville) – The sister of 2020 Jayda Johnston is a crafty point guard who can score.
Most improved players
- Jenna Guyer, Fury 2021 Yellow (Centennial) – Size, skill, smarts
- Nia Holloway, DTA Academy 2022 Blue (Eden Prairie) – Athletic and driven
- Ava Stier, Stars 2022 Bjorgaard (Waconia) – A motor that never stops
- Lydia Haack, North Tartan 2020 Elite (Elk River) – Size isn’t everything
- Sydnee Nelson, Fury 2023 UAA (Red Wing) – Outstanding on the perimeter
- Piper Terry, North Tartan 2021 Elite (Minnetonka) – An absolute bulldog
Early favorites for AAU Coach of the Year
- Andy Berkvam, North Tartan 2021 Elite – The results speak for themselves
- Sam Ebenreiter, Fury 2021 Yellow – Tremendous rebuilding job & team culture
- Marqus McGlothan, DTA Academy 2022 Blue – Has assembled a talented crew
Top photo: They have only played each other twice but North Tartan 2020 EYBL and Metro Stars 2020 Starks have already established a nice rivalry. (Photo by Jared Martinson, Prep Hoops)