Posted On: 06/7/19 7:02 PM

“Honestly, I don’t know how you guys do it. So many kids from so many places. This was hard!”

Those were the words of a new evaluator participating in the Prep Girls Hoops player rankings process for the first time. That’s pretty much what everyone says when they dive head-first into the rankings cauldron. Yes, it can be overwhelming trying to sort out who deserves to be listed among the very best players in Minnesota, and where they all fit relative to each other. But we do our best every few months to make it happen. Over the next week or so, we’ll be unveiling the updated player rankings for the classes of 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Morgan Kelly (#30) of St. Peter and MN Rise Wolfe has emerged as a player to watch. (Photo courtesy of St. Peter Herald)

This time around there were four new evaluators who took part. About a dozen evaluators were involved in the final selections, and they are a diverse group. The youngest is in her early 20s, the oldest in his late 70s. We’ve got AAU coaches, high school coaches, retired coaches and people who have played the game at a high level. We do our best to get input from across Minnesota, but that is always challenging.

We made one small but important change this time around. By delaying the rankings by a couple of weeks this spring we were able to see more players in AAU ball, which offered the opportunity to better examine how much some of the out-state kids have improved over the past few months. The results are in, the totals are tallied and the arguments have concluded. As a result, we will be adding 25 more players to the Class of 2022 rankings for a total of 100. One player has risen 32 places. The highest-ranked newcomer is all the way up at #31 with two more in the top 50.

There are 25 fresh faces in 2021, as well, bringing the total to the maximum of 150. The highest-rated new sophomore is at #63. Another has risen a whopping 56 spots! There are 150 players on the 2020 list, too, including one newbie who makes her debut at #67. One athlete rose 81 places, not because she improved that much but because we fluffed on her previous evaluations due to geographical limitations. Even the 2019 list, which will be carved in stone for the final time, features four new names, with the highest making her debut at #73. Add it all up and that’s 60 new players who made the cut this time around and 550 in all. That represents about 10 percent of the varsity players in Minnesota.

Freshman Telia Graham of Minnehaha Academy and Metro Stars 2020 Starks is a rising star in the Class of 2022. (Photo courtesy of Star Tribune)

10 PLAYERS YOU’LL BE READING ABOUT

There are always great success stories when it comes time to update the rankings. This time around we have players who have finally broken through, others who have improved incrementally and some who have just flat out proved us wrong. Here are 10 names you’ll be reading more about in the updates:

  • Zhane Thompson, 2020 guard, Burnsville (North Tartan 2020 EYBL)
  • Grace Kirk, 2020 guard, Duluth Marshall (Stars 2020 Antl)
  • Kirsten Robbins, 2020 guard, Heritage Christian (Heat Hinck 2020)
  • Aurora Roberts, 2020 guard, Tartan HS (UVA 2020 Navy)
  • Sophie Hart, 2021 post, Farmington (Fury 2021 UAA)
  • Alexis Pratt, 2021 point guard, Stillwater (Fury 2021 UAA)
  • Morgan Kelly, 2021 forward, St. Peter (MN Rise Wolfe)
  • Savannah White, 2022 guard, DeLaSalle (MN P.R.E.P Elite)
  • Telia Graham, 2022 forward, Minnehaha Academy (Metro Stars Starks 2020)
  • Tayah Leenderts, 2022 forward, Rosemount (Stars 2022 Nilsen)

IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW

Here are some things to keep in mind as you read the stories and peruse the lists in the Prep Girls Hoops Player Rankings:

  • You can’t pay your way into the rankings and you can’t bully us into saying your kid is great. We have had parents attempt to do both. We’ve got plenty of overzealous folks who do their best to promote their kids, and we’re OK with that. While we appreciate your enthusiasm, bombarding us with propaganda doesn’t help your cause. Really, it doesn’t.
  • We put a lot of time and effort into this. I saw 147 high school teams this winter and went to at least one game every day we weren’t snowed out. Since the AAU season opened I have attended on all 22 event days. Logan Moorse has been in the gym, too, and so have our evaluators. We go to tryouts, scrimmages, showcases, clinics, practices and individual workouts.
  • The entire process is anonymous. Evaluators provide fair and honest input because they know it will be kept private. You’d be amazed at some of the things coaches say about their own players! Nope, I’m not telling.
  • College coaches play a big role in the process, particularly for players in the top 20-30 spots. We have a pretty good handle on who is getting scholarship offers, and what level of offers they are getting. When you see movement at the north end of the list, the input from college coaches has most likely played an important role in that.
  • Finally – and this is the most important thing – it’s crucial to remember that the rankings are NOT BASED ON CURRENT PERFORMANCE. Prep Girls Hoops evaluates players on the basis of how well they are likely to do at the next level. IT’S ALL ABOUT COLLEGE POTENTIAL. The fact is there are some great high school players who have a build or skill set that is unlikely to transfer well to the college game. Others are likely to be late bloomers. Both are big factors in where a player ends up being rated.

The rankings updates are always the most-read items at Prep Girls Hoops and we hope you enjoy them this time around. We’ll start with the final update of the 2019s coming over the weekend.

If you don’t have a subscription, this would be a fine time to get one. Use my discount code GMac20 at checkout and you’ll receive 20 percent off the regular subscription price. You’re welcome!

Top photo: There’s no disputing who the #1 player is in Minnesota. Paige Bueckers has a stranglehold on that for at least one more year. (Photo by Jared Martinson, Prep Hoops)