Posted On: 08/7/19 7:20 AM

There are so many elements that go into building a successful AAU team, from scouting and recruiting players to running great practices, getting kids to buy into your vision and developing athletes for the long term. Do all of that right and you might win some basketball games. Marqus McGlothan of DTA Academy 2022 did all of that and more this year while compiling a record of 42-8. As a result, the junior high teacher and basketball trainer from St. Cloud is our selection as Prep Girls Hoops AAU Coach of the Year.

McGlothan’s DTA squad was the surprise team of the season in 2018, but Marqus felt the squad needed to get faster and add some size. Player acquisition can be challenging for the smaller independent clubs who don’t have the infrastructure in place or history in hand to identify and entice players to join. It usually comes down to the personal touch and a compelling sales pitch. McGlothan excelled on both counts.

Over the winter he managed to land a haul of quality talent from the Class of 2022, including Nia Holloway (Eden Prairie), Ronnie Porter (Como Park), Charita Lewis (St. Cloud Cathedral), Myra Moorjani (Eden Prairie) and Tori Ratz (Fergus Falls). It’s one thing to recruit some quality players but quite another to get them to drive 75 miles to St. Cloud for practice and individual training. Outstate kids rack up those kind of miles all the time but metro kids generally won’t do it. That says a lot.

Although Ratz was injured for much of the summer, the other four newcomers were terrific. Thanks to their collective performance, and the play of holdovers Maddie James (Princeton), Maddie Thorfinnson (Minnewaska), Adeline Kent (Becker), Kiera Albers (Maple Grove), Madi Herkenhoff (Albany) and Lauren Feddema (Buffalo), DTA was outstanding.

The squad was undefeated out of state (18-0). They won the Midwest Kickoff Classic in April, one of the top divisions in Chicago, went 6-0 at Spooky Nook in Pennsylvania and won the All Iowa Attack tournament in Ames. Add it all up and it’s clear that McGlothan has earned the respect of his players and peers.

Matt Nilsen recently retired after a long run as coach at Edina High School. (Photo courtesy of the StarTribune)

Runner-up: Matt Nilsen, Stars 2022 Nilsen

Not much was expected from the Minnesota Stars top freshmen in 2019. The former state champion Stars Kolden team was in complete disarray at the end of last summer when four of their best players departed for greener pastures. A coaching change followed, and if there is one thing we have learned it is this: Don’t ever count out a squad led by Matt Nilsen.

Inheriting just four players from last year’s team, Nilsen and the Stars were able to add Ella Campbell (Edina), Ally Schultz (Lakeville South) and Joclyn Plonski (Eagan), along with twins Kaylie Crabtree and Kylie Crabtree of Hawley. Another recruit – Caroline Bokovitz of Wayzata – missed the entire summer with a torn ACL. They joined holdovers Tayah Leenderts (Rosemount), Dorothy Stotts (Edina), Ava Berg (Elk River) and Jenna Cuddigan (Lakeville South), who also ended up missing most of the year with an ACL injury. The revamped squad managed a top-4 finish at the AAU State Tournament in May, won the Suns Spring Showcase and at the Adidas Gauntlet in Indianapolis while compiling a record of 28-14. Nobody will overlook them next summer.

Honorable mentions: Tim Peper and Tim Ellefson, Minnesota Fury

Everyone has a different opinion on what constitutes a Coach of the Year. Is it the coach who turns around a struggling program and transforms the team into a contender? That’s a common criteria. Perhaps you’d prefer the person who builds and maintains a solid program over a long period of time, i.e., Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx. Or maybe it should be the man or woman who wins it all. For those of you who prefer option number three I give you our honorable mentions Tim Peper of Minnesota Fury 2021 UAA and Tim Ellefson of Minnesota Fury 2022 UAA. Their squads are loaded with talent and all they do is win.

Peper’s team of incoming juniors, led by Sophie Hart (Farmington), Gianna Kneepkens (Duluth Marshall) and Kaylee Van Eps (Chaska), had a record of 44-4. Ellefson’s squad of incoming sophomores, led by Mallory Heyer (Chaska), Ellie Buzzelle (Rogers) and Lilly Meister (Rochester John Marshall), went 42-8. Both teams won a pile of tournaments, including the AAU State Championship in their respective age groups. It’s not easy managing a stable full of thoroughbreds, but both of these coaches have successfully built and led uber-talented squads that play hard, share the basketball and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. For that they deserve our congratulations to go along with their rather full trophy cases.

Top photo: Head coach Marqus McGlothan (left), assistant coach Jesse James (right) and the girls of DTA Academy 2022.