Posted On: 02/14/20 3:26 PM
It’s that time again, time for the Prep Girls Hoops prospect rankings update, winter 2020 edition. The player rankings are by far the most popular — or unpopular depending on your perspective — feature we do at Prep Girls Hoops. It draws more eyeballs, more interest and more debate than anything else we do.
Regardless of what some folks will tell you, rankings do matter. People, including college coaches, pay attention to rankings. They agree or disagree. Debate or argue. Or just absorb the information to aid in the recruiting process. Are they the definitive way to categorize a player? Of course not. Coaches will ultimately decide for themselves. Their jobs depend on it. But it’s a great starting point.
If I’m a coach coming halfway across the country to watch an AAU event in Minnesota the most effective way available to narrow down my list of prospects is to review the Prep Girls Hoops rankings in advance. I have been told this over and over by coaches who are new to the Minnesota market, and many have learned of a specific player only because we ranked them and wrote about them.
If I am in the market for an athletic 2022 forward that can play in a high major or strong mid-major program, I can figure out very quickly that I should be watching #5 Nia Holloway of Eden Prairie (North Tartan 2022 EYBL) or #7 Lilly Meister of Rochester John Marshall (Minnesota Fury 2022 UAA). If I am a D2 coach looking for a 2021 point guard, it would make sense to have a look at #47 Natalie Holte of Shakopee (Stars 2021 DeSart).
So how accurate is the list? It’s pretty accurate. Over the past several years the Prep Girls Hoops rankings (formerly Northstar Girls Hoops rankings) have proven to be the most accurate source available that categorizes Minnesota’s best players. Do we sometimes get it wrong? Of course we do. So do the colleges. Sometimes players don’t pan out at the next level. Other times they blossom. Also, from the time players are first ranked entering their freshmen year of high school until they graduate four years later, their games evolve. Some peak early, others bloom late, others decide college basketball is not for them. It is fun to watch that process play out.
The 2020 rankings update is now posted to be followed by the 2021s next Monday, the 2022s on Thursday, Feb. 20 and the 2023s on Saturday, Feb. 22. In between we’ll highlight the biggest risers and notable newcomers, and offer up some analysis as we go. We hope you enjoy all of it.
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PROSPECT RANKINGS
The one question I get asked regularly is this: how do you guys decide where a player gets ranked? Let me tell you.
Minnesota’s Prep Girls Hoops prospect rankings are compiled by our writers with input from high school, club and college coaches who watch a ton of Minnesota girls basketball. We put a lot of time and energy into it — probably too much! — and we are as diligent as we can possibly be to get it right. We never intentionally set out to bury a kid or leave them off the list. We try not to be biased — other than favoring kids with talent, grit and a desire to get better. We work really hard at being fair. But at the end of the day not everyone will be happy, and that’s OK. Rankings are updated three times a year, in October, February and June. Here are some other important things you should know.
#1. There are a lot of people involved. More than 20 basketball folks from around the state take part each time the rankings are updated, and it’s not always the same people. We try to choose people who are really involved and committed to the process.
#2. All evaluators are granted anonymity so they can say what they really think about a player‘s potential without insulting one of their own athletes. I am the only one who knows who all of the evaluators are — and I’m not telling!
#3. Participants come from a variety of perspectives. We have current and former AAU coaches, current and former high school coaches, long-time basketball observers, as well as D1, D2 and D3 college coaches. There are males and females; people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds; urban and rural folks; and an age range from early 20s to the 70s.
#4. We watch a ton of basketball. I haven’t added it up yet for this season but over the past couple of years I have averaged about 150 high school teams viewed during the regular season. I attend every summer AAU event and average about 20 hours of viewing per event. We attend fall leagues, open gyms, practices, training sessions and showcases. Everyone involved is in the gym on a regular basis.
#5. We don’t pay the evaluators. The evaluators don’t pay us, either. Unlike other rankings/recruiting services, players cannot pay for a place in the rankings. When coaches look at our list they know that everyone on it has earned their way in. There are some things money just can’t — or shouldn’t be able to — buy. If that changes I will be heading for the exits.
#6. College coaches have a lot of influence. If there is no clear consensus on the top players in each class we give them the last word. In last fall’s first ranking of the 2023 class, for example, it was very challenging to decide which of the two Hopkins super freshmen —Taylor Woodson or Nunu Agara — should be #1. In the end the college coaches we polled were split right down the middle, too. That’s why, for the moment at least, Woodson and Agara are co-#1s.
#7. Geography matters. Although we try to watch players across the state as much as possible it isn’t easy. Most of our evaluators have day jobs, and many of the rural Class A and AA schools do not play on Saturdays. My personal limit on a week night is 180 miles round trip. It doesn’t help that many of the high school coaches in this category don’t take the time to post individual stats, which drives me nuts because it is just lazy. This winter I have been to games in almost every part of the state, from Jackson to Rochester to Duluth to Moorhead, and Nate Wahl has been covering central Minnesota like a blanket this winter. It all helps paint a clearer picture of where players fit.
#8. AAU matters. In the winter update we are obviously adding players who are having great high school seasons. This is the primary opportunity for athletes who don’t play AAU ball to make their mark. It’s a reality, however, that players who don’t play AAU are greatly diminishing their opportunity to make the PGH prospect rankings. They are also limiting their opportunities to play college basketball since being seen by 10 coaches is statistically less likely to yield the desired result than being seen by 100.
#9. Seniors who choose another sport drop down or are removed from the list. Why? Because a talented athlete with options who decides to play volleyball (Erin Lamb of Stewartville for example) or softball (like Katelyn Mohr of Farmington) is no longer a good college basketball prospect. Lamb’s name will disappear from the 2021 list next week. Others quit basketball. Some, like Ella Janicki at White Bear Lake, tell us they don’t intend to play a sport in college which, generally, moves them down the list or out.
#10. Most importantly, this list is about college potential, not current performance. Let me repeat that. THIS LIST IS ABOUT COLLEGE POTENTIAL, NOT CURRENT PERFORMANCE. This is the big one, the factor that causes the most consternation, the most misunderstanding, especially among keenly-interested parents. That’s why a gangly freshman who has barely cracked the varsity lineup can be ranked 30 spots ahead of a highly-skilled guard who is a starter. If the gangly freshman is 6’2 and athletic, she is going to be nearer to the top of the list because those kids are few and far between. A 5’7 junior forward who is tearing it up in high school basketball is going to be ranked well down the list. It’s just a fact that there is not a very big market at the collegiate level for 5’7 power forwards. As I always say, small girls have to scrap and claw for every opportunity; bigger girls have to play their way off the team.
Does the process work? For the most part it does. Generally the players who end up in Division 1 basketball are ranked in the top 30-35 spots. Division 2 players generally fall in the 20-80 range. Of course some players with D1 possibilities choose to go D2. And some kids who belong in the 100-150 range get missed altogether due primarily to lack of exposure. Others cannot make the grade academically so they end up starting their career at a two-year school. In the big picture, however, it tends to work out.