Posted On: 02/16/21 4:16 PM

Handicapping the field last season for Minnesota’s Miss Basketball award could not possibly have been easier. Paige Bueckers Paige Bueckers 5'11" | CG Hopkins | 2020 State MN of Hopkins was always going to be the winner and, as her show-stopping first season at the University of Connecticut has clearly demonstrated, it was the proper choice. In 2021, however, the field is wide open. What’s different is the absence of two players who would surely have been up for serious consideration: Katie Borowicz Katie Borowicz 5'6" | PG Roseau | 2021 State MN and Kendall Coley Kendall Coley 6'2" | SF St. Louis Park | 2021 State #94 Nation MN .

Borowicz, the crafty point guard from Roseau, and Coley, the graceful guard/wing/small forward from St. Louis Park, elected to depart early for the greener pastures of high major college basketball. In a pandemic-altered world, where freshmen will be granted an extra year of college eligibility, who can blame them? Borowicz is now in the lineup and getting good minutes at the University of Minnesota while Coley is working her way into the rotation at the University of Nebraska. So where does that leave us?

Today’s task is to outline the five favorites, determine the next 10 contenders and identify 10 more seniors who will likely receive consideration. To be clear, these are not our selections. Rather we are endeavoring to predict what the Miss Basketball committee will do based on their previous patterns. These would include:

  • Career performance – This is basically an award for the player’s body of work, not necessarily what they have done as seniors. This obviously impacts the late bloomers who may have taken awhile to step into the limelight.
  • Geographic representation – The committee has clearly been conscious about including players from all over the state, not just the seven-county metro area. Over 40% of last year’s final 40 were from outside of the Twin Cities.
  • Class representation – About half of the last year’s group of 40 finalists were from Class 4A schools, which produce the vast majority of top prospects. If pure performance were the only consideration that number would be higher, but it’s great that kids from all four classes are in the mix.
  • Rankings don’t matter – I’m not sure if the committee pays attention to rankings or not. In our case the rankings are predictions of success in college basketball, not specifically what players have done in high school, so that makes sense.
  • Skewed towards scorers – Let’s face it: kids who can score always draw the most attention in the game of basketball. Points are quantifiable and easily identified, and the athletes who can put the ball in the basket are prized. Players who make their mark as defenders just don’t get the recognition they deserve.

There’s one other thing that’s different this year: there are no Hopkins Royals in consideration. Unlike previous and future seasons, Hopkins has no seniors in its core group.

With all of that said, these are the players we think the committee will consider. We have listed them in alphabetical order by last name.

THE FRONT RUNNERS

  • Julia Bengtson Julia Bengtson 5'10" | PG Becker | 2021 State MN –5’10 guard, Becker (Eastern Illinois). The Becker Bulldogs have evolved into one of the most-successful, most-respected programs in the state, regardless of class or geography. Their rise has been built around Julia. She’s a gifted point guard who can score in any number of ways. She’s also an elite distributor. As for her leadership abilities? There is nobody better.
  • Ellie Dague Ellie Dague 5'10" | CG Henning | 2021 State MN – 5’10 guard, Henning (North Dakota State). Ellie is clearly the best Class A senior in the state, and her story of overcoming serious injuries to lead her team to the state tournament is heart-warming. She’s a scorer, a rebounder and a distributor who delivers game after game. Dague is also a great leader.
  • Sophie Hart Sophie Hart 6'4" | C Farmington | 2021 State #44 Nation MN – 6’4 center, Farmington (North Carolina State). Sophie has been making a major impact for her team throughout her high school career. Hart’s abilities have evolved to the point where opponents have to build their entire game plan around stopping her. She’s big and strong and skilled and her intangibles are impeccable.
  • Gianna Kneepkens Gianna Kneepkens 5'11" | CG Duluth Marshall | 2021 State #86 Nation MN – 5’11 guard, Duluth Marshall (Utah). Gianna has to be considered the front-runner at this point. Her scoring exploits are completely off the charts. Her leadership has helped Duluth Marshall achieve relevance. And she’s carried her team following the graduation of another standout in Grace Kirk (Brown). What’s not to like?
  • Adalia McKenzie Adalia McKenzie 5'10" | CG Park Center | 2021 State #39 Nation MN – 5’10 guard, Park Center (Illinois). Adalia’s production is down a little this season but that’s more a function of a significant turnover in the Pirates’ roster than her own performance. McKenzie is still over 25 points per game and has to shoulder pretty much all of the load night after night. Adalia is special, and the committee will no doubt see that.

THE NEXT 10 IN LINE

10 MORE WHO’LL GET CONSIDERATION

THE PREVIOUS 10 WINNERS

Top photo: Adalia McKenzie Adalia McKenzie 5'10" | CG Park Center | 2021 State #39 Nation MN of Park Center is one of the favorites to win Miss Basketball in 2021.