Two weekends back at the Magic Invitational coaches from the five-state area fought for elbowroom just like they will be fighting in the months to come for the players that were on the floor. A nice collection of talent was on display as the Magic Elite 17s group won the three-day event and the 17s overall had some great players to watch.
Click here to read about the players from the tournament champion Magic Elite team in a previous story..
The first person I noticed at this event that I knew little about was Zak Smith of the Minnesota Glory. Smith is a 6-foot-5 guard who plays at Rochester John Marshall and right when I walked into the gym Smith drained a three. A couple possessions later the lengthy JM Rocket took the ball off the bounce and hit a Jalen Rose like runner. Next he took the ball to the rim off the bounce rising up over traffic to score and a couple minutes later he hit a pull-up three-pointer with a defender right on top of him. This was my first chance to see Smith play so to get a better impression I will need to see more games but with a 4.0 gpa, length, and decent athletic ability he could see some nice division two interest.
Also for the Glory is 6-foot-7, 180 pound Josh Figini from Chisago Lakes and his 23 points and 12 rebounds a game last year really has schools taking a hard look. Could he be division one? He's certainly going to have several scholarship offers to chose from as this young man hit four straight three-pointers at one point when I was looking on. He runs a lot like Jon Leuer and there are parts of his game that are reminiscent of Leuer although Josh is at least two inches shorter as well as thinner. Figini was versatile enough to bring the ball up some for the Glory and he also showed some quality pull-up jumpers. Josh has a soft touch on his shot with range.
Nobody in Minnesota players harder then Shakopee's Matt Zager who is competing with the Glory. At 6-foot-2 playing the off guard spot Zager is a relentless worker on the floor and he utilizes strength, as well as a quick first step to finish both in transition and in the half court set. Because of his strength and decent agility Zager can take it into size and still finish. He's another kid that division two schools were taking notes of and as they took notes Zager was diving on the floor right in front of them. Matt consistently runs the floor as hard as anybody.
Stewartville's Tom Gisler is a confident scorer who will shoot from just about anywhere at any time. He is a strong 6-foot-4 who can attack well and he has good body control to finish at the rim. Tom also has some decent handles that make him a trusted player to bring up the ball as well as take the opposition off the bounce. He was able to create space with his developing handles and overall Gisler has a lot of tools to work with.
When watching Freddie Burton and Kenquane Brown of Cooper play for 94 Feet of Game I instantly thought of how the Cooper Hawks should be a real contender next year. With Rodney Williams currently playing like a five star, top 25 player in the nation with Howard Pulley, Joe Bright playing inside, and Quincy Bethea hitting from deep there are a lot of weapons already. Then you add experience and improvement in the games of Brown and Burton and this team is going to make another run at state next year.
Another team that should be nice is Monticello. The Magic will have three double figure scorers back next year coming off a 15-12 season and all three of these guys are getting quality runs this AAU season. At the Magic event I saw Matt Bigelow (12.1 a game last year) play with the Minnesota Comets Stars and Josh Hibbison (13.2 a game in 07-08) playing with the Minnesota Fury. Also, leading scorer at 18.7 points a game Tom Sawatzke returns next year and he's getting good run with the Howard Pulley White team.
It was a nice weekend for both the Minnesota Fury and for Josh Hibbison as the young guard had nice games against the Minnesota Glory, Big Game Sports and Racine. There were several coaches who took note of Hibbison's strong attack as well as his play in the transition game. Meanwhile, Bigelow gives the Minnesota Comets Stars team an active 6-foot-5 player who runs well, finishes around the cup, and rebounds strong.
Looking at this past year White Bear Lake's Cole Christenson did not see a ton of time with his varsity team but if he keeps shooting like he was the ten minutes I watched him play things should work out for him his senior year.
Also for the Glory I was impressed with how often Charlie Baker was able to get into the lane and create for teammates. Then there was Zak Mathson rebounding strong for the Glory and Joe Conway from Winona was another kid that caught my eye as a major worker.
Although he is a grade older then everybody in the tournament schools were definitely noticing the 33 points that Steve Baker put up in the semi-final victory of 94 Feet of Game. This team made the finals of the Magic Invite and Baker's play was a huge part of it because of his sheer athletic ability as well as his scoring touch from anyplace inside the arc. Baker was able to drive through all five Minnesota Comet players at times to score acrobatically at the rim.
Also playing huge for 94 Feet of Game in that semi-final was Kevin Thompson, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Minnesota Transitions. Thompson had 23 points and most of that came on three-pointers off of Baker's creation. When Kevin was able to get his feet set his quick and solid release put up continual numbers.
This was not the best tournament for the Minnesota Magic Elite team coached by Steve Brown but there was production. One player I've grown to like after seeing him in a pair of tournaments is Tyler Goetz from Chaska. He led the Hawks in scoring last year at 13 points a game and Tyler is simply a tough nosed player who produces from all angles.
The Minnesota Fury had an encouraging weekend with a final four finish at the Magic Invite. Noah Sheppard of Minneapolis Washburn is a 6-foot-3 player who is right now shooting the lights out from beyond the arc. Against the Magic team coached by Brown the Fury's Sheppard was simply scorching from three-point land hitting on seven of ten attempts for a total of 28 points.
The Minnesota Comet Elite team fell to 94 Feet of Game in overtime of the semis but this game was not without drama as Nate Wolters and Tydan Storrusten hit huge shots late in the game.
Wolters is a 6-foot-4 guard from St. Cloud Tech that every division two school is coveting and they are all also hoping that he doesn't get noticed to much around the nation because there is the possibility division one schools may love what they see. At his size Wolters can really do it all in the backcourt putting the ball down on the floor equally as well as hitting shots from deep.
The Comet Elite team received very impressive performances from 6-foot-4 St. Cloud Apollo wing Andre Garth. An impressive athlete Garth ran the floor very well for the Comets and was able to rise up over traffic and commonly finish at the rim. Garth looked comfortable handling the ball and made some great plays in transition.
The Comets have a pair of players from Pelican Rapids in Storrusten and 6-foot-6 Eric Shulstad. Both were impressive at the Magic Invite and they are the big reason that Pelican Rapids is one of a handful of favorites to contend for the AA state title next season.
A few other notes as far as recruiting goes, Osseo's Sam Dower continues to build interest and recently Rick Majerus was in to see Dower for the fourth time. Twice this year Majerus watched Dower play and with a Billikens offer they are currently the favorite for his services. Other schools calling on him include Gonzaga, Marquette, Iowa State and then Dower has offers from Saint Louis, Northern Iowa, Montana, UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee. Dower is playing this AAU season with Net Gain Sports.
Redwood Valley's Mike Felt has now picked up four scholarship offers. They have come from North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Minnesota State-Mankato, and Southwest State. Felt had another monster scoring year this past winter but recently playing with the Dakota Schoolers, Felt was shut out defensively by the efforts of sophomore sensation Jordan Hughes.
Chris Halvorsen of Henry Sibley has picked up a couple offers recently. They came from South Dakota and Pacific as these teams are trying to bring in Chris who is an athletic 6-foot-8 wing who can defend as well as finish high above the rim.