Last night in the college summer league taking place at the 43 Hoops Basketball Academy the 43 Hoops 17 and Under team defeated the 43 Hoops 16 and Under team in a hard fought battle. It was the type of high-level game that brings out the strengths and weaknesses of the some of the best players in state and in the end only the strong (and physical and athletic) survived.
To set the stage this league is mostly a college league that includes teams from Concordia-St. Paul, Hamline, Crown, UW-River Falls, and others. Plus the two 43 Hoops teams play twice a week as they are challenged by more physical players. But as coincidence had it I was lucky enough to wonder into the gym to see these teams on the night they played on another. In addition the 17s were missing Clay Horne and Manani Beavers, who are on vacation, while the 16s didn't have Freddie Young, Thomas Schalk, or Jameson Parsons.
--Estan Tyler is the point guard for the 43 Hoops 16s and he's one of the top prospects in Minnesota's 2011 class. He was recently at the Northern Iowa camp and received a scholarship offer from the Panther coaches. Estan has good quickness and a good pace with the basketball in his hands, he has the ability to create as well as push the ball in transition and make the right play. Estan also has good size and continues to get stronger already with a good physique. Estan can also provide some ability to play the two.
Against most guards in state Estan has little problem with getting his team's offense started. But last night he was against Vinard Birch whose ability to pressure the ball has opposing guards around the state scared. Estan stood his ground well for the most part but he did have some turnovers against Birch. Plus, at times, the 16s tried to have some of their wings bring the ball up the floor instead to get Birch out of the backcourt and likely so those players could work on their handling skills.
Last night Tyler had a strong second half. He turned the corner off screens in a blink of an eye and his first step through the crease was very impressive. Estan made a runner, he caught a ball reversal and hit a three as he quickly got his feet set and smoothly released the trey in a quick succession. Estan beat Tony Gerdling off the dribble to hit a pull-up jumper and Tyler picked somebody's pocket and went the other way for a lay-in.
--The guy the 43 Hoops 17s frontcourt could not stop from scoring was Jake White. Jake could not be blocked out, he was active without the ball cutting off screens as well as flashing to open spots, and he was attacking off the bounce and scoring over defenders from mid-range.
White scored catching and shooting off of a ball rotation to the baseline from 14-feet, Jake scored off the attack jump-stopping and then lifting the ball over the defense once going right and once left, he scored off a baseline move spinning off the defense and finishing, there was a putback, White scored with a jumphook, another putback, and a free throw as he totaled 15 of the 26 first half points for the 16s. Then in the second half Jake attacked from the wing right, spun back left, and a hit a 12-foot floater while being bumped. He also scored on another putback and three free throws to finish with 22 points.
--43 Hoops 16s scored several times with their full court pressure and a couple times it was Ross Travis intercepting passes and going the other way to put points on the board. Travis has a high level of agility and he seems to move through the floor effortlessly. Ross hit one mid-range jumper and had four made field goals total.
--Marquel Curtis is about 6-foot-2 right now but if the rest of his body catches up to the size of his hands or the length of his arms he could grow about three more inches. Last night he showed explosion to the cup regularly attacking Josh Pella for scores plus Marquel hit two triples with a notably textbook release.
--Guard Jordan Smith has one of the most refined pull-up jumpers I have ever seen. In terms of his position he is still more of a two guard although you can tell he has worked hard on his ball skills. He did okay against the ball pressure of the older and more physical guards.
--It was good to see Brett Ervin back on the floor after the ankle injury and the shoulder problems. As expected there is still some rust there as he had some turnovers dribbling too much but he was a load down low that Jake White had a lot of trouble dealing with. Brett was being extremely physical with his Chaska rival and in the second half it resulted in points.
--Jordan Reetz was somewhat quiet last night but he did make a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer for the 43 Hoops 17s giving them the lead 28-26. The 16s were up with about a nine-point lead early but the older players fought back as the 22-minute half wound down. Reetz finished with three made field goals for the game.
--With Birch, Pella, and Tim Lubke struggling from the field the athletic ability and size of Leonard Glass and Elliot Owusu played a huge part in the 17s building a second half lead. Each of the athletic wings (Glass and Owusu) had put back scores, they totaled five dunks in transition, and their ability to fly out on the break and finish in front of the pack above the rim was a key factor in the 17s victory. Glass also nailed an 18-footer for a score and some free throws to score 14 points for the game and Owusu put up five field goals overall for ten points including a deep jumper in the corner.
--Glass's final dunk at the buzzer gave the 17s a 57-51 victory.