Each and every year the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic expands its season opening event and this year is no different. This Saturday the Tip-Off Classic will bring more talent to one location than any other high school event in Minnesota all season. Two gyms will be running games with start times slotted 30 minutes off of one another all day long. Our first preview will look at the games in Minnetonka's west gym.
9:45 AM - Sebeka vs New London-Spicer
Sebeka and New-London Spicer are both highly ranked coming into the season (Sebeka is 4th in class A while the Wildcats are the preseason number one in class AA) and they share similarities.
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Both teams went to the state tournament last year and both teams return the vast majority of last year's rotation. Matt Cordes (head coach New London-Spicer) and Jon Lilquist (coach of the Trojans) are respected as two of the best coaches in the state and each team is led by a long time marquee name in Minnesota prep basketball (Erik Tengwall for the Wildcats and Joey Cuperus of the Trojans).
The Wildcats will be bigger up front with 6-foot-6 post Aaron Johnson and active 6-foot-5 power forward Justin Zylstra but they will still have their work cut out for them. Sebeka will attack those two with athletic ability and constant activity with 6-foot-5 Cuperus and 6-foot-4 John Clark.
In the backcourt is were the Trojans have work to do. There is no question that senior Alex Brockpahler and junior Cody Pulju are a talented pair. They return a combined 25 points and eight assists a game from last year. But the Wildcat backcourt of Tengwall and Jayme Moten are considered one of the best guard duos in the state regardless of class. And that statement is more about their defense than offense because
Tengwall and Moten can straight get after other teams all over the floor.
Recruiting Note: Tengwall is being looked at hard by Jamestown College. The North Dakota school may be able to bring more scholarship money to the table than several of the division twos will be able to. Also watch for some of the top MIACs trying to get involved and let's not forget what type of playmakers Erik is in football, which could be an option.
11:30 AM Minneapolis North vs. Plainview/Elgin-Millville
Both North and PEM will bring a strong starting five to the floor in this interesting early Tip-Off contest. How North defends the Olstad brothers Clay and Cole could ultimately decide the game.
Cole Olstad, a 6-foot-4 junior, is a top 2011 player in the state of Minnesota because he has unlimited shooting range plus he provides points inside. North may be able to limit his scoring inside with Mark Devine's 6-foot-7 length but can Devine or Pengi Mboma step out and stop Cole on the perimeter? That will be interesting. Cole and 6-foot-4 junior classmate Landon Flies will have their work cut out for them stopping Mboma on the other end who is North's leading returning scorer.
Then we turn the focus to the backcourt where Clay Olstad is another major point producer and teammate Chris Conrad has some explosion to his game that should come more to light this year. They will face junior Malik El-Amin and sophomore Charles Smith in a battle that should be very intriguing.
Recruiting Note: Cole Olstad has started to hear from some division one schools and this week a coach from Northern Iowa is likely to be making an appearance at one of Cole's practices. His brother Clay signed with Concordia-St. Paul this November.
3:00 Lakeville South vs. Benilde St. Margaret's
This game has fun match-ups to look forward to all over the court. Both teams have size, tough point guards, wings capable of scoring in bunches, and high expectations for this season. Starting in the backcourt the battle between Isaiah Zierden of BSM and Riley West of South could get intense. West is the kind of kid that will give 110 percent from start to finish and he will face Zierden who just relishes a challenge
Then you have Darren Glover, Peter Crawford, and Seth Marx going against Alex Richter, J.D. Melhorn, and Grant Mitchell on the wing. The creative match-ups will be interesting. If Glover is 100 percent healthy he is likely to see a lot of Richter because Darren is a big wing who really knows how to defend. And who on South is going to stop Peter who signed with UMD this fall? Crawford's scoring touch has range and his length makes him a tough match-up.
The guys that people may look past when initially talking about these teams are players like Marx and Nick Meyer of BSM and then Melhorn and Mitchell for South. The x-factor for BSM could be sophomore wing depth like the athletic Sonjay Lumpkin or dangerous shooter Will Dunn.
Up front both teams have depth and legit size. At around 6-foot-5 Myles Barnes is a bruiser who loves to mix it up for the Red Knights inside. He'll defend the post hard, grab a ton of boards, and run the floor well to converge. Next to him is the long armed Evan Battle whose improvement from the start of last year until the end of the season was incredible.
But they have to find a way to stop South's bigs starting with Jake Wensmann who is extremely consistent. Barnes will have to keep a body on him all times as Jake is aggressive on the glass plus can step out and hit range. And speaking of stepping out, 6-foot-7 South post Spencer Pankonin has a nice touch for a big that can pull bigger players out to the perimeter allowing his teammates to work on the rim.
Recruiting Note: Isaiah Zierden is starting to have regular coaches in his gym to see how his game is progressing. Isaiah has entered that two year window (sophomore and junior year) where college basketball coaches look for local potential talent and follow it very closely. The latest to be in his gym was Gopher assistant coach Ron Jirsa.
4:45 Henry Sibley vs Cloquet
This game was put together with the thought that seniors Jake Kreuser and Mike Rostampour would go to battle up front with Cloquet's 6-foot-10 senior bigs Chad Calcaterra and Ben Shultz. These teams were also bringing back some pretty good wings in RaRa Jones/Peter LaCourse for Cloquet and Jimmy Ryan/Dante Grant for Henry Sibley. It's a chance to see the Colorado State commit (Calcaterra) go against the Lafayette commit (Kreuser) for the first time.
An addition has been Jordan Jackson transferring from St. Paul Como Park to Henry Sibley. Jackson is one of the most athletic guards in the metro. Jones gives this northern bunch an athlete to counter those like Grant and Jackson that Sibley has. Plus RaRa is a very good rebounder who was two boards away from averaging a double double last year.
Kreuser and Calcaterra should be fun to see if the guards get them the ball a lot. We will see which player is able to get the other deeper in the post, which player can put fouls on the other, who can swat who more often, which player can finish while the other big is contesting them, and how will own the glass. Cloquet has to figure out how to keep Rostampour away from offensive boards (if he stays out of foul trouble).
Recruiting Note: Mike Rostampour was invited as a guest of the Gophers to come to the game this weekend against St. Josephs. Mike won't be able to attend the Gophers game as Minnesota plays at three but this shows that Minnesota has some interest.
6:30 - Hopkins vs. Tartan
Tartan versus Hopkins may be at the top of the list of the most anticipated Tip-Off Classic games. These programs have rarely faced off against one another unless it was a state tournament game. But this year coach Ken Novak Jr. and Mark Klingsporn will do battle early in the season.
Hopkins beat Tartan by 12 points in August in the Pacesetter Sweet 16 but it was a much closer game than that. Troy Klingsporn and Drew Preiner had outstanding performances but foul trouble hurt Tartan and D.J. Peterson and Joe Coleman took advantage. Their athletic ability could not be contained as the pair took over down the stretch. Things should be even more intense with the head coaches on the benches to lead their teams.
Both teams have depth and it will be fun to see future star point guard Siyani Chambers (a Royal sophomore) and Darrion Strong (a Tartan freshman) compete when the get a chance. Another interesting battle will be Manani Beavers going against Joe Coleman. And expect Peterson to be a factor once again but Tartan will send several guys at D.J. to try and frustrate him.
Marvin Singleton's size could be the ex-factor. Neither team has much size that they are too likely to use so Singleton versus Charlie Buchmayer will be key. Charlie is a very good defender who loves to frustrate the other team with his positioning.
Hopkins has to worry about the serious shooting stroke of Tim Lubke, the all around scoring of Troy Klingsporn, Drew Preiner's attacking and mid-range stroke, and the explosion of Beavers who is Tartan's top returning scorer. None of them put together huge numbers last year and none may be complete scorers but they all work together very well to produce offense.
Recruiting Note: Minnesota assistant Vince Taylor was at Hopkins the other night scouting all their talent plus freshman Riley Dearring.
8:15 Minnetonka vs. Chaska
Between Tor Anderson, Cole Stefan, and Andrew Latzke the Skippers have three talented shooters who can do more than just fill it up from beyond the arc. Latzke can also scrap to the paint to score on cuts as well as o-boards, Anderson can play the point and create shots for teammates, and Stefan looks in outstanding condition as he's shown a whole lot more mobility and explosion going to the rim.
One guy Chaska will look to is Max Watts, a junior looking for a breakout year. Watts played with the Minnesota Heat this summer and was one of the top point producers on Willie Vang's very successful 16 and under team. The Hawks are also going to need Jacob Meyer and Adam Happ to step up and contribute key minutes. In addition, 6-foot-7 Ross Travis will have to take some time away from the frontcourt and guard one of the Tonka stars on the perimeter for a few parts of the game.
Up front Travis is a national top 150 recruit by Rivals.com because of his combination of athletic ability, skill, and size. At 6-foot-7 he will play next to one of the state's most productive juniors in 6-foot-7 four man Jake White. Between White and Travis Chaska has a pair of forwards who rank in the top five of Minnesota's 2011 prospects lists. Then Chaska has another experienced big in Anthony Webber who can't be ignored.
Minnetonka has Leonard Glass to deflect some of the Chaska size production as his athletic ability and length may help limit one of the Chaska bigs. But he will need help. Latzke, junior Blake Nelson, and sophomore Andrew Turnblad may be called on for that important duty.
Recruiting Note: Jake White picked up his first offer from Wichita State not to long ago whole Ross Travis has six scholarship offers from division one schools.