The first day of the Minnesota Comets Invitational had its share of surprises and excitement but overall the teams expected to come out on top were victorious. The Minnesota Pump-n-Run, Minnesota Comets, and the 43 Hoops I team finished the day undefeated all taking care of business like expected.
Sunday morning the brackets for the championship round of the 17s looked like this:
Minnesota Comets Elite vs. 43 Hoops II
Minnesota Pump-N-Run vs. TNL Express
Terry Porter Elite vs. 43 Hoops I
Minnesota Heat vs. ?
As of 2:34 AM nobody from tournament headquarters was around to clarify if the 2-1 Minneapolis Redhawks, the 2-1 Minnesota Fury Elite, and the 2-1Magic Black team was headed to the championship bracket. After a long day of whining coaches and players, hardened officials, and not traveling Iowa teams in a blizzard this tournament crew had earned their night break from media requests. And why not, the Comets Invite is the Daytona 500 of Minnesota AAU hoops.
Pump-N-Run Very Strong
The Pumps had big success yesterday destroying ECI MN and 94 Feet of Game and then building a 16 point lead on Grassroots early and they never looked back. The Grassroots win was pretty impressive considering Tha Eastsidaz brought Cooper seniors Quincey Bethea, Joe Bright, and Kenquane Brown, St. Bernards seniors Mike Weah, Brian Sandifer, and Avery Duncan, and Kevin Thompson from North plus Henry junior Jordan Hughes with them to represent Grassroots.
Friday I predicted that Steve Tecker could be the tournament MVP and right now that prediction looks solid. Tecker is as tough as they come on the floor and his motor is what gets the Pumps started. Steve's pull-up jumper was outstanding yesterday and he beat opponents off the bounce commonly and then finished as his muscular frame made defenses bounce off him like dolls. Mid-majors are salivating over his ability after Steve was extremely impressive at the Wisconsin state basketball tournament. Tecker led with a team high 19 points against Grassroots.
Speaking of motors, Sibley's Mike Rostampour of the Pumps was all over the boards yesterday controlling the glass for his team. Mike's motor is a lot like Tecker's in the fact that it never quits running and like Tecker yesterday Mike finished just about everything he attempted. And when Mike did miss he responded to that miss with an o-board and another make. Another thing Mike did well was move his feet while guarding Kevin Thompson of Grassroots Minnesota. Expect Rostampour's offer list of UM-Milwaukee and North Dakota State to triple in size as soon as college coaches get in to see him work.
Carlos Emmory was a highlight reel in game one against the ECI Minnesota teams. Carlos had five dunks that wowed the crowd and his open floor exciting game have the Pumps scoring production from the forward spot. And when Carlos wasn't dunking Kevin Noreen was slashing to the hoop to absorb contact and then finish after the hit. And when Kevin wasn't scoring inside he was using that lightning quick release to hit a couple treys. Emmory put up 19 in game one.
Dyami Starks was as steady as I have ever seen him yesterday. Starks was complete with a new clean hairdo and steady ball handling skills to lead the Pumps. Dyami is a more than capable shooter but his objective yesterday was controlling the basketball and feeding his weapons, which he did extremely well. Defensively Starks was pretty good and then Jonathan Crockett was a warrior. Crockett is built like a brickhouse plus he sits down in a stance like a bulldog ready to attack so teams did nothing on him at all yesterday. Starks produced 12 points in the first contest and 14 in the second contest.
It was at times a rough day for both Pumps bigs Alec Brown and Jake Kreuser who both hurt their ankles and had to sit time to recover. Both got taped up and played again later. Kreuser had a strong first showing with 15 points against ECI. Brown had a very strong third game against 94 Feet scoring in several ways and blocking three shots. He missed the first game as Alec was taking the ACT test.
The Comets sliced through Minnesota Select II, Minnesota Xplosion, and the MSB Roadrunners using their quickness to run the floor on these teams. MSB actually played the Comets tough for a while but Taylor Filipek, Jordan Riewer, Alex Hanks, Erik Tengwall, and Michael Johnson put the pressure on and produced an exciting running game.
It seemed every time I looked over at the Comets Filipek was leaking out, catching, and attacking the rim for another dunk. The 6-foot-5 Filipek has a very impressive frame and guard skills that opens the eye of talent evaluators from different schools. Some look at his shot and wonder but at times yesterday Taylor was sinking his jumper. He also moves the ball intelligently for his team and at Willmar he played a lot of point this season.
Riewer and Johnson had very impressive days. Riewer was all over the place defensively forcing turnovers and fueling the Comet running game. Offensively Jordan just does things right and is very productive. Division twos in Minnesota will fight hard over him. Johnson may be only 5-foot-9 but he can amaze you with what he can do on the floor. Grand Rapids made it to state losing only a few games this year and it was Johnson who teams pointed to as the menace.
The guy who may have more MIACs in the stands than anybody next year is Albany's Zach Noreen. Yes Zach is another player from the Noreen family hoops factory and at 6-foot-6 he's a big body that makes triples from everywhere for the Comets. Against a Select team Noreen impressed with four triples.
43 Hoops I Moves on
Even without Brett Ervin yesterday Al Harris's team couldn't be touched. A big reason for that is the relentless work ethic on defense of Vinard Birch. His ball pressure was literally torture to other guards and the biggest sequence I recall was against the Pump-N-Run 16s. Vinard stole a pass and scored a lay-up then harassed a guard up the floor, tipped a ball to the other end, and then dove on that loose ball hovering across the floor in a rush to get to the loose ball. People say he's to short for division one like other good short guards in the past but so many of those 5-foot-9 guards in Minnesota playing D2 don't have Vinard's defensive ability or strength.
I saw this 43 Hoops team play once yesterday and they ran away in the second half against the Pumps 16s behind a strong run from Tartan's Tim Lubke and Manani Beavers, Birch, and Centennial's Tony Gerdling. Lubke rained three straight triples, Gerdling slashed twice for scores and hit a three, and Beavers took care of the rest slamming home once emphatically and then going to the foul line about four straight possessions. When these four put on a scoring run the game went from single digits to up 23 against the Pumps 16s.
The buzzer beater of the day came from TC Elite's Josh Pratt who beat the Pump-N-Run 16s with an incredible three-pointer in the corner falling out of bounds. The make pushed the Elite team to a win and Pratt's (from St. Anthony Village) shot was the talk of the evening session for about 30 minutes.
Another guy making highlights was Deron Murphy from the Minnesota Magic. Murphy is a real jerky point that you can't relax on or he will blow by you with his handles and quickness. And if he's coming down the lane beware as he dunked on a tandem of players in the lane yesterday and word has spread about a dunk he had going past Jacob Thomas at the Pulley tryouts.
If you can't love Yuriy Malashnko than you can't love hard working basketball players. Put him up there with Rostampour, Birch, Crockett, Riewer and Tecker in terms of guys whose motor never stops. Malashenko was seen deep in a stance defending, diving for a loose ball, grabbing a board over every Magic player, and hitting a 12-foot jumper yesterday all in one series. Didn't see much of him yesterday but I will make a note to see Yuriy in the future because he is a trooper at about 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-5 maybe. Yuriy also had a three as I was leaving the gym.
Jonah Travis and Alex Richter of the Pump-N-Run 16s were both impressive off the bounce all day long. Travis killed defenders baseline and with his explosion there was penetrating scoring production all day Saturday. Richter got to the lane and finished in more crafty fashions sometimes absorbing contact and using good body control to complete plays.
Minnesota Gopher walk-on commit Dominique Dawson is just plain huge. He's got giant hands, long arms, and the muscular frame of a 22 year old Big Ten tight end. He is raw but there is something to work with there as he made most of his free throws, blocked a ton of shots, and scored a lot of points inside for 43 Hoops II. With his ability I'm very surprised that more division two schools didn't think about offering scholarships unless he hasn't passed the ACT or something of that nature. Also playing very well for this team was Dimitri Conwell whose activity played a big role in 43 defeating Hoops Training and the Minnesota Comets 9th team or whatever it was. Conwell's harassing long arms and open floor ability played a big part in 43 Hoops II moving on to the title bracket.
Triple Threat defeated Minnesota Select I in the worst officiated game of the day. They were part of a dramatic finish that saw the Select go on a 10-0 late run to get within three points but it was just to late. Jeremiah Tolbert of Hopkins was the defensive menace for Select as he almost led his team to the win stealing passes and finishing open floor scoring attempts.
The Minnesota Glory struggled at times on Saturday but Conner Gunderson played his game successfully. The 6-foot-5 Austin wing is multi-talented with the ability to hit shots from beyond the arc as well as put the ball on the deck to score in the paint. At Austin Conner commonly faced some trick defenses getting extra attention but with Glory having talent to take pressure of Gunderson the Austin wing attacked for points from every which angle against the Minnesota Comets third team. Division two schools are going to love Gunderson I believe.
Moose is what they call Aaron Johnson on that Comets third bunch named Comets Blue and his low post game beat Glory's Ben Shultz often for lay-ups inside. Using his strength and footwork Johnson was able to get the 6-foot-10 Glory post on his hip and from there Johnson completed at least four plays successfully. Watch out for him at New London-Spicer next year.
Andre Ingram of 94 Feet of Game produced 14 dunks in his first two games and everyone in the gym kept looking down to the east end to see who was that guy who spent more time on the rim than on the floor.