For the second straight season the Minnesota Pump N Run opened their year with a 7-0 record and a tournament championship at the Comets Invitational. Jonah Travis led the way scoring 109 points in seven games that the Pump-N-Run won by an average margin of 29 points. The athletic Minnesota Fury was the program that was able to provide the Pumps with the best competition but even the Fury fell by double figures when it was all said and done.
Travis (DeLaSalle) will likely be served with the tournament MVP honor as he was pretty much unstoppable attacking the rim from start to finish. There was nobody at this event that could stop him from catching, drop stepping into balance, and then going up to finish or get fouled. Once Jonah was on balance his strength did the rest as he would power up for scores or at least get hacked.
Jonah also exploded on the rim for a handful of physical two-handed jams plus he went baseline lifting some shots to the backboard over outstretched arms of guys like Simon Krych (Minnesota Comets Elite/St. Cloud Apollo), Spencer Pankonin (Where Out the Net/Lakeville South), T.J. Okafor (Fury Blue/Champlin Park), and Marcus Dorsey (Fury Gold/DeLaSalle). Travis also hit a handful of jumpers with form that definitely impressed numerous NSIC coaches (at least 10 of the 14 NSIC schools had a representative at the event at some point) who you know will spread the word to their division one colleagues. Jonah maybe could have taken more from the 14 foot range but the handful he did take were not only made at a high percentage, they looked pretty good.
Roosevelt Scott (Minnesota Pump N Run/St. Paul Johnson) has really taken his game to another level. He's bigger, longer it seems, Roosevelt has definitely learned how to play on both ends, he's become more of a leader, and defensively he's a pest with that wingspan. Defensively and athletically this kid has his stock soaring and we can't forget about the handful of threes he hit and the numerous jams. Scott scored with an alley-oop in the championship jumping over the top of two Heat Elite players as he's simply a high riser.
The Pumps received strong performances from everybody on their roster. Kyle Noreen (Minnesota Transitions) literally did everything on the floor a kid can do this weekend. From hitting threes to dunking on kids, penetrating on kids to hang and score as well as throw full court dimes, it was all there. He had several important tap outs, his passing was as good as usual, and Kyle is one of those quiet directive types who says a lot with a few words. And more than anything Kyle just has a tremendous feel for the game.
Also, Joel Lindberg rarely makes mistakes plus he makes shots at a high percentage, Alex Richter put up big scoring numbers once tournament play started including 19 in the title game on only nine shots, and Eric Robertson played with an intensity that coaches love from wings. Rebounding and position defense were areas where you could tell Robertson put a strong focus on performing well.
In a losing effort in the title game there were still strong impressions left by the Minnesota Heat Elite especially from Tartan's Drew Preiner. Drew had a string of four minutes that saw him nail a three, two 16-foot jumpers, and take the ball to the rack for a field goal. If Preiner can continue to show that his jumper can be made with range and at a high percentage his stock will continue to rise.
Ross Travis followed his incredible Saturday night jam with another incredible flush this time slamming over the top of 6-foot-9 Dane Schmid of Fury Gold (Mahtomedi). Ross had several dunks this weekend and it wasn't just the spectacular nature of the plays it was more eye-opening how physical he was attacking the rim.
Jake White (43 Hoops/Chaska) impressed with his shooting streak over the course of five games. In that time frame Jake nailed 15 three-pointers plus led the team in free throws made. The player leading 43 Hoops in scoring was Marquel Curtis (Robbinsdale Armstrong) as he put up 85 points total in five contests. It's interesting to see kids guard Marquel as they look at him with such confusion as to what way he's going to attack.
The hosts Minnesota Comets were crushed 83-51 in the semi-final round by the Pump N Run and that loss took some excitement away from the previous five wins they accumulated. But in those six games Simon Krych made short one-handers over some big players as he was able to get on balance working his way into position to finish. Also scoring for the Comets was Seth Hinrichs (MACCRAY) who had opposing coaches screaming "shooter!" every time he touched the ball. Hinrichs continues to make shots at a high level and he's taking the ball to the rim more off the bounce.
New Comet Travis Rollo (Mayer Lutheran) impressed colleges with his shooting touch all weekend long. Rollo has great shooting form with range out to the arc and he made at least two long jumpers in every game I was in attendance. Rollo's upside is quite high because he runs well at 6-foot-7, he's got great length, he plays with intensity on both ends of the floor, and Rollo is willing to work hard and learn.
Saturday night we talked about the intensity of several of the Fury Gold players. Sunday most learned that the Fury Blue isn't much different. In fact, the Blue team may have even more active defenders with Okafor, Anthony Lee (St. Paul Johnson), and K.J. Bluford (Robbinsdale Armstrong). Those three are all good athletes as are Terez Van Pelt (Park Center) and Rodney Owens (Minnesota Transitions). They gave the Pumps a run before falling by a dozen in the quarterfinals. It was the closet a team came to defeating the eventual champions. Many left St. Cloud with a lot of respect for the Fury teams and if the Blue plays the Gold any time soon sign me up for a ticket as that would be one of the more intense battles of the spring.