2017 AAU State Championships: Saturday’s standouts
There were plenty of terrific performances from numerous talented players on Saturday. I wish I could have seen more of them, but between the driving rainstorm, leaky gym roof, lack of parking spots within a day’s walk, and the limitations…
There were plenty of terrific performances from numerous talented players on Saturday. I wish I could have seen more of them, but between the driving rainstorm, leaky gym roof, lack of parking spots within a day’s walk, and the limitations of one man’s abilities, I could not see them all. These are a couple of players I did see that deserve some time in the sun. Don’t we all?
The rising star: Frannie Hottinger (North Tartan 10th EYBL, Cretin-Derham Hall)
A year or two ago, Frannie Hottinger was toiling away on Fury Gold and was relatively under the radar. Cretin was still an afterthought on the 4A scene and Hottinger looked like a good, not great prospect. Fast forward to 2017 and everyone is talking about the 6-0 forward from North Tartan 10th EYBL. Hottinger’s strong performance over the winter has helped raise Cretin’s stock significantly and she has bolted up the rankings to #18. This is probably not high enough. Although she doesn’t have the kind of frame that is suitable for success in the Big Ten, this young lady is likely going to make significant noise at the Division I level. Hottinger is long and lean, and super athletic. She has hands the size of frying pans. Her touch around the basket, and the post moves she uses to get there, are improving rapidly. On Saturday morning in a matchup against her former Fury teammates, Hottinger was the center of attention and deservedly so. The court was surrounded by admiring Division II and III college coaches, all of whom know they have no chance of getting her but admiring her skill nonetheless.
The free agents: Audrey Gadison (St. Croix Lutheran) & Sommer Blakemore (Park Center)
By the time a player reaches her final summer of AAU play, she’s probably been established with her team for at least a couple of seasons. Of course transfers do occur but there were two in particular that caught my attention this year and the beneficiary is Minnesota Fury 2018 Elite. The players in question are a pair of highly talented guards: Audrey Gadison who came over from North Tartan and Sommer Blakemore who was among the refugees from the defunct 43 Hoops. Gadison is a 5-9 guard who has been a varsity stalwart forever. You need a long ball at the right moment in the big game? Gadison is your girl. Her Northstar ranking has dropped substantially over the past year or two to 66 (don’t ask me why; I just got here!) but she is a quality prospect. Blakemore is a lightning-quick 5-6 guard, not too different from Gadison in skills and attributes, but doing her work in the higher-profile Park Center program. Blakemore is rated at number 17. Well done Fury. These two are great pickups who are making a difference in blue and yellow.
Overlooked and underrated: Abby Schulte (Crossfire Jorgenson 9, Maple Grove)
I first saw Abby Schulte playing JV in fall league at STMA a few months back. I was impressed with her athleticism, poise, touch and court sense. She floated across the floor as though there was no effort required. “That girl is going to be good!” I blurted to nobody in particular. Then I turned to the guy next to me, who was clearly a Maple Grove parent, and asked, “Who is that kid?” He smiled and replied, “That’s my daughter. Who are you?” Get ready for a lot more attention for your offspring Mr. Schulte. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for the powers-that-be here at Northstar Girls Hoops to see everyone, especially when they are only entering their freshman year in high school. As a result, Ms. Schulte was missed, and she is not ranked among the 134 players on the current class of 2020 list. Oops! This is an oversight of significant proportions and she deserves to be high up the food chain. By the end of the high school season, Schulte was a starter for the Crimson and was their best player on many nights. Her talent was on full display Saturday for Crossfire Jorgenson and there is plenty of it.
Player of the Day: Paige Bueckers (North Tartan 9, Hopkins)
I’m thinking I might just stick this at the bottom of every story until further notice. What can you say about the phenomenal freshman from Hopkins and Tara Starks’ North Tartan 9 juggernaut that hasn’t already been said? The kid is a joy to watch. Her skills are a gift from above, she works her tail off, and she carries herself with the poise and persona of a seasoned professional. Here’s the thing: I didn’t actually see her play on Saturday. If Hopkins (or North Tartan) wins by 40 I know she played great and who is going to argue? North Tartan demolished Southern Minnesota Fury Blue 78-25 and others who were there assured me her dominance was evident. Paige had a quick 16 points and North Tartan was on cruise control. Do yourself a favor: Don’t wait until she’s wearing the jersey of Team USA or suiting up for Notre Dame or UCONN. Get over to Bloomington Jefferson on Sunday and watch this girl hoist a state championship trophy. She is worth the price of admission.
Saturday's stats: Leading scorers of the weekend to date
I’m not big on scoring stats. Yes, every team needs scorers and comparing numbers makes for good entertainment over a cold one, but there is so much more to the game than that. In the interests of good customer service, however, I offer these tidbits as compiled by tournament organizers. I cannot be held responsible for any errors and omissions because, like I said, I don’t like numbers. Here are some of the top scorers in the tournament through day two.
Lariah Washington, Comets 10th Elite & St. Cloud Apollo: The 5-9 guard from the Eagles has scored 22, 16, and 22 points in three sophomore division I games this weekend. Washington is unranked by the fine folks at Northstar Girls Hoops.
Regan McElfresh, Central Lakes Thunder 11 & Brainerd: The 5-8 guard has scored 39 points in three games. The highlight was a 27-point performance in a two-point victory over Southern Minnesota Fury Gold. Included in McElfresh’s 27 were 7 threes!
Kaelyn Christian, North Tartan 10th Elite & St. Michael Albertville: Christian has 59 points in three games, including a monster 30-point performance in an 81-28 win over FM Fierce. Exactly how many more talented players are the Knights hiding out there?
Kaelynn Kudis, High Impact Briski & Cherry HS: This talented point guard has put up 37 points in two games in 9th grade D2. The 66th ranked player in the class of 2020 is already a proven scorer for the Tigers, who hail from Iron Junction, Minn.
Kendal Cox, North Tartan 9 West & St. Michael Albertville: This multi-talented 8th grader has posted 30 points this weekend playing a year up for North Tartan, not surprising since Cox is already a varsity regular for STMA. She will no doubt be a household name very soon.
Erin Lamb, Southern Minnesota Fury 2021 & Stewartville: The big post has already made plenty of noise on the high school scene as an 8th-grader, and she’s averaging 19.5 ppg game this weekend. Watch for her near the top of the 2021 list in the near future.
Sophie Hart, Minnesota Fury 2021 Blue & Farmington: Besides the aforementioned Miss Lamb, the list of outstanding 8th grade post players is very long and includes the 6-foot-4-inch Hart who has scored 32 points this weekend. We could write a whole article (and we will eventually!) about 2021 bigs named Parker, Ugass, Wheeler, Okpara, Staley and more.