More than 120 college coaches descended upon the North Tartan Meltdown this week. Of course, different coaches are looking for different things. But, you’d have to think that a big part of the attraction of such as event would be…
More than 120 college coaches descended upon the North Tartan Meltdown this week. Of course, different coaches are looking for different things. But, you’d have to think that a big part of the attraction of such as event would be the dozens of seniors (OK, seniors-to-be, Class of 2018) who have not yet made a college commitment.
I spent Monday at Hopkins Lindbergh (there were also games at Bloomington Jefferson and Eden Prairie). But, just hanging around Hopkins, I saw 5 of our top 25 from the class of 2018 who are not yet committed, and 6 more of our top 50, and 12 more of our top 100. And, this is not counting the girls who might have been in action at Jefferson and EP.
There also were a bunch of girls on the rosters of competing teams who did not play, mostly due to injuries. Specifically Syd Schultz and Rachel Garvey of So Minn Fury; Kira Mosley, Metro Stars; and Audrey Gadison of Fury 2018 Elite.
But, to start things off, here are 5 unsigned seniors who impressed with their play on Monday.
Point Guard—Maesyn Theisen, 5-7, North Tartan 11th EYBL, Sauk Centre
It doesn’t seem so long ago when Tartan was winning state titles with Maesyn Theisen, Sam Haiby and Erika Hicks at he guards. And it was very clearly Theisen’s eam. She was their leader, their star, their brightest light. Now, there’s no point denying that Megan Walker has passed her up in Tartan’s rotation at the 1. Walker does a lot of the same things that Theisen does, but she’s a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger. And, meanwhile, Haiby, with her Nebraska commit, has passed Theisen by as a college prospect.
And, yet, it is very hard to imagine there’s not a few D1 programs who would cheerfully say, Maesyn, here, here’s the ball, take it, lead us, please! She is, after all, the textbook 1. She controls the pace, she gets and keeps her teammates involved, she dishes and scores, she is an absolute bulldog on defense, and generally plays with as much determination as anybody. She’s not as quick as some, she’s not as strong as some, but she makes up for it with a stratospheric basketball IQ.
So, D1 remains an obvious possibility. She compares very favorably to another Class AA guard, Kamille Wahlin, who ended up starting at Iowa, though that was 10 years ago and the game has gotten nothing but faster and more physical.
So, on the other hand, Theisen has done nothing but win at Tartan and at Sauk Centre, and she may decide that most of all she wants to continue to win. Then, who is to say, maybe D2 is the better fit. And, I can even see her as another Lucia Renikoff. Lucia could have gone D1 but went to St. Thomas. Theisen can do that—keep on winning—at D3. So, I won't be surprised with whatever happens. Whatever level it turns out to be, somebody is going to get a leader and a winner and be better off for it.
Shooting Guard—Amanda Pollard, 5-9, Metro Stars Wiese, Champlin Par
I don’t know if I have ever missed this badly. (OK, probably, yes.) But Pollard is still rated something like #114 in our rankings, and this summer she has shown game in and game out just how bad of an evaluation that is. She has a nice combination of size, strength, speed and quickness—she’s not overloaded with any of them, but has them all. She plays hard, she plays physical, she plays fearlessly. She’s not Maesyn Theisen, but she makes pretty good decisions with the ball. And, most of all, she is a leader on the floor. I think Pollard is going to be a terrific D2 guard.
Small Forward—Autumn Mlinar, 6-0, North Tartan 11th Elite, Maple Grove
This is the toughest choice of the 5. There are maybe 3 or 4 reasonable choices here. I will admit the tie-breaker is that Mlinar is listed at an even 6-feet versus other choices at 5-10 and 5-11. She’s at her best attacking the rim from the wing, and she’s better cutting to the rim than putting it on the floor, so come on team, get her the ball when she gets open. Not that strong, but finishes by being able to go with either hand from any angle. Will need to get stronger to be successful at D2, but has that potential.
Power Forward—Therese Mbanefo, 6-1, North Tartan 11th EYBL, Blaine
There are other good options at the 4, too, including Angie Hammond and Gabby Mocchi. But Mbanefo has the best combination of size and strength and athleticism—stronger than Hammond, more mobile than Mocchi. In particular, she gets up as high as just about anybody in the entire class of 2018.
She missed time with injuries as a youngster, which set her offensive game back a bit. But, it’s interesting that after she missed time with injuries, when her stock was dropping, Tartan came after her . And, if Tartan saw some upside, well, then, there’s some upside. Mbanefo is going to score mostly inside of 8 feet, at least for now. Like so many bigs, her offensive repertoire is still a work in progress. But, if she’s going to score at the rim, even with her vertical, she can get a little stronger.
But, mostly, she makes her living on the defensive end, where she plays physical and plays hard and is a bulldog on the boards. She may or may not have D1 in her future. It’s not a stretch to see her get a shot, but D2 might be more in her wheelhouse. In any event, there’s lots of upside.
Center—Annika Hoff, 6-4, North Tartan 11th Elite, Northfield
Hoff has always been highly regarded if only for her tremendous height. The vast majority of girls her size make their living on the defensive end and struggle to put their offensive game together. Well, Hoff missed considerable time with injuries a couple of years ago, and that set things back a little further yet. So, it is not a surprise that she still impresses mostly on the defensive end where she is, as I said, 6-4 and plenty mobile and getting more adept at physical play as well. She is a threat to block any shots that go up in the lane.
I am pleased to report that she is looking for her shot on offense more than I have seen before, though she still doesn’t go up as strong as she could and should and must.
Still, it is hard to see Hoff not ending up with a D1 opportunity. The size and athleticism are there and she plays hard. Depending on the program, she might need to redshirt, she might not contribute on Day 1, but the upside is obvious. (She is listed at 6-2 in the tournament program but I don’t think that can be right. There are lots of 6-2s out there, and Hoff is bigger than the rest.)
The Best of the Rest
As I said, there are other options. In the post, you’ve got 2 good options and that’s just from Metro Stars Wiese. You can go with the inside scoring of Zoe Hardwick, 6-3, Minnetonka, or the jump shooting of Brynne Rolland, 6-1, Apple Valley. Both lack the quickness to be great defenders, so D2 may be the ticket.
At the 4, as I said, you’ve got Angie Hammond. I was surprised when Hammond moved down at the start of the club season from Tartan’s top EYBL team to its 2nd team, the Elite. But, now, she’s back with the EYBL. She is a great defender and is starting to develop a jump shot.
At the wings, Haley Moore and Tayzha Buck stand out for their obvious upside. Moore is 6-1. Everybody else is 5-10, 5-11. Moore is mobile and athletic but it’s never been obvious what her position really is. Metro Stars Wiese even tried her at the 1. I think she’s a 2, but one who needs to develop an outside shot. She played the best ball I have ever seen from her Monday against Kingdom Hoops. Buck has the outside shot in spades. Her sister played D1 ball. The rest of her game is acceptable, but basically she can really fill it up.
There are less risky choices, too, with lower ceilings. They include Andrea Abrams, Wynter Bergner, Julia Bjurman, Kali Grimm, Sarah Ibarra, Annika Sougstad and Sidney Zgutowicz.
Abrams is a big, strong defender who can shoot the bomb on the other end. Bergner is a versatile offensive player, a threat to score from anywhere on the court. Bjurman can shoot the bomb. Grimm can really shoot the bomb. Ibarra is a tough, physical guard. Sougstad does all the little things, she’s a great perimeter defender, a great help defender. Zgutowicz may be the best of this bunch, but she’s a power forward in a 5-11 frame.
At the point guard, there are a lot of options. I like Emma Schmidt, Somer Blakemore, Shea Oman, Jenna Zeman and Madi Heiderscheidt in that order. Schmidt and Blakemore have D1 potential, Oman and Zeman D2, and Heiderscheidt D3.
Schmidt is quick in making decisions and executing the play, then gets on to the next play. She is a nice combination of strong and quick, with real snap on her passes, and she’s a natural leader on the court. I had not seen her since the state tournament in 2016, and had forgotten how good she is, or more likely she got a lot better.
Oman is a lot like Schmidt, a mix of quick and strong, and she’s not only a better shooter but perhaps a more creative playmaker. But, Schmidt is like Theisen with that ability to make the textbook play work better than it does for anybody else by executing it more decisively, with more snap and more authority.
Blakemore, Heiderscheidt and Zeman are all quicker than they are strong. Blakemore is not only quicker but faster, too, and so she pushes the pace a lot faster, well, than anybody on this list. None of these 3 is a great shooter.
The Class of 2018
Looking at these lists in this report suggests, as has been said before, that the Class of 2018 is somewhat lacking in depth. Your D2 prospects go down about to #50. Some years they go all the way to #75. But, there’s lots of prospects still out there, and a lot of those 120 coaches at the Meltdown this week will find somebody to love.