More from the Meltdown, Top Tier Showcase, and points beyond
As the summer season winds down, the work of compiling the first official ranking of the Class of 2021 begins, and what a class it’s going to be. Over the past several weeks, we have highlighted a number of the…
As the summer season winds down, the work of compiling the first official ranking of the Class of 2021 begins, and what a class it’s going to be. Over the past several weeks, we have highlighted a number of the incoming freshmen who have been impressive with their AAU teams and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead. These are names you are going to be hearing a lot over the next four years, including Jade Hill (Minneapolis South), Jenna Johnson (Wayzata), Kylie Borowicz (Roseau), Nora Francois (De la Salle), Kendall Coley (St. Louis Park), Alexis Pratt (Stillwater), Tamia Ugass (Roseville), Erin Lamb (Stewartville), and so many more. Like I said, what a class! Over the past few days at the North Tartan Meltdown and the Top Tier Showcase, we tried to see as many 2021s as possible that we either hadn’t seen before or hadn’t seen enough of. Here are five of the best.
Kaylee Van Epps, Fury 2021 Blue – When the first list of 2021s comes out, you can be sure of one thing: Kaylee Van Epps name will be near the top. The 5-10 guard from Chaska has the strength and frame of girls much older and she plays like a veteran, too. Her basketball IQ is off the charts and Fury coach Sean Pinkerton can’t find enough adjectives to describe Van Epps’ extensive array of skills and abilities. She rebounds hard and blocks shots. She shoots the ball well and runs the floor. She works very hard and is a great defender. What else can we say? Van Epps has already made an impact for Chaska, where she scored in double figures 11 times, including a high of 23 in a win over Bloomington Kennedy. Bottom line? Van Epps is the real deal.
Audrey Martinez-Stewart, Lady Get Shook 13U – Audrey Martinez-Stewart is a rocket ship. The 5’6” guard from Omar McMillan’s Lady Get Shook 13U squad can flat out fly, whether it’s on a rapid-fire transition basket or streaking back on defense to break up a scoring opportunity. She can also handle the basketball, makes quality decisions, is an uber-aggressive defender, and works her tail off every time out. Martinez-Stewart played part of last winter with St. Paul Highland Park and was very, very good. Word on the street is she will suit up this winter at Cretin-Derham Hall.
Alexis Pratt, Fury 2021 Blue – Alexis Pratt is a two-year varsity starter at North St. Paul where she was the leading scorer at 16 ppg on a team that went 6-20. Entering 9th grade, it looks like she’ll be playing for Willie Taylor at Stillwater, although you never know until the first bell rings in September. This summer Pratt has been exceptionally good for the Fury. She is highly skilled, very quick and super athletic. Although she is small, Pratt is strong and physical and can fire the 3-ball from anywhere. There are signs she is starting to use her teammates more effectively, but after basically flying solo for two years with the Polars, and dominating youth basketball before that, it’s going to take some time.
Johanna Langbehn, North Tartan 8th West – A lanky post from Elk River, Langbehn is very much overshadowed by Wayzata’s Jenna Johnson at North Tartan 8th West. Johnson is a tremendous player but Langbehn isn’t that far behind. She is long and lean and a very effective defender down low. I have seen her in high school summer ball go up against experienced varsity players and look every bit the part. The rest of her game will come given time but with the state champions now in rebuilding mode, Langbhen will likely get opportunities to shine much sooner than other Elks before her.
Destinee Bursch, Fury 2021 Blue – A 5’8” point guard from Chaska, Destinee Bursch looks two or three years older than she is. She is strong and athletic, with a big frame and a big game. Bursch can handle the basketball and she has quick feet. Another talented prospect from Fury 2021 Blue, Bursch can get to the basket through contact but needs to work on finishing at the rim. With some varsity experience as an a 8th grader, expect Bursch to play a significant role at Chaska this year.
A look into the crystal ball
On the lookout for quality 2021 prospects, I keep running into high-level performers who turn out to be a year away. Since we don’t generally cover 7th graders, the information gets put away for use at a later date. Here are a few 2022s you need to remember.
- Salam Maher, Lady Get Shook 13 U – Speedy guard from Richfield with tremendous range and solid ball-handling skills.
- Mara Braun, North Tartan 8th West – Athletic 5’9” guard from Wayzata who runs the show for NT 8th West. A very aggressive defender with a strong understanding of the game.
- Amaya Battle, Kiani Lockett, Tessa Johnson of North Tartan 7th West – Since Battle and Lockett are regulars at Hopkins and Minneapolis South respectively, their assets are no secret. Teammate Tessa Johnson of St. Michael-Albertville, who sister was ranked #1 in the Class of 2017, may be just as good.
- Kaylynn Asberry, Ballin’ Pretty – One of the most talented athletes in the class, Asberry has also played some for North Tartan and was Highland Park’s starting point guard as a 7th grader.
- Emma Miller, Minnesota Stars Kolden – If there is a faster player in the class of 2022, we haven’t seen her. The crafty, confident point guard from STMA directs the orchestra for the state champion Minnesota Stars Kolden.
One more for the road
Small disclaimer: Kaylee Clement doesn’t play AAU basketball – yet! Before sitting down to write about the aforementioned prospects, I stopped by Maple Grove Junior High on Wednesday morning to watch a little high school summer ball. Wandering past the court where Cambridge-Isanti was doing its thing, I saw a girl flying up the floor at 100 MPH and driving to the hoop for a pretty score. In the next couple of minutes, she forced a turnover, dove on the floor to save a ball from going out of bounds, blocked a shot, dished out two pretty assists and knocked down a nice 3-pointer. This incoming freshman is a pure athlete with minimal experience who has all the tools you can’t teach. Remember where you heard it first.