A Look Inside the First 2021 Player Rankings
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me over the past month when the first class of 2021 rankings were going to be published. I mean, I'd probably have enough money to buy Marc a nice…
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me over the past month when the first class of 2021 rankings were going to be published. I mean, I'd probably have enough money to buy Marc a nice lunch over which we could argue some more about whether Jenna Johnson should be ranked ahead of Nora Francois, if Julia Bengtson is a better three-point shooter than Sydni Olson, or if stats from 1A ball are a fair comparison to those in 3A. Chances are, we'd still be debating well into our second piece of pie. What most folks we talked to agree on is this: in the here and now, Jade Hill is the best 2021 player in Minnesota.
Welcome to class of 2021. With the horse trading not quite done yet, we know that several players will be wearing different AAU uniforms next season. For now, the affiliations listed here are from the summer of 2017.
1. Jade Hill, 5-9, point guard, Minneapolis South & Tayler Hill Elite
It should not be surprising that a kid named Hill from Minneapolis is at the top of the class. Basketball greatness runs in the family, and there are high expectations for this talented point guard. So far she is living up to the hype with her vast skill set that includes tremendous ball handling, outstanding speed, an excellent shot, and the ability to see the floor the way only the very best can do. Until proven otherwise, Jade Hill's star shines brightest among this year's freshmen class.
2. Kaylee Van Eps, 5-10, wing, Chaska & Fury 2021 Blue
When you watch Kaylee play, you'd swear she was at least two or three years older. She is mature and poised and has the strength and frame to match. Her basketball IQ is off the charts. She rebounds hard and blocks shots. She shoots the ball well. and runs the floor and is a strong defender. Van Eps was an impact player at Chaska last year, and she's only going to get better.
3. Nora Francois, 6-0, forward, De la Salle & North Tartan Coley
When you watch a player numerous times, their flaws usually become more obvious and expectations are tempered. I have seen Nora Francois play more than 30 times over the past three years and I am more impressed every time out. She is a smooth, athletic big with nice touch. Her pull-up jump shot is outstanding and she gets to the basket at will. In summary, the De la Salle forward is the real deal.
4. Ellie Dague, 5-9, combo guard, Henning & North Tartan Kuppe
Ellie is the unassuming star of 2021, thanks to a rare combination of size, strength and skill. Dague is a natural scorer with great handles and a sweet jump shot. She rarely succumbs to defensive pressure, and is a nice distributor whose unselfishness makes everyone around her better. Dague is entering her third varsity season at Henning where she averaged 23 ppg as an 8th grader.
5. Kendall Coley, 6-0, forward, St. Louis Park & North Tartan Coley
Let's be honest: Kendal Coley runs hot and cold, but even when she's cold, the coach's kid is still a high-impact player. When she gets hot, look out! Countless times this summer, when North Tartan Coley was in trouble, the pure shooter from St. Louis Park simply took over the game, draining one textbook shot after another. Kendall is long and lanky, and she's still growing. The sky is the limit.
6. Jenna Johnson, 6-1, forward, Wayzata & North Tartan West
Jenna Johnson looks like she was made to be on a basketball court. She's just so smooth and makes everything look so easy. The Wayzata/North Tartan forward has terrific touch around the rim and can shoot it from anywhere. She can also grind it out inside. It may be tough for her to get big minutes at Wayzata right now but great things lie ahead.
7. Katie Borowicz, 5-5, point guard, Roseau & Minnesota Stars Hersch
Katie is the third of a very talented trio of super sisters from Roseau, and she is the most dynamic one of all. Mature beyond her years, Borowicz is crafty and quick, can handle the ball with the best, and played a key role in Roseau's state championship win. She is also a warrior who leaves every ounce of blood, sweat and tears on the floor every time out. Another 3-4 inches of height and she will be unstoppable.
8. Paige Meyer, 5-6, point guard, Albany & Minnesota Comets
Seeing Paige Meyer's name in our top 10 may be surprising to some, mostly because she plays for a lower-profile AAU team and an under-the-radar high school. Paige is a hard-nosed, physical point guard with terrific court vision and great maturity. She's has excellent handles, her first step is explosive, and her ability to change speeds is exceptional. We'll be watching her closely in the months ahead.
9. Kendal Cox, 5-9, wing, STMA & North Tartan 9 West
Every time we have a discussion about the premiere players of 2021, I seem to forget about Kendall Cox. She can't possibly still be a freshman, can she? Cox has played up in summer ball and looked like a seasoned veteran at STMA last winter. Kendal is a top-tier prospect who plays with poise and maturity and is extremely versatile. She is also a hard-nosed, physical defender with elite offensive skills.
10. Erin Lamb, 6-1 forward, Stewartville & So. Minnesota Fury
Long, lean and athletic, Erin Lamb is gifted in so many different ways, but it is her pure scoring ability that makes Lamb special. Lamb has put up exceptional numbers at every level. In a matchup against 6'6″ Ayoka Lee, the Kansas State-bound center from Byron, Lamb gave away three years of experience and 5 inches of tall and still left the gym with 29 points!
Lurking just outside the top 10
It can be a lot of fun putting these rankings together. Sharing opinions, seeking input, debating abilities, and analyzing a player's potential is all quite interesting. It can also be painful. Not everyone can be in the top 10. Some players get overlooked, and we will hear about it for months to come! (Trust me, it's not intentional. It's a lot of keep track of a 600+ kids in all four grades.) That said, the following three players were in and out of the top 10 discussion numerous times and are deserving of some accolades.
Tamia Ugass is a 6'3″ center from Minnesota Stars Hersch. The fact is, you can't teach 6'3″ and athletic, and in the long run players with those attributes tend to rise to the top. Four years from now, Tamia could be the best player in Minnesota but she has a ways to go before that happens. Her first season in the Suburban East with 4A Roseville will be a test. Helen Staley has already passed the 4A test as an 8th grader. The 6' forward/center earned big minutes at Rosemount, and played every position at one time or another. Staley has a strong physical presence on the boards, but also the mobility of a guard. Add in a quality mid-range game, a high IQ, and a consistency from three and you have a terrific package. And finally there is Takara Mason. Predicting the basketball future for the 5'6″ combo guard from Tartan HIgh School and North Tartan Coley is a tough call, particularly since she suffered a serious knee injury that may keep her out all winter. Mason handles the ball like an elite guard, but has the power, strength and vertical of a forward. Mason is also a three-point machine, but if basketball adds a four-point line, I know who my money is on. We look forward to her return.