A not-so-spooky Friday the 13th at the Fall Exclusive
In this article:
The weather has turned decidedly colder and high school sports like volleyball, soccer and football are into their playoff stretch. The “official” basketball season is just 30 days away and Breakdown’s four-week Fall League opens on Sunday. Friday night it…
The weather has turned decidedly colder and high school sports like volleyball, soccer and football are into their playoff stretch. The “official” basketball season is just 30 days away and Breakdown’s four-week Fall League opens on Sunday. Friday night it was time to kick off the preseason as we have done since 2020 with the Fall Exclusive, where individual prospects sign up for three Friday nights of team play.
The Fall Exclusive was born out of necessity when high school sports was on a COVID-induced hiatus and nobody knew for sure when play was going to resume. At the time Minnesota’s two competing scouting/media enterprises – Prep Girls Hoops and Jr All-Star – combined to organize that first go-around and it was a huge success. Because there was no other basketball going on, and kids were desperate to get out and compete, the event drew a Who’s Who of Minnesota basketball.
Among the players who participated that first year were current elite college players such as Minnesota Gophers Mara Braun, Kennedy Klick and Brynn Senden; South Carolina freshman and Miss Basketball Tessa Johnson; Wisconsin guard Ronnie Porter plus the likes of Amber Scalia (St. Thomas), Shannon Fornshell (Drake), Lily Fandre (Lehigh) and last season’s NSIC Freshman of the Year Emma Miller (UM-Crookston). We had a blast and so did they.
By the fall of 2021 things were gradually returning to normal but Jr All-Star carried on with the Fall Exclusive. The event has trended somewhat younger since then but has still drawn a crowd. On Friday night, there were eight teams involved playing two games apiece, and we saw some nice basketball. About 75 players competed, including about 40 younger kids we hadn’t seen before. It was a ton of fun seeing familiar faces, meeting some new people and warming up for the regular season.
Here are a few highlights Ally McGinnis and I watched on Friday night at Jefferson High School in Bloomington.
Game of the night
One of the highlights for me that first year was arranging for– at the time a precocious 5th grader from Duluth – to play a game with Braun, one of her idols who was entering her senior year at Wayzata. That turned out to be a ton of fun and a memorable occasion for both of them. This time around it was Johnson who was the star attraction. She did not disappoint.
In the evening’s final game Chloe’s Violet squad fell behind early as Team Black got a quick start. It was 8th graderof Champlin Park getting downhill at maximum speed a couple of times that gave Black a spark and helped them build a nice margin. Shortly thereafter Violet coach Tony Ragulen – moonlighting from his Prep Girls Hoops scouting duties – assigned Johnson to guard Soash and the game took a sharp turn in the other direction. The contest got gritty as the two teams battled hard to the end. Let’s just say Johnson put on a show and the Violet team pulled away for a convincing win.
There was some sandpaper in this one. Guard Josie Francois of Richfield did battle with her high school teammate Aniiya Johnson, which was fun for all involved, and the game got physical in general. The likes of Maple Grove guardand Hopkins forward gave the Black team some oomph. Johnson teamed up with of Brainerd, of New Ulm and Hayley Quinn of River Falls, Wisconsin to carry Violet to victory. Williams was recently promoted into the Top 50 in the Prep Girls Hoops 2026 rankings. Johnson, of course, is one of the premier 2028s in the entire country.
Hayley Quinn – The Minnesota Stars Nilsen 2026 prospect is a 5’11 forward with a ton of length. Her on-court mobility/agility has taken a big jump since we last watched, which isn’t unusual for lanky prospects who are still adapting to their growth. We loved Hayley’s competitive fire and willingness to be physical down low. She was a huge difference maker in both games.
– The Anoka guard, ranked in the Top 125 in the Class of 2024, was the lone senior in the gym. Competing for the Green team she used her speed, quickness and high-revving motor to make her presence felt as usual. Playing alongside big (2025 Top 75) and her 2028 sister Reese Malmgren from St. James, along with Prior Lake’s 2027 Top 30 , Eppinga once again showed why she will do well in college.
– This was our first look at the 2028 athlete from Minnetonka, who was playing for the Blue squad. She is super long and highly mobile with a wingspan from here to there and nice touch around the basket. Her skills are pretty well developed as she showed off a variety of tools. Tate has nice basketball pedigree. Once she fills out and gets stronger, Addler could be a force in the ’28 class.
Josie Francois – The Richfield guard, who competed this summer for Minnesota Diamond Elite , delivered the grittiest performance we’ve seen from her yet. She has filled out and gotten a lot stronger in recent months and she put those assets to good use. We loved her fire and vocal approach on the night. She is from the Class of 2027.
– The sophomore guard from New Ulm missed a good stretch this year with a knee injury that was originally diagnosed as a torn meniscus. Once she was in surgery, however, it was discovered that there was no tear meaning she’d be back in two months instead of eight. The Minnesota Rise athlete played soccer this fall and on Friday looked like the speedy Top 100 prospect we’ve enjoyed watching in the past.
North Tartan when we watched. She did the same on Friday night for the Gray team playing with a couple other terrific 2028 prospects in of Rochester Mayo and Lauren Robison of Lakeville North. Their summer teammate Tatum Morrison of Deer River was also very impressive for Team Berry (as in the fruit color LOL).& company – The younger sister of 2026 Top 10 of Orono appears to be trending in the same direction as her older sibling. Ally is a 2028 guard who stood out this summer for
Jaelynn Carter – Nobody in the gym seemed to know who Carter was as she turned in two outstanding performances in the younger group with Team Orange. Before the night was out we discovered that the big guard is from Kansas City and made the trek north because she just wanted to hoop. Carter was a strong performer who’ll probably be moved up to the older group at the next session. Perhaps we can talk her into relocating?
After a one-week hiatus for MEA weekend, the Fall Exclusive will return Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.
BANNER PHOTO:, &