The Hiawatha Valley League had some of the best non-seniors in southeastern Minnesota last season, led by guards Natalie Bremer (Lake City), Aby Shubert (Kasson-Mantorville), C.J. Adamson (Lourdes) and Lilly Meincke (Lake City). All except Shubert will be seniors this fall and all are shaping up as future college players.
Two of them, Bremer and Adamson, have already committed to Division II colleges.
Each has easily made our "10 Players to Watch" list for 2021-22. There is some length to watch on this list, too, led by Lake City's 6-1 senior Mya Shones and Lourdes' 6-2 junior Ella Hopkins.
It's never too early to be thinking about hoops. So here we go.
1. Natalie Bremer, Lake City
It's tough not to make Bremer the top pick from the HVL after what she did last year: 21.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 4.1 steals per game. All of that led to the smooth, fast and bouncy 5-foot-11 guard being named the HVL Player of the Year in 2020-21. Bremer is a true do-it-all type, with the ability to drive to the hoop or shoot it from deep, as well as be a menace on defense. Division II Minnesota State, Mankato thought enough of her to offer her a basketball scholarship. Bremer accepted.
2. Aby Shubert, K-M
Shubert gets better every year. That has to make the rest of the HVL nervous as the 5-8 guard will only be a junior. She’s already scored 1,000 points and was honorable-mention All-State last year. Shubert is coming off a season in which she averaged 19.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals. She’s quick, excellent with the ball and one of the best shooters around, having hit 41 percent of her 3-point shots, a robust percentage at any level of basketball. Shubert will likely get Division I looks before she’s through.
3. C.J. Adamson, Lourdes
This is another elite guard and another who seems to have been around forever. Also a star sprinter in track and field, the incoming senior is still running track but is more committed to basketball than ever. She cemented that in May when she verbally committed to Division II Augustana (Sioux Falls, S.D.) for basketball. One of the top all-around athletes in the state (also a soccer player), the 5-9 Adamson averaged 15.1 points, 3.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals last year and figures to up that point total next season. She shot 48 percent on 2-pointers but is looking to become a knock-down shooter on 3-pointers, too.
4. Lilly Meincke, Lake City
Late last season, Meincke had the look of a player who is on the verge of tearing it up. It was in the Section 1AA semifinals against Cotter that Meincke had a coming-out party, scoring every which way and the 5-11 incoming senior showing off excellent quickness and strength in scoring 15 points in the first half against Cotter and 21 for the game. She averaged 14 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists last year and has already scored 1,089 career points.
5. Mya Shones, Lake City
All of that length (6-1) and ability makes Shones special. The incoming senior put up big numbers last year, and they were well-rounded. Shones averaged 14.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. She’s already scored 1,345 career points. Shones is a forward for the Tigers, with her excellent mobility, shooting range and footwork defensively. She figures to be a part of a Lake City starting five that will be among the school’s best ever.
6. Keeley Steele, Stewartville
Steele was one of the fastest rising players in all of southeastern Minnesota last winter. She went from a non-starter as a freshman to starting and making a big impact on a great team as a sophomore. Her No. 1 skill is her ability to drain 3-pointers. Steele shot a sizzling 44 percent on 3-pointers last year while averaging 12.6 points per game. She also grabbed four rebounds an outing.
7. Haylie Strum, Stewartville
Steele has a heck of a backcourt mate in fellow incoming junior Strum. Strum, who also had a big role as a freshman, blossomed this past season when she scored 14 points per game and shot an excellent 80 percent from the line. Strum got bigger and stronger in a year and figures to make another jump this season when she’ll be one of the area’s top guards.
8. Vivica Bretton, Lourdes
A full-time starter last year as a sophomore, the guard/forward was also an integral piece for the Eagles as a freshman, when Lourdes was the No. 1-ranked team in Class AA. Bretton is quick, strong and relentless. She averaged 9.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game last year. Bretton, who likes to take defenders off the dribble, is just starting to tap into what looks to be great potential.
9. Ella Hopkins, Lourdes
There is a lot to work with here. Not only is the incoming junior tall (6-2), she can also move and shoot. Doing much of her casting from the perimeter, Hopkins showed a deft touch en route to averaging 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She shot a sizzling 59 percent from the field. Hopkins figures to keep adding to her game and to eventually be a top defender as she fully grows into her body.
10. Rylie Schnell, Byron
Schnell has gone somewhat under the radar, much of that to do with 6-foot-4 star Sacia Vanderpool having shared the court with her. Vanderpool will play at Wisconsin in the fall. But Schnell is plenty good in her own right. At 5-11, she is a versatile guard/forward who can also play point guard. Schnell wasn't a big scorer for the Bears last year, about 10 ppg., but she is a terrific court general who reads the court extremely well. Schnell has a pack of Division III college offers.