Give and Go: Stars abound in local basketball scene
BOESE:The Minnesota hoops scene sure got depressing fast, eh Ruff? The Timberwolves are somehow worse than last year and the Gophers lost two in Hawaii, while looking even worse in their one victory. Which makes it the perfect time to shine the light on the locals.
Rochester Mayo junior Dan Jech, Rochester Lourdes senior Jacob Schaefer and Rochester John Marshall senior Ngor Barnaba are all getting Division I looks right now. Plainview-Elgin-Millville's Nick Shanks is putting up NBA Jam numbers. I'll be watching my first game of the season tonight at the circular school, so help me out: Which BMOC do you pick to stack your noonball squad at the RAC?
RUFF:Love the question. The easy answer is you can't go wrong with any of them. That is one stacked group, and the best bunch of big guys playing at the same time that Rochester has maybe ever seen. Jech, Schaefer and Barnaba are all 6-foot-8 or better, and skilled.
But threaten me with a lifetime ban from Chipotle, and I'd have to say that unassuming but relentless kid from Lourdes, Schaefer, is my No. 1 pick. Sure, there are few big-guy challenges for him in the HVL, but the long and athletic senior has put up gaudy numbers in the Rotary tournament, too. And that event has been filled with big schools and big guys. He also just turned in a summer's worth of head-turning AAU play, against all kinds of elite forwards and centers. Who's your pick?
BOESE:I'd feel more comfortable answering this after the Rotary Tournament, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued by Shanks. I wish the Bulldogs were in the holiday tournament again this year so he could bang with Rochester's big boys on the big stage.
Can Section One, Class AAA possibly top last year's OT thriller in the section finals? Austin, the 2013 state runner-up to powerhouse De La Salle, opened the year ranked No. 5, but Red Wing and New Prague are legitimate threats to dethrone the Packers at No. 9 and No. 10 in the initial AP poll.
RUFF:I'm not convinced that Austin deserves that No. 5 ranking. I'd bet that Packers coach Kris Fadness isn't buying into it, either. Austin lost a LOT from last year. But it is especially depleted down low, with big-guy cousins Joe and Tom Aase having graduated. Joe was 6-8 and is now playing at Division I Davidson, while 6-6 Tom is playing at the University of Sioux Falls.
The thing about Austin, though, is that it might have the best player in Section 1AAA. Point guard Zach Wessels is that good. Maybe he becomes even more of a scorer (16 ppg. last year), to go with his excellent all-around game. There are some nice wing scorers around Wessels, too, such as Ajuda Nywesh and Gach Gach. But can a team with nobody taller than 6-4 win the section?
BOESE:You know who also has size concerns? Josh Wieme, coach of the fourth-ranked Goodhue girls. That could loom large when the Wildcats have to contend with No. 6 Blooming Prairie and No. 9 Lyle-Pacelli is the same subsection.
The Kenyon-Wanamingo girls opened the year ranked No. 2 and got moved out of Section Two, where Minnesota signee Carlie Wagner reigns supreme at defending state champion NRHEG. But it's no cake walk in Section One for Knights coach Brent Lurken, who now has to contend with No. 5 Pine Island and No. 8 P-E-M.
Long story short, there's a ton of good basketball ahead in southeast Minnesota. Is it March yet, Ruff?
RUFF:No, not quite March yet. If it were, P-E-M's star forward Shanks might end his season averaging more points than anybody ever has around here.
The 6-5, 190-pounder is currently at 40.5 ppg. He had 42 in the season-opener against St. Charles, then dumped 39 on Winona Cotter. Oh, and he's not just a scorer, either. Shanks grabbed 23 rebounds against the Ramblers.
Yes, there's plenty to watch out there.