TOP 10 METRO TEAMS
1. Apple Valley
The Class 4A defending state champions have point guard Tyus Jones running the show and a solid presence in the middle with sophomore center Brock Bertram. The supporting cast might be young, but it has plenty of talent. Experience gained should help it mesh with the Duke-bound star.
The Islanders, like Apple Valley, are also defending state champions. They have won back-to-back Class 3A titles. DeLaSalle also has two marquee players in senior forward Reid Travis and junior guard Jarvis Johnson. Coach Dave Thorson’s squad will still get in teams’ grills defensively, but is also exceptional on the offensive end of the court.
Coach Tim Theisen’s group will look to return to the Class 4A state tournament field after falling in the Section 5 final to Park Center a year ago. The Orioles won the Class 4A crown in 2012 and were third in 2011. Senior center Ian Theisen is steady in the paint. The backcourt will be solid with Wheeler Baker and Holy Angels transfer Jordan Dembley.
The past couple of years have seen Ken Novak Jr.’s group come back to the pack. Not because of a lack of talent so much, as a lack of size. Hopkins won three consecutive Class 4A titles from 2009-11. The Royals have an outstanding young guard in sophomore Amir Coffey, son of former Gopher Richard Coffey, and an exceptional three-point shooter in senior Jake Wright.
5. Lakeville North
Coach John Oxton’s team always appears to have one player who really develops over the summer. A year ago, it was current senior guard J.P. Macura. This year? Keep an eye on junior forward Connor Flack. The Panthers should make their third consecutive state tournament trip come March.
The Skippers will have an outstanding backcourt with junior Andrew Grosz and senior Delshon Strickland, a Division I who transferred from Holy Angels. Their success will be determined by how much production they get from their frontcourt.
7. Eden Prairie
The soaring Eagles have played in the past four Class 4A state tournaments, but will find it more difficult to extend the streak to five. They have been switched from Section 2 to Section 6, which includes Hopkins and Minnetonka. Eden Prairie has an excellent leader in senior guard Andre Wallace.
8. Cretin-Derham Hall
The Raiders routinely assemble talented teams but have only been to the state tournament once since 2001. They have a skilled junior class, led by guard/forward Sam Neumann and guard Joe Rosga, but might be a year away. Cretin-Derham Hall is in Apple Valley’s section.
9. East Ridge
The Raptors, with four starters back, aren’t bound to forget a first-round loss in the Class 4A, Section 3 tournament last season. Coach Paul Virgin’s team returns three double-figure scorers: senior forward Brian Ishola, senior guard Jake Knupp and junior guard Sid Tomes. And no one’s stock rose faster than Pepperdine recruit Ryan Keenan, a 6-foot-11 senior center.
10. Champlin Park
The Rebels look a lot like Minnetonka, with an outstanding backcourt but plenty of question marks in the paint. They welcome back their top three scorers in senior guard Ian Smith, junior guard J.T. Gibson and senior forward Brennan Witt. A 20-win season should be in the works.