Sophomore guard Jalen Suggs (1) leads a talented Minnehaha Academy team with Class 2A title aspirations.
It would be easy to say the 2017-18 boys’ basketball season is expected to be one for the ages, with the local talent pool overflowing with top prospects. Except the same was said about last season. In other words, basketball in the metro is starting to approach the levels that hockey has enjoyed for years, with dozens of players expected to sign with Division I schools each season. For our purposes, however, we’re focused on the teams and players in the west metro, which also includes most of Minneapolis.
Large schools (4A, 3A)
Hopkins: While the Royals appear to have loads of talent with 6-10 C Joe Hedstrom, 6-8 F Zeke Nnaji and 6-0 G Blaise Beachamp, to name a few, coach Ken Novak Jr. is quick to dampen expectations. “We are tall, but we have a long way to go to be a top team,” Novak said.
Wayzata: The Trojans lost a lot from last season’s team that went to the state tournament for the first time since 1959. But there’s plenty to like, notably the guard tandem of senior Drew Galinson and junior Jacob Beeninga.
DeLaSalle (3A): Winning state championships has become a birthright for DeLaSalle, which is coming off its fifth consecutive Class 3A title. Guards Gabe Kalscheur and Tyrell Terry are superb, but there is one huge hole to fill: longtime coach Dave Thorson is gone, replaced by Travis Bledsoe. Can Bledsoe maintain what Thorson began?
Orono (3A): The Spartans have the most explosive player in the metro in senior forward Jarvis Thomas Omersa, a future Gopher who’s likely the best dunker in the state. He’s got help on the perimeter from guards Max Bjorklund and Griffin Sage.
Eden Prairie: A lot of points graduated along with Owen Chose, but there is a cadre of good, young alliterative players to build around in sophomores Austin Andrews, Connor Christensen and Drake Dobbs, not to mention the leadership of Klyer Kluge.
Others to watch: Osseo, Minnetonka, Delano (3A), Waconia (3A).
Small schools (2A, 1A)
Minnehaha Academy (2A): There is so much coming back for the defending champion Redhawks that anything short of another title could be considered a failure. It all starts with amazing sophomore G Jalen Suggs, who has a cast of talented players around him in seniors JaVonni Bickham and Lorenzo Smith, and fellow sophomores Kaden Johnson and Terry Lockett.
Minneapolis North (2A): After winning back-to-back Class 1A titles, the Polars jump to Class 2A this season, where their path to another championship gets a whole lot tougher. Odell (Bigs) Wilson is back patrolling the middle, and there’s a wealth of talent on the wings with Nasir El-Amin, Taylor Johnson, Elijah Campbell and eighth-grader Trejaun Holloman.
Breck (2A): The Mustangs will go where David Roddy, an athletic wide-body whose size (6-6, 235 pounds) and agility make him a relentless rebounder. Losing sophomore Kerwin Walton, now at Hopkins, hurts.
Maranatha (2A): There’s a lot of athleticism for new head coach Robert Ware, who was at Totino-Grace for the past two seasons. Newcomer Beijan Newbern, who averaged 20.3 points per game at Cooper last season, is a huge addition.
Others to watch: Holy Family, Rockford, Prairie Seeds (1A).
Preseason West metro dream team
• Jalen Suggs, Minnehaha Academy, 6-3, soph.
• Calvin Wishart, Delano, 6-2, sr.
• Gabe Kalscheur, DeLaSalle, 6-4, sr.
• Jarvin Omersa, Orono, 6-8, sr.
• Javonni Bickham, Minnehaha Academy, 6-6, sr.
• Joe Hedstrom, Hopkins, 6-10, sr.
Circle the date
Dec. 7: Minnehaha Academy at Apple Valley, 7 p.m. Jalen Suggs vs. Tre Jones. ESPN will be on hand to televise this one.
Dec. 9: Orono vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (at Hopkins), 7:30 p.m. Future U of M teammates Omersa and Cretin’s Daniel Oturu square off.
Feb. 13: Hopkins at Minneapolis North, 7 p.m. A wealth of athleticism on the floor.