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West-metro boys' basketball: Back for more glory

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 12/03/13, 7:00PM CST


Story lines to watch in west metro boys’ basketball this season.


Will this be the year of the Minneapolis North renaissance? The death knell was sounding for the school as recently as two years ago as enrollment dropped precipitously. It’s still a school struggling to find sound footing, but there are signs that Minneapolis’ oldest high school may be poised for an athletic comeback.

The football team advanced to the Class 4, 1A semifinals after earning the top seed in the section. The boys’ basketball team, long a source of community pride, got a significant infusion of new blood when Larry McKenzie, known for coaching Minneapolis Henry to four consecutive Class 3A state titles from 2000 through 2003, left his head coaching position at Holy Angels to take over the North job.

McKenzie has a reputation for building programs through aggressive defense and fearless offense. With no seniors and just one junior on the roster, expect the Polars, a Class 1A team, to absorb some beatings. But with a core of talented underclassmen in guards Tyler Johnson, Isaac Johnson and Azherik Rodgers and forward D.J. Hunter, things are looking up on the north side.

The North story is just one of many to watch in west metro boys’ basketball this season.

Top Teams

Class 4A

Osseo: It only seems as if senior center Ian Theisen has been around for longer than three years. His veteran savvy and the addition of Jordan Dembley make the Orioles a contender for a March title.

Hopkins: The winningest program in the metro in the past decade will be guard-centric with the trio of Kamali Chambers, Amir Coffey and Jake Wright.

Eden Prairie: With eight of their top 10 players from last season missing due to football, the Eagles might take longer than expected to reach their potential.

Others to watch: Minnetonka, Maple Grove, Bloomington Jefferson.


Class 3A

DeLaSalle: Put seniors James Lawson and Geno Crandall and juniors Sacar Anim and Jarvis Johnson with some guy named Travis in the middle and you have what might be Minnesota’s best team.

Blake: Look for this senior-dominated lineup (John Veil, J.R. Bascom, Johnny Curran) to build on last season’s state tournament appearance.

Holy Family: The Fire appears to have all the requisite parts: experience, size, versatility and an athleticism that can make up for streaky shooting.

Others to watch: Orono, Delano, Waconia.


Classes 2A and 1A

Minnehaha Academy (2A): The defending Class 2A champs lost nearly everyone from last season but have talent waiting to shine.

Minneapolis North (1A): Can coach McKenzie lift the Polars back to prominence?

Heritage Christian (1A): The Eagles feature a senior core of Drew Kleinschmudt, Andy Hamilton, Tyler Furry and Spenser Bland.


Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737

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