Monday’s Byron vs. Lake City showdown was the first basketball game that I’d watched in-person since last March. Absolutely wild.
I’ve spent far too many hours watching replays of games throughout our area. But it’s been an awesome resource so we can get to know the teams we cover a little bit better.
Here’s one way-too-early takeaway for 40 boys basketball teams in our coverage area across southeastern Minnesota.
Editor’s Note: Wabasha-Kellogg, Blooming Prairie and Glenville-Emmons were not included only because they haven’t played a game yet.
BIG NINE CONFERENCE
Mayo’s Mohamed Hammadelniel (10) reaches for a loose ball during a boys basketball game against John Marshall Friday, March 1, 2019, at Mayo High School in Rochester.
Rochester Mayo: The Spartans need to clean up their defense and do a better job of taking away wide-open 3-pointers. If they do that, they’re going to be really solid because they can kill you in a lot of different ways offensively. Just really balanced offensively and can stretch the floor well.
Austin: The Packers are absolutely menacing on defense. They’re just so long and athletic. They have the ability to switch at all five spots and then when they get out in transition, it’s over.
Winona: Jasper Hedin is on fire to start the year. He’s averaging 30 points per game and the Winhawks are 2-0 with wins over Red Wing and Mayo. Hedin can do it all and is one of the elite scorers in the Big Nine.
Albert Lea: Starting off the season with Northfield and Mankato East is pretty tough luck. But new Albert Lea head coach Albert Lea has the passion and work ethic to get his team on track.
Red Wing: New coach Oliver Simmons is immediately changing the culture at Red Wing. Deso Buck is a bucket, and they hung with a talented Winona team. Things are turning around for the Wingers.
Rochester Century: The Panthers are big. Noah Deedrick (6-feet-6), and Peter Lynch (6-4) are matchup problems in the paint, and 6-6 junior guard Jaden Wysocki is a super intriguing prospect.
John Marshall: The Rockets really missed senior Ty Tuckner in their opener. He messed up his ankle in practice but he should be back on the court soon. When he gets back, he’ll team up with his brother, Logan, and junior big man Carl Luedtke to form an intriguing trio.
HIAWATHA VALLEY LEAGUE
Byron’s Ahjany Lee (13) dunks the ball against Lake City in a game last week. Lee, a 6-foot-9 junior, is being recruited by Division I schools and is a player to watch this season. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Byron: It’s really hard to score on Byron because its so athletic on the perimeter and then Ahjany Lee swats everything away. The Bears can absolutely be the king of the HVL and could certainly challenge Austin in the Section 1AAA tournament.
Lake City: The Tigers are young and aren’t quite on the level of a Stewartville and Byron, but they can provide some issues for the rest of the conference. Justin Wohlers is playing like an all-league player, and their youngsters are only going to get better with time.
Rochester Lourdes: I don’t think I’d play a lot of zone against Lourdes because Peyton Dunham is an absolute zone-buster. Not necessarily because of his outside shooting, but more so because of his passing. He just has a knack for finding the open man and Oliver Adamson is going to be a big beneficiary of that this year. Dunham is just a really skilled player that I thoroughly enjoy watching.
Kasson-Mantorville: Still feel like the jury is out on the KoMets until Jace Bigelow gets back from an injury he suffered in practice before the season. Once he’s back, we will truly see how good K-M can be. They need their alpha. They’ve been held to just 40.5 points per game in their first two outings. That will change once Bigelow returns.
Stewartville’s Will Tschetter (42) dunks the ball during a boys basketball game against Goodhue earlier this week. The 6-foot-8 Tschetter led the state in scoring a year ago and is bound for Michigan. He is among the top players in the state this season. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stewartville: Will Tschetter is the main story, but the Tigers’ defense has been so impressive. Their size is very real and intimidating. They defend, they rebound and they have Tschetter. And that’s a bad combination for every team they play.
Pine Island: Jim McNamara’s known for getting his team to peak at tournament time. McNamara will have to work his magic again. Pine Island’s really struggled to score in its first three games (46.3 points per game).
Goodhue: Will Opsahl is a really talented offensive player, and big man Dayne Wojcik can really finish inside. They’re a little limited offensively and their style doesn’t lead to them pouring in 80 points per game, but they’re one of the better teams in the HVL.
Cannon Falls: Marcus Banks deserves to be in the conversation when it comes to the best guards in the area. He can finish at the rim through contact because of his strength, and he has the ability to shoot the 3-pointer.
Zumbrota-Mazeppa: It’s early, but Zumbrota-Mazeppa looks to be a lot better than many expected. The Cougars have held Kasson-Mantorville and Pine Island under 50. The schedule will get tougher in the next two weeks, but Z-M’s defense is pretty darn good, so it’ll have a chance.
Triton: Caledonia is a bad matchup for Triton, so you can kind of throw that game out. But the Cobras can fill it up offensively. Noah Thomas and Owen Petersohn have put up big numbers early, and Haevan Quimby is one of the better players in the HVL.
Kenyon-Wanamingo: Ledin Nerison is a baller. The 6-foot-3 guard has some deep range, and he torched Cannon Falls. The Knights are a little undersized, but coach Brent Lurken is getting them to play really hard.
THREE RIVERS CONFERENCE
Dover-Eyota’s Tyler Johnson (11) goes up for a shot while being defended by Rushford-Peterson’s Trey Olson (5) during a boys basketball game on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, at Dover-Eyota High School in Eyota. (Traci Westcott / email@example.com)
Dover-Eyota: Tyler Johnson was a stud on the pitch and now he’s a stud on the basketball court. Replacing Brady Williams is hard, but Johnson is well on his way. Keep an eye on Landon DeMuth, too.
Lewiston-Altura: Its depth is absurd and Thomas Menk is playing like an All-TRC player. This is a really fun team to watch that can score in a variety of ways. The Cardinals are super dangerous.
Caledonia: Role players like Andrew Kunelius, Jackson Koepke and Ja’Shon Simpson have stepped up admirably after the loss of Eli King. Austin Klug and Sam Privet are one of southeastern Minnesota’s top duos. Caledonia’s ceiling is a little lower after King’s injury, but it’s still exceptional.
Fillmore Central: Zach Haugerud looks like a baller. He’s playing at a high level early and that confidence is going to only breed more good results.
La Crescent: The Lancers are featuring a bunch of new faces, so it’ll take some time to gel. Sometimes, we just have to be patient. Interested to see what they look like after a few more weeks of practice.
Cotter: Connor Yocum is a really fun player to watch. He can shoot the 3-ball incredibly well. If he’s open in the corner with his feet set, you might as well start heading back to the other end of the floor.
Chatfield: Reid Johnson is developing a really nice all-around game, and even though they got boat-raced by Caledonia, don’t be surprised to see the Gophers reel off a lot of wins in the next couple of weeks.
Rushford-Peterson’s Justin Ruberg (21) looks for a pass during a boys basketball game against Dover-Eyota on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, at Dover-Eyota High School in Eyota. (Traci Westcott / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rushford-Peterson: Justin Ruberg has established himself as an absolute alpha. The Three Rivers is stockpiled with talent, and Ruberg has a strong case to be in that top five.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville: Conner Schumacher is known as a defensive menace. Then he went out and showed he’s way more than that with 25 points against La Crescent. If he keeps that up, P-E-M has a chance to be scary good.
St. Charles: Kooper Vaughn is southeastern Minnesota’s Steph Curry.
Lyle/Pacelli’s Buay Koak (34) is introduced before a Section 1A quarterfinal boys basketball game against Randolph Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Lyle/Pacelli: Buay Koak is a sophomore you’d better get to know. He nailed five 3-pointers and finished with 31 points in L/P’s opener.
Schaeffer Academy: The Lions are locking people down defensively. They’ve only allowed 72 total points in two games.
Spring Grove: It kind of feels like Caden Grinde didn’t have any rust to knock off. He’s back and getting buckets for Spring Grove. He might be the best player in the Southeast Conference.
Kingsland: Tough to glean a lot from a 79-32 loss to Rushford-Peterson, but that’s going to be one of the best teams that Kingsland faces this year.
Houston: Noah Kingsley is a lights-out shooter, but he needs help if the Rockets want to compete in the Southeast.
Lanesboro: Ryan Holmen will carry the Burros this year, and if JT Rein and John Prestemon get rolling, Lanesboro could make some noise.
Mabel-Canton: It’s been a slog offensively (33 points per game) this year for M-C. It’s early, but the Cougars have some things to figure out.
Southland: Ethan Forthun has come back from injury with a vengeance and he’s playing like one of the best players around.
Randolph: Better bring your best effort or Randolph is going to put 80 points on you.
Grand Meadow’s Colt Landers (24) is one of the top returning boys basketball players in the area. Last season the 6-5 forward averaged more than 20 points a game. (Traci Westcott / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Grand Meadow: The Superlarks have played tough competition and thrived. Colt Landers, Evan Oehlke and Taylor Glynn are a three-headed beast.
LeRoy-Ostrander: It’s been tough sledding early for the Cardinals, and it won’t ease up against Grand Meadow and Lyle/Pacelli. It’s tough to win when you only average 34 points per game, but the Cardinals’ schedule will soften up soon.
Hayfield: The Vikings are 1-2, but Ethan Slaathaug is playing unbelievable basketball right now. Isaac Matti and Easton Fritcher can fill it up too. There’s some really fun version of the Vikings that we haven’t seen yet.