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    What I Think

    The season is over … except for the ubiquitous all-star games and the accompanying dunk contests.  So, I will make my final look back on this season with a little bit of look ahead to next season. 

    What I think … random thoughts in no particular order:

    • I think if you can’t talk up your favorite player (insert your local star’s name) without talking down the crowd sourced favorite (AJ) then I will pay zero attention to your argument.   These are 16, 17, 18 year old young men some of you are denigrating.  You need to enjoy the moment and savor watching players such as AJ, Jacob, Sawyer, Aaron, Dylan, Koln, et al, play the game with such grace, skill and athleticism and thank their parents for raising such fine young men and giving us the opportunity to watch really good basketball players and teams. 
    • A quick glance at the starting five for the AA state tournament teams shows the following Jackalope metrics: Lincoln – 4 seniors and 1 junior, Washington – 5 seniors, O’Gorman – 3 seniors and 2 sophomores, Douglas – 3 seniors and 2 juniors, RC Central – 4 seniors and 1 junior, RC Stevens – 4 seniors and 1 junior, Harrisburg – 4 seniors and 1 junior, Yankton – 3 seniors, 1 junior, and 1 freshman.  The numbers show approximately 75% of the starting lineups on the AA teams were seniors.   The Sioux Falls schools had lots of senior starters and those players were good but not excellent … hence the Lincoln, Washington, and O’Gorman finish of 8th, 7th, and 6th in the AA tournament.  You could easily make the case that the best Sioux Falls AA player was Lincoln junior Jared Jaros.  Rapid City Central and Stevens had really good senior guards and that propelled them to 4th and 3rd place finishes.   Harrisburg had a great senior core and the recent Class A team turned AA a few years ago was a worthy 2nd place.   Yankton rode an outstanding freshman and a solid group of seniors to the state AA title. 
    • The selection committee for the annual Argus Leader First/Second Five teams will be hard pressed to find local Sioux Empire top shelf class of 2018 talent to populate the two teams.  AJ Plitzuweit (most dynamic scorer in the state who also displayed excellent rebounding and passing skills) and Sawyer Schultz (leader of the 3rd place Class B Bridgewater Emery) are returning awardees and will undoubtedly make either the first or second team this season.   Yankton freshman Matthew Mors (state’s top AA player on state champion Yankton) will likely make the first team and will finish his career as the only 4 time first team awardee.  That leaves 7 spots on the teams.   I think the other seven will be: Aaron Fiegen (state’s only D1 recruit as SDSU commit and leader of A champ Madison), Noah Freidel (best player on Class A runner up Tea), Dylan LeBrun (best player in Flandreau school history), Lincoln Jordre (top player on Class B champ Sully Buttes), Jacob Prouty (under the radar for many until Clark Willow Lake played Sioux Falls Christian when he was arguably the best player on the floor), Cole Bergan (one of the top posts in the state for Aberdeen Central), Kailleb Walton-Blanden (one of the top guards in the state led RC Central to 4th in AA). 
    • Class B will feature a trio of outstanding guards in the class of 2019.   The battles between Clark Willow Lake’s Jacob Prouty and Bridgewater Emery’s Sawyer Schultz will be fun to watch next season as these players will lead the top 2 B teams in the 2018-19 season and I would not be surprised to see them meet in a Classic before the B tournament.  Not many players can break you down off the dribble and pull up for the three or get into the paint and make the floater or dish off to a team mate for the easy deuce like Prouty and Schultz can.  Add the ability to finish with a dunk like Sawyer and you have a couple of very exciting players.  Trey King from Irene Wakonda will be the third star in the Class B trio of outstanding guards.  Pick your poison among these three but King is every bit as good as Prouty and Schultz … although he might not have the outstanding team around him, he will be in the middle of all conversations about the best players in the state.  Prouty, King, and Schultz all have the ability to perform a magic trick I like to call: “wrong footing the defender”.    If this isn’t readily apparent to the readers, think about dribbling skills and fluid hips enabling the ball handler to cause the defender to lose proper defensive position … and getting the defender on the wrong foot.
    • The trio of Aaron Fiegen and Jadon Janke and Jaxon Janke from Madison were as good as any threesome on one team that I have seen in recent memory.  Those who think that the Janke twins had the ball too much and Fiegen should have had more touches, try telling any outstanding athlete (like Jadon and Jaxon both are) that they need to slow their game down and not take defenders off the dribble and finish at the rim or take/make a perimeter shot after “wrong footing the defender”, and you will have that athlete look at you with that quizzical look of: what did I do wrong?   The state tournament and the Class A championship Madison earned was the result of Fiegen, Janke, Janke and the rest of the Bulldogs playing well together. 
    • It was a pleasant sight to see some fresh faces in the three tournaments this season.   In Class B, Timber Lake and Lower Brule were good representatives and fun to watch.  Timber Lake will be back even stronger next season as they did not have any seniors on the roster.   In Class A, Crow Creek was a welcome new face.   The Chieftains will be good again next season as they started a freshman, a sophomore and a junior.  In Class AA, the Rapid City public schools sustained a season of excellence culminating in 3rd and 4th place finishes for Central and Stevens.  Yankton won the championship for the Bucks first title since 1978.    In fact, Yankton never even played in the championship game during the three class era … until 2018. 
    • A short list of emerging stars is: Mitchell Goodbary from Sioux Falls Christian (not many had him on their short list of stars before the season … most will include the junior next season); Corey Brown from Pine Ridge (flashy? Yes; good? Yes); Shane Sazue from Lower Brule (one of the best sophomores in the state); Brayden PayPay from Timber Lake (many who had never seen TL play thought they were destined for 7th in the B this season … Brayden was too good to let that happen); Jacob Prouty from Clark Willow Lake (I knew how good Jacob is as I have been watching him since he was a fuzzy cheeked 8th grader); Trevin McBride from Crow Creek (talk about good freshman, he is on the list); Kobe Busch from Huron (the Tigers will roar next season because of this very good sophomore); Kayden Verley from Canton (the sophomore guard is a prolific scorer); Noah Dickson from Sanborn Central Woonsocket (arguably the best player on a team with dominant senior guards, the sophomore has a bright future); Max Nielson from Sioux Valley (the sophomore has been the starting point guard for the Cossacks since his 8th grade season); Ryder Kirsch from St Thomas More (the Cavaliers were down this season … not so much the next few years behind Ryder and others); Justin Hohn from Tea (outstanding junior wing man for star Noah Freidel); Nick Hoyt from Harrisburg (will be the leader for Harrisburg next season); Evan Talcott from Brandon Valley (will be one of the best players in the state); Paul Bruns from Dakota Valley (talk about good freshman, he is on the list). 
    • Finally, this was another enjoyable season of boys basketball.   Congratulations to the three state champions: AA – Yankton, A – Madison, and B – Sully Buttes … and thanks for all the memories from all the boys and teams who participated in all the games throughout the season.  Special thanks to a group of seniors we will all miss seeing on the high school courts next season … and some of those young men can be seen on the college courts next year and in years to follow. 

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