Monday, December 22, 2008

Broadcast preview: Minneapolis South vs. Park (Cottage Grove)

On paper, South would have a clear advantage with a 5-2 record over Park's 1-4 start, although Park has suffered two close losses over Woodbury and Roseville. An interesting matchup will be Tayler Hill against Katya Leick; both played together this year on Paul Hill's NC Heat AAU team, and Leick scored the winning basket in the Battle of the Hardwood Tournament at Woodbury in June. Stephanie Tolkinen, Park's coach, is stressing that records don't matter at this point.

On the broadcast side of things, we're still working on figuring out the right set-up for our wireless mic, but I think we've finally solved it. Broderick Bell should be my partner for tonight, but he doesn't like cold weather and may not show up. Either way, I'm ready for our last game of the calendar year.

QUICK RELEASE

1. Tayler Hill has scored 30 or more points five times this season, something she did only three times last year in 32 games. She leads the state in scoring with over 32 points per game.

2. By contrast, no other South player is averaging double-digits in scoring and no one is averaging double-digits in rebounding, showing how South's loss in size is affecting the team. South hasn't won when no player besides Hill scores more than 10 points.

3. Katya Leick is now leading the Suburban East conference in scoring with 18.4 points per game after starting with just six in their loss to Hopkins. She's also second in rebounding and is averaging a double-double so far.

4. Park holds a slight advantage in rebounds and has more assists and blocks than South, so team play will likely factor into this game.

5. Trivia of the day: Park fans and Minnesota fans are well-aware that Jackie Voigt graduated from Park this spring.

Wrap-up tomorrow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Cretin-Derham Hall vs. St. Paul Central

I apologize for the delay; I had my last final yesterday and did some housekeeping things with footage I taped last spring, among other things.

The game was all right. There was some audio issues again with the wireless system, except this time, it didn't pick up at all on our channel. It's not a total loss, although it looks like I'll miss out on a solid interview with Kendra Harris of Cretin-Derham Hall. Parking was difficult; student conferences were held before the game and jammed up all the lots. Tracy and I fed off each other well, although it doesn't appear she will return for future games because of other commitments...the game of commentator musical chairs continues.

Kendra Harris jumped out quickly, scoring the first 10 points for Cretin. The Raiders had an eight-point lead in the first half, only to be usurped by Central, who never looked back once they erased Cretin's early lead. Samantha Robinson-Ricks scored a game-high 16 while Theairra Taylor could only contribute 11. There was a long scoring drought for most of the second half as Central's overall shooting slump carried over from Becker. They'll be in big trouble if they can't work on that, because every team is executing a box-and-one on Theairra Taylor. She's good, but she can't win games by herself. Cretin's 0-5 record is somewhat deceiving with the caliber of teams they faced so far. Don't be surprised if they surge back over the .500 mark.

I'll work on getting this game up quickly; Central needs it for tracking stats.

Next TV game: Minneapolis South vs. Park of Cottage Grove
Monday, December 22nd, 7:30 p.m. at Park

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Broadcast preview: Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Central

Our annual anniversary game is upon us. I apologize for the delay; I'm the middle of two finals, I have one more to take tomorrow morning and then I can call it a semester.

On paper, this game would appear misleading as Central is outrebounding and outscoring Cretin-Derham Hall by considerable margins. However, Cretin has already played three top teams this season: Hill-Murray, Hopkins, and Totino-Grace. By comparison, Central has played just one: Centennial. Even if Cretin does go 0-5 after tonight, don't write them off; they surged last season by winning 11 games over a 13-game period. On the broadcast side of things, our clock camera should return since kids won't mess around with it. This is also the first game of the year where I actually have a partner. Tracy Buford, who called a summer AAU tournament with me, will return to the microphone. I'm also still trying to figure out why one of our cameras appear soft on widescreen mode.

QUICK RELEASE

1. Central made just 26% of their field goals in their 43-34 win over a much weaker Becker team Saturday. Central also struggled from the free throw line, going 9 of 22. Theairra Taylor has yet to show improvement from there as well as she's shooting just 56% from the charity stripe.

2. Theairra Taylor has four straight double-doubles, a streak that began against Centennial. She's fifth in the state in scoring with 21.8 points per game.

3. Central is scoring 63.6 points per game as a team, Cretin-Derham Hall is putting up just 48.3 points per game. Cretin will need to step up if they want to win.

4. On Cretin's end, Sally Boland is second in the Suburban East conference in assists with 3.3 per game while Kendra Harris in third in the conference in rebounds with more than eight boards per game.

5. Cretin hasn't beat Central since February 17th, 2004, when the Raiders won a triple-overtime game. For the record, that's a six-game streak.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Schedule change: Minneapolis South vs. Park

Part of the ripple effect caused by the cancellation of our Hopkins games. In its chronological place, we will televise the Minneapolis South-Park (Cottage Grove) game on Monday, December 22nd at Park. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. This one shall be interesting now that South's weakness appears to be exposed and after Park got walloped by Hopkins.

I'm looking to pin down one final game in our schedule to makeup for Roosevelt. As of now, I'm considering their game January 3rd against Eden Prairie. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Lakeville North vs. Minneapolis South (and those meddling kids!)

My scoreboard cam was a bust. It worked fine, but I didn't expect kids in the mezzanine during our game. With those curious little minds, they just couldn't stop messing with it. I'm either going to need a bigger battery so I can keep it closer to Heinz or develop another strategy if kids cause problems again. At least it's not vital to our programs. You just won't see a clock for this game. Kids also won't be a problem at our next game in Central; no mezzanine for kids to gather. Someone also set his or her cell phone to play the "communicator" tone from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers whenever a text message was received. Sounded just as clear as the '90s show, which threw me off for a moment.

However, we got a good chunk of interviews before the game, so that should help fill the time. I walked into a couple interviews and planned two more. I felt more comfortable this time around, although it took two takes to tape my open. I also vamped a lot more as I'm starting to analyze and do play-by-play simultaneously, something that was harder to do this time a year ago.

Minneapolis South won 72-57 thanks to 33 points from Tayler Hill. She keeps this up and Ohm's record will be destroyed. Cassie Rochel also logged her 1,000th career point tonight, but was shut down in the 1st half. She came back strong in the 2nd, but Lakeville North had too big a hole to close against the shooting threats of South.

Overall, the result was good, I just need to watch out for my poor little scoreboard camera.

Next TV game:
Cretin-Derham Hall vs. St. Paul Central, December 16th, 7:00 p.m. at Central

Friday, December 5, 2008

Broadcast preview: Lakeville North vs. Minneapolis South

Our second game of the season features a makeup game for Minneapolis South as they play Lakeville North. This will be Lakeville North's only game outside of the Lake League, one of the toughest conferences in Minnesota. Lakeville North was ranked #1 in the preseason by the Star Tribune and the Breakdown while Minneapolis South was ranked #1 by the Associated Press before losing to Hopkins in a "yes, but..." game (South wasn't at full strength for the Pat Paterson tournament).

Lakeville North also returns nine players who played considerable minutes last year. South is still trying to adapt with the departures of Ephesia Holmes and Taquoia Hammick.

We've figured out how to make widescreen work in more ways than one. We'll continue to broadcast games in widescreen, but will offer standard definition versions on DVD as well.

Tonight also marks the first edition of my feature that will now be called...

QUICK RELEASE
(Sounds more like basketball terminology versus quick hits)

1. Tayler Hill is averaging 33.3 points per game in three games and is 89 points away from passing Janet Karvonen for third place on the all-time high school scoring list (654 away from Katie Ohm's record)

2. The rest of South's players are averaging just 21 points per game.

3. Defensively, Mallory Cramer appears to be South's defensive specialist in the early going, although she is averaging just 6.3 rebounds per game

4. Cassie Rochel posted a triple-double in Tuesday's win over Bloomington-Kennedy with 32 points, 17 rebounds and 12 blocks. She was the only Lakeville North player to break double digits in that game.

5. Random trivia of the day: Lakeville North was the last team to win back-to-back class AAAA state title prior to St. Paul Central, in 2001 and 2002, as Lakeville (South wasn't added yet).

Wrap-up to come tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Scheduling change: Becker Breakdown

Barely one week in the season and we already have our first schedule change in our TV coverage (I wasn't kidding about our "flex pick" model).

After the events of last weekend, we will televise the Lakeville North vs. Minneapolis South game at 6:15 Saturday in Becker. Sources I checked with suggest this should be a good game with Lakeville North returning a boatload of starters against two-time class AAAA state runner-up, now featuring a player in the 3,000-point club.

Look for our new sofa when we return :-p

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Central vs. Centennial, scheduling changes

Scheduling change:

We will not be airing the South-Hopkins game and possibly the Hopkins-Roosevelt game. This may also affect our plan to televise the Dick's Sporting Goods Holiday Tournament. My co-workers aren't pleased with this news. As a result, I will try to nail down the Lakeville North-South game at Becker next Saturday as a makeup. I will keep you posted.

On the game, I never felt more comfortable on a season premiere. I think the AAU, soccer and football games between season helped. I need to make sure I get names right, but that's an easy obstacle to clear compared how I was two years ago. Centennial won 68-56 with help from poor shooting on Central's end. Centennial has some ball control to work on, but it looks like their inside game is well-established. Bridget Schuneman led all players with 23 points.

However, it's still early. Central didn't appear to be outplayed. However, they need to work on finishing offensive rebounds and turning them into points. They won't last long otherwise.

At least this gives me time to start editing the Central-Centennial game. Look for it online.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Broadcast preview: Pat Paterson Tournament

A new season is almost upon us.

As expected, we will be broadcasting the Central vs. Centennial game set to tip off at 3:00 p.m., followed by the South vs. Hopkins game at 7:00 p.m. I can't say when the games will be ready to air, but the Central-Centennial game will be the first game I edit.

It's a little early for my quick hits, they will return for the Central vs. Cretin-Derham Hall game. However, I can tell you about one big change you'll see for Keystone Productions broadcasts. This will be our first year broadcasting games in widescreen format. With YouTube and everyone else offering widescreen broadcasts, it's only appropriate that we stay in the 21st century. What this means is more space on screen, so you can see more action.

For tomorrow's games, there will be one thing you will hear from coaches and myself: It's early. Championships aren't won in November. That's not to say the games will be good; Centennial was the team that ended Central's 34-game winning streak a year ago at this tournament, but what you'll see now will be very different than what you'll see in March.

I will call the first game solo, Brandon Jones will make his debut for the South-Hopkins game.

Wrap-up to come tomorrow night.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Making her move"

I decided to write my profile assignment in my magazine writing class on Theairra Taylor, who committed to Iowa this November. This is the final, graded version. As before, the deck is in the larger Times font.

Several colleges are eyeing two-time state champion Theairra Taylor. This No
vember, she will make her biggest move in her basketball career.

On a recent visit to the Univers
ity of Pittsburgh, 17-year-old Theairra Taylor was enjoying her time out east, expecting to have some small talk with the athletic staff. Instead, she felt pressured to commit to the school's basketball team immediately.

"I was at the dinner table almost shaking. I couldn't really speak," she says. "It was really difficult to leave that night. I don't really like that uncomfortable feeling."


The St. Paul Central standout hasn't faced another Pittsburgh-like scenario since, but her experience underscores a complex process that is now the norm for many high school players.


Taylor's 5-feet-10-inch body, three-point range and agility helped her land scholarship offers as a
sophomore. Now a senior, Taylor will choose a college in November to play women's basketball. In the running are Big Ten schools Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with Big East schools Marquette and Pittsburgh.

Before Taylor could visit any of those schools, she had to submit her ACT score and high school transcript. After that, her college visits were filled with administrative meetings and team outings designed to build chemistry with her potential teammates.


Willie Taylor, Central's head coach, has watched nine players continue playing basketball careers at NCAA Division One schools during his coaching career. Theairra, who is not related to the coach, will be his 10th. He'll be the first to say that he still learns new things when he gets calls from colleges looking to recruit his players.


"Theairra is the first kid that I coached who waited this long," he says. "It's a pain in the neck. Every school feels like they got to call me every day. You run out of things to talk about. But I'm willing to do whatever she needs to do to help her select the best school."


At the same time, colleges are doing whatever they can to convince Taylor their school is the best.
When Taylor visited Minnesota Sept. 12, she was escorted to the Metrodome to watch Minnesota's football team in pregame exercises and was given a tour of the new football stadium. She even put on the hard hat, safety vest and goggles construction workers use while working.

When she wasn't touring schools, Taylor and her parents say the family was taken to restaurants where the cheapest selections were around $20. On one of their hotel stays, Taylor saw Diana Taurasi and her Phoenix Mercury teammates.


Taylor enjoyed the atmosphere and meeting new people, but the physical wear and time commitment eventually caught up.


"After a while, it kind of got tiring. I was starting to miss school, starting to not have weekends. I missed a few football games," she says.


The recruiting efforts weren't limited to school visits either.


"They had times where they can come visit your school," Taylor says, "I missed half of my math class, which happens to me my toughest subject, and my teacher wasn't so lenient at first."


Taylor is learning that time management will be an even bigger focus when she starts taking college courses. Her friends who play at Division One schools told her workout routines that took place once in a while in high school are now a daily part of the schedule.


"I told Theairra, being a student athlete, they expect a lot of you," says her mother Michelle Taylor. "Their days start at eight and they're back in their homes at eight and this repeats every day. That's not something you're used to in high school."


Michelle Taylor persistently dreams of her daughter finally committing to a college only to wake up and realize that hasn't happened yet.


"Everyone keeps telling us that you'll know, you'll have this feeling. But when you go and have a good experience, it just makes your decision even harder," she says. "Theairra said to me 'You know why you don't know? It's because I don't know.'"


The investment schools put into Taylor won't make the final decision any easier. Willie Taylor says every college Taylor is considering put in a lot of money to set up visits with her.


"She'll have to tell four schools no. It's scary to see how they're going to react to that no," he says.


Taylor could be feeling anxious right now with everything she has encountered in the last couple months. Instead, like everything else that comes into her life, she's relaxed about everything.


"I keep telling each coach there's not anything you need to do because it's basically just a decision I'll have to make upon myself," she says.


Taylor is looking for three things that will influence her school selection.


"The graduation rate of the team, if I feel like I fit into the scheme of the program, (and) the team itself. If I feel like I can't fit in, it's going to be a struggle," she says.


So what will happen when Taylor finally makes her choice to end this ongoing plot?


"I want to talk to her before she calls the school and get one last look, and then I'm going to be happy for her," Willie Taylor says. "Then we're going to celebrate."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008-09 TV schedule

I've connected with several coaches and conferred with a few analysts to develop the 2008-09 high school girls basketball TV schedule. My schedule lightens up next semester with one less class, so my afternoons and evenings will be generally free.

All games will be uploaded to YouTube, although the delay between the game date and broadcast date will vary as I will be editing all these games. As I mentioned earlier, I will be following NBC's Sunday Night Football "Flex pick" model, so all games are subject to change. I'll provide updates if they do. Reasons may include current status of the teams playing (there isn't a lot of parity within many conferences in our coverage area), and funding (if we get a sponsored game versus a non-sponsored one. This stuff isn't free to produce). I also included reasons for the games I selected below.

If you or an organization you work for would like to sponsor any of these games, send an e-mail to sportsbrain2005@aol.com and I will connect you with my co-worker, who takes care of sponsorships. I linked a recent game I televised to give you an idea of how I would acknowledge your contributions.

Sponsorship recognition

Saturday, Nov. 29th
Pat Paterson Tournament - Hamline University
The first tournament may produce a potential Central/Centennial match followed by South/Hopkins as they begin their journey for a state title. Central's never won three in a row, by the way. The teams that won their brackets last year were knocked out in the section finals, so an early win may not be a good omen.

Tuesday, Dec. 16th
Cretin-Derham Hall vs. St. Paul Central - Central High School, 7:00 p.m.
This is usually Central's barometer game; what they use here may be a model for the rest of the season.

Friday, Dec. 19th
Hopkins vs. Minneapolis Roosevelt - Roosevelt High School, 7:00 p.m.
I'm on winter break here, which frees my schedule up. This could be Shakila Boler's first game back from an MCL/ACL injury she suffered this summer and the first opportunity to see Roosevelt at full strength.

Wednesday, Dec. 31st
Dick's Sporting Goods Holiday Classic, Championship Game - Lindbergh Center, Hopkins, 6:00 p.m.
Decision may depend on the final two teams, but the bracket features four of last year's class AAAA state tournament participants (Central, Eastview, Osseo, South) and host Hopkins. The most anticipated tournament in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Saturday, Jan. 10th
Jordan vs. Minneapolis South - South High School, 1:00 p.m.
Jordan makes their first of two Minneapolis visits, bringing returning stars Brittany Chambers and Leah Dietel to face you know who.

Tuesday, Jan. 13th
Johnson vs. St. Paul Central - Central High School, 7:00 p.m.
This may be Johnson's best chance to pull off an upset against the St. Paul City Conference favorite. Central is still ranked, but considerably weaker in the proven talent department.

Monday, Feb. 2nd
Jordan vs. Minneapolis Roosevelt - Roosevelt High School, 7:00 p.m.
Chambers and Dietel vs. Boler and Maguirre. Jordan's second visit to Minneapolis. Roosevelt plans to debut their alternate uniforms at this game, but more importantly, it could be a preview of the class AA, section four final. Jordan beat Roosevelt to qualify for last year's state tournament.

Friday, Feb. 6th
(Doubleheader) St. Paul Academy vs. Mounds Park Academy - Lansing Sports Center, Mounds Park Academy, 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Two Tri-Metro rivals in a girls/boys doubleheader. The S.P.A. girls team features the O'Brien sisters and Niambi Mitchell, while the boys rivalry is usually close. If this doesn't work out, the date below would be a makeup.

Saturday, Feb. 14th or Tuesday, Feb. 17th
Minnehaha Academy vs. DeLaSalle, 6:00 p.m. OR Minneapolis Roosevelt vs. Minneapolis South, 7:00 p.m.
Either a snapshot of the Tri-Metro's premiere teams before the state tournament, where DeLaSalle beat Minnehaha Academy in last year's AAA semifinal, or a potential battle between Roosevelt and South for the Minneapolis City Conference title and right to the Twin Cities game

Saturday, Feb. 28th
Twin Cities Championship - Minneapolis site
The last tune-up opportunity before playoffs begin

Friday, October 31, 2008

Flashback: Kiara Buford profile

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Here's an article I wrote for my news reporting class last year on Kiara Buford, before she started her senior season at Central. How time flies...

The high school girls basketball season has yet to start, but the University of Minnesota is already banking on a top player who has yet to complete her senior year.


Kiara Buford, 18, has played in the state tournament every year for Central High School in St. Paul and can play at the point guard, shooting guard and post positions. She was a contributing factor for last year’s Central girls basketball team that won the class AAAA state championship while setting an all-time record for most wins in a single season, finishing with a 32-0 record.

While Buford averaged only 12.3 points per game last season, down from 20.8 points per game in her sophomore season, people close to her said her skills outweigh the numbers.


“She can be as good as any player in the country at her position,” said Willie Taylor, head coach of the Central girls basketball team.


“She can dribble down the court and score. She’s also really good at being part of a team,” said Megan Howard, Buford’s teammate since eighth grade.


The University of Minnesota appears to agree with those remarks. Buford signed her letter of intent to play for the women’s basketball team Wednesday and verbally committed to play as a Golden Gopher her junior year.


“It’s close to home and I can play for the people that I grew up playing for,” Buford said.

Buford is also excited that she will don the maroon and gold with former Central teammate Ashley Ellis-Milan, as Buford said both she and Ellis-Milan are good friends.

Buford will be the third Central graduate in the school’s history to play at Minnesota, a list that features Monica Brown and Ellis-Milan.


Taylor is thrilled that Buford will be playing close to her high school.


“I can tell people ‘You know what, look at all the Central players at the U,’” Taylor said.


Her parents and extended relatives are also happy; they come to watch Buford play almost every game.

“She’s always been a leader. Just to see her grow so much in that role and really work hard to push herself is amazing, both on the court and academically,” said Tracy Buford, her mother.

Tracy can speak from more than a parent’s perspective; she played high school basketball at Highland Park Senior High School in St. Paul and continued at Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa.


“Everything that she has been able to accomplish just gives me so much pride to watch her play,” Tracy Buford said.


As Buford continues to cement her status as one of Minnesota’s top high school players, she said that basketball has taught her other things that she can apply to her life outside the sport.


Beyond motivation for school, Buford said that basketball has helped her with communication and her social interaction with people outside the Central basketball team, assets that prove valuable when she is working at Old Country Buffet in Roseville.


Buford has two more reasons to serve as motivation, a 12-year-old brother and a 7-year-old sister. Tracy Buford said both of Buford’s siblings watch everything that she does.


“(Buford) is very mature for her age and she’s very responsible,” Tracy Buford said, “She has done a great job teaching them how hard she’s had to work to get to where she is,”


That hard work paid off on the court throughout last season.


Central’s roster featured four high-caliber players who transferred from other St. Paul schools, adding talent to a team that included Buford and Howard, who were not transfer students. With all that talent, Central consistently won by large margins, including an 18-point victory in the state championship game. Central’s dominance sparked criticism that the team did not win the state title legitimately.


Their undefeated season was also speculated to be the trigger in a rule enacted by the Minnesota State High School League in March, making transfer students ineligible to participate in any league-sanctioned varsity activities for one year.


The media scrutiny helped bring the team together and had little impact on the team’s effort to win a state title.


“You got to play as a team and know what it takes to win,” Buford said about her experience from the tournament.


“The media are going to say stuff, but you can’t really listen to them,” Howard said.


As Buford gears for her senior season and a run for back-to-back state championships, Taylor said that she will have to take a role as a player and coach with a bench that is not as deep as last season.


Buford hopes to continue her winning ways at Central as preparation for her collegiate career.


“My goals are to make it back to the state tournament and take a leadership role, since I’m a senior,” she said.


Leader or not, Buford will have plenty of fans supporting her next year.


“I’ll definitely be cheering her on,” Howard said.


Should Central qualify for the state tournament this season, Buford, along with Howard and Cyonna West, would become the only Central players to play in the state tournament in all four years of high school.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"All Shook Up"

This article was written for an assignment in my magazine writing class. However, since I feel stories shouldn't go to waste, I will post the graded versions of this and a profile of Theairra Taylor to the site. The articles will appear in a different font than my regular posts.

Photo: Boler suited up during her playing days at Bloomington-Kennedy.

Shakila Boler is on the fast track to help her new team do big things this year, but her team will have to wait a while.

Shakila Boler is hoping to make history this season, but it has nothing to do with performance yet.

The Minneapolis Roosevelt guard tore her ACL and MCL this summer, an injury that normally forces players to sit out a year to heal. Boler is going through an intense rehab program to buck that trend.

"Doctors are saying that she will be ready in January to start playing," says coach Tim Williams. "She's way ahead of schedule."

Boler averaged 16.2 points per game last year with former school Bloomington-Kennedy. Although she will miss the first half of this season, Boler will add experience and shooting skills to a strengthening Roosevelt team.

With or without her, Williams says his team is ready to take on the toughest foe in the Minneapolis City Conference.

"We will be a great team and compete for the conference championship with South," he says.

When Boler returns to the court, Williams will look to shake up South's dominance in the conference and bring his team to the class AA state tournament, something he has never done as coach.

"With her, we will have four solid guards that could start on any team all on one team, and that means serious matchup problems for opponents," Williams says.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Additional graphics

Here are more of the redesigned graphics for the upcoming season. One feature I hope to add this year is an in-game box score that better details who is providing the points for both teams, versus the leading scorers, where the top three are listed. If I can get a statistician, I'd like to add additional information on screen.



Graphics preview

The snapshots below are the new graphics I will use for the 2008-09 season. I took the graphics shown on this year's Olympics (Not NBC's red and gold design) and modified a few things. To compare them with last year's graphics package, visit my YouTube page where every game I televised from the 2007-08 season can be found. I'll show the others later, but feel free to comment.





Monday, October 20, 2008

Basketball coming soon!

I wish there was more activity to report on this blog, but I have to keep up with my schoolwork too. It's business as usual there; I'm not struggling in any classes, although I feel I may come up short again of making the dean's list. The key, as always, is to turn in your assignments on time. I've reported on a number of interesting topics in my journalism classes. I also have completed two sports stories for my magazine writing class and will post them on my Blogspot page since they won't be published in any written magazine. I will also post an assignment from last year to keep folks interested until the start of the new basketball season.

Speaking of basketball, I will return as a commentator starting with the Pat Paterson tournament at Hamline University during Thanksgiving break. Right now, I plan to broadcast a doubleheader with a potential Central/Centennial and South/Hopkins match-up for November 29th. Other tentative games include Cretin-Derham Hall/Central on December 16th. Many teams haven't submitted their schedules yet, so it's still a wait-and-see game.

I redesigned the graphics and will show you a preview of what they will look like on my next post. If you're not familiar to my broadcasts, I follow the "flex-pick" model NBC uses for Sunday Night Football; I pick games featuring top teams in Minneapolis and St. Paul or teams relatively close to each other on paper. In other words, you won't see a Central/Harding or a South/Henry type game.

In the meantime, you can vote in my "fun" poll before things get serious soon. I'll provide updates as tipoff draws closer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Johnson vs. Como Park

As I expected, I came in not feeling too intimidated about having my every word recorded for television Friday. Broderick and I have found our chemistry and it can lead to some humorous conversations. You could say we mix summary and bar talk. One of my co-workers thought I came down too harsh on one of the Como Park coaches after he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct (he was arguing a poor choice by the referee to allow a Johnson punt return for a touchdown after a penalty was called for an illegal block, something I saw on the replay). I call things as I see them, but am working on the balance between judgmental and constructive criticism. On that note, I do appreciate feedback, even if no one thinks I did anything wrong. I got used to play-by-play after a while, but always want to improve.

There were several new crew members and it showed in the production from what I saw on the monitor. The replay transitions were choppy and the camerawork wasn't on par at times. I understand SPNN is trying to spread the opportunities to people, but I feel sports crews should at least have some familiarity with the sport they're televising. That way, if they are learning a new skill, they don't have to try and remember how the game works and work the equipment at the same time. It's very difficult to pluck people at random and hope the program will turn out.

For the record, Johnson won the game 35-6. The botched call turned out not to make any difference in the game, although it's not a good sign when controversy dominates the game recap. Central lost last weekend, so Johnson looks like they will re-establish themselves as the team to beat in St. Paul, but there's still a few games to go. Johnson's running game is their strength; five backs carried the ball against Como. Their passing game needs work, they followed a 148-yard passing game the previous week with two interceptions against Como and lost the turnover battle. One-dimensional offenses are always at risk of being shut down easily, but Johnson's depth at running back is a plus.

Todd and Coley take the helm this week with the Harding-Arlington game.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Broadcast preview: Johnson vs. Como Park

Greetings everyone. There hasn't been much to blog about in the sports or broadcasting world for the last month. There was some audio problems with the NC Heat-Minnesota Stars game and at this point, I doubt I will be posting it online. Someone on my YouTube page said no one would care about audio distortion. Trust me, in television, people are much faster to point out your mistakes than your accomplishments. That's why we fall on the old cliché, "No news is good news." The last thing I want to do is broadcast a piece of junk with my name on it; people who take this seriously know doing so hampers credibility.

On the plus side, I got a new computer and upgraded to Adobe Production CS3 Premium. In short, I have the latest versions of all the software I use to create my own games. I still need to figure out how to install a plug-in or two. Also, the video encoder on Adobe Premiere Pro improved significantly. What that means for you are full-length games in high quality. No more trouble reading graphics or watching a spectacular play develop.

As you may have guessed, the title refers to tomorrow's high school football game featuring Johnson and Como Park at James Griffin Stadium on SPNN, channel 19. This will be my first football play-by-play assignment. Unfortunately, the coaches aren't too quick about posting stats on Maxpreps or any other site this year, so I can't tell you too much about the teams statistically. Como Park is hurting offensively after Greg Morse's departure (graduation). They're last in the conference for points scored and bring an 0-2 record this weekend. Johnson is 2-0 and give up the fewest points in the conference. On paper, it looks like Johnson will coast to victory, but I'll find out more when I visit with the coaches tomorrow. If any of you have dreams about a St. Paul school going to state, no existing St. Paul City Conference team has qualified since 1981 when Johnson got to state.

Broderick Bell is my partner. This is the only game where I'll be in the booth for SPNN. I'm their primary graphics designer, so I imagine it won't be long before they ask me to return to graphics. After calling basketball the last two years, I'm excited to try another sport.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

From the vault

The AAU tournament I covered last week was a logistical mess. We managed to televise both games, but it will take some time to sort through everything and spew out the pair of games we televised. Both were close, despite somewhat depleted rosters, but fatigue may have come into play for the Gold Division bracket; the Metro Stars and Minnesota Suns appeared exhausted throughout their championship game.

In the meantime, I pulled a video featuring my only appearance so far on any of the Twin Cities TV stations from the archive vault. A lot has changed since that time, which I suppose should be no coincidence.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Double wrap-up: Soccer and Urban Bowl

Last week was filled with something on my schedule every day from Tuesday-Saturday. Add a balancing act with an autism documentary I will be broadcasting soon, and the result is a lack of time on my blog.

On Thursday, I called my first soccer game in my short announcing career. Two U10 traveling teams from River Falls played against each other in a game that nearly didn't get televised thanks to a heavy band of showers a half-hour before the game began. It cleared up 10 minutes before the start and our two-man camera crew scurried to get the match on tape. Fortunately, weather wasn't a problem during the game. My co-worker called it a "home video" with graphics; there was no scoreboards or bleachers, just a field with parents lined up along the sideline in their captains chairs. I kept time with my stopwatch.

The lack of preparation time caused by on and off showers led to a difficult time trying to match names and numbers. My partner, a parent himself who knew some of the kids, was pretty solid. I probably won't be working with him again anytime soon as we don't televise too many events in western Wisconsin, but it helped move the game along. However, the problem with parents on the same sideline as our game camera makes wide shots impossible; the parents get in the shot and block a lot of action on the near sideline. I'm sure they'll enjoy watching the broadcast.

Two days later, I was on the crew broadcasting the 2nd annual Urban Bowl on SPNN at Griffin Stadium. It was by far the longest high school football game I've worked on. The kickoff was scheduled for 3:00 p.m., but was delayed by a half-hour with no explanation. The game itself wasn't much faster, not finishing up until around 6:10 p.m. The game was sloppy throughout with a few nice plays sprinkled in. The Urban Bowl crew was hoping for 5,000 fans and fell far short. The game can't be controlled, but starting the game a half-hour late isn't the most respectful gesture to fans and players. My graphics left more to be desired; I wasn't happy with my performance. Overall, it looked like everyone was a little rusty.

I'm still working on getting the AAU Meltdown tournament televised. I will keep you posted.

Friday, July 4, 2008

New look, minor change

As I sit here with little to do on the 2008 rendition of Independence Day, I thought this would be the perfect time to retool the look of my site. I'm still trying to figure out how to make the poll results easier to read, but I've wanted to change the layout for a while. My goal was to make the site a little cleaner than before.

You may also have noticed that I haven't removed the poll I conducted last month from my site. I'm going to leave worthwhile polls on my site on more of a long-term basis. Showing past poll results may help tell me how many people contribute with the more interactive features of my site, but I also would like to use them for future broadcasts of high school basketball games. Obviously, the polls are VERY unscientific. However, they may be useful in situations where I need to kill time, especially with the amount of Gophers information I talk about during games.

I hope you like the new look and change I'm making to the site. If you're not a fan of change, don't expect me to make drastic renovations in the near future.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Inner City All-Star Classic

I've covered the event for a few years and began dressing it up like I do for the high school basketball games a few years ago to make it look more like a professional broadcast. I was on graphics this time, and this year's Inner City All-Star Classic was one of the few times I was happy not to be announcing. I had a cold that caused a sinus headache and fever over the weekend, so I vanished from existence the last couple days. I was fine enough to soldier on, but sinus headaches are a drag. Despite my health, I was able to interview Angel Robinson and Tamara Moore at Friday's practice, both of which are on my YouTube page.

I enjoy working the All-Star Classic, but now that the event has reached its 15th year, I think they should look at some things to make the game more interesting. Team alignment would be a big help; I'm not a fan of them randomly placing players on one team or another. There is a potential for mismatches, but more bothersome is the fact that the current team selection doesn't give the players much to play for except the MVP trophy. Based on my observations, the games resemble a scenario of finding a bunch of players and letting them play for 40 minutes. I always thought a geographic split would make things a little more interesting, not to mention bragging rights would be put on the line (anyone remember the preinterleague days of Major League Baseball?). The team names are fine, but how about an East Metro-West Metro type matchup?

The background music is a little annoying. I appreciate the idea of trying to create a street ball feel, but in an indoor facility, it's often loud enough to make communication difficult. I don't know how the players handle it, but one of our announcers this year wasn't pleased with it. One suggestion would be to save the music for the skills contests at halftime and maybe mic the DJ for some in-game commentary if they're worried about dead silence.

Again, these are suggestions. I like the All-Star Classic because it gives a lot of players who missed the cut for the Coaches Association All-Star game a chance to play in one. I think that reason alone should help its sustainability.

In any case, the class of 2008 made their final bow in high school. We'll see how they do in college.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My first pet peeve

I'm posting a new blog for two reasons. The first is to tell you that the second All-Star game (AA vs. AAA) will be finished and submitted to my co-worker for a draft review by Monday. I will then begin work on the AAU games.

Second, to keep you folks interested for a while, I thought I'd chime in with my biggest pet peeve in the sport of basketball. I've mentioned this to a few people, but I still don't understand why post players or centers don't work on their free throw shooting at high school. Georgie Jones, Central's premiere center for the last two years, shot a mere 53% from the free throw line in 2007-08 yet led the team in free throw attempts. Bridget Schuneman of Centennial converted just 33% of her free throws and was tied for 2nd on the team with Emily Becken in 2007-08. Cretin-Derham Hall's Kendra Harris made only 55 attempts in 2007-08 and sank 29 for a free throw percentage of 53%.

Perhaps other top teams don't post their players' free throw percentage on Maxpreps out of concern that a secret or two may leak. Good coaching can fix that problem, but I digress.

Post players likely (or should) understand that they will get a lot of trips to the free throw line as a byproduct of their position. Time and again we have seen the difference free throws can make in a single game, from the battles between Central and South this season, especially in the state championship, to the NCAA men's championship game where Memphis gave just enough of a window for Kansas to steal the national title. In critical situations where post players are relied upon for an inside look, it's not very comforting to the coach or fans that their chance of making a free throw is as good as a flip of a coin.

There are a few who have a better grip on their free throw shooting and it often shows. Ashley Ellis-Milan of the Gophers was 68% from the line in her senior year at Central and continues to shoot around 70% as a Gopher. As a result, she averaged more points per game than Korrine Campbell last year (the only other post who started at some point during the season), 9.9 ppg to 6.4 ppg respectively. Over at Cretin, Sarah Hendricks made 69% of her free throws last year and finished ahead of Harris in points per game. Central's Megan Howard improved her free throw shooting from 49% to 68% between 2006-07 and 2007-08 while also seeing an increase in scoring. Jenna Smith, the Kennedy graduate turned Fighting Illini, was second in the Big Ten in free throw shooting last year with a 78% conversion rate.

With any team, there are always other factors that can affect a player's performance. One of the biggest are the departing players, returning players and newcomers. Many other elements can also complicate why one thing happened one year and another happened the following year. Regardless of how big a team's to-do list is, FREE THROWS DO MATTER AND SHOULD BE EMPHASIZED. Free throws should not be tossed aside to focus on scoring short-range shots or putting up blocks; individual statistics mean nothing to the player that owns them if there is little to show for it.

Of course, free throws should matter to everyone on the team, not just post players.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I can now call myself an award-winning producer

I'm taking a little break from basketball blogging to let you know something I only found out today.

My 2007 documentary, "Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits," won an award for Documentary: Public Awareness, non-professional division in the 2008 Alliance for Community Media Hometown Video Awards.

If you scroll down midway through the awards list, you'll see my name appear. I listed Minneapolis as I was living at the U when I filed the entry.

You can watch the program that won below.



It won't matter too much in a year from now, which means I'll continue to make new programming in the year to come.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Battle of the Hardwood AAU tournament

Next time I do one of these, I'm ditching my sport coat and going with a polo. I understand my co-worker's reasoning to continue looking professional, but with an 80* high today (not bad for outdoor weather), it was close to a sauna in the Woodbury gym. My body matters too, lol.

Tracy Buford clicked very well. She's a quick learner in the art of broadcasting, although a little surprised when I got very excited at the end of the 17U championship. We got into some bar talk, but mixed it throughout the commentary. I know the players like to win AAU tournaments and improve for next high school season (or college for the older teams), but they also looked like they were having a little fun out there. I wanted to reflect that.

Regarding the games, North Tartan used a big run early in the 1st half against the Lady Suns to get up front and stay there, winning their game soundly 71-59. North Tartan's Sari Noga of Parkers Prairie had complete control over the defense of the Suns, lighting up from behind the arc and scoring some inside buckets too. She could make a name for herself before her high school career is over.

Paul Hill's NC Heat won a thriller over the Metro Stars 19U team 51-49. The Metro Stars used a man-to-man and forced a lot of missed shots in the 1st half, appeared to have control of NC Heat's zone defense, but buckled when the Heat switched to a half-court press late in the 2nd half. Having Tayler Hill and Megan Nipe as teammates doesn't help matters for opponents; Nipe did well in the 1st half while her good friend Hill did the same in the 2nd. NC Heat was down by 8 with 1:47 to go. Hill responded with 6 points on two three-point plays in 29 seconds to make it a one-possession game. She added a three-pointer and two more free throws in the final seconds while Courtney Boylan of the Metro Stars missed a critical free throw. With the game tied at 49 with 26 seconds to go, Hill held the ball and held back pressure for the final shot, where Katy Leick scored the winning basket at the buzzer. The Metro Stars may have been a little too relaxed and may not have anticipated NC Heat staying in there despite trailing by three possessions late, but it was a great primer for both teams for the summer and their return to school.

One surprise was the lack of time between games. Warm-ups are only five minutes, but I didn't expect halftime to be three minutes. I don't make the rules, but that puts a lot of pressure on a broadcast crew to make changes quickly and get back in there. The players are probably accustomed to it, but it's amazing how quickly the games go. I may try to attend some pool play games next time or obtain rosters of perennial contenders for better preparation and coordinate a better area for the broadcasters. Where we were was out of the spectators' way, but it was a little tiring to be standing for two games to clear the guardrail. However, I figured there would be some obstacles as this is a much different process than a high school game. I could also use a statistician for these as there isn't enough time to get scores and other stats. I'm better at picking up scoring runs now, but that would help dissect the game even further. I have much to learn about AAU.

On the positive side, I think this was the first time I completely winged an open and got through it without any mistakes in the middle, a sign that I'm maturing and developing as an announcer/reporter. Granted, this wasn't my first basketball game, but having general practice does help. As my co-worker Heinz says, you can't do this once and expect to be perfect.

Time to make my sign for ESPN's broadcast of the Twins-Yankees game tomorrow; it falls on my birthday. Even with all my work, I'm psyched about this. I rarely get to have this much fun on my birthdays, but that's another story.

A vs. AAAA All-Star game to be broadcast this week, I'm shooting to have AA vs. AAA done by the end of this week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Yes, I'm still alive!

Forgive me for not blogging in a long time; I had to get through finals and the hassles of my DSL Internet connection at home not working as well as I had hoped. I had to call Qwest multiple times just to narrow down the problem. I Missed the CLA dean's list by .14 points (a 3.67 term GPA is the minimum), but finals went very well. At least I continue to be consistent with my academic performance.

On to basketball. I will be covering my first AAU tournament with the Battle on the Hardwood event hosted by North Tartan at Woodbury. The tournament has already started; I will be taping the 16U and 17U championship games Sunday (50 games isn't feasible given the amount of tapes we would need). Unfortunately, one downside I learned quickly is not being able to prepare as thoroughly as a high school game as no one will know who's playing who until Sunday afternoon with two days of pool play. Coincidentally, the following Monday will be my 21st birthday. GO JUNEBUGS!!!

I'm doing this more or less to reduce the amount of time between productions compared to my first and second season of play-by-play, which was 7 months. Not to say you forget the art after a long pause, but it's good to find things every now and then. Not to mention you'll get to see all your favorite high school players who haven't graduated. Some say it's overrated, others say it's a different brand of basketball that can't be compared to high school games. I'll be able to answer that debate come Sunday.

Tracy Buford, Kiara's mother, will be joining me this time in the broadcast booth. She's expressed an interest before, and I figure an AAU tournament is the best time; it might be harder to get her for next season with her daughter changing from the red and black to maroon and gold.

All-Star games are coming along; the first (A vs. AAAA) is being reviewed and should be ready to go next week. The second (AA vs. AAA) will follow shortly.

In the meantime, you can vote on my new poll. Wrap-up to come Sunday.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: 2008 All-Star Series

I still have a long way to go when it comes to announcing, but at I had Tony Geer alongside me this time for the 2008 All-Star series; the announcer I got last year was a complete disaster.

I got into a little too much "bar talk," especially at the end of the game. Both of Sunday's games were absolute blowouts, which doesn't make for very compelling television. However, I can only control the broadcast and not the game itself. AAAA took 3rd place while AA won the title.

Today also marked the first time I interviewed players from the U of M women's basketball team. I was a little nervous having never spoken to any of them before. I think it's going to take some time to establish confidence with bigger names. What kept me from going after them earlier was the internal debate over whether or not I was another journalist treating them like celebrities. With more practice and experience, I should get over that problem, and I'll keep climbing the ladder. I'm convinced everything will click sooner or later and all my nerves will be an afterthought.

Can't say when the games will be uploaded in their entirety with finals coming up, but I did upload some interviews that took place to keep you interested until then.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mercy rule approved

The Star Tribune reports the Minnesota State High School League will adopt a mercy rule for basketball and football. For both sports, if a team is ahead by 35 or more points, the game will shift to running time. For basketball, they will use running time at the 9-minute mark of the 2nd half while football will run the clock at the beginning of the 4th quarter. In both sports, if the trailing teams cuts the lead to 30 or less, the game will return to regular time.

Kevin Anderson said on my post-season show (going through delays with issues getting the 4A title game on 45, argh!) that a mercy rule will penalize teams for trying too hard. It makes sense, it's not the winning team's fault that a Harding-type team can't hang with them.

Will it change the game? The only thing coaches may do is have their players move the ball a little quicker with running time. Powerhouse teams like Central and South make easy work of their conference games and may face this situation a lot next year. Both teams are thinking about fine-tuning their game for the state tournament as they have realistic chances, so they may be a little more aggressive knowing the clock won't stop.

As far as broadcasts go, I don't see the new rule having any effect on the games I choose to televise. I look for games that feature two strong or equal opponents that generally don't get blown away by 35 or more (South vs. Central, Kennedy vs. South, Johnson vs. Humboldt, most Cretin games). There is at least some uncertainty over who the winner will be.

It may speed up future games that are broadcast on SPNN, the station I work for on a part-time basis. They err on being politically correct. As such, constructing a TV schedule from St. Paul City Conference games is difficult to balance with competitive games. There's too much disparity among teams, leaving just a few "toss-up" matches to choose from. Blowout games of this nature don't happen as much with football.

In short, SPNN could get some extra time to fill with programming they usually prefer to air.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: South vs. Central (Round 3)

I spent a long day at Target Center to scope out the place, tape a post-season show with Kevin Anderson and Tony Geer and land interviews with the back-to-back class 4A state champions: St. Paul Central.

The show went well. I stumbled here and there, but it was minimal. I haven't looked at the tape, but going in, I figured I wouldn't be perfect having never done a talk show before. Mixing it with the post-game interviews will be interesting because we stated on air that the 3A and 4A games hadn't taken place yet. I am starting to feel more comfortable being the on-air talent though. I guess two years of that pressure will calm you if you can handle it.

I don't need to say much about Central-South: Round 3. Tony Geer, who was with me for games 1 and 2, said no team would win all three games. He reiterated this after the Twin Cities game. Having studied the game for 20 years, Tony saw something other experts may have missed. The title game demonstrated who was the better coach; Willie Taylor was calm even when his team was down by nine midway through the 2nd. Ahmil Jihad was more high-strung, and their styles reflected on their respective teams. Taylor mixed things up and South could not respond, which didn't surprise me. Central kept Hill to 9 points, the only time this season Hill scored below 10 (her previous season low was 15).

With the restrictions given by channel 45's exclusive coverage, I couldn't shoot any game video. I wished I could have been more productive, but given the situation, I feel that we did as much as we could. At the start of the season, I would have NEVER thought I'd be at Target Center. I met a lot of new faces, including Lea B. Olsen, one of 45's commentators. I was fascinated by how easy it was to obtain a press pass. I had a lot of fun and would gladly do it again. This will be something I never forget.

Next TV Game: All-Star Series sponsored by Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association, a branch of the Minnesota State High School League.
April 20th at Schoenecker Arena, University of St. Thomas

Friday, March 14, 2008

Broadcast preview: Central vs. South (round 3)

The rubber match for the Central-South series. Yes, South won both games, but it won't matter to them if they don't beat Central a third time. We saw DeLaSalle go 3-0 against Minnehaha Academy, so anything is possible.

You might be wondering why I'm posting a broadcast preview blog since channel 45 has the rights to televise. I'm going to tape a post-game show at Target Center Saturday and get post-game interviews of the 4A final to intersperse with the show. It's the first time I've covered a state tournament and the first time I will have stepped inside Target Center in eight years (the Wolves were still good back then). I'm excited and nervous; I never thought doing play-by-play for a couple years would lead me to the state tournament.

Kiara Buford had nine turnovers, but made up for it at the free throw line as she put up 24. Theairra Taylor caught fire today, even going a perfect 10-10 from the line. Not bad for a 65% free throw shooter. I hope the folks at Marquette teach Georgie Jones how to use her legs, she's a player you can actually afford to put on the line. Ugh. Central played their A-game in their two wins. I wouldn't be surprised if they try to double team Tayler Hill again. Hill cracked a bit in game 2 when Central doubled her up. Central must convert their short range shots and repeat their free throw performance at the Eastview game to win.

Speaking of Hill, what hasn't she been honored for yet? South suffered from two slow starts, although Hill made sure they didn't finish that way. Of her 49 points in the tournament games, 33 have come in the 2nd half. Taquoia Hammick put up a dozen against Chaska, making her case as one of the most improved players this year. Hammick didn't take advantage of easy looks last year. With a deep bench, you can't rely on them getting on foul trouble. ANYONE on the first or second string can be a play maker.

Both teams will continue their aggressive pursuit of one another; they hit hard and fast. Should be fun. Most experts picked South to win it all, but some don't think they can win three times against Central.

QUICK HITS

1. Tayler Hill hasn't scored less than 15 points all season. Don't expect her to bow out now. She scored 58 points in games 1 and 2.

2. Jones put up a double-double in 13 of her last 14 games, but had trouble against South in game 2. Jones shot just 33% from the floor.

3. Kiara Buford shot 9 of 14 free throws in games 1 and 2, just over 60%. Buford is an 83% free throw shooter. She did lead all Central players in total points in their two games with South.

4. Tyisha Smith had 14 steals in games 1 and 2, just under Central's TEAM total of 16. Shows you the difference Angel Robinson made for Central last year.

5. Central will be playing for their fourth state championship in school history, South has yet to win their 1st.

By the way, Centennial is still ranked above Central by MaxPreps.com. The Cougars are #2 and the Minutemen are #3. Was Centennial that good?

Look for the wrap-up show on YouTube and SPNN channel 15 in the coming days.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Heerrrrrrrrrre's Miss Basketball!

Well, not quite yet. But they did release the finalists for the 2008 Miss Basketball award:

Courtney Boylan - Chaska
Kiara Buford - St. Paul Central
Briana Mastey - Becker
Kamille Wahlin - Crookston
Brittnye McSparron - Eastview

Here's some more info.

McSparron averages 20+ pts. per game, led the tough Lake League in scoring while Eastview made their way to the state tournament.

Wahlin has no stats posted on Maxpreps, but her team finished 28-1, including a win over last year's AAA champ Becker.

Speaking of Becker, Mastey led the Mississippi Eight conference in scoring and finished 2nd in rebounding. The future Gopher was a key factor in securing last year's title over DeLaSalle. Ironically, she finished in the same positions in both scoring and rebounds in the Mississippi Eight. Mastey was the only Becker player to average above double digits in scoring the last two years.

Buford is Central's pure shooter and will help the Gophers in an area they need help with. She did make her mark at Central though. Her individual stats aren't eye-popping with Central's balanced attack (16.7 pts per game), but don't overlook this woman. She's shooting 83% from the free throw line this season, an 11% improvement from last year. If her free throws don't get you, her long-range shot will. Had little problem taking a leadership role this season.

Boylan is bound for Michigan and also comes from the Lake conference. She's second in the Lake for scoring (20 pts per game) and helped Chaska rally to beat Kennedy in their section final.

WHO GETS IT?

I'm not an expert with this, but the winners are very accomplished, two of the last three breaking some statistical record (Angel Robinson for all-time steals, Katie Ohm for all-time points). You won't see that this season, but they're all well-qualified.

Stats alone don't tell the story, but if Mastey didn't play for Becker, they wouldn't have won last year or even have a chance at state this year (the same could be said for McSparron and Boylan). Central likely would have won the title last year without Buford and would still be talented this year had she not been there. Mastey may have an edge for these reasons.

Barring some unseen tragedy, next year's selection won't be too hard.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spoken like an elder stateswoman

That's how John Millea of the Star Tribune summed up his most recent interview with Tayler Hill, who was named their 2008 player of the year (surprise surprise).

I've been wondering if Tayler is growing sick of seeing her picture flash on the Jumbotron for the CGI starting lineups I use. Keystone Productions televised five South games and she was highlighted in all of them. Yeah, she's that good.

If she is getting annoyed, she only has to put up with me one more year :-p. I never get to hear comments about my job performance or overall production quality from the players themselves, but I'll save that for the end of the season.

Click here to read the story

Willie Taylor always liked being the boss

St. Paul Central head coach Willie Taylor says that and more in a chat with the Pioneer Press' Bob Sansevere. But don't take my word for it, check it out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Don't spit them out

Here are the class AAAA seeds for the state tournament:

1. Minneapolis South
2. Eastview
3. St. Paul Central
4. Osseo
5. Chaska
6. St. Cloud Tech
7. St. Francis
8. Owatonna

At least all their games will be played at Target Center, so they won't be bounced around from one arena to another, although I think they should have them play at Williams Arena at least once. I know, I'm a Gopher. A friend of mine who went to state a few years ago said Williams is a scarier place to play than Target Center because of the raised floor.

South will no doubt be the heavy favorite. They resemble last year's Central team in a lot of ways: South's roster is filled with versatile players that can shoot, drive and play defense. Their bench is deep and can contribute right away. South executes the full-court press well and have a go-to player in Tayler Hill to top it all off. Osseo is ranked in the top 10, but South has gone toe-to-toe with the best and probably will march unscathed to the final.

Central had a scare against White Bear Lake before coasting against Woodbury. Given their weaker section, their 2nd game against South was that more important for the tournament. St. Cloud Tech had a low strength of schedule as Kevin Anderson points out. Central does have an advantage over everyone else by playing against Long Beach Poly, who are ranked among the top schools in the nation. Where was that game? Target Center. Central won't have to adjust like everyone else. If Central beats St. Cloud Tech, they'll likely have Eastview waiting for them. Central can earn the chance to win back-to-back titles, but they need to play their A-game throughout.

Recent history doesn't bode well for South if they play Central a third time. Osseo beat Centennial on their third try and Michigan State did the same to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. On that note, there could be a similar situation in class AAA with DeLaSalle and Minnehaha Academy. DeLaSalle won both times, but only by a combined nine points.

There will be more uncertainty compared to last year, and that will only make the tournament more fun.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

St. Paul sectional results (and thoughts)

For those who thought Centennial and Hopkins would be going to the big dance, it's not happening. Centennial is a bridesmaid once again after being upset by Osseo. I guess that is what happens when you don't play a lot of tough teams and face a team three times in one season. Hopkins was defeated by South tonight.

Central will also return to state with a 60-30 win over Woodbury tonight. Kiara Buford and Megan Howard are now the first two Central players to go to state during their entire high school career.

Like last year, Central will be the only St. Paul team in the tournament as Johnson got knocked out by Minnehaha Academy 80-69. Minnehaha had a nine-point lead at the half.

The St. Paul City Conference pretty much echoed last year's performance where it was Central and "everybody else." The difference was the strength of other conference teams. Johnson fared much stronger and will have a lot to build on for next season, complemented by what will be a weaker Central team next year. Humboldt needs someone over 6'0" to make them a threat. Highland Park has to find a way to hang with the stronger teams while continuing to beat the weaker ones.

St. Paul does have potential for surprise showings next season. However, I'll remind everyone that high school basketball games are just games and shouldn't be taken as life-or-death situations.

There's still a long way to go before everyone in section AAAA will be seeded, but the Centennial loss will shake things up a bit.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Knights in rusty armor (0-19)

As expected, Harding got destroyed by Minnehaha Academy 88-35, thus sealing their first winless season in school history. This happens just one year after finishing at the bottom of the St. Paul City Conference for the first time in school history.

This was once a team that could battle with the greats in the state. Powered by Shannon Loeblein and head coach Tom Gunderson, now at Central, Harding finished second in the 1990 and 1991 class AA state championship (they expanded to four classes in 1997).

Gunderson was replaced by Jerry Utecht, who hasn't fielded many talented teams since his tenure began in 1994. I was a Harding student the last time the lady Knights had a competitive team, in the 2003-04 season. Since then, Harding has become a doormat that everyone else can stomp on. One of my partners and I joked on the phone that we could beat them with one hand tied behind our back shooting just threes. The players don't put their hands up to take away open looks and appear lethargic overall.

Some former Harding players say Utecht doesn't do enough to make his team competitive. If you go by his record, you might win that argument. On the other end, you need solid players to contribute. Harding doesn't have that either. There is little incentive to step up your game when you play in a mostly empty gym.

I could continue to gripe, but anyone can do that. I understand high school sports are extracurricular activities and wins alone should not define the experience. However, I think the student athletes would enjoy the sport if they felt like they had a chance to win. Harding needs to find people who want to play and are willing to improve their skills throughout a season. A coach or assistant coach that could mold potential into talent would also benefit Harding.

Finishing a season without a win in a low-respected conference does have a psychological effect. Performance does come in cycles, but Harding may have reached the point where no one cares about the state of girls basketball on the far East Side of St. Paul. The bright side? Harding can't do any worse next season.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

About time Humboldt got seeded

You know it's a stretch when a sub .500 team gets the #3 seed in section 4AA, but that's exactly what happened to Humboldt. In fact, a lot of .sub 500 teams got high seeds. Despite finishing the season at 10-11, Humboldt went 3-1 against teams in the east division. The only loss was to Roosevelt, and they trailed by just one going into halftime on the road.

My big concern is Humboldt playing just 21 games. They do get the same amount of rest as everyone else, but with other teams playing the maximum 26, stamina may be an issue. The Hawks have no one above 5'10", and that could spell trouble if they have to face opponents above 6'0". Humboldt's preparation may determine the outcome. They hung in there against Highland Park and the 2nd match against Johnson, but hurt themselves with a late loss to Como Park.

Should Humboldt beat St. Bernard's, they would likely face Minneapolis Roosevelt again, who face a struggling Mounds Park Academy team in round 1. The bad news is, they would have to play at Roosevelt again.

For the record, the #1 seed in the east, St. Croix Lutheran, got blown away by Roosevelt and barely hung on against #4 St. Paul Academy this season. They got #1 thanks to their record, but don't be surprised if this team gets upset in sections.

On the west division, Jordan got the #1 seed at 23-2. Their only two games against section opponents were both wins: a blowout against Blake and a sound win over Roosevelt fueled by a strong 2nd half (Jordan trailed by three at halftime in that game). Jordan looks like they will go unchallenged in the west with the #2 seed, Blake, finishing just one game over .500.

Whoever wins the east division may just be playing for 2nd place in sections. It will take a lot to stand in Jordan's way to the state tournament.

Humboldt prediction: They beat St. Bernard's in the 1st round, possibly upset Roosevelt. If that happens, a lot will depend on what happens to St. Croix Lutheran in the 2nd round. The Hawks would have to be consistent, something we haven't seen all year. Humboldt gets knocked out in the 2nd round.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: South vs. Central (round 2)

I stumbled a couple times today, although I have to watch the tape, but Tony and I picked up where we left off. Engaging in our usual and often descriptive banter, we saw a much better game than the first time. For the record, South won 82-73, but both teams played as if it was a one-possession game throughout. Had a few more easy looks gone in for Central, the result could have been a lot different. I think the stumbles will fade, and they have as I've called more games. Next season will be challenge me to learn about mechanics.

I did like that both coaches and players stayed aggressive even when the game was over. They both knew that sections were coming up and were doing everything they could to tune up their players one last time. South is in a tough section with Wayzata, Armstrong and Hopkins and will need everything they can get to challenge those teams. One thing in South's favor is the ability to win games without their starting five. They won two when Tayler Hill was out and had the same success when Hammick had to sit. Today, when Gabrielle Roberts didn't take the floor. If South gets in foul trouble, they can go deep.

For the curious, Hill scored 31 points, only the third time this season she has eclipsed 30 in a game.

Central has a weaker section. As long as they don't get conceited, the Minutemen can use the section games to work on any mistakes that plagued them in the past. They showed no intimidation this time, a sign that they're ready to play against the stronger teams in the state. Megan Howard scored 19 points and will likely eclipse 1,000 before the state tournament. If Central qualifies, Buford and Howard will be the only two Central players in school history to play in the state tournament throughout their high school career.

I had a lot of fun this season. My goals for next year are:

1. Find a solid partner I can rely on for most games.

2. Cover a bigger group of teams (We televised South 5 times, Central 4 times)

3. Study the mechanics. I know it's not required for play-by-play, but just in case I call another solo game.

I'll be involved in some aspect of the state tournament, but you won't see me doing play-by-play until the All-Star Series. Until then, I'll fill my NCAA tournament bracket and enjoy a much needed break.

Humboldt section seed blog to come.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Broadcast preview: South vs. Central (round 2)

Finally, what you've all been waiting for. Tony Geer from Community Hoops will be my partner again. I had fun with him the last time, so I feel very comfortable about the game.

Central will need to keep their starters out of foul trouble to avoid being blown away like they were in the first meeting. Having home-court advantage may help, but South has dropped just one game this season. A solid performance by Central since the South loss has pushed them back to 3rd again in the MaxPreps poll, the same rank they held before the South game. Nationally, Central is 24th, higher than their 37th position the last time. South has held the #2 spot since their Hopkins loss, as Centennial hasn't dropped a game all year. Nationally, South is 15th and reached the #10 spot one week before dropping. South's strength of schedule is low, likely preventing them from cracking the top 10. Both teams average 79 points per game.

QUICK HITS

1. Despite their few blemishes, neither team has won a game when trailing at halftime (South: 0-1, Central: 0-2)

2. South is 4-1 against top 10 teams, Central is 1-2.

3. Georgie Jones recorded her 20th double-double Thursday night against Southwest. Through 25 games, Jones got a double-double 80% of the time. She had 13 double-doubles last season. Jones is also the only active player to break three milestones: 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks.

4. Tayler Hill scored 30 points for the second time this season in South's win against Roosevelt. The last time that happened? Hill tallied 31 against Hopkins.

5. In the first meeting, South did not allow any Central players to score 20 points or more.

If the game comes down to free throws, Central's Kiara Buford is 86% from the line (92-107) while Hill shot 18-19 en route to a 27-point performance in the first match-up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

St. Paul AAA seeds

Staying true to my word, Georgie Jones of St. Paul Central has 19 double-doubles coming into tonight's game against Southwest. For those who say she isn't division one material, Jones has shown consistency at her position, a skill valued in this sport. Having a former teammate at Marquette only helps.

Anyway, the bulk of the St. Paul City conference was seeded in section 4 for class AAA. Out of this section, Johnson got the #2 seed, Highland Park is #4, Como Park drew #6, Arlington got #7 and Harding brings up the rear at #8.

Don't get your hopes up at Harding, they're likely to suffer their first winless season in school history for girls basketball. Como will be knocked out in the 1st round. Highland Park comes in with a solid 14-9 record (soon to be 15-9 after they defeat Harding) but have no quality wins. Johnson could advance to state, but they'll need to advance past Hill-Murray and likely Minnehaha Academy to do it.

As I mentioned before, Johnson faired much better this season than last year. All of their losses were against class AAAA schools, including a mere six-point loss to Hopkins. Johnson won't have to worry about them for the tournament. They have swept every other St. Paul team in the section and have two quality wins against Plainview/Elgin-Millville and Winona-Cotter. On the other hand, neither of those schools are AAA schools. Ultimately, it may come down to team chemistry for Johnson.

Minnehaha Academy's two losses were against DeLaSalle and St. Francis, but Minnehaha hasn't played as many AAAA teams as Johnson has. They will be the favorite at 23-2, but the statistics could prove misleading.

Another factor in St. Paul's favor is location. The section semi-finals and finals will be played at Arlington. No team outside St. Paul in section 4AAA played there this season.

It makes geographical sense to group the city schools together. What effect it will have remains to be seen.

More game notes for the Central-South game and comments on Humboldt's playoff selection to follow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Central gets seeded

The Minnesota State High School League has released their bracket for section 4AAAA and, no surprise, Central drew the #1 seed. Woodbury received the #2 seed and Cretin-Derham Hall picked up the #3 spot. On paper, Central looks like they've got an easy ride to qualify for their 4th consecutive state tournament appearance, having destroyed Cretin-Derham Hall in their regular season meeting.

Central and Woodbury haven't played each other this season, but Central is scoring 79 points per game against Woodbury's 49.5 points per contest. Woodbury's style of play becomes their worst enemy if the Royals struggle in field goal shooting, a factor that played out in their loss to South in December. With South and Central mirroring each other, the pattern could re-surface in a Central-Woodbury match-up.

Obviously, Central will do themselves in if they become too conceited. However, it makes their rematch against Minneapolis South that more important in their last chance to gear up for the playoffs.

My next blog will have pre-game notes of South-Central: Round 2

Monday, February 18, 2008

In-between game blog

The Star Tribune's John Millea published an article today reporting on the possible future of high school state tournaments. With rising costs, professional venues such as Target Center and Xcel Energy Center may no longer become feasible for the Minnesota State High School League. If a solution isn't found by 2013, tournaments could be split to other venues.

There's still time. However, as I'm about to cover the state tournament for the first time, splitting up the tournaments would be problematic. Most of the competing schools are from the metro area, and last year's girls basketball state tournament drew record attendance thanks to a Minneapolis and St. Paul school playing each other in the title game. That would mean long trips for AA and AAA schools in the Twin Cities, including North, Humboldt and Johnson. Nervous as they may be, the kids love to play at these venues because they get to step on the same floor their idols have.

If the tournaments do indeed have to be moved, keep them to one site. Otherwise, state tournaments would feel just like any other game.

Broadcast preview of the South-Central rematch coming up soon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Humboldt vs. Johnson

I got off to a bad start, the referees weren't too clear in communicating fouls which led to some miscalls early. I fixed that, but the game itself wasn't very exciting. Humboldt got off to a quick 10-2 run, but Johnson answered that with a run later in the 1st half that never seemed to end. It was more of the same in the 2nd, although Humboldt gave one last breath before succumbing in a 80-65 victory for Johnson.

My co-worker happened to be an assistant coach on the Humboldt boys team, and his connections may have led to some neutrality issues. Most of the time when I referred to Johnson, he wouldn't reply, although he elaborated on Humboldt whenever I brought them up.

That said, here's my game analysis.

Johnson has an outside chance of going deep in the state tournament. Their free throw shooting is a problem, they shoot just 61% as a team and have some issues making the easy looks count. They make up for it with outstanding defense, led by Carolyn Mobley. Their win against Humboldt can be credited to their offensive rebounding. The Governors have many sharp-shooters, something few teams have, which should get them past their section and into state.

Humboldt has faired well against teams in their section, but their weaknesses are lack of experience and no big players to help the inside game. Their shot selection needs work. I think they're better than what they showed tonight, but they need to be more consistent. The Hicks sisters mesh well, can shoot from the perimeter and go inside. The only downside? None of them are above 5'5". Finally, Humboldt has a great problem on their hands; they won't lose anyone to graduation next year.

A Super Ball was thrown on the court undetected late in the 2nd half. Fortunately, it stayed behind the players, but the officials need to pay attention for foreign objects. Someone could have been injured had there been a fast break.

Next TV Game:
Twin Cities Championship Game (likely a rematch of South vs. Central), St. Paul site @ 2:30 p.m.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Broadcast preview: Humboldt vs. Johnson

I'll be at Humboldt tomorrow for the first time in my two-year career calling their game against Johnson. Humboldt has played more competitively in the last couple years with three Hicks sisters contributing solid performances for the Hawks. Johnson picked up a few transfers before the transfer rule went into effect, and it has paid off. The Governors are 8-3 in non-conference play, compared to 4-9 last year. Their turnaround shows in the overall record column as Johnson sits at 15-4 compared to 13-12 last season.

QUICK HITS

1. Johnson comes in with a six-game winning streak.

2. As a team, Johnson is averaging 72.8 points per game against Humboldt's 55.7 points per contest.

3. Tacita Gonzalez leads the St. Paul City Conference in steals and assists.

4. Johnson defeated Humboldt 77-53 in their first meeting. Carolyn Mobley scored a game high 30 points in that contest.

5. Johnson's next game is a rematch against Central with the Twin Cities championship game at stake.

TV: SPNN, channel 15 (tape-delayed) and broadcast online on my YouTube page

Programs available for DVD purchase

Autism Part 1 DVD cover

Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)

What Are You DVD cover

What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15

Vices to Verses promo

From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15

Machine 2010 highlight promo

Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15

Photobucket

Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15