John's Journal
A Rookie Hoops Analyst Prepares For His Debut1/10/2011
I have been on television several times, but always in short bursts. The usual stint for me is something along the lines of a halftime interview during the Prep Bowl (which happened in November) or a few seconds of me chattering on camera about some high school activities issue.

Well, a dumb fox is about to wander into a henhouse filled with smart chickens. I have been invited to work as a guest television analyst during play-by-play coverage of a boys’ basketball game Tuesday night, and I’m smart enough to know that I’m not nearly smart enough to be good at this gig. But I’m also smart enough to know that trying new things can be exciting … if not pretty.

This isn’t a national telecast (how frightening would that be … I mean, for the viewers?) This telecast of a game between Park and Roseville will be shown on CTV Channel 15, which is part of a non-profit community access organization operated by the North Suburban Access Corporation and representing the cities of Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, St. Anthony and Shoreview.

The guy leading the on-air rodeo will be Jerry Otto Jr. I have known Jerry for a long time and he is a first-rate broadcaster. He will handle the play-by-play duties and I will do my impersonation of the lead character in “The King’s Speech” (if you don’t know what that movie is about, go to the Google).

A couple weeks ago, Jerry had asked if I would be interested in doing some color commentary during a game. Thinking he was clearly desperate, I said “Sure!” Jerry phoned me Sunday afternoon with the invitation to work during Tuesday night’s game at Roseville. I’m happy to do it, because Jerry is as good as they come and I’m sure he will carry me on his back.

In the meantime, I’m doing some prep work; looking at rosters, statistics, etc. In a nice stroke of luck, I saw Roseville play Saturday in the Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center. So I’ve got that going for me.

In order to gauge the fan base for this epic television experiment, here is what I will do: Once the game starts (meaning after the opening tipoff), the first person to bring a Diet Coke (preferably cold and unopened) to me at my broadcast location will receive a nice gift.

And I’ll see if I can find a volunteer to shoot some photos of Jerry and John during the broadcast. This moment needs to be recorded for posterity ... or something like that.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 314
*Miles John has driven: 6,745

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
A Day For Preps In A Pro Setting1/8/2011
I was sitting courtside at Target Center on Saturday, watching the 2011 Timberwolves Shootout. Now in its 15th year, the Shootout is one of the highlights of the boys’ basketball season.

Watching Minnesota teams play teams from South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa, I thought back to the 2007 Shootout, when a high school senior named Kevin Love played here with his Lake Oswego, Oregon, teammates. Love, of course, spent one year at UCLA and now is a fixture with the Timberwolves.

Lake Oswego defeated Osseo 74-58 in the Shootout that year, with Love getting 41 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. I enjoyed talking with him after that game, even though no one knew at the time that he would be playing for the Timberwolves only two years later. He talked about the thrill of playing in an NBA arena, and it was clear that the thrill was real for him.

During Saturday’s Shootout, the Timberwolves worked out on their Target Center practice court. As they left the building, some of them chatted with the high school players who were there for the Shootout. My favorite memory from Saturday: a young man from Onalaska High School in Wisconsin proudly showing teammates a cell-phone photo of himself with the Wolves’ Michael Beasley.

The biggest news Saturday came off the court when Linn-Mar, Iowa, junior point guard Marcus Paige announced that he plans to play collegiately at North Carolina. This came just moments before Linn-Mar met Apple Valley.

Minnesota teams love playing in the Shootout because of the possible postseason payoff. Should they advance to the state tournament, the semifinals and championship games are also played at Target Center. (In Class 4A and 2A, the 2011 state quarterfinals also will be held at Target Center; the other tourney site is Williams Arena.)

Back when the economy was strong, the Timberwolves were able to bring in some of the top high school teams from across the country; Love’s appearance fit that mold. When LeBron James was in high school in Ohio, the Timberwolves made an attempt to have his team play here … the rumor was that the price was quite high. In recent years the Shootout has become more of a regional draw, with the Minnesota teams’ opponents coming from surrounding states.

That was the format Saturday, when the lineup went like this:
--Roseville vs. Viborg/Hurley, South Dakota
--Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Onalaska, Wisconsin
--Chaska vs. Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa
--Apple Valley vs. Linn-Mar, Iowa

The Minnesota teams went 1-3 at the Shootout. Here’s a recap …

--Roseville trailed undefeated Viborg-Hurley by 16 points with 10 minutes to play in the first game. But the Raiders whittled down the margin and an offensive rebound basket by Sam Peterson at the buzzer game them a 68-66 victory. Sophomore Mackenzie Johnson led Roseville (7-2) with 16 points and 6-9 junior Zach Kraning had 15 for the Cougars (5-1).

--Benilde-St. Margaret led by two at halftime but Onalaska outscored the Red Knights 40-33 in the second half of a 62-57 victory. Onalaska (8-0) shot 56.5 percent in the second half and led by 10 with 6:16 to play. Benilde took a 56-55 lead with 1:56 left before two layups and two free throws by Tony Thomas put Onalaska over the top. Isaiah Zierden has 19 points for BSM (5-3) and Clint Rihn had 16 for Onalaska.

--The Cedar Rapids Washington Warriors lost at home to Minnetonka on Friday night and were in downtown Minneapolis to meet Chaska in a 5 p.m. game Saturday. And they got themselves a dose of Minnesota revenge with a 59-55 win over the Hawks. Wesley Washpun led Washington with 23 points and Iowa Hawkeyes recruit Josh Oglesby had 20. For Chaska, Wichita State recruit Jake White had 26 (four below his state-best average) and Penn State signee Ross Travis had 13. Each team made 21 field goals, but Washington had one more three-point basket than Chaska (6 to 5) and made three more free throws (11 to 8).

--Apple Valley, playing without its two top players, lost to Linn-Mar 81-35. Freshman Tyus Jones, one of the top young recruits in the nation, has missed much of the season with a kidney injury. And Eagles senior Tom Schalk, who has signed with William & Mary, sat out with an ankle injury.

--Diet Coke Count: 3

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 314
*Miles John has driven: 6,745

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Remembering Martin Carter1/6/2011
(The following was originally published in the Park Rapids Enterprise. It was written by Anna Erickson of the Enterprise.)

Martin Carter, well-loved instructor and drama coach in Park Rapids, will be remembered for his selfless commitment to others.

He passed away Wednesday, Dec. 22, at age 76.

Students were a priority for Carter. Each one was important and there was no such thing as a small part, in his opinion.

“Martin was magic,” said Joey Collins, who taught with Carter for five years in Park Rapids. “It was never about Martin. It was always about the other person.”

Carter was a mentor for Collins, who began student teaching in Park Rapids in 1975. Although she only taught with Carter for five years, she said their lives were intertwined over the years and they stayed in touch. (In this photo, Martin sat on stage in 1993.)

He started teaching in Park Rapids in 1958. Although he initially thought he would stay in Park Rapids for just a few years, he made a career here, retiring 35 years later, in 1993.
The drama program rose to fame under his dedicated leadership.

During his career, Carter brought 19 one-act plays to state competition, with star performances at eight. He also led speech students to a high level, placing Park Rapids fourth overall in the state, including 10 years in competition with AA schools. He was also a coach for National Forensic League champions.

In March 1993 he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame with 10 other individuals from various disciplines. His photo is on the Hall of Fame wall in Brooklyn Center depicting all of Minnesota’s great achievers.

He racked up a collection of trophies unprecedented by any other Park Rapids organization. His classroom had two walls worth of shelves filled with trophies and additional trophy cases in the hall.

He formally retired in 1993 but continued to be involved in theater and speech at Park Rapids Area High School.

Juliann Kjenaas, current drama director in Park Rapids, has fond memories of working with Carter.

“He was quite the fixture at the school here,” she said. “He continued to come in and help critique students and make them better.”
He also helped judge one-act competitions after he retired. Kjenaas said Carter lived for bringing out the best in kids.

“The thing about Martin was that he was always there for the kids,” she said. “He was just a bigger than life character."

“He has sacrificed himself entirely. There is not anyone more dedicated to the kids in getting their full potential,” according to retired teacher Bruce Burkman for a previous story for the Enterprise. He worked with Carter as an English teacher and drama director.

Carter was also involved in community theater productions, including “The Music Man,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The King and I,” and the “Wizard of Oz.”

He received the honor of Coach of the Year in 1988 for helping his own students as well as students from other schools. He also received the Outstanding Individual in Communication and Theatre Award by the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota.

Carter worked with many students over the years and had a lasting impact on them. His legacy will remain at Park Rapids Area High School.
A New Arena, Great Hockey And Oh, The Food 1/3/2011
Duluth is a special place. I’ve been visiting the North Shore for a long time now, with summer visits during vacations and winter trips centering around hockey. Hockey was again the theme Monday when I rolled north up Interstate 35, but this time there was much more than sticks and pucks.

As I wrote a couple days ago, my journey involved a high school hockey doubleheader, an MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors workshop and a visit to the new Amsoil Arena, which opened its doors just last week. The 6,764-seat arena is part of an $80 million expansion project at the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center), and it is a showplace.

I covered many hockey games at the DECC arena, which was one of the great old places to watch hockey. Amsoil retains some of that charm, but it is much roomier and brighter than the DECC arena. The two dozen high school students who gathered for Monday’s workshop were treated to a private tour of the arena, and they all loved it. As one of them told our tour guide from the DECC staff, “This place is awesome.”

The arena made its debut last week when a full house watched a men’s college hockey game pitting Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota. Monday’s event – a girls’ game between the Duluth Northern Stars and Proctor/Hermantown/Duluth Marshall and a boys’ game between Duluth East and Duluth Central – was very festive, with intermission fun that included pie-eating contests, mini-mite games, prizes and raffles. (Question of the night, posed during one of the pie-eating contests: “How much pie can a high school administrator eat?”)

And then there was, ah yes, the food at the concession stands. I kicked off the gastronomical festivities with a Polish sausage. What really caught my eye was seeing “Smoked wild rice brat” on the menu, but they weren’t quiet grilled to perfection during my first foray to the concession stand nearest the press box. I had one a little later, however, and that experience alone is enough to keep me coming back to town.

The day’s Diet Coke Count (the total is below) began at lunch with an actual Diet Coke, consumed as I drove north. Amsoil Arena, however, is a Pepsi joint, so the Diet Cokes the rest of the day were disguised as Diet Pepsi or Diet Mountain Dew. One was even a freebie; during the Student SID workshop I talked briefly about the monster that is the Diet Coke Count and how I sometimes drink Diet Mountain Dew. One of the students had come equipped with a Diet Mountain Dew in his backpack, and he presented it to me after the workshop. What a nice young man.

The hockey was outstanding. In the first game, the Duluth Northern Stars (6-8-1) came away with a 2-1 victory over Proctor/Hermantown/Marshall (8-6-1). The deciding goal was scored by ninth-grader Alexia Klaas for the Stars.

In the boys’ game, East led 2-0 after one period and went on to a 7-1 victory over Central, with seven different players getting the goals. Monday’s game marked the last time Central and East will play each other; Central will close in the spring and Denfeld will re-open next fall after being closed for a year during renovations. Central students will then attend Denfeld.

Duluth East (9-3), ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, has lost only to No. 1 Wayzata and No. 5 Edina, both by one-goal margins. Central (6-7) is ranked No. 15 in Class 1A

--One of the great mascots in Minnesota is the Duluth East Greyhound (pictured with the East cheerleaders). Whomever is inside that suit somehow manages to skate while wearing a giant dog head. Very, very impressive.

(To see more photos and a video from Amsoil Arena, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

--Diet Coke Count: 4

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 306
*Miles John has driven: 6,559

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
We’ll Kick Off 2011 With A Full Day In Duluth1/1/2011
Hello and welcome back to the show. The holiday break is about at its end and the John’s Journal staff is gearing up for a blockbuster beginning to 2011. The new year will open in Duluth, and I’ll get to those details after this brief Hollywood interlude ...

Mr. and Mrs. John’s Journal have been spending time at the local cinemas over the holidays. In a one-week span, we saw “The King’s Speech”, “True Grit”, “The Fighter” and “Black Swan.” According to the Twitter messages dispatched to the universe by Mrs. Journal, “Black Swan” topped her list. My order of preference: “The King’s Speech”, “The Fighter”, “True Grit” and “Black Swan”. I loved ‘em all, and I put those four and “The Social Network” in my Top 5 for 2010.

OK, back to reality. By which I mean Duluth. We’ll be in the Air-Conditioned City on Monday for a day filled with good stuff. Our headquarters will be the brand new Amsoil Arena, hockey home of the UMD Bulldogs. The arena has been open for just a few days.

Monday’s big athletic draw will be a high school hockey doubleheader. The Duluth Northern Stars will meet Proctor/Hermantown/Duluth Marshall in a girls’ game at 5:30 p.m., followed by a boys’ game at 7:30 between Duluth East and Duluth Marshall. The evening has been dubbed “High School Hockey Frenzy.”

Our day will also include a gathering of high school students who are interested in the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. Duluth East activities director Shawn Roed has been instrumental in setting up a workshop in which I will meet with students from several area schools. The students will learn about the Student SID program and maybe get a journalism tip or two along the way.

The students will be given a tour of the arena before the workshop, and they will be encouraged to stick around for the evening’s hockey doubleheader. It has the makings of a very special day.

I’ll be shooting photographs throughout the day in Duluth, with Twitter and Facebook activities highly likely.

--On another note, I’m looking for an event to attend on Tuesday evening. Basketball, hockey, dance team; you name it and I might be there. I have posed this question on the MSHSL Facebook page, so feel free to post suggestions there or send me an old-fashioned email. I’ll be back in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, so anything too far outside the metro might be a stretch that evening. But I’m open to any and all possibilities.

See you soon.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 302
*Miles John has driven: 6,249

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn