John's Journal
A Remarkable Memory: MSHSL Day With The Timberwolves4/2/2012
(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended a Timberwolves game through the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program.)

By Nick Wagner
Ada-Borup High School Student SID

Try to remember one of the best days of your life.

Got it? Good.

Now think of everything that took place throughout the day: what did you do, who did you meet, where were you at and how did it happen?

Doesn't it feel good to know you have a significant day in your life that you enjoyed? I personally don't have to scrounge through my 17 years of living to find an out-of-this-world experience, because one just happened Sunday, March 25th with the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center.

I was privileged enough to be invited to the MSHSL's first-ever media day in conjunction with the Student Sports Information Directors program for a Timberwolves game. Also receiving the honor were three others from the program: Turner Blaufuss, Thomas Elness and Katie Halter, along with University of Minnesota journalism student Luke Sleeper.

The Timberwolves organization immersed each of us with experiences like none other, as Timberwolves public relations senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen used every resource available to make the day possible.

We met with Twin Cities media professionals for an hour, hearing Star Tribune beat reporter Jerry Zgoda, Augsburg College sports information director Don Stoner, Fox Sports North TV play-by-play man Tom Hanneman, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski and KARE-11 sports anchor/reporter Dave Schwartz talk about their careers and other various topics.

Following our meeting, we were treated to a tour of Target Center's insides before filling our own with a lunch in the media room.

After finishing the pasta and cookie, I split from the group to join NBA photographers David Sherman and Jordan Johnson to experience first-hand what it's like to be a NBA photographer.

It's nonstop, and it's awesome.

From pre-game focusing of remote cameras to uploading images onto the internet during the game to chasing Crunch (the Timberwolves mascot) while he speeds on his Segway to avoiding a 7-foot-6 player's fall at the baseline… all of it while you're set on one thing -- capturing the image everyone wants. The photography position also comes with an overlooked perk: you get paid to sit sideline at sporting events day after day.

The Timberwolves capped off the day with a convincing win over the Denver Nuggets, but there still was icing left for an already triple-stacked cake.

Our group met with Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver, and you might as well forget the stereotypical view on professional players, because Tolliver was simply a down-to-earth, humble man during the interview. He was terrific.

The same can be said about the entire day, and the man behind it all.

John Millea started the MSHSL SID program in the fall of 2010 when he was hired by the high school league as a media specialist. His program is unique, as the online news source run by students he directs is the first of its kind in the nation.

His passion for the business seems to bear no limits, as does his caring way for others like the four of us. His 20-year career at the Star Tribune established relationships among media professionals and organizations. He uses the "who you know” of his profession to benefit others unceasingly, with a special focus on members of the program he started from scratch.

John not only is a trailblazer in the journalism world but in the lives of the high school kids in his program like Turner, Thomas, Katie and myself.

Partaking in the MSHSL SID media day with the Minnesota Timberwolves is a day I will never forget, and my biggest thanks are rightfully owed to John.

Life’s best days come few and far between, but I am sure you will be able to recall a distinguished day in your life upon participating in the SID program.

All you have to do is join, and let the fun begin.
Fake Beards,Teamwork and Fun: FIRST Robotics Takes Over 3/30/2012
My new favorite team is called “Brobotics +2.” This team wields power tools, math, ingenuity and other implements of which I am not very familiar. They also are well-versed in the concepts of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition.

Let me explain. Brobotics +2 is the FIRST Robotics team from Perham High School. They caught my eye because they were wearing knit beards. Yes, knit beards. They were originally called Brobotics, but as one of the students explained to me, “The plus 2 is because two girls joined late.”

I encountered Brobotics +2 (yes, that's them in the photo) Friday afternoon at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus, where robotics teams had also taken over Mariucci Arena and the Sports Pavilion.

FIRST is short for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST Robotics competitions have been held for 21 years, and Minnesota is a new growth area. Six years ago there were two teams in our state; today there are 154. The MSHSL has partnered with FIRST.

The events at the University of Minnesota were the Minnesota North Star Regional and 10,000 Lakes Regional; one in each arena. The Lake Superior Regional was held in Duluth earlier in March and the MSHSL-sponsored Minnesota State Championships will be held at Williams Arena on May 19.

So what are Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition? Here are some explanations from the FIRST website (www.usfirst.org):

“Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.”

“Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.”

Those concepts are evident at this weekend’s events. In the “pit” area, I heard a public-address announcement concerning a team that was looking to borrow a specific tool. I’m sure other teams teams came running to assist.

Each year a specific challenge is designed for all FIRST teams. This year’s theme is “Rebound Rumble.” Yes, that means basketball. Each team designs and builds a robot that shoots basketballs into hoops of varying heights. The teams are all given certain common elements – motors, controllers, radios and other structural parts – to provide a base level of performance. From that point, each team collaborates to make their robot the best possible robot.

Team members have a lot of fun. Some dress in knit beards, coveralls, surgical garb, lab coats, kilts, fake mustaches, funny hats, etc. The team names are highly entertaining, too: TigerBots, The Plaid Pillagers, How ‘bout dem apples, Chicken Bot Pie, Granite City Gear Heads. Some schools bring their mascots.

Admission is free this weekend. You can tour the pits and watch the team members work on their robots. It’s great theater and great fun. And a great example of what competition should be all about.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 489
*Miles John has driven: 7,029

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Turning Dreams Into Reality: A Day With The Timberwolves3/29/2012
(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended Sunday’s Timberwolves game through the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program.)

By Thomas Elness
Windom High School Student SID

“We didn’t scare you too much, did we?!,” Don Stoner asked our group of aspiring young journalists. Don, the sports information director at Augsburg College, was one of six knowledgeable craftsmen who shared words of advice with us.

Others on the panel were Jerry Zgoda, Timberwolves beat writer at the Star Tribune; Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press reporter; Dave Schwartz, KARE 11 sports reporter/anchor; Tom Hanneman, Timberwolves television play-by-play announcer; and Aaron Seehusen, public relations senior coordinator for the Timberwolves.

The intelligent and friendly group shared their time with our group. The amount of knowledge pouring out of the professionals was remarkable, and we quickly realized why they are some of the best in the business.

With all areas of the media covered, there was one common ground: hard work. The message was simple, hard work trumps everything. Connections are crucial, but without the time and effort to back it up, they will not last.

The opportunity to be with such great minds was incredible, and their real talk and undivided attention was something that is sometimes hard to come by.

The day, which started at 11 a.m. (for a 2:30 tip), was far from over after that initial meeting. Aaron Seehusen gave us a tour of Target Center, including the locker room, media areas and other often unseen parts of the energized building.

One of our favorite pitstops was the media dining room. Not only were we eating in the midst of some notable media personalities, but we also landed one of the best meals the Target Center staff makes: Pasta bar. “You guys came on the right day,” Aaron said with laugh. We certainly agreed and devoured our fair share of pasta and cookies. Our buddy John did not need any directions to the Diet Coke machine either … does he ever drink that?

We eventually found our media seats, four rows from courtside with one of the best views in the house. Our family members and other guests were seated were not behind a pole, their noses stayed free of blood and the binoculars stayed in the car. The Timberwolves posted them up in the lower level free of charge, and they were very excited about that.

Once the game started, it was easy to see why the Wolves have received so much attention this year. Despite three great players being out of the game, MVP-contender Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour put together a stellar first half, scoring 68 points as a team, a Wolves season record for points in a half.

Love and company held on to come away with the ‘W’ over Denver, 117-100. The game was over, but our real-world media experience was not.

We headed back to the media lounge and Aaron came around the corner to see if we wanted to interview Timberwolves player Anthony Tolliver. ‘We would love to!’ we thought in unison. The three-year pro was a class-act and a great interview. He was happy to answer our questions, even though we were rookies.

The experience put together by John Millea at the Minnesota State High School League and the folks with the Minnesota Timberwolves was one we will never forget and will be talking about for years to come. Not every day will chances like this come and the Student Sports Information Directors program helps turn some of these dreams into reality.


Game Story Written by Thomas Elness

In front of a sell-out crowd on Sunday, the Minnesota Timberwolves put on a show against the Denver Nuggets, snapping a two-game losing streak, winning 117-100. The Wolves were coming off of a double-overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a combined 289-point game.

Kevin Love kept the vibe of the 51-point, team-record game against the Thunder with another solid performance, putting up 30 points and grabbing 21 boards. Love’s dominating year has him in discussion for the MVP award. Despite countless technical difficulties with the scoreboard and shot clock, the Wolves played through the delays and got off to an early lead, 33-20.

“It was tough,” Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver mentioned after the game. “I think our guys responded really well.” Tolliver was just one of the players to add offense off the bench, playing just over 34 minutes, the third most on the team.

Sixty-eight Timberwolves points set a season high for points in a half. Rick Adelman, head coach of the Timberwolves, was working with a small arsenal, as J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio were all out of the game, but that did not slow down the high-powered Wolves offense.

Anthony Tolliver shared his hopes for the remainder of the season after the win. “Hopefully we can continue to work hard,” the Creighton grad said. “Maybe sneak into the playoffs. We just beat Denver, they’re right ahead of us and we’re hoping to jump a couple teams, and hopefully get back into playoff contention.”

Making the playoffs will be an uphill battle; however, it’s not entirely out of the realm of reasonable thought for Tolliver and his teammates. The Wolves are 2.5 games back from the eighth and last playoff spot, behind Houston, Denver and Phoenix. Minnesota has 16 regular-season games left on the schedule to yield a playoff ticket.

With the win the Wolves improved to 24-26.
Tournament Time Is Over But The Fun Continues3/26/2012
What a weekend! The MSHSL winter state tournament season came to a fantastic finish during Saturday’s boys state basketball championship games at Target Center. The evening games ended in buzzer-beating fashion, with Class 3A DeLaSalle defeating Minneapolis Washburn on a last-second shot in overtime and Class 4A Osseo edging Lakeville North on a last-second shot in regulation.

Saturday’s crowds for the afternoon 1A and 2A title games -- won by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Plainview-Elgin-Millville – as well as the evening session were big and boisterious.

I left Target Center at midnight Saturday. In most years I would have taken Sunday off and gotten some rest after the five-week flurry of tournaments. But I was back at Target Center at 10:45 Sunday morning in order to be on hand for another fantastic day of basketball.

The Timberwolves played the Denver Nuggets in a 2:30 p.m. game Sunday. Long ago, I began working with the Timberwolves staff on creating a special day for youth involved in the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. And a grand day it was.

The Timberwolves staff went above and beyond. Public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen organized a memorable day for the students and several Twin Cities media professionals met with the kids.

The students involved were (pictured, left to right) Katie Halter of Red Rock Central, Nick Wagner of Ada-Borup, Thomas Elness of Windom and Turner Blaufuss of Breckenridge. John's Journal correspondent Luke Sleeper, a University of Minnesota journalism student, also joined us.

The group of media professionals held an hour-long roundtable discussion with the students long before the game began. The topics ranged from their job duties and hours, their career paths, their advice for the students and much more. Here’s a great big thank you to those folks: Augsburg College sports information director Don Stoner, Timberwolves TV play-by-play veteran Tom Hanneman, Timberwolves public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen, Star Tribune Timberwolves reporter Jerry Zgoda, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski and KARE-11 sports anchor/reporter Dave Schwartz.

The students also were given a backstage tour of Target Center, visited the Timberwolves locker room, had lunch in the media dining room, observed coach Rick Adelman's pregame media briefing, watched the game from media seats and had a private postgame interview with Timberwolves player Anthony Tolliver (who is a great guy!). They also met legendary Star Tribune columnist and WCCO radio personality Sid Hartman.

A similar day with the Twins is in the planning stages, and we hope to expand the program to the Wild, Vikings and University of Minnesota athletic teams. (To see more photos from Sunday, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

The students who were involved Sunday will be writing about their experiences, and I will use their essays and photographs I shot to put together a package that administrators and students around the state will see. It will be a fabulous tool to publicize our program and continue its growth.

So with the winter tournaments and Sunday’s outing complete, things are a little quieter on the activities scene ... for now. But spring sports practices are already in full swing – with some favorable weather lending a helping hand – and the fun continues!

--Two major John’s Journal milestones were reached during the winter tournaments: A new Diet Coke record was established and my travels for the school year topped 7,000 miles…

--Diet Coke Count: *85 for the winter tournaments. (*All-time record. Previous record: 81 during 2011 winter tournaments.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 7,004

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
A Remarkable Championship Game … And Divine Guidance?3/24/2012
If you got a close look at the DeLaSalle basketball uniforms during the girls and boys state tournaments, you may have noticed a small patch worn by the Islanders. The patch carried the initials “BMC” in honor of Brother Michael Collins.

Collins, the DeLaSalle president, was 74 when he died Jan. 8 from complications related to lung cancer. The DeLaSalle coaches wore lapel pins that also carried Brother Michael’s initials. No one is saying that the late school president was responsible for the Islanders winning both girls and boys state titles … well, maybe somebody is. But we’ll get to that.

Saturday night at Target Center, the DeLaSalle boys defeated Minneapolis Washburn 57-56 in overtime. The winning points were scored by Ross Barker (right), who hit a long jump shot as time expired. Barker had scored only two points in the game before that shot.

Much of the game was racehorse basketball, and every player was exhausted at the end. Actually, they were pretty much spent long before the end.

“I thought the defensive intensity of both teams was phenomenal,” said DeLaSalle coach Dave Thorson. “At the 10-minute mark of the second half both teams were gassed. And it was all because of the defensive pressure. Defensive wins championships. Offense sells the tickets but defense wins the championships.”

A few days after Collins died, I talked with Thorson. He and Brother Michael were extremely close and his friend’s death was difficult for everyone at DeLaSalle. After Saturday’s game we talked again about Collins.

“I said I didn’t want (winning) to be about him,” Thorson said. “But I can tell you personally, for me, he was my best friend. He was the godfather to my daughter, he taught my daughter how to pray. And these kids got me through it.

“These kids got me through it because they gave me something to keep my mind off it. The day that he died, I had really the last conversation with him at about 6 in the morning. I said, ‘I’m going to go to practice’ and he rolled his eyes at me, like he always would. I told the kids after practice that day, ‘I don’t know how much longer Brother’s gonna make it.’ He ended up dying that night.

“They were really in some ways some relief for me. It’s special that way. I didn’t want to make this about him; he wouldn’t have wanted that. But in the back of my mind I’m wondering if there wasn’t some divine guidance on that ball.”

UPS AND DOWNS OF THE TOURNAMENT

There are two elevators in Edgerton, Minnesota. Two grain elevators. But the basketball team from Southwest Minnesota Christian had some interesting encounters with people-moving elevators during its time in Minneapolis at the state tournament.

On Thursday, a few hours before the Eagles played Fosston in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena, the entire team – players, coaches and athletic director Darrel Ulferts, 18 people in all – were stuck in an elevator at a YMCA.

“The question is, why were we in there all at the same time?,” Ulferts said. “Because nobody was thinking about getting stuck.”

And on Friday, after defeating Rushford-Peterson in the semifinals at Target Center, seven players found themselves stuck again, this time in an elevator at the downtown Marriott.

The Eagles needed some help from the fire department to escape from the YMCA elevator, where it grew so warm that one of the players took off everything except his pants.

After being rescued, the team took photos with the firefighters.

“Yeah, it was quite the experience,” senior Zach Huisken told the Worthington Daily Globe. “We had the fire trucks come out and we took pictures with them and we had a little fun. We were stuck in there for about 20 minutes. With 18 guys in there it started getting kind of hot, but they luckily got us out pretty quick.”

The Eagles’ stay in the Marriott elevator was shorter, 10 minutes or so.

The team was defeated by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 54-45 in Saturday’s state championship game, but they went home with lots of memories.

CONFERENCE PRIDE

A previous installment of John’s Journal mentioned the Red Rock Conference pride shared by Southwest Minnesota Christian and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (which finished fourth in 1A). Another conference – the Three Rivers – has a similar claim to fame this week.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Rushford-Peterson played in different classes at the state tournament. Rushford-Peterson finished third in Class 1A and Plainview-Elgin-Millville won the 2A title with a 55-39 victory over Litchfield.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville won the Three Rivers title this season and Rushford-Peterson was second. Plainview-Elgin-Millville coach Kirk Thompson was a student-teacher at Rushford-Peterson, as was P-E-M athletic director Scott Flattum. P-E-M assistant coach Andy Bernard is a Rushford-Peterson graduate and his mother is the official scorekeeper for the Rushford-Peterson basketball team.

--Here’s an amazing statistics: Before Litchfield’s loss to Plainvew-Elgin-Millville, the Dragons' record at state tournaments under coach John Carlson was 11-0. They won state titles in 2000, 2002 and 2003 under Carlson. Litchfield’s only other state appearance came in 1918.

HONORING TRIPLE A AWARD WINNERS

The annual MSHSL Triple A Awards banquet was held Saturday at the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis. The event honors high school seniors who excel in academics, arts and athletics. Thirty-two winners – a male and female from Class A and AA schools in each of the state’s eight sections – were honored at the banquet and brought onto the court at Target Center during halftime of the Class 2A championship game.

Four of the 32 Triple A winners received an even higher honor, receiving $4,000 college scholarships. Those four are Katie Ellingworth of Redwood Valley and D.J. Cline of Battle Lake in Class A and Savannah Wunderlich of Owatonna and Kirk Busche of Rochester Century in Class AA.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Carter Kirk, Beau Herrig, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin; Nick Thompson, Trent Vix, Rushford-Peterson; Connor Goodwin, Brian Goodwin, Kirby Montbriand, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa; Andrew Top, Klint Knutson, Zach Huisken, Southwest Minnesota Christian.

2A/ Tyler Vaughan, Cameron Braund, Braham; Jordan Bruhn, Jordan Cresap, Perham; Mitch Wollin, Jon Terning, Zach Kinny, Litchfield; Cory Speer, Sam Ruth, Beau Nelson, Plainview-Elgin-Millville.

3A/ Austin Pohlen, Alex Illikainen, Grand Rapids; Marcus Marshall, Quashingm Smith-Pugh, St. Paul Johnson; Jarvis Johnson, Luke Scott, Reid Travis, DeLaSalle; Nick Anderson, Jerry Pratt, Joseph Doby, Washburn.

4A/ Sander Mohn, Grant Shaeffer, Eden Prairie; Siyani Chambers, Demitrius Martin, Hopkins; Ryan Saarela, Tyler Flack, Grant Erickson, Lakeville North; Ian Theisen, Bridge Tusler, DJ Hebert, Osseo.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 19 for the tournament,*85 for the winter tournaments. (*new all-time record)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 6,978

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn