John's Journal
From Hopkins To Harvard: Studies And Hoops Pay Off For Chambers12/12/2011
Siyani Chambers, currently a senior point guard on the Hopkins boys basketball team, was an eighth-grader playing on the Royals junior varsity when a recruiter from Harvard came to the gym.

The Crimson were there to see one of the varsity stars, but the Harvard staffer saw young Chambers, spoke with him and planted a seed. The message was simple: We like your game … take care of business on the court and in the classroom and someday you might go to Harvard.

Someday will arrive in the autumn of 2012 when Chambers heads to Harvard. He has not decided on a course of study, but he knows he will be a member of the basketball team at the one of the nation’s elite institutions.

“I guess I just caught their eye,” Chambers told me as he thought back to that day as an eighth-grader. The seed that was planted that day took root so firmly that Chambers made only one official recruiting visit.

“Harvard was my first and last one,” he said. The Chambers family visited Harvard in late September, and the day after they returned home Siyani called coach Tommy Amaker and committed to the Crimson.

“When I went on my visit the players were all super nice,” Siyani said. “And I was comfortable there. It was the place where I felt the most comfortable, and there are all the relationships I’ve built with the coaches and players. That just put it over the top for me. And there’s no better school than Harvard.”

Chambers will join one fellow Minnesotan on the basketball team; DeLaSalle grad Jonah Travis is a freshman forward this season. There are currently 26 Minnesotans competing on 12 Harvard athletic teams, ranging from hockey to cross-country to swimming and sailing. The Crimson women’s hockey team has the most Minnesotans with eight. (See a complete list at the end of this story.)

Siyani’s parents, Elston and Elice, have always stressed the importance of education to Siyani and his brother Kamali, who is a sophomore guard on the Hopkins varsity basketball team.

“We were reading to him as soon as he was born, and ever since then he’s always known it was academics first and whatever else second,” Elston said. “He knows after practice that he needs to do his homework.”

Siayni, who took Advanced Placement classes during his sophomore and junior years, has a 3.7 grade-point average. His current classes are Calculus, Physics and Creative Writing, and he serves as a teaching assistant in the social studies classroom of Royals head coach Ken Novak Jr.

“He’s a great student,” Novak said. “He’s a hard-working, industrious kid, very disciplined. He does well, takes all the toughest classes and he deserves to be going where he’s going.”

Several other Hopkins boys basketball products have played in the Ivy League, including Justin White (Harvard in the mid-1990s), Zach Puchtel (started at Harvard in 2001) and David Gardner, who finished his college career at Dartmouth in 2005.

“It’s pretty cool,” Novak said. “The biggest problem is that financially it can be tough. Parents have to sacrifice and Siyani’s parents are making a sacrifice for him to go, because he could get a full ride at other places. But I think they understand the value of it.”

There’s no question about that.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Elice Chambers said. “I think it was just hard work. We’ve stressed working as hard in the classroom as you do on the basketball court, and it just kind of worked out for him. He’s a fairly conscientious student.

“We wanted him to be pushed, because making the jump from high school to college is pretty tough. You want to be challenged at home so you can fail at home, as opposed to failing when you’re on your own, when you don’t really know what to do and how to handle it.”

Siyani said his parents usually required him to do his schoolwork before going to the gym.

“They pushed me early on to get not just decent grades but good grades.”

The Hopkins Royals are three-time defending Class 4A state champions and currently ranked No. 1in the state. They will take a 5-0 record into their next game, Friday at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the top-ranked team in 3A.

The Chambers are enjoying Siyani’s last season of high school basketball and looking ahead to his college career. They probably won’t make many trips to the Boston area to see Harvard games, since Kamali is only a sophomore at Hopkins.

“We’re going to try to figure that out,” Elice said. “We may be able to make two (Harvard) games or something like that. Now our Thanksgiving plans will change; instead of having Thanksgiving in Minnesota we’ll be having Thanksgiving wherever Siyani is playing.”


MINNESOTA ATHLETES CURRENTLY AT HARVARD
--Men’s basketball: Jonah Travis, DeLaSalle
--Baseball: Joey Novak, Lakeville South
--Men’s cross-country: Paul Koullick, Blake; Stewart Richardson, Blake; Jacob Lindaas, Moorhead
--Men’s Hockey: Danny Fick, Forest Lake; Marshall Everson, Edina; Luke Greiner, Faribault
--Men’s Lacrosse: Lowell Fluke, Blake
--Men’s Sailing: Stephen Bates, Thief River Falls
--Men’s Swimming: Chris Satterthwaite, Edina
--Men’s Track: Andrew Hausmann, Rosemount; Paul Koullick, Blake; Jacob Lindaas, Moorhead; Stewart Richardson, Blake
--Women’s Hockey: Laura Bellamy, Duluth Denfeld; Hilary Hayssen, Blake; Kelsey Romatoski, Woodbury; Margaret Chute, Blake; Hillary Crowe, Blake; Gina McDonald, Irondale; Samantha Reber, Edina; Tiana Press, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
--Women’s Skiing: Alena Tofte, Duluth East; Adeline Byrne, Grand Rapids; Jen Rolfes, Edina
--Women’s Soccer: Lauren Urke, Wayzata
--Women’s Swimming: Taylor Foster, Breck; Jessica Stanchfield, Orono

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 193
*Miles John has driven: 5,189

--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
Perham's Zach Gabbard Is Returning To Basketball12/11/2011
Think back to a year ago, when Perham's Zach Gabbard collapsed on the basketball court at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School. Sudden cardiac arrest nearly took his young life, and Zach embarked on a long road of hospitalization, rehabilitation and recovery.

That road will soon be complete. Perham played in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Minnetonka on Saturday. My first question to coach Dave Cresap was, "Is Zach with you?" Dave smiled and said, "No, Zach's in California, where just this morning a doctor cleared him to play." (Zach and Dave Cresap are pictured.)

Zach will need a few more weeks of conditioning before playing in a game, but this is the best possible news. And then today (Sunday), the following wonderful message was posted by Zach's mother, Meridee, on Zach's CaringBridge website...

"A few days ago, Zach and I flew to Los Angeles to meet with a Cardiologist downtown LA, who did extensive testing on his heart. He found NOTHING wrong with Zach's heart and has cleared him to play MSHSL basketball. We are looking forward to his first game!

"Once again,Thank you to everyone who has followed Zach's journey! Your prayers and contributions are greatly appreciated. This past year has been very stressful and emotional in more ways than you could ever imagine!

"I encourage all parents of athletes to become knowledgable about sudden cardiac arrest. I certainly NEVER thought it would happen to Zach, who has always been strong and healthy.

"AGAIN, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!

"Meridee Gabbard"

Welcome back Zach!
A Hockey Mantra: What Happens In December Stays In December12/9/2011
It was early in the 1998-99 boys hockey season and Ken Pauly was not in a great mood after a loss to Red Wing. The Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach was having a postgame dinner with hockey icon Herb Brooks and was admittedly “all bummed out.”

“Herb said, ‘Kenny, it’s the best thing because you still have their attention.’ And he was right about that. With high school kids, you have to keep their attention.”

Pauly relayed that story Thursday evening while standing outside the visitors locker room at the Burnsville Ice Center. Once again, he had his players’ attention after a 5-1 loss to the Burnsville Blaze. If you take stock in rankings this was an upset; Benilde-St. Margaret’s is No. 2 in Class 2A and Burnsville is No. 9, according to Let’s Play Hockey.

Burnsville has also defeated No. 6 Hill-Murray while losing to No. 3 Minnetonka. Benilde-St. Margaret’s beat Hill-Murray and unranked St. Cloud Tech prior to Thursday’s loss. But before jumping to conclusions about any of this, think about two things...

The first thing: State champions won’t be crowned until March. In other words, the season is young. Very young.

The second thing: Class 2A hockey is up for grabs.

“There’s a lot of good hockey teams out there. You can go across the state and name them,” Burnsville coach Janne Kivihalme said when I asked him about parity. “That’s why there is a lot of movement on who are the top teams. You are right, anybody can beat anybody.”

The team atop the 2A rankings right now is Duluth East. The Greyhounds return a solid lineup from a team that lost the state championship game to Eden Prairie in three overtimes. East faces a big weekend, playing home games against White Bear Lake (2-0) on Friday and Minnetonka (4-0) on Saturday. The Greyhounds will play at Lakeville North on Tuesday, giving fans in the Twin Cities an opportunity to further gauge the 2A field.

The key to Thursday’s Burnsville-Benilde game was special teams. The Red Knights drew first blood when Dan Labosky scored a power-play goal at 11:30 of the opening period. But Burnsville responded with a three-goal second period and added two more in the third.

Four of those five Blaze goals came on power plays, with Mason Wyman scoring twice, Hunter Anderson getting a goal and three assists, and Cory Chapman finishing with one goal and two assists. Burnsville was 4-for-5 on the power play while killing three of four Red Knights’ power plays.

“We lost what you can’t lose,” said Pauly. “We lost the special teams battle.

“It’s an unforgiving game when you don’t put your chances away.The truth is it could have been three or four to nothing after one and this baby's over. But the fact is we didn't put them away, we let them hang around and we're going home bummed out.”

Continuing on the theme of “Hey, It’s Early In The Season,” Pauly talked about how the Red Knights can build off the defeat.

“We can take a ton of positives. First off, when you play quality programs like Burnsville, they’re not going to take a period off. They’re going to come back. When you punch someone, they’re going to counter-punch. And when they counter-punch you have to answer and we took too long to answer.”

Kivihalme was measured in his postgame comments, which fit the December theme quite nicely...

--“Special teams is a big part of the game and today we got lucky, we were able to get a couple in.”

--“It’s a long season and we’ve got to continue getting better. We saw a lot of things that we have improved since the Tonka game but we’ve got a lot of things still to get better at.”

--(Asked about goaltender Chris Mallon, who made 29 saves) “It’s still early in the season. We see things that he needs to keep getting better, along with the whole team. We’re obviously happy that he was able to play another good game, but it’s early in the season and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In other words, what happens in December stays in December. What matters most will happen in February and March. And there’s plenty of hockey to be played between now and then.

“Oh, no doubt,” Pauly said. “Somebody was asking me who the No. 1 team was and I made the comment that I think it's going to be a merry-go-round all year. And I do. Minnetonka is a super high-end team, these guys (Burnsville) are good. … Duluth East, Eagan. I think it's just going to go around and around and around. And I'm getting dizzy.”

--To see a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 171
*Miles John has driven: 5,127

--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
Saluting Minnesota’s Athletic Administrators And Coaches12/8/2011
Let’s take a moment today to honor our administrators and coaches, two groups of tireless workers who do much more behind the scenes than any of us know. We’re going to single out two individuals today, and they represent their colleagues across the state who do so many good things in our schools:

--Hopkins athletic director Dan Johnson will receive a national honor next week.

-- LeSueur-Henderson football coach Terry Turek is stepping down after 26 years.

HERE’S AN EMAIL I received today from one of Johnson’s colleagues in the Lake Conference, Wayzata athletic director Jaime Sherwoood …

Dan Johnson, Athletic Director at Hopkins, will be receiving the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Distinguished Service Award at the 42nd National Athletic Directors Conference in Indianapolis at the Conference Banquet on Tuesday, December 13.

The NIAAA Board of Directors, at the recommendation of the NIAAA Awards Committee, annually selects a number of individuals to receive the NIAAA Distinguished Service Award. Recipients of the NIAAA Distinguished Service Award are selected from persons nominated by their respective state athletic director associations. Each state may nominate one DSA candidate each year. The awards are presented annually to individuals outside the field of athletic administration, as well as NIAAA members in recognition of their length of service, special accomplishments and contributions to interscholastic athletics at the local, state and national levels.

Previous award recipients from Minnesota:
Orv Bies, Anoka 1981
Dr. Robert Zemke, Fairmont 1983
Bob Collison, Richfield 1983
Lloyd Stussy, Wells 1987
Paul Krueger, St James 1988
Thomas Mahoney, Fairmont 1993
Jim Baker, CAA, Richfield 2004
Craig Perry, CMAA, Brooklyn Center 2008

In the 12 years I have worked with Dan he has set himself apart as a leader – whether he is working with his captains, mentoring his own coaches, or teaching MSHSL Coaches Ed classes or NIAAA LTP courses at the state or national level, Dan is about getting people to be the best they can be. This is a very well-deserved honor!

Jaime C. Sherwood CMAA
Director of Athletics & Activities
Wayzata High School


THIS NOTE ABOUT Terry Turek by LeSueur-Henderson superintendent Rich Hanson was posted on the school website…

The End of an Era

For the first time in 27 years, the Giant football program will have a new man at the helm when team takes the field next fall.

After an amazingly successful high school football coaching career, Terry Turek has submitted his letter of resignation to the school board.

I have only known coach Turek for a short time, but it is very obvious why he has been so successful. He understands the importance of a fundamentally strong foundation. That is how a person builds a long-term success in a program.

Mr. Turek may have learned some of the importance of longevity from his predecessor. Coaching football at LS-H has not been a short-term commitment. Even though coach Turek had a long and storied 26-year career, he is still trails his predecessor, Bruce Frank, in longevity. Coach Frank roamed the sideline as the Giant coach for 30 years. That is 56 years of coaching consistency!

Amazing.

People joke about the LS-H game plan consisting of two plays, run to the right and run to the left. Every team we played also knew what the game plan would be. But still, it was very seldom the other team could stop coach Turek’s crew.

Think about how well-prepared and fundamentally sound our teams needed to be to successfully carry out our game plan. Coach Turek’s dedication and attention to detail have been the keystones to the Giant football program. No stone was left unturned as he spent countless hours preparing his troops.

Next fall, the sideline will look very different without two coaches pacing the sidelines. (Last month after 26 seasons on the sideline, assistant coach Dave Swanberg submitted his resignation.).

Both of these gentlemen have dedicated a career of coaching to the Le Sueur-Henderson football program and the benefit of many, many student athletes. Neither would have endured such long and successful careers if they did not possess the most important ingredient for long-term success. Both have a strong passion for working with and helping young student-athletes become successful. They truly care about their kids.

I want to thank coach Turek for his commitment and dedication.


AND HERE’S AN EMAIL from someone with close ties to LeSuer-Henderson; St. Cloud Cathedral athletic director Emmett Keenan…

So - Bruce Frank became the head coach in LeSueur in 1955. So - by my count, that is 57 seasons with only two head coaches, Bruce Frank and Terry Turek.

I also think if you check, you will find that Ron Walters was the coach at Henderson from the early 60's until they merged with LeSueur in the '80s.

Lots of history and tradition.

A Bruce Frank story for you --

I grew up in LeSueur kitty-corner from Bruce. His sons were among my best friends. My four older brothers all played for Bruce. I was a ball boy for Bruce from the time I was 8 years old through 8th grade.

Bruce could be very gruff - but was really a very nice guy.

In early September of my 9th grade year, my dad took a job in the cities and we started to plan to move to St. Michael. I was not happy about moving at the time. My parents agreed to let me live with my brother and his wife until the end of the first quarter and football season.

The week of the last game of the year, Bruce came over to freshmen practice and yelled - loudly - "Keenan, get over here." I was petrified. I had no idea what I had screwed up - but I figured it was something.

When I got over there, he handed me a varsity jersey for Friday night and said "There is no way you are going to be the only Keenan boy who doesn't play for me - you are dressing Friday night."

He put me on kickoff and kick return so that I actually got to play for him. I can remember it like it was yesterday and will never forget his concern for me. He knew that I was upset about leaving LeSueur and wanted to make sure that I had that memory to take with me.

I am told that Terry Turek has that same love of teaching life through football and has that same type of relationships with kids. Two of my nephews played for him and I know they think the world of him.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 169
*Miles John has driven: 5,111

--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
It’s All Relative For Apple Valley’s Young Basketball Star12/7/2011
The buzz was palpable, but Tyus Jones is accustomed to the buzz. The Apple Valley High School sophomore began his third season as a starter for the Eagles basketball team when they hosted Eden Prairie on Tuesday night, so a little buzz is nothing new for the 6-foot-2 guard.

The Tweets were flying before tipoff: “Tom Izzo is in the Apple Valley gym tonight watching Tyus Jones.” Yes, the Michigan State coach was there, as was Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals. University of Minnesota coach Tubby Smith would have been there, too, if not for a scheduling conflict: the Gophers were playing Appalachian State at Williams Arena at the same time.

Jones, the most well-known kid in Apple Valley’s Class of 2014, won’t be able to drive a car until his 16th birthday in May. But in Minnesota basketball circles, he is Justin Bieber, attracting big-name college coaches like so many screaming tween girls. And the basketball Bieber was superb in Tuesday night’s season opener, in which Eden Prairie rallied to win 89-85. (Jones is pictured between Eden Prairie's Grant Shaeffer and Jordan Peterson.) Jones scored 37 points and came one rebound short of a triple-double. He made 13 of 22 field-goal attempts and 10 of 11 free throws with nine rebounds, 11 assists, six turnovers and five steals.

“I’m certainly no expert but I have a feeling that any D1 coach would take him right now, not two years from now,” said Eden Prairie coach David Flom. “He’s unbelievable.”

Jones – who is a team captain alongside seniors Grant Christian and Mitch Hechsel -- has been called Minnesota’s best point guard since Khalid El-Amin led Minneapolis North to three state championships in the 1990s and went on to win an NCAA championship at Connecticut. ESPN.com named Jones the best point guard nationally in the Class of 2014. Over the summer he played for the USA Basketball National Developmental Team Under-17 squad that captured the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Americas Championship gold medal in Cancun, Mexico, and qualified for the 2012 FIBA World Championship tournament in Lithuania.

So yes, Jones will have his pick of colleges. But all this acclaim, all this notoriety, all this blatant buzz can make it difficult for a 15-year-old to remember that he is only 15 years old. That’s where another Jones comes in.

Jadee Jones, 25, is Tyus’ big brother, role model and mentor. Jadee played basketball for three years at DeLaSalle in Minneapolis and transferred to Hopkins as a senior. In college, he spent two years at Division I Furman University in South Carolina before transferring to Minnesota State Mankato.

While Jadee’s recruiting experiences did not equal what Tyus is going through, he knows plenty about the process and how to navigate it.

“My role is to answer questions when he has them and help him stay focused, and it’s easy because he does a good job, he gets it,” Jadee told me after Tuesday’s game. “It’s like he’s been 17 or 18 for three years now.”

Indeed. I first interviewed Tyus when he was in eighth grade, and his maturity was evident. He’s calm with the media, he’s calm on the court and the presence of powerhouse college coaches doesn’t affect him.

“Honestly, over everything else I think that’s his greatest strength, that mentally he’s unwavering,” Jadee said. “When the pressure amplifies in a game, it’s almost more likely that he’s going to make a good play just because so many other people begin to falter and change what it is that they do, and he just never does. He’s never nervous about anything, whether coaches are in the gym or it’s a tie game with two seconds left or whatever the situation is. Mentally, nothing shakes him. He’s just able to continue to go with what he knows is right and he sticks with it.”

Jadee – a staff member at Cedar Park Elementary in Apple Valley -- set up a 10-week training program to help Tyus prepare for the USA National Team tryouts in Colorado Springs. That sometimes meant 6 a.m. workouts in the gym or the weight room. Apple Valley coach Zach Goring, in fact, said Jadee deserves much of the credit for Tyus’ development.

Jadee (pictured in a postgame handshake with Izzo) said he and his brother “commited to never missing a workout, so sometimes we had to get it in at 6 a.m. Since I’m so close, it helps that I can wake him up when he doesn’t want to get up or whatever. I help motivate him, whether it’s the weight room or getting up shots. Sometimes I have to push him just a little bit, but again he gets it so he knows when I’m going to push him and he responds to it pretty quickly.”

Eden Prairie trailed Apple Valley by 12 points in the first half but chipped away in the second half. A three-point basket by Sander Mohn – who led his team with 27 points -- put Eden Prairie in front 77-76 with 2:04 to play and Eden Prairie made 10 of 13 free throws in the final minute. Jones scored six points in the last 16 seconds.

“He’s just so composed,” Flom said of Jones, “and from the time we played against him in eighth grade you could see that. He has an ability to just navigate through traffic and make easy plays.”

Apple Valley’s next game is against Tartan at 7:45 p.m. Saturday in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Minnetonka High School. On Jan. 7 Apple Valley will play at Target Center against Onalaska (ranked No.1 in Wisconsin’s Division 2) in the last of six games at the Timberwolves Shootout.

Buy a ticket, because Tyus Jones is worth the price of admission. And you never know who else might be in the gym.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 171
*Miles John has driven: 5,119

--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