The annual Timberwolves Shootout is one of the highlights of the boys basketball season, with some of the best teams from Minnesota and surrounding states gathering at Target Center for a day of competition. Saturday’s 16th edition of the Shootout consisted of six games, and there were plenty of stories to follow and share.
We saw a team pay tribute to a friend who is in a hospital a few blocks away. We saw one of the state’s top players on the court for the first time all season after suffering an injury. We saw Ricky Rubio, we saw a future Gophers player, a seven-foot center and one of the highest-ranking recruits in the nation. Here’s a look …
IN HONOR OF JABS
The last week has been very tough for everyone at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Sophomore Jack Jablonski suffered a severe spinal injury in a junior varsity hockey game on Dec. 30, and the Red Knights are hurting for their friend, who is being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The Benilde boys basketball team paid tribute to Jablonski with T-shirts, shoes and positive thoughts. They wore shirts that had the Twitter hashtag #jabs on the front, and Jack’s number 13 on the back with the words “Jack Jablonski In Our Hearts.” Some of the Red Knights also wrote tributes to Jack on their shoes.
Coach John Moore said one of the most important events since Jablonski’s injury came Thursday night, when his team played host to Columbia Heights. The Benilde students wore white and cheered and chanted in support of their friend Jabs throughout the game.
“This has been an incredibly emotional, physically draining week for everybody,” said Moore, who is not a faculty member at Benilde but has a daughter on the staff. “At Thursday night’s game everybody got to just let out some energy, and on Friday everybody was kind of marching to a little different step.”
The Red Knights played very well Saturday, defeating St. Thomas More from Rapid City, S.D., 68-50.
“It’s emotional. It’s tough,” Moore said. “I’m happy with our guys. I thought we would be down a little bit physically and emotionally. And we weren’t.”
FINALLY, BACK ON THE COURT
Before Saturday, Johnny Woodard had not played competitive basketball since July. The Duluth East senior suffered a shoulder injury last April, aggravated the injury in July and underwent surgery. He was on the shelf as the Greyhounds began the season with a 2-7 record, but he was the best player on the court in his first game back. East rolled past previously unbeaten Rice Lake, Wis., 86-71 at the Shootout.
Woodard, a 6-foot-4 guard, finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds, making 11 of 19 field-goal attempts. He received medical clearance to play on Thursday.
“We were 2-7 coming in, so you can kind of see a transformation,” said East coach Chuck Tolo. “He leads and they will follow. He’s pretty much the heart and soul of our group.”
Woodard averaged more than 26 points a game last season and helped East reach the Class 4A state tournament. The Greyhounds were 22-7 a year ago.
“It was stressful,” Woodard said of missing this season’s first nine games, “especially going through the tragedy of watching my team lose.”
Before the injury, Woodard was getting attention from Division I colleges, including the University of Minnesota. Gophers coach Tubby Smith was in the stands for the East-Rice Lake; he has signed 6-foot-5 Rice Lake senior Wally Ellenson, who had 11 points and five rebounds against Duluth East.
Woodard has heard little from Division I coaches since being hurt, but Saturday’s performance was a big first step in returning to their radar.
“Once he got hurt things kind of quieted down,” Tolo said. “I think they want to see what was going to happen. Maybe if any of those people are around, they saw that he’s healthy and he can play.”
--Highly recruited sophomore guard Tyus Jones had scored 32, 34, 37, 38 and 39 points during Apple Valley’s 8-1 start and he went over the 1,000 career point mark during the first half Saturday. Apple Valley defeated Onalaska, Wis., 66-64 in the closest game of the day, with Jones getting 18 points, five assists and two steals. Matt Thomas scored 33 for Onalaska, which was the day’s best scoring total.
--Minnetonka defeated Pelican Rapids 86-66. The Skippers shot 78 percent in the first half and 34 percent in the second half. They were led by Lattrell Love’s 27 points; he made 13 of 14 field-goal attempts.
--Cedar Falls, Iowa, jumped out to a 45-26 halftime lead and went on to defeat Prior Lake 67-56.
--Hopkins led 52-33 at halftime and rolled past Sioux City, Iowa, East 97-74. Four starters scored in double figures for Hopkins, led by Zach Stahl with 21. Iowa signee Adam Woodbury, a 7-1 center, had 23 for East, which is ranked No. 5 in Iowa’s largest class.
--The Timberwolves worked out in the Target Center practice gym Saturday morning before flying to Washington, D.C., for a Sunday game. As they returned to their locker room to shower and dress, the Pelican Rapids team was in the corridor waiting for their game. The main draw was rookie Ricky Rubio. As he walked past the Vikings, a couple of them said, “Hi Ricky.” To which he responded, “Hello.”
--Prior Lake senior fan Nick Anderson won $1,000 by sinking a half-court shot at halftime of the Prior Lake-Cedar Falls game. During each game, one student from each school took a half-court shot. Shootout organizers had considered buying an insurance policy to pay off any winners, but decided the odds favored no one making the shot.
--Several members of the Vanderbilt football coaching staff watched the Hopkins game. Hopkins senior forward Andre McDonald, who plays wide receiver in the fall, had made a verbal commitment to play football at Vanderbilt but de-committed last week when Vandy receivers coach Chris Beatty took a job at Illinois. McDonald said Vanderbilt remains on his list of possible schools, but he also will look at others.
--I was in the skyway at Target Center, purchasing a soft drink that shall not be named from a vending machine. A fellow walking past, presumably en route to a fun-filled Saturday evening in downtown Minneapolis, saw me and shouted, “Hey John, no Diet Coke?!” My reply: “This is a (unnamed soft drink) building, and they’re killin’ me!”
--The tallest players in Saturday’s field were 7-foot-1 Prior Lake junior Carson Shanks (who has committed to Utah State) and Sioux City East's Woodbury. Right before tipoff of the Hopkins-East game, Woodbury worked his way down the scorer’s table, bumping knuckles with everyone seated there. Nice gesture.
--Tweet Exchange of the Day/ Question from the Twittersphere: “How did the 7-footer from Prior Lake look today?” Me: “Very tall.”
--Rice Lake’s warm-ups carry a nice slogan on the back: “Play True, Live True.”
--Minnetonka coach Tom Dasovich has coached in prior Shootouts, but he was confused when he looked for the scoreboards that are normally positioned above the lower bowl in each end zone ... but weren’t used Saturday. Minnetonka’s game with Pelican Rapids had just begun when the coach looked up and said, “Where’s the scoreboard?” One of his assistants pointed up to the giant scoreboard above the court and said, “You’ve got to look up there.”
--Total attendance for the Timberwolves Shootout was 3,306.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 247
*Miles John has driven: 5,558
--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