Ball So Hard once again won the Ultimate Hoops National Tournament this year, and they once again beat the Bulls in the championship game. The Bulls have consistently been the premier team out of Minnesota’s St. Louis Park league, and they have had continual success in Las Vegas. They still have yet to prove that they can beat Ball So Hard, so Reid Nelson and I decided to put together the best starting five that Minnesota could manufacture.
I would like to emphasize that this is not listing the five best players in Minnesota. This is putting together a team that would match up well with Ball So Hard.
Also, keep in mind that I have never watched any open or rec league games, so the players I chose I have either seen in the Dream League, or at the National Tournament. While players like Kurtis Koenig and Adam Winters are putting up crazy numbers in the St. Louis Park league, I have never seen either of them play, so they remain off of my starting five.
Luke's Starting Five
Guard- Paris Kyles: A no-brainer to start things out. Kyles is a prototypical guard in today’s game. He can score in multiple ways and he is capable of locking down his man on defense. He is the guy I trust to shadow Dermaine Crockrell the entire game.
Guard- Brensley Haywood: The dynamic backcourt of the Bulls gets paired up once again. Haywood is a must against Ball So Hard due to his prolific three-point shooting. To beat Ball So Hard, you need to be able to score from the outside, and Haywood does that better than almost anyone.
Forward- Cordell Smith: Smith is probably considered a guard on most teams, but to beat Ball So Hard, I’m going small and spreading the floor offensively. Smith is a long 6’3 with extreme athleticism who can stretch out a defense and crash the boards effectively.
Forward- Michael Franklin: I'll go with Franklin over Jake Gave for a few different reasons. Franklin is a better three-point shooter, he provides a bit more length, and he is an all-around better defender. He can guard guys in the post and on the perimeter, making him a valuable asset to this team.
Forward- Mahlon Thomas: Another Bulls player to round out my starting five. When considering all of the frontcourt players I have seen in Minnesota, Thomas stands out as the best to matchup against Ball So Hard. He has a balanced mix of size, strength and athleticism that is unmatched by anyone I have seen in Minnesota. He would struggle to score in the post against the size of Ball So Hard, but I trust him to defend Zach Andrews.
As you can see, I went with a small lineup due to the talent pool I was given. From the players I’ve seen in Minnesota, I wouldn’t feel comfortable throwing out a conventional lineup against Ball So Hard. I want athletic guys who can defend multiple positions and shoot from the outside. These five players have either one, or both of those skills, so they make my team.
Reid’s Starting Five
This is a tall task and, to be honest, I don’t even think it can be done. With that in mind, here are the five who give Minnesota the best chance of taking down the Two-time National Champions.
Guard – Kyles: Like Luke mentioned, a no-brainer. A two-time National Tournament MVP who can elevate the entire team. Kyles is a proven winner who can do it all on both ends of the court. Any Minnesota team that doesn’t start with Kyles, has a 0% chance of pulling off the upset.
Guard – Ryan Jansen: Like Kyles, Ryan Jansen elevates everyone around him. An absolute shut down defender who would slow down Crockrell and shut down, yes, shut down Alex Scales. Jansen hasn’t been to the National Tournament since 2013 and would certainly catch Ball So Hard on their heels.
Guard – Neal Anderson: Conventional wisdom says one of the Olafeso twins or Brensley Haywood here but what I need is a true sniper from behind the arc. Anderson, while certainly giving up a little on the defensive end of the floor, shoots 50% from deep compared to 39% from Haywood and 35% and 41% for Kenny and Peter Olafeso, respectively. If I want any chance here, Neal Anderson needs to significantly upgrade my three-point efficiency.
Forward – Koenig: Koenig might be the best player in Minnesota right now. In 100+ games he averages 24.7/8.6/4.1/1.2 on 55% shooting from the field and 40% from deep. Although Koenig doesn’t have ideal size to guard the Ball So Hard big men [6’6’’ 205], he should more than be able to hold his own.
Forward – Adam Winters: For this selection I simply went with the most athletic big I could think of and that is Adam Winters [6’8’’ 225]. This pick is out of necessity since I currently don’t have anyone who can seriously match up with Andrews, Jay Burkes or Dwight Pederson. If I could build a bench it would be of players that possessed similar skill sets to Winters…. and Jake Gave.