MYAS held their grade state tournaments at various sites throughout the metro this weekend opening state tournament week. Once upon a time the tournament was for grades 5-9. Now it has moved down to 3-8. It used to be the 8th grade event was a harbinger of things to come. Now 8th graders are routinely pulled up to varsity or sub-varsity teams. 8th graders have been utilized quite often in the smaller classes. Jordan Zubich of Mountain Iron-Buhl has made the 31 Club twice this year when I charted. Metro players that would have big impacts on the 8th grade circuit but are instead having impacts on the varsity level include Emma Dasovich of Minnetonka, Olivia Olson of Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Alivia McGill of section 5AAAA champion Park Center. Even 8th grade runner up St. Michael-Albertville was missing one 8th grader—–Kaylie Cox is rostered on the varsity. Therefore the “real” state tournament harbinger may now be in 7th grade, but there are key 7th graders now playing up (Addyson Mack of Blake). Everyone wants to play up.
Notice that the “state” tournament now reaches down to 3rd grade. The wisdom of this push down, a race to the bottom, has no finish line. What is the correct finish line? What should the goals be at the youth level? What will be next? How low can you go? Strictly speaking there is a relative age effect that goes on at the younger ages. Has always existed, always will. Those children lucky enough to be born early in the cycle are bigger, stronger, faster—-for the time being. The physical “bully” effect soon wears off as growth spurts take over by eighth grade. Children that dominated in elementary are bypassed. Success at fifth grade does not necessarily equal success as a senior. Sometimes these early developers coast—it was easy to have the physical head start. Some may not have found the need to hone their skills. Some may become bored and find something else that captures their fancy. But by the same token, some of the players that were bypassed early fall off the stream never to return. How many potential players vacate for other sports. How many potential bigs disappear to volleyball. (VB players have increased in size the last 10 years, basketball players have gotten smaller).
All this is symptomatic of the decline of basketball. Structurally, systematically a decline. Yes, you heard right. Decline. Numbers are dropping. Teams are dropping in high school. Once upon a time in the 1990s if a player was a freshman on a AAAA team you could project D1 status. Not anymore. Not even for eighth graders. We are talking De-evolution or DEVO. I am not speaking about the handful of elite programs. The chasm between the elites and the rest in high school ball is getting wider and wider each year. Soon the gulf will be unbridgeable, if we are not there already. Teams at the AAAA level are fielding three teams when they used to field four. What was supposed to be a freshman team is now in reality an eighth grade team. I know one AAAA team that just had varsity. This is not growing the game. The trend will continue.
So, who has the strength at the youth levels? The suburbs with resources, the suburbs with newer housing stock, the suburbs with state of the art facilities. If you like the current status quo with dominant varsity teams, you will love the scene six years from now. Here are the tallies for the final four in the top level grade tournament.
|Farview (N Mpls)||1||1|
What do we see? Wayzata dominates. They are the only program that had teams at every age level. Five made the final four. The exception was in 8th grade. They won three titles (7, 5, 3). Four of the seven Lake Conference teams made the list with a grand total of 9 entries in the final four, by far the best of any conference. The NW Suburban has five. The vast majority of OMG is really just MG (Maple Grove). The South Suburban measures in at 4. The Suburban East trails with 3. Farview is a park in North Minneapolis. Where will those kids go? Everywhere. DeLaSalle, Cooper, Hopkins, Park Center. That is the past experience and the past is prologue. North Minneapolis exports more kids than any other area in the metro. They are the Kansas City Royals for the suburban & private school New York Yankees.
Here is a look at the champions from the past few years. This record only goes back to the 2017 state tournament season—-a four year running total. The junior class of Farmington pushed them to state AAAA for the first time this year. Adding up the champions in these four years you can see Wayzata with 10, second is Farview (the farm club of HS champions) with five.
|7||Shakopee||Elk River||Elk River|