The Long and Short (and Age) of It

Here is a quick overview of how height and graduating year differs from class to class, from state bound teams to those don’t go, and even a comparison between sports.

First off, this information is incomplete. I don’t see every team in the state, but I do see all the AAAA teams, so that is complete—-as far as graduating class. Some schools still cannot afford a tape measure to get heights, or don’t have time to measure, or are too lazy to get it done. It is too bad there are gaps in the knowledge. There should be some mechanism to make sure this basic information is included—-for example a fine. Just be professional. A saw about 70% of the AAA, 45% of AA. A lags far behind with under 20%—-and then it is usually the high end teams I chart.

First off is the graduating year by class. Only the junior year in AAA and AA was above 30% of the roster total this year. The only class where juniors did not lead was class A. There the most numerous grad year was the sophs. AA led in the sophs; A led in the single digit years across the board.


The familiar bell shaped curve appears when looking at height (as a percentage of roster space, not as a total). Here I have used a two inch increment to capture this information. With bigger schools the peak of the bell shifts more to the left (bigger heights). The gap is two inches between the peak in AAAA and AA. The height of the bell curve flattens out more in A. 5-8 is the peak height of a player (exception 5-6 in AA). AAAA leads in all categories north of 5-8. AA leads at 5-6, A leads at 5-4 and the two categories beneath it.


Then comes the 50 year longitudinal study of state tournament rosters. With a two class system in place from 1975 to 1996 I used AA information. Starting in 1997 it is AAAA information. Again 5-8 is the peak in height. But are we getting bigger? Or smaller? In 1980 the players were smaller. The shift is about two inches to the right (smaller). The biggest class came in 2000, which shifts the bell curve two inches to the left. Both 2000 and 2010s peak came at 5-10. The 2020 class has almost the same slope up to 5-8 is it descends to 5-0. The other years have twists and turns in their profile.


One item is quite clear—-players are getting younger and younger. The lowest percentages of seniors and juniors occurred this year—both under 30%. 2020 leads in all the single digit categories. Prior to this year the best freshman numbers were about 7%. 2020 more than doubled that to 15% of the roster. Long gone are the days when over 40% of the rosters were seniors and juniors (a combined 80%). Only 1980 crossed that threshold. 1980 was the only year when seniors were the biggest segment of the roster. After that year the junior class has been the peak year. This year no one class was above 30% of the roster—the first time that has happened.


Since I also am involved with volleyball, I can measure that effect. Quite simply volleyball players are taller. Much taller. With 5-8 being the baseline on this chart VB is 0.3 taller across the board. Doesn’t sound like much does it?


Now let us look at it in comparing school to school information (exceptions North St. Paul and St. Louis Park both failed to come up with basketball heights, they could measure in volleyball however). Wayzata won the AAA (highest class) in volleyball this year. Their average height—-average for the roster—was 5-11.467, almost 2.5 inches taller than their basketball team. The Trojans on their volleyball team had three players listed at 6-4 (none with the name Annika Stewart) and two more at 6-2 (none named Jenna Johnson). No athlete crossed over to either sport. Specialization rules. But it isn’t only Wayzata with a huge differential (2.5 inches is huge). Eagan’s volleyball team (a runner up) had a two inch spread from their basketball team with a 6-5 soph in volleyball. Lakeville North’s margin was smaller at about a half inch. LN missed out on two 6-3 players that exclusively played volleyball. None of these teams have cross overs. In fact, the volleyball players that crossed over to basketball can be counted on one hand: St. Louis Park’s Reagan Alexander & Kendall Coley, Moorhead’s Megan Haugo & Grace Perry; Elk River’s Johanna Langbehn. As a side note, in Langbehn’s case she was listed 6-0 in volleyball, 6-2 in basketball. Hmmmm??? This is the reality of 2020—-the scourge of specialization. But specialization has taken its toll long before 2020. But volleyball has done a better job of identifying taller players of late. In 2009 the state volleyball AAA teams rostered two players 6-2. In 2020 that number skyrocketed to a dozen. AAAA basketball had four this year, down from seven in 2010 (LN had four alone that year). (zero below is 5-8, 3.5 is 5-11.5 for example).


Are the trends of heights declining and younger players expanding intertwined? I believe so. Thanks to more intense training at the younger levels (traveling/club) players are ready for the rigors of varsity ball. The players that get the most touches and most attention at that level are the guards—-usually the daughters of the coach. Guards tend to be smaller. Bigger kids are planted at the block, do not get the touches and are generally there to rebound and pass to the point guard. Structurally speaking the action revolves around one or two kids, numbers are dropping. Big kids don’t want to be decoration. They want action. Hence the migration to volleyball.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.