Friday, January 27, 2012

Football recruits start finding homes

The signing date for college football is Wednesday, and the commitments are starting to come in.

Mankato West quarterback Philip Nelson will sign with the University of Minnesota. He committed last fall, and he's already enrolled at Minnesota and is working out i preparation for spring practice.

Blue Earth Area tackle Jonah Pirsig, who is 6-9 and 290 pounds, also will sign with the Gophers on Wednesday.

West receiver Hunter Friesen has committed to Minnesota State. Friesen suffered a broken leg in the state semifinals but said this week that he's healing well. It will be interesting to see what position he plays. He was an all-state defensive back as a junior and all-state receiver last season.

Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial's Nate Meixell will sign with South Dakota State. He played quarterback at LCWM, but that won't be his college position.

BEA tackle Sam Lee is still trying to decide on a college. He has several Division I offers, including Minnesota, but he has two older brothers playing at Augustana so that might lure him to the Division II program.

Haven't heard much else about Minnesota State's recruiting class. Coach Todd Hoffner can't discuss recruits until he receives a signed letter of intent.

You can bet he'll have plenty to say about his incoming freshman next Wednesday night when Minnesota State hosts a signing-day gathering at downtown BW3.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quick look at Mavericks' transfer from Egypt

Took a few minutes Thursday to watch the Minnesota State men's basketball team practice, with a specific eye on Egyptian Assem Ahmed, who began practicing with the team this week.

It tells you a lot about how this season is going that the most interesting thing to watch is a player who is not yet eligible and may not play a minute this season. And his name is pronouced AW-sem, which makes for some nice nicknames should he become popular.

Though only 19, the 6-10, 240-pound Ahmed has played international basketball as a member of Egypt's national U19 team so you know he has skills. On Thursday, he showed good footwork in the post and a soft touch on his shot.

You can tell that he hasn't had a lot of coaching. When he had the ball at the top of the key, he often held it with just one hand and he made some lazy passes. Yet, he certainly knows the pick-and-roll, working that to perfection a few times in half-court drills.

He's going to need to get stronger. He didn't look real aggressive, and he wasn't afraid of contact, but some time in the weight room will further his chances of playing professional basketball, which he said is the reason he came to the U.S.

He's already the best post player on the team, and it remains to be seen how he'll rebound or if he's a shot blocker. At first glance, he seems more athletic than Travis Nelson or Atila Santos, two of the best big men ever to play at Minnesota State. He's not real outgoing, though maybe that will come as he gets more comfortable here. He was one of the first players to high-five a teammate after a good play at practice.

We'll have to see if his work ethic matches those two.

Coach Matt Margenthaler said Thursday that the process of determining Ahmed's eligibility continues to roll along, without any real sense of when it will be decided. Ahmed wants to play this season, and Margenthaler wants him in there.

If Ahmed is declared eligible immediately, the Mavericks will be able to challenge for a berth in the Northern Sun tournament. It's unlikely that his addition will put Minnesota State in position to win the conference tournament, which is the only way this team can continue the program's streak of national-tournament berths.

If Ahmed can't play until next season, that means he and Jayme Moten, who transferred here from Texas-Pan American, will be the first two building blocks for a major roster makeover. The program has already signed Michael Busack from Redwood Valley, but expect another transfer or two or three to show up before Oct. 15.

You wouldn't expect Margenthaler and his staff to meekly accept another season such as this one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Halfway point of the Northern Sun schedule

Minnesota State reached the midway point of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference basketball season, which makes this a good time to digest what has happened.

Obviously, the men's team has struggled. You knew there would be an adjustment period after the program lost so many talented kids from last season, but you also never expected to see one of coach Matt Margenthaler's teams struggle so much.

The transfers didn't work out. Torrieo Williams was gone before the season started, and D.J. Hoskins left at semester break. Charles McNeal was going to be deep on the bench so he's taking a redshirt season.

That leaves the Mavericks with a lot of young kids, all of whom are talented. But experience is very important in this league. Zach Romashko, T.J. Okafor, Miles Chamberlain and Kelly Madison all look like they have a promising future, but the growing pains are severe.

For the most part, Stephen Kirschbaum has played well, though the team's only senior is much better when others are creating and he can shoot from the perimeter.

Sophomores Jimmy Whitehead, Connor O'Brien, Travis Meinders and Alex Hanks have all had good games, but consistency is an issue.

The outlook for this team will change if Egyptian transfer Assem Ahmed is declared eligibile and is as good as expected, but the Mavericks will be lucky to crack the top eight in the conference to qualify for the league tournament.

The womn's team has been a pleasant surprise. After starting conference play with three losses, and having top scorer and rebounder Ali Wilkinson lost to a knee injury, the Mavericks have won eight straight to move into third place in the Northern Sun.

This team is athletic and defends well, and the last five victories have been by 7 points or less, meaning the Mavericks are performing well under pressure.

Seniors Laura Weber and Jennie Noreen have been very good over the last eight games, and freshmen Aubrey Davis and Jamie Bresnahan have played above their experience.

Ali Hoefer and Jameila Hudnell have provided key minutes, and just about every player that takes the court gives the team something.

It looks like Minnesota State has a very good chance of hosting a first-round game in the Northern Sun tournament, and you shouldn't sleep on their chances to challenge for the conference title and advance in to the national tournament.

As much as the men's team has fallen from last season, the women's team has made that big of a jump.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Minnesota State basketball vs. Mary

Friday, January 13, 2012

Minnesota State basketball vs. Northern State