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Minnesota sports, as seen elsewhere

Brett Favre, 47, still has extreme zip throwing footballs

By all accounts, Brett Favre is very much enjoying retirement from the National Football League. He has his land. Has his hunting rifle. Has his tractor. Has his infomercials. Has his name forever enshrined at Lambeau Field.

He also still has some zip throwing the football. Boy howdy, does he ever.

Check out this clip making the social media rounds Wednesday of Favre, 47, working out with Falcons cornerback Robert Alford. Favre, very much looking fresh off the farm in khakis and a brown t-shirt, whips the football with finger-breaking ease just as the 'ol gunslinger did during his 20-year Hall of Fame career.

Hey, Cleveland, you see this? Kidding. Kind of.

El-Amin returns to state tourney on 20th anniversary of North's three-peat

The Minnesota boys’ basketball state tournament this weekend will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Minneapolis North’s storied three-peat with the help of a special guest.

Khalid El-Amin, the star of the Polars’ three consecutive state championships teams from 1995-1997, returned to the tournament Wednesday where he will officially begin the pursuit of a broadcast career. 

El-Amin not only won three prep state championships, he was an NCAA national champion at Connecticut, was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft and played one season with the Chicago Bulls, then spent the past 15 years playing professionally in Europe. He also might be best remembered for the buzzer-beater he made to beat St. Thomas in the 1996 state tournament Sweet 16 quarterfinals. 

Now he has returned to the Twin Cities and will be in the broadcast booth as an analyst for for six games this week. He called Wednesday’s Class 4A quarterfinals and is scheduled to call two Class 1A games, including Thursday’s North vs. Red Lake quarterfinal. We caught up with El-Amin in-between calls Wednesday.

Q: How did you get into broadcasting? Do you see a future in it?

A: I’m going through the transition from basketball to trying to pick a new profession and I just thought I was natural at it. My coach [Jim] Calhoun from Connecticut is doing it. And I just thought it would be a perfect fit for me. I want to stay around the game and stay relevant in the game. And basketball has been my whole life, so I just want to stay around the game and offer something, too. So I think broadcasting and doing color is something I can do. I want to get as much practice as I can and become the best color commentator that I can be. … Minnesota state basketball, what better place is there to start.

Q: What do you remember most about the state tournament? Do you have a favorite memory? 

A: I remember everything about the tournament, actually. Just the school spirit that all the schools have. The great basketball that you get in the state tournament. All the fans that come down to support their team teams. There’s nothing like Minnesota basketball and I wouldn’t change my upbringing for anything in the world.

Of course my favorite memories are our three state titles. One of the best, maybe, was the St. Thomas game and the Staples-Motley game. So we had some battles in the state tournament. … I wish they could get back to the to the two state champion format or the Sweet 16 format. It would just be great for Minnesota basketball. But basketball as a whole has grown so much in the last 20 years. You have so many great Division I players now [compared to] when I played. Basketball has just grown and matured so much and it’s just great to see.

Q: What led you to jump on the scorers’ table after hitting the buzzer-beater against St. Thomas in 1996?

A: It was a lot of adrenaline, emotion coming in. It was a big-time shot for our team, for our school, for our community. So is was just a lot of pride. It wasn’t planned or anything like that. I was just so elated, so happy, that I just wanted to hug my mother and father and enjoy that victory with them and all the community and all the student body.

I just try to get up the court as fast as possible and make a play. And those are the type of plays you dream about making the night before your game or your whole life: making a buzzer-beater like that to win a state tournament game or a championship. So it was just a dream come true and I was fortunate enough to have the composure and live that through my mind so many times in the gym practicing, that I was able to keep calm and make a shot.

Q: This the 20th anniversary of your three-peat at North. 

A: Yes, it is hard to believe it has been 20 years. Hey, time flies and I’ve had a lot of fun. I played professionally and I’ve lived my dream out. So it’s great to see Minnesota basketball evolve the way it has. So many Division I players playing in the state tournament this year. It’s just great to be around Minnesota basketball and I hope to stay with Minnesota basketball doing some color commentary. Hopefully I can do it for the state tournament and around the country.

Q: How often do you reminisce about that time of your life?

A: We do it every time I get around all guys that I play with. We talk about it. The conversation comes up on Facebook every now and then. And guys who are close to me, they understand what it meant to me. So we talk about it often. Especially when it is state tournament time. And when March Madness is going on we always talk about the UConn days. So it comes up often. But right now, I’m just focused on getting to the next part of my life and hopefully that will be broadcasting.

Q: What made those championship teams so good?

A: I think we had a lot of great role players that didn’t mind taking a backseat to myself. Guys who did the dirty work and guarded the other team’s best player, who rebounded the ball, played great defense. It was just a terrific team and we had great chemistry. We didn’t care who got the accolades. We didn’t care who got the most publicity. We just wanted to win and make everyone else look good and do for the community.

Q: How does it make you feel to know North athletics are making a revival?

A: It means the world to us. A few years ago, they were talking about North closing the school and that would’ve been a shame. Fortunately, they’ve been able to keep it open and now the school is thriving academically and in sports they just won the football state tournament. So to win a state tournament in football and basketball is great. It’s just a beautiful thing to see.

Q: Will North ever be able to win three straight titles again?

A: I’m happy for them. I’m happy for coach McKenzie. I’m happy for the North high community. Some might shoot it down and say they’re only a 1A team doing it. But, hey, they can’t help the size of the school they’re in. But they’re playing terrific basketball right now and I hope they do repeat. It would be a fantastic feat if they can do it. And I think I’m hearing noise about them moving up classes for next year. So we want to take care of this year first and worry about next year as it comes. But they’re playing good basketball and let’s see if they can get it done back-to-back. It would be a great accomplishment.

I’m not a prophet. So not going to predict anything. But I’m riding with North Minneapolis and I think they have the best team 1A. As long as take it one game at a time and listen to coach [Larry] McKenzie, they should be able to get it done.

Q: You were able to be around for your son Ishmael’s senior season at Hopkins. What was it like getting a chance to watch him pursue state championship?

A: It was fantastic to see him. I’ve been gone for a lot of his high school career, being that I only come back in the offseason and I haven’t had the opportunity to watch him play in person so much. But it’s been great to come back and work with him and be here for his senior year. It was kind of bittersweet seeing him play his last game against Wayzata, last week. But I’m happy that he’s worked hard and done the things that he’s done to earn himself a [Division 1] scholarship at Ball State. And I think his best is yet to come. So I’m happy to see him progress and I’m happy to watch him progress and I’m going to live my basketball dreams through him now.

Q: What do you think of the individual talent in this year’s tournament?

A: Player of the Year McKinley Wright (Champlin Park) is definitely a big-time player. Nathan Reuvers (Lakeville North) is a great player going to Wisconsin. Another great player is Brad Davison (Maple Grove), who is also going to Wisconsin. So they have some terrific players coming up and playing in this tournament. It just speaks to Minnesota basketball and how much it’s grown. Minnesota is now a basketball state. It’s being looked at it as a basketball state from around the country.

Q: Lastly, Kevin Garnett mentioned you on his show Area 21 on TNT Monday night when remembering the Minnesota athletes he knew would become special. How does that make you feel knowing you left an impression on him?

A: Oh wow. He’s fantastic. He’s an idol. I remember when he got drafted we came down and shot and talked basketball. Just for somebody to come out of high school and have the type of career he’s had, he’s an idol he’s an icon. You live for those type of players and you want to be that for yourself. You know, unfortunately, I wasn’t a seven-footer like him, but just to hear him mention my name makes me feel good, makes me feel respected, and makes me feel appreciated. So I thank him with for that.

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