Hopkins deserves credit for playing game right way

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2011 - 3:01 PM

The coronation is complete, the dynasty is extended. All that's left now are the inevitable e-mails and online comments accusing Hopkins of recruiting.

Hopkins' Marvin Singleton slashed to the basket for a layup during the Royals' 64-52 victory over Eden Prairie for the Class 4A boys' basketball championship Saturday night.

The coronation is complete, the dynasty is extended. Hopkins won its third consecutive state championship and fifth in seven years Saturday night with a 64-52 victory over new conference rival Eden Prairie.

All that's left now are the inevitable e-mails and online comments accusing Hopkins of recruiting. Those are almost as predictable as Hopkins hoisting the big-school trophy at the end of a basketball season.

"I can't control what people say around the water cooler," Hopkins athletic director Dan Johnson said.

But he does have an interesting fact. In a state tournament filled with transfer students playing significant roles, the Royals had zero, Johnson said. No players on the Hopkins team came to the school from a different school from ninth grade on.

"The very definition of a transfer," Johnson said.

Even with that, there will be some "yeah, but ..." folks out there. And there were surely fans in the Target Center stands and watching on TV who were grimacing at the sight of Royals players holding up three fingers to signify their accomplishment.

They are the Duke of Minnesota high school basketball, only they rarely fall short of their goal.

But know this: While their talent is undeniable, you will rarely see a team as well-coached or one that works as well together on the court. Those attributes were on display Saturday night, and head coach Ken Novak Jr. should get some credit for it even if he tries to deflect it.

"In reality, they shouldn't [give me credit]," Novak said. "We try to set up an environment where they can excel. ... We've had so many good players set a standard. And these guys have improved tremendously."

Senior Joe Coleman, a future Gopher and the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year, was steady when he needed to be and spectacular when his team needed him to be. His dunk in the first half broke a tie; his short jump shot, missed free throw, rebound and second layup late in the second half broke Eden Prairie's back. He finished with 22 points, right around his average.

And he relished every minute of the challenge. Coleman said chatter from Eden Prairie that the Eagles expected to win -- really, what else would a team expect? -- was used as extra motivation by the Royals.

Hey, whatever it takes when you're Public Enemy No. 1.

"Oh, yeah, everyone definitely loves to hate us," Coleman said. "Nobody likes a consistent winner."

He and Marvin Singleton, who scored 15 points Saturday and will play at Northern Iowa next season, will certainly be missed. But there are always more players waiting in the wings. All-tournament members Siyani Chambers and Zach Stahl are juniors. Plenty of young players have the skills to step up.

They will have a chance next year for a four-peat -- and an extension of the most impressive basketball dynasty of this era.

If they do, we'll be ready for more e-mails.

"Sometimes," Johnson said, "it feels like you're defending a ghost."

Michael Rand • mrand@startribune.com

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