Six things to know about the season already underway on the Twin Cities' western side
Edina guard Graham Woodward is one of two Division 1 recruits playing for the Hornets this season. The other is forward Reggie Lynch. Star Tribune file photo Graham Woodward of Edina passed the ball away from Hopkins defender Nicholas Jorgensen during class 4-A section final basketball action between Hopkins and Edina High School Tuesday March 13, 2012 in Osseo, MN. Hopkins beat Edina 69-55
When he took over as head coach at Minneapolis Washburn in 2005, Reggie Perkins rejuvenated the program, bringing a Class 3A state championship in 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2012. Perkins now is coaching at Bloomington Kennedy, but Washburn is in good shape
The Millers are young but athletic and return a dynamic player in senior guard Nick Anderson. As it was under Perkins, defense will be the foundation. "We emphasize team defense at all times," said new coach Jamin Cook.
While neither Cooper nor Armstrong is actually in Robbinsdale, the district's two schools will put a couple of dynamic teams on the court.
Everyone knows about Cooper and Rashad Vaughn, a 6-6 junior swingman so talented that Kentucky's John Calipari has made him a focal point of his recruiting class for 2014.
But keep an eye on Armstrong. The Falcons return six regulars from last year and added scoring punch with guard J.J. Morris, a transfer who led Maple Grove in scoring last year.
Having never qualified for a state tournament, Blake is not known as a boys' basketball hotbed. That could change this year.
The Bears, who won a school-record 24 games last year, have plenty of frontline talent in center Blaine Crawford, forward J.R. Bascom and a charismatic back court of Kebu Johnson and sharpshooting John Veil.
Without a home game until Jan. 5, Blake will be battle-tested come March. With Section 6, Class 3A foes Benilde-St. Margaret's and Minneapolis Washburn rebuilding, this could be Blake's year.
Rarely has there been a class that has generated as much buzz as the Class of 2014, juniors this season.
In addition to Vaughn and Apple Valley's Tyus Jones, there is DeLaSalle forward Reid Travis, a 6-7 beast in the lane whose college selection might come down to a decision between football and basketball, and Osseo's 6-9 forward Ian Theisen, the hero of the Orioles' 2012 Class 4A state championship-game victory over Lakeville North.
Name a sport in which the Lake Conference isn't one of the top leagues in the state. Hard, huh?
Basketball is no different.
Hopkins, as always, has a wealth of talent. Eden Prairie has a terrific set of guards in Grant Shaeffer and Andre Wallace. Wisconsin-bound guard Riley Dearring lends amazing athleticism to Minnetonka. Edina can boast of two Division I recruits in guard Graham Woodward (Penn State) and forward Reggie Lynch. Wayzata returns high-scoring forward Zach Robertson from a team that started 17-1 last year.
Yes, the Lake is loaded.
Make plans to attend the Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center on Jan. 5.
The marquee game is the 3 p.m. matchup between Jones of Apple Valley and Vaughn of Cooper.
It's a Saturday, a traditional game day in college basketball, but it's still expected to have a fair share of big-name college coaches in attendance.