Twitter is yesterday’s news. Facebook is a fossil. It’s all about Instagram these days, particularly among young athletes. Its effect will be evident Saturday night when Minnehaha Academy hosts Sierra Canyon (Calif.) in front of a crowd expected to exceed 11,000 at Target Center.
The game, between Minnesota’s highest-profile high school team and a heavily followed national power, was originally intended to be played at Minnehaha Academy as part of the Redhawk Basketball Showcase. But intense interest in the game, spurred by social media, quickly outstripped the newly rebuilt school’s gym capacity and forced the move to Target Center to accommodate the expected crush of fans.
“It simply comes down to Instagram followers,” Minnehaha Academy athletic director Josh Thurow said.
Teenage star players use their Instagram accounts to post videos, some set to music, of themselves in action. Other posts include in-game and other pictures to promote themselves to a social media audience that, for some, tops a million people.
“Kids are getting covered and get a following earlier than before,” Thurow said.
With the names involved in Saturday’s game, which will be streamed live on ESPN3, the number of people who want to see the game in person is significant.
Sierra Canyon, a private school in Chatsworth, Calif., boasts a lineup with three of the top-ranked players in the Class of 2020: small forward Ziaire Williams (No. 6 Rivals and 247Sports); shooting guard B.J. Boston, a Kentucky signee (No. 16 247, No. 17 Rivals); and Terren Frank, a TCU-bound power forward (No. 110 247, No. 137 Rivals).
But none of those players carries the marquee status, not to mention the Instagram followers, of Sierra Canyon’s biggest names — senior guard Zaire Wade and freshman Bronny James.
They are the sons of NBA superstars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Bronny James alone has 4 million Instagram followers. Wade has 1.6 million. Neither is considered among Sierra Canyon’s top players, but both have massive followings because of their famous fathers.
By comparison, Minnehaha Academy senior superstar Jalen Suggs’ Instagram account has 174,000 followers, while 7-foot junior forward Chet Holmgren has 118,000.
Thurow said there could be upward of 12,000 at the game, dwarfing the total for last season’s Class 3A and 4A Saturday championship-game session at the state tournament.
“Our guys, they’re becoming national commodities,” Thurow said. “I hope we fill the whole place. It’s exciting.”
Sierra Canyon at a glance
The Trailblazers have been barnstorming the country for the better part of two months. Of their first 15 games, only one was played on their home court. Despite the travel, they won their first 14 games before losing for the first time Monday, falling 85-81 to California rival Rancho Christian, which boasts consensus No. 1-ranked recruit Evan Mobley.
On Friday night at Minnehaha Academy, Sierra Canyon played The Patrick School of Hillside, N.J., in the second of two showcase games.
While James and Wade draw eyes, Sierra Canyon has at least four better offensive options in Boston, Williams, Frank and sophomore Shy Odom.
RedHawks at a glance
The rich got richer when the Redhawks, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, welcomed brothers Hercy and Mercy Miller into the fold last month. Hercy, a lightning-quick junior guard, and Mercy, an eighth-grader with enormous potential, are the sons of rapper/producer Master P. The Millers landed at Minnehaha when the family moved to the Twin Cities to be near their grandmother.
The Redhawks lost two games early in the season, to Cretin-Derham Hall and Hopkins, but weren’t at full strength in either. In the first showcase game Friday, Minnehaha Academy romped to an 89-68 victory over Class 4A No. 5 Park Center for its fourth consecutive victory.
Minnehaha Academy’s lineup has attracted a traveling group of bloggers and vloggers who line the court at every game, waiting to record highlights and post them online. However, ESPN is retaining tight control over video rights during the showcase and has denied access to entities hoping to post highlights from the games.