It had been a while since a trip was taken to the south suburbs to witness a roadshow featuring a women’s basketball player: January 1997, and the attraction was the Miller twins, Coco and Kelly, from Rochester Mayo.
The Spartans tore up Apple Valley with a pressing style, as the twins made plays on the run that were fantastic for that era of high school girls’ basketball.
The Millers had outstanding careers at Georgia, including being voted as an entity as winner of the Sullivan Award — an honor the Amateur Athletic Union has given to America’s No. 1 amateur athlete (male or female) since 1930.
This was followed by long careers in the WNBA. The Millers looked like the real deal that night in Apple Valley, and it turned out that way.
On Friday night, I went to Farmington to watch Paige Bueckers, Hopkins’ 5-11 senior guard, and a Connecticut signee as the No. 1 recruit in the country.
Hopkins was No. 1 and Farmington No. 3 in the Star Tribune’s metro basketball preview. The Tigers have Sophie Hart, a 6-3 junior center sought by the Gophers, and Molly Mogensen, a senior guard who came out aggressively trying to challenge Bueckers.
Farmington has a shiny, pit-style gym with a scoreboard that many colleges would envy. The home side was jammed, with a delegation of Farmington athletes standing together and creating raucous support.
Bueckers is aligned with several underclassmen who are sought-after recruits. She has a style that encourages those teammates to show their skills, take their shots. She makes them much better with passing and defensive help.
As Mayo from two decades ago, Hopkins presses — to force a fast pace and wear down a worthy opponent — and that what’s happened Friday. It was close until late in the first half, and the final was 77-52 for Hopkins.
Bueckers couldn’t make a jump shot in the first half. She went with her collection of savvy drives. She wound up with 31 points. And, with the now-instinctive way Paige finds her space and also sees teammates … she’s another real deal.
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• The other finalists when the Millers won the 1999 Sullivan Award were Ron Dayne (football), Stephen Neal (wrestling), Stacey Nuveman (softball) and Mark Ruiz (diving).
• Molly Mogensen received a pregame plaque for breaking Farmington’s career scoring record. She was joined on court by the previous record holder — her mother, Julie.
• And, you heard it here first: Southern California brought back Clay Helton as football coach so it can hire P.J. Fleck after next season.