Five metro story lines worth watching in the 2015-16 season

 

Having Faith in Eden Prairie

Could there be a better fit than having the metro’s most successful girls’ basketball coach, Faith Johnson Patterson (state-record tying eight state championships at Minneapolis North and DeLaSalle), taking over at one of the metro’s largest and most high-profile athletic schools, Eden Prairie? Johnson Patterson, who has coached 14 teams to the state tournament in less than 20 years as a head coach, will bring her high-intensity defense and up-tempo transition offensive style to a program with a tremendous upside despite having lost 10 games in each of the last two seasons. Eden Prairie has just four seniors, led by point guard Esabelle Levine, but Johnson Patterson sees plenty of potential. “I’m new to Eden Prairie but not to basketball,” she wrote in her preseason preview. “I feel I have a lot to work with.”

Hopkins on top again

Combine one of the state’s hardest-working coaches in Brian Cosgriff with a steady stream of talent and you’ve got the formula for Hopkins’ recent run of success. The defending Class 4A champs, who have won four of the last five large-school titles, are loaded again. Three players have signed to play college ball next season: Nia Hollie (Michigan St.), Ashley Bates (Hampton) and Evelyn Knox (Wayne State in Nebraska). The Royals lost center Liz Bulver, who moved to Kansas, but still boast a trio of talented guards in K’Aezha Wubben, DeAnna Winston and Raena Suggs.

Park Center movin’ on up

The Pirates return four juniors, led by mega-talented center Mikayla Hayes, from a team that won its second consecutive state championship last winter. But a three-peat will be difficult. Park Center has been bumped up from Class 3A to Class 4A this season. It has been placed in Section 5 with three other programs accustomed to postseason success: Centennial, Osseo and Roseville. That’s not to say Park Center, with no seniors among its top eight players, can’t get back to the state tournament. But they will need their youngsters to mature quickly.

Life after the Gueberts

The Gueberts — coach Melissa and daughter Madison — weren’t at Eastview long, but they left a lasting impression. Madison was the 2015 Metro Player of the Year. Mother and daughter led the Lightning to the 2014 Class 4A state title and a runner-up finish in 2015. Madison is now at South Dakota St. and Melissa resigned after four years with a 115-13 record to spend time watching her daughter play. But new coach Molly Kasper has a pair of quality returning staters in guard Erika Schlosser and 6-foot-1 junior forward Rachel Ranke, along with enviable talent waiting for a chance to step up.

Small schools, big talent

Too often the focus on high-profile schools can overlook talented players who toil outside of the spotlight. A few of note: Maranatha guard Alaina Jarnot has signed with Division I Monmouth College. Southwest Christian’s 6-1 senior center Ally Krommendyk is a force in the paint. Holy Family’s Molly Smith is a 6-1 forward who will play at Division I Marist next year. Nova Classical Academy’s Hannah Rogers averaged nearly 20 points per game as a freshman last year. And keep an eye on St. Croix Prep senior Rose Kaetterhenry, Twin Cities Academy guard Aisha Brown and Christian Life forward Betty Rand.

Jim Paulsen