2022 Hoops Awards

Well, so we were waiting on the Minnesota Lynx to make our awards and, as you know, they kinda fizzled out. And, so did we. We kinda never got our head back into 2022. But with 2023 rapidly approaching, we’ve gotta take care of unfinished business. The envelopes, please.

Game of the Year

Honestly, there’s not a lot of contenders. The best high school game was Cretin’s 103-95 2 OT win over Eastview in the state tournament. I think it is the 1st time that 2 players have ever scored 40+ points in the same state tournament game (Jamal Ambrose 43, Tre Holloman 42, and Donhavan Cain was close behind with 39). But it was just for 3rd place. If it had been the title game, well, there’s your Game of the Year.

So my choice is the Minnesota Gopher men winning at Michigan 75-65 on December 11 to run their record to 9-1. Yeah, things went downhill from there. But this was one of the most unbelievable wins ever and, just for a moment, hope sprung eternal.

Coach of the Year

I’ve always said that Minnesota’s small college coaches are the best, and 2022 was no exception. I can make a major league case for Lori Fish, St. Cloud State women; Mandy Pearson, UMD women; Dan Smith, St. John’s; and Justin Weick, UMD men. (Heck, I can make a case and I usually do, as some of you know, make a case for Pearson every year.) And, of course, the sentimental favorite was and is Ben Johnson of the Gopher men. And I could argue for Chris Finch, who got the Timberwolves (of all people) to take things seriously. But, no, returning to the 4 small college coaches:

• All 4 won or tied for 1st in their conference in the regular season

• 2 of them–Pearson and Smith–won the conference post-season tournament

• But only one won an NCAA tournament game, and that was Lori Fish

St. Cloud and UMD tied for 1st in the NSIC regular season at 19-2. In fact UMD’s 2 losses were both two St. Cloud. But in the post-season tournament, UMD demolished St. Cloud 62-39. But, the tie-breaker is that one lonely NCAA tournament win and, again, it and the Coach of the Year award goes to Lori Fish. And, OK, 2nd place to Ben Johnson, miracle man for awhile.

Team of the Year

For awhile there, again, the Minnesota Gopher men were the most amazing story in decades, but the wheels did after all come off. And the Minnesota Timberwolves were vastly improved but still couldn’t win a post-season series. And none of the leading small college teams won more than one post-season game.

So the choice again is the Hopkins girls who won the state title with a 26-1 record, but undefeated against Minnesota competition. 2nd place to the Park Center boys (31-1).

Player of the Year

And, now, the big, big, big award.

• Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards played their way into contention this year.

• Jamison Battle and Peyton Willis played their way into…and, then, out of…contention.

• Brooke Olson of the UMD women is my favorite college player, ahead of UMD men Drew Blair and Austin Andrews.

• It was hard to handicap the high schools with a pair of surprise choices for Mr. and Ms. Basketball, but I think the best high school player was Mara Braun of Wayzata, though I know she missed some time with injuries and her team (again) didn’t get to the state tournament. (Same section as Hopkins….) 

So, nobody is an obvious choice. Just put them all in the hopper and stir it up really good, and pull out a winner…

Karl-Anthony Towns. If you saw him score 60 then you know what I mean. And the way he is playing right now, early in the 2023 season, I would have to say 2022 might be his last chance. So, yeah, Karl is the choice for Player of the Year. 2nd place goes to Ant Edwards.