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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Second Annual Border Battle

Verona hosted the second annual Border Battle on Saturday between assorted boys basketball teams from Wisconsin and Minnesota, five from each state. Considering the close proximity to Madison, I made the trip. I was looking forward to seeing Wisconsin recruit Jared Berggren from Princeton (MN) in person for the first time and then observing the high-ranking clash that followed between Madison Memorial and Minnetonka.

Unfortunately, I arrived late enough to watch only from the latter part of the second quarter on. Princeton only scored a handful of buckets from that point forward as the Waupun Warriors rained 3s down on the Tigers. Berggren scored all of his points in the first half. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with Berggren's supporting cast, who couldn't get him the ball in the right spot at all in the second half.

The big guy was looking extremely frustrated as the third quarter wore on and he sat out the fourth period entirely. Waupun was collapsing down on the 6'10" senior with two or three players at all times and no one relieved the pressure with accurate shooting. Sadly, this viewing experience was a letdown for me.

Conversely, Jeronne Maymon and his Madison Memorial teammates were quite impressive in getting their revenge on Minnetonka. The Skippers, a large Class 4A power in Minnesota, dispatched the Spartans in last year's inaugural Border Battle and were fresh off a 14-point win over Jordan Taylor and Benilde-St. Margaret's. Minnetonka features two Division I players of its own, but could not keep up with the frantic pace and pressure applied by Memorial.

Wisconsin is thought to be lukewarm on Maymon, a 6'6" junior, due to issues like academics, attitude, etc. But the kid can flat out ball. Maymon dominated Minnetonka, like a man among boys, posting 30 points and grabbing a "shload" of rebounds. I have seen Maymon play numerous times in the past three years and he reminds of LeBron James in a few ways. He is built muscularly beyond his years and at the same time, unbelievably quick to the hole in his execution. Put those together and you have the most devastating spin move in the state.

The athleticism puts him on another level at the high school level and I wish for the best if he cannot grab a scholarship from big-time college program. After watching him on Saturday, I admit part of me wanted his future to be with the Badgers. One Skipper's father, who will remain anonymous, was sitting next to me and embarrassing himself all game long by complaining to the referees. Even he admitted, "That (number) 40, he's eating our lunch."

With an absence of height on Memorial's roster this year, Maymon is playing inside more than ever. While that's not ideal for developing a college-level perimeter game, Maymon is getting his first stab at being a leader and go-to weapon.

Minnetonka's Anthony Tucker had about 19 points if I remember correctly (if you count a meaningless last second dunk). I was not too impressed with Tucker, but I guess he's good enough for Iowa. He displayed a great shooting stroke, but perhaps not enough aggressiveness or speed.

Speaking of smooth shooting, sophomore Vander Blue also started the game hot for the Spartans. He has great hops and can get a shot from anywhere on the court. After struggling in the middle quarters, Blue stopped fading away on his jumpers and finished with 16 points. He is already receiving plenty of attention from D-I coaches himself, as a 6'3"guard in a program famous for generating college basketball talent.

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