The 2019-20 high school basketball tournaments were abruptly canceled. The spring sports season has been halted for weeks, if not longer.
But The Globe sports staff plods forward, continuing to contemplate the 2020 boys and girls basketball All-Area teams. It’s a difficult job every year.
We’re planning to release the girls team (actually, there will be three teams, including honorable mentions) in the March 28 issue. The boys teams will appear a week later, on April 4.
As I studied the players, conferred with our other sports writers, and talked to several coaches to gather their thoughts, I found myself wondering what might have been the best All-Area teams his newspaper has selected over the last 50 years. Which, collectively, was the most talented first team we’ve ever had?
I pored through the records, all the way back to 1971 when this newspaper settled on Mike Ahrendt of Luverne, Tom Rignell of Tracy, John Carlson of Marshall, Ken Nickel of Storden and Jerry Schnyders of Southwest Christian as the boys’ top five. I was attending high school at Sibley, Iowa, at the time, and my knowledge of the five was limited.
There were six All-Area teams in ‘78, and because the Globe circulation area was larger, we considered many more athletes than we do now. Marshall and Redwood Valley, which were included then, are considered too far away today. Other schools, like Ceylon, Brewster, Storden and Round Lake, have been swallowed up through consolidation.
I started working on Daily Globe All-Area teams in 1984, after I accepted a sports reporter position after serving as a sports editor at the Cottonwood County Citizen. The first boys All-Area team I played a part in had Tom Cotter or Brewster, Greg Carroll of Luverne, Lincoln Simonson of Storden-Jeffers, Darwin Klaassen of Little Rock and Steve Schultz of Jackson on the first team. I covered Klaassen, who was listed at 6-10, in the Iowa state tournament.
Alas, I am getting distracted. The job is to pick the top All-Area team ever. Was it the 1983 version, which featured Westbrook’s Steve Elzenga and Worthington’s Greg Travis? It also had Klaassen, Storden-Jeffers’ Robert Weber and Pipestone Area’s Brian Kruse. Hard to beat it.
I finally settled upon the 1975 team. It featured Jasper’s Steve Prunty, a Coach and Athlete magazine Prep All-American and St. Paul Pioneer-Press, Minneapolis Tribune and WCCO all-stater; Fulda’s Arvid Kramer, who played in the NBA and with European pro teams; Windom’s Ken Warner, a 6-9 star with a 13.5 per-game rebounding average who led the Eagles to the Southwest Conference championship; Pipestone’s Tom Sorenson, a WCCO all-stater; and Little Rock’s Ron Kanengieter, an All-Northwest Iowa pick who led the Rockets to a 35-3 record over two years.
Of course, it’s all subjective. The best is in the eye of the beholder.
Moving on to the girls All-Area squads, I had to smile as I was reminded of all the excellent players I once covered, like Darci Steere of Storden-Jeffers, Jennifer Hale of Worthington, Courtney Place of Heron Lake-Okabena, Sidney Fick of Hills-Beaver Creek and, of course, Rosalie Hayenga of Worthington, who in her 1990 All-Area summary I called “a miniature Magic Johnson of a passer.”
For my All-Area best five, I finally chose the 1987 squad of Pipestone’s Lynn Kruse, the Southwest Conference’s MVP as a senior; Sibley-Ocheyedan’s Sheila Grigsby, an Iowa second-team All-Stater who led the Generals to a 48-2 record over her junior and senior seasons; Butterfield-Odin’s Julie Carlson, who averaged 19.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game; Sanborn-Lamberton’s Cathy Bassett, who finished her career fifth on the Minnesota girls all-time list with 2,358 points; and Tracy-Milroy’s Mary Jo Miller, a steal machine and one of the best athletes Tracy has ever produced.
How will the 2020 teams compare with those of the past? I can’t wait to put them together.