Five outstanding prep athletes

This week’s column features an outstanding basketball prospect who’s quarterbacking his school’s football team to the Prep Bowl, a running back who did the same for his team, a quarterback who led his team to the state semifinals, four who led their team to an upset victory, and a former prep basketball star who shot the lights out in a recent collegiate contest.


Here are the Fab Five:

1. Grantham Gillard 

Two years ago he was an up-and-coming sophomore guard teaming with his senior brother Garrison Gillard (now a sophomore member of the University of Minnesota-Duluth men’s team). Today he is poised to be among the state’s top players, but for now he’s focusing on leading Eden Prairie to a fourth consecutive large-school state football championship as the Eagle’s quarterback.

The senior’s 13-yard touchdown run secured a 13-7 victory over Maple Grove last week to earn a spot in the Class 6A Prep Bowl against Totino Grace at TCF Bank Stadium. No Minnesota school has won four consecutive big-school football

Simley’s Michael Avwunuma carries the ball during a victory over St. Paul Central two weeks ago. Photo by Mitchell Palmer McDonald
Simley’s Michael Avwunuma carries the ball during a victory over St. Paul Central two weeks ago.
Photo by Mitchell Palmer McDonald



2. Michael Avwunuma 

The senior scored the game-winning touchdown leading Simley to a 21-14 victory over Spring Lake Park and sending the Spartans to the Class 5A Prep Bowl championship game at TCF stadium.

Avwunuma scored twice and went over 1,000 rushing for the season. Simley’s last state playoff appearance was in 2002.


3. Tyler Johnson 

The Minneapolis North quarterback connected with Keyon Thomas 58 yards for one score and ran four yards for another as the Polars fell 28-12 to Dawson-Boyd in the semifinals of the Class 1A playoffs.

Johnson passed for 153 yards and rushed for 191.


4. Billy Hart, Sage Booker, Isaac Hodge, Marquise Bridges 

Each player contributed to DeLaSalle’s 35-14 victory over Hutchinson in Class 4A semifinal football playoffs. Hart, a quarterback, rushed for one touchdown and passed for another. Hodge caught one pass for a score. Booker, a running back, scored twice from the ground, and Bridges had an interception return for paydirt.


5. Marcus Marshall 

The former St. Paul Johnson boys’ basketball standout scored 38 points in leading Missouri State University to a come-from-behind 64-53 victory over Eastern Illinois.

The junior guard was 12/16 from the field, 6/7 from three-point range, 8/8 from the line, and finished the game with 38 points. It was the most the most points scored by an MSU player in a game since 1979.

Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to