Minneapolis North captures boys’ basketball title No. 7

JaQuan Sanders-Smith (Mitch McDonald)

Minneapolis North captured its seventh championship in program history last Saturday, defeating North Woods 96-49 in Class A at the Target Center.

Shooting guard Isaac Johnson led the way with 28 points. Point guard JaQuan Sanders-Smith had 24 to compliment his fine floor game. Center O’Dell Wilson IV added 12 points to go along with nine rebounds, guard Marquise Holloman contributed 10, and Tayler Johnson chipped in nine.

Isaac Johnson, Tayler Johnson, Sanders-Smith and Wilson IV were all named to the Wells-Fargo All-Tournament team.

It was North’s second consecutive Class A title.


McKenzie the only one

Larry McKenzie became the first head boys’ basketball coach to win multiple state championships from different schools. He led Minneapolis North to their second consecutive Class A  title last week and won four straight Class 3A championships with Minneapolis Patrick Henry from 2000-03.

Keep in mind that he took the North job after the school nearly closed.

McKenzie is also the first African American to be inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of fame.


El-Amin legacy at North  

The last name of sophomore guard Nasir El-Amin — who started in the Class 1A title game — sounds familiar, and with good reason.

His father, Markram El-Amin, was a star player for North, graduating in 1988. Uncle Ishmael El-Amin starred for the Polars and is a 1994 alum. Another uncle, Khalid El-Amin, led North to three straight state crowns from 1995-98. Brother Malik El-Amin led the Polars to the Minneapolis City Conference in 2011.

The El-Amin legacy at North continues to grow.


Johnson adds to family legacy

Isaac Johnson, the shooting guard who will play at Western Illinois next season, comes from a family of basketball legends.

His father, Kenneth Johnson, starred as a shooting guard at St. Paul Highland Park before graduating in 1990.

Uncle Sly Johnson was an all-state guard for St. Paul Central from 1989-92. He was a finalist for Mr. Basketball his senior year who went on to star at the University of Wyoming.

Cousin Sean Benton excelled in football and basketball at Cretin Derham Hall from 1990-94 and had an outstanding football career at the University of Missouri.


Multiple coaches have had success at North

North has won seven titles with four different coaches.

Mackenzie’s teams have captured the most recent titles in Class A in 2016, including last week’s.

Tony Queen led the Polars to the Class AA state championship in 1980 when there were only two classes in state competition.

Robin Ingram led the Polars to their three-peat in from 1995-97.

Brett McNeal, the guard who led North to three straight state tournament appearances from 1983-85, coached the Polars to the Class 4A title in 2003.


Mr. Basketball winners that represented North

Four Minneapolis North players have won Mr. Basketball since the award was first given: Redd Overton (1981); McNeal (1985); Derek Reuben (1988); and Khalid El-Amin (1997).

Isaac Johnson was among the 10 finalists for this year’s award and was the Minneapolis City Conference Player of the Year.


Wilson IV unsung hero

While guards Isaac Johnson, Tayler Johnson, Sanders-Smith and Nasir El-Amin were taking care of business in the back court, O’Dell Wilson IV was doing the same as the Polars’ center. The 6’6” 230-pound junior averaged a quiet 18 points per game during the tournament. He has been a starter since eighth grade.


Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to mmcdonald@spokesman-recorder.com.