Minneapolis basketball legends headed to Hall of Fame

Charles Hallman/MSR News (l-r) Faith Johnson Patterson and Khalid El-Amin

Khalid El-Amin and Faith Johnson Patterson have both cemented their names in Northside lore.

El-Amin led Minneapolis North to three consecutive state high school basketball titles in the mid -1990s. Johnson Patterson twice led schools (North, 1995-2009; and De La Salle, 2009-15) to three consecutive state girls’ basketball titles and eight overall titles in eight years, winning nearly 500 games. 

The two Northside natives, along with St. Paul’s Tony Sanneh, will be inducted Sunday afternoon, October 20, as the largest contingent of people of color to enter the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Hall of Fame.  Both El-Amin and Johnson Patterson talked to the MSR in separate interviews last week; the interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Johnson Patterson’s vision

Photo courtesy of MSHSL Faith Johnson Patterson

After a stellar playing career at Wisconsin (1980-85), where she scored 1,120 points, Faith Johnson Patterson thought at the time that her hoopin’ days were over. The WNBA was over a decade away from starting.

“It was over for me, and it was a huge open space in my life at that time,” Johnson Patterson recalled. “I had an opportunity to play in Sweden and Poland [as a pro], but you got an African American female coming from North Minneapolis, and it was for me a little bit much. I didn’t think I could handle that.”

Upon her mother’s insistence, Johnson Patterson got back into the game. After playing in a local celebrity basketball game, “I got all these invitations to be an assistant coach in high school basketball,” she remembered. She eventually accepted Ray Finley’s offer to join his staff at Blake School.

“I didn’t have any formal experience coaching. I did a few camps and that was it.”

After several years as an assistant coach, and after Blake’s 1994 state title, Johnson Patterson took over as North’s head coach in 1995. She said of then-North Athletic Director Richard Robinson, who hired her, “He is the one that convinced me to come to North.” There she was able to apply her coaching philosophy.

“You can X and O, have a system, but if your kids don’t fit [it], this is where you fall short,” explained the state’s winningest Black female basketball coach at any level. “Instead of having a system, I had a vision. My programs had a mission…to create an environment that produces success.”

Her nearly 86 percent winning record is the highest in state girls’ tournament history. Her 491-175 record in 24 years has earned her a place in this year’s MSHSL Hall of Fame class, its 23rd since it started in 1991.

“I have so many memories,” Johnson Patterson said. “I’ve been so fortunate. There is no better way for me to end my career than being inducted.”

El-Amin’s big decision

Photo courtesy of MSHSL Khalid El-Amin

Khalid El-Amin’s three North championships will be formally recognized by the MSHSL Sunday as he is inducted into their Hall of Fame. But his post-prep career should be formally noted as well.

The diminutive, charismatic playmaker is the first Northside male player who, as a 1999 UConn sophomore, led his school to a national championship. He said of this feat, “I’m a guy from Minnesota…this little guy, 5’-10”, actually 5’-9” and three quarters, going out to the East Coast to play at the University of Connecticut.

“It had all the right components to be a winning team. That’s why I chose Connecticut,” he explained of his decision to choose it over Minnesota, Georgetown and Kansas. “I was going to college to win a national championship,” and he felt that the Big East school was on the verge of doing so.

“I prided myself on winning in high school,” El-Amin continued. “I did what was best to make me happy. I’m happy I made that decision.”

But unlike championship success at North High and UConn, El-Amin’s title-winning ways came to something of a halt when he was Chicago’s second-round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. Although he played in 50 games, averaged over six points a game, and scored 18 points in the All-Star Rookie Challenge game, the Bulls waived him before his rookie season concluded.

“When Chicago let me go, I knew I had a chance to go to Europe to play,” he recalled. “My experience in Chicago taught me how to be a professional.”

After a short stint in the CBA, El-Amin took his game overseas and played in several countries from 2002. He earned several MVP and all-star honors and won a league title during his 15 international seasons. 

He retired in 2017. “I was 37 at the time I went to Venezuela. I felt I could still play at a high level, but it didn’t work out. I played decent enough, but I was getting up in age where I playing against younger players.”

El-Amin now has a training business, is a boys’ assistant coach at Burnsville High School, and is looking forward to a second season as a CBS Sports college basketball analyst. “I get to talk basketball.”

He sees going into the MSHSL Hall of Fame on Sunday as “definitely a full circle” for a young man whose basketball exploits started in North Minneapolis.

For MSHSL Hall of Fame induction ceremony ticket information, contact the Minnesota State High School League at 763-560-2262, ext. 493.