There were many prep sports figures deserving of recognition for 2019. Here are 21 that come to mind (in alphabetical order):
1. Charles Adams (Minneapolis North): The coach led the Polars its sixth straight state football playoff appearance in November. They finished second in Class 2A.
2. Reagan Alexander (St. Louis Park): The junior led the Orioles volleyball team to its first-ever Class 3A state tournament appearance last fall. Not too shabby in basketball, either.
3. Travis Bledsoe (DeLaSalle): Led his alma mater Islanders to the Class 3A state boys’ basketball title last March.
4. Paige Bueckers (Hopkins): The nation’s top-ranked girls’ basketball player led Hopkins to a 32-0 record and the Class 4A state crown. Signed to play at UCONN.
5. Kiara Buford (Robbinsdale Cooper): The former St. Paul Central and University of Minnesota standout led the girls’ basketball team back to the Class #A tournament after coaching them to the championship the year before.
6. Kendall Coley (St. Louis Park): The junior, one of the state’s top girls’ basketball prospects, helped the Orioles reach their first Class 3A state volleyball tournament in school history last fall.
7. Khalid El-Amin (Minneapolis North): The former Polar, UCONN, NBA and professional basketball great was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame in October.
8. Joe Fahnbulleh (Hopkins): The track and field star dominated in the boys’ state track meet last June, leading the royals to the Class 2A team title as a sprinter. Now at the University of Florida.
9. Robbie Grace (Blake): Was one of the dominant athletes at the Class A girls’ track meet in June. The sprinter/jumper is now at Wake Forest University.
10. Tyler Johnson (University of Minnesota): The former Minneapolis North football and basketball standout led the University of Minnesota football team to its best season in recent memory, emerging as one of the nation’s top receivers.
11. Shaliciah Jones (North St. Paul): Dominated last year’s Class AA track meet, winning the 100- and 200-meter runs and anchoring the first-place 4×100 relay team. Signed with North Carolina A&T.
12. Craig McDonald (Minnehaha Academy): He helped the St. Paul Academy/ Minnehaha Academy/ Blake (SMB) football team capture the Class 3A state crown in 2018 and the Class 2A boys’ basketball title for Minnehaha Academy last March. When the MSHSL denied him his final year of eligibility, he fought back and was MVP of the All-Star game last month. Signed with Iowa State University
13. Tamira McLemore (Augsburg University): The guard from Eagan has led the Augsburg women’s basketball team to a national ranking and first place in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
14. Taylor Morgan (University of Minnesota): The former Blaine High School standout led the University of Minnesota volleyball team to the NCAA Final Four in her final season as a Gopher.
15. Daniel Oturu (University of Minnesota): The former Cretin-Derham Hall center has emerged as one of the top players in the Big Ten as a sophomore and has become a double-double machine.
16. Zeke Naji (Hopkins): The center led the Royals to the Class 4A state boys’ basketball crown last fall. Now at the University of Arizona.
17. Kennedi Orr (Eagan): Was one of the most dominant volleyball players in the state, leading the Royals to number-one Class 3A ranking and state finals appearance. Signed with the University of Nebraska.
18. Faith Patterson Johnson (Minneapolis North): The former Marshall University High School and University of Wisconsin girls’ basketball star, who later coached the Polars girls’ basketball team to unprecedented heights, was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League in October.
19. Tony Sanneh (St. Paul Academy): The former University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and professional soccer great who starred at St. Paul Academy, also excelling in basketball, was recently inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame.
20. Tanysha Scott (DeLaSalle): The former University of Minnesota-Duluth standout led her alma mater to the Class 2A state girls’ basketball championship last March.
21. Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy): Was named Mr. Football after leading SMB back to the Class 3A state championship game in November. As one the nation’s top basketball prospects, he led the boys’ basketball team to its third consecutive Class 2A championship.
Yes, 2019 was a good year!
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.