Hopkins, Minnetonka, Gopher men, Samedy making their mark

Minnetonka guard Kiani Lockett goes for two during a 54-25 victory over White Bear Lake Friday, November 26 at Hamline University.
Photo by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald

This week’s column includes two girls’ basketball teams ranked nationally, two former prep basketball stars leading the Gophers, a group of outstanding prep boys’ basketball players, and the end of an outstanding volleyball career at the collegiate level.

Hopkins, Minnetonka ranked

Don’t look now, but Hopkins (No. 2) and Minnetonka (No. 19) are ranked in the ESPN High School girls’ top 25.

The second-ranked Royals are led by University of Minnesota signee Amaya Battle, University of Arizona commit Maya Nnaji, and junior Taylor Woodson. Kiani Lockett, who is headed to Creighton University next fall, and Desiree Ware, likewise to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, lead the Skippers.

The head coach at Hopkins is former Minneapolis North girls’ basketball standout Tara Starks.

Johnson, Battle leading Gophers

Ben Johnson and Jamison Battle, both graduates of DeLaSalle High School, have gotten the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team off to a good start.

Johnson, a former Islanders guard who led the team to back-to-back Class 2A state championships in 1998 and ’99 and then played collegiately at Northwestern University and Minnesota, has led the Gophers to one of their best starts in school history.

 Battle, a 6’9” sophomore, starred in football and basketball at DeLaSalle, leading the basketball team to the Class 3A title in 2019. He has emerged as the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, including a 27-point effort in the Gophers’ recent 75-65 victory over the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Photo by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald Hopkins forward Maya Nnaji goes for the jump ball tip as teammate Taylor Woodson (20) watches during a 83-43 victory over St. Paul Como Park at Hamline University (St. Paul MN) on Friday, November 26.

Some of the state’s top prospects

With the boys’ basketball season underway, here are a few of the state’s top prospects that come to mind in no particular order:

Tre’ Holloman (Cretin-Derham Hall), Willie Wilson (Minneapolis North), Kendall Blue (East Ridge), Alonzo Dodd (South St. Paul), Prince Aligbe (Minnehaha Academy), Mercy Miller (Minnehaha Academy), Braeden Carrington (Park Center), and Pharrel Payne (Park Cottage Grove).

Samedy’s volleyball career ends

The outstanding and brilliant collegiate volleyball career of senior opposite hitter and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Stephanie Samedy has ended as the No. 12 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lost 3-0 to the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA Tournament regional Finals this past weekend at the UW Fieldhouse in Madison. 

Samedy finishes as one of the best to ever do it.