Boys basketball season preview


Ruby Krietzman

Vinnie Shahid, senior, passes the ball in the 2015 class AAAA state tournament. The Royals lost in the first round.

As always, the expectations for the Hopkins boys basketball team will be high this year. For the Royals, this year is state championship or bust.

After losing Amir Coffey, senior, to a devastating knee injury, the 2014-2015 team still managed to go 20-6 in the regular season and advance to the state tournament for the sixth time in seven years. With Coffey returning, the 33rd best 2016 graduate in the country, the Royals are looking for more this year.

The team is focused this year more than ever.

“I want to take our season game by game and not overlook any one team,” said Vinnie Shahid, senior.

The Royals’ two major losses from last year are leading scorer John Warren and starting big man Graham Hutson. Coach Ken Novak will look to replace the scoring with Coffey and the presence down low with more minutes from 6’8” senior Erik Davis.

With key players returning, this season’s team will be improved from last year and poised to make a legitimate run at the school’s first state championship since 2011. While Section 6AAAA will again be tough this season, the Royals are ranked first, according to Twins Cities Boys Hoops.

Led by Coffey, the Royals top six will include Shahid, a point guard with the ability to create his own shot, Ish El-Amin, junior, a scoring two-guard, sharp-shooting Xavier Johnson, senior, Simon Wright, junior, a small forward who can finish around the rim and step out to knock down shots from the outside, and Davis, a big man who will provide rebounding and scoring around the basket for the Royals.

The Royals have four players 6’7” or taller who figure to play significant minutes. Hopkins should be an improved defensive and rebounding team this year as a result.

“Last year, we didn’t play great team defense, but this year, with our length, we should be a better defensive team which should help us overall,” Wright said.

The biggest obstacle for the Royals will be Apple Valley. After winning the state championship last season, Apple Valley returns every starter from last year’s team.

The Royals have 26 games scheduled, and their first contest will come on Nov. 20 against the Kennedy Eagles at Bloomington Kennedy High School.

The game that every Hopkins fan will have circled on their schedule is on Dec. 12, when the Royals will face off with state champion favorites Apple Valley in the Breakdown Tip Off Classic at Minnetonka High School.

My prediction for the season is the Royals will dominate most of their opponents this year. They will finish the regular season with a record of 25-1, with their one loss coming from Apple Valley. Hopkins will once again make the state tournament, but this time, they will get their first state championship since 2011, avenging their regular season loss to Apple Valley in the championship.

“I feel if we dominate a majority of the possessions we play this year, we will have a great shot at a state championship,” Shahid said.