Hibbing Daily Tribune
HIBBING — As the Hibbing High School boys basketball continues their trek around the state, there’s been some good competition on the schedule.
The Bluejackets have already taken on Hopkins this season for the first time in team history.
Hibbing will be doing another first today when it travels to Minneapolis to take on Minnehaha Academy, beginning at 3 p.m., on the Redhawks’ home court.
Minnehaha Academy is ranked sixth in the nation by ESPN. but Max Preps had them ranked ninth in the nation. In Minnesota, in Class 3A, the Redhawks are ranked third behind Mankato East and DeLaSalle.
Minnehaha boasts two of the top players in the country for their classes, senior Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren.
Suggs is already committed to Gonzaga.
“Jalen is a nationally-ranked Division I guy,” Hibbing coach Joel McDonald said. “He’s run the table in every state tournament they’ve been in. Athletically, from a basketball perspective, everything speaks for itself with him.
“We’ll have our hands full with him because he’s a physical player as well. When you’re physical and have skill, that’s how you get to Gonzaga. You can do a little bit of everything. He has all of the tools that make that a possible jump.”
Holmgren, who is a 7-footer, is getting a lot of attention nationally, too.
“He’s been as high as two nationally in his class,” McDonald said. “He’s not only super-skilled and a shot-blocking machine, but he’s a disciplined shot blocker. He doesn’t get into foul trouble a lot.
“He has long arms and it’s a timing thing. He doesn’t leave his feet without going straight up. He, defensively and offensively, is a handful.”
The sophomore on the team who is drawing attention is Prince Aligbe, who is a 6-6, well-built, physical player.
“Often times you see guys built like these guys are that have some type of flaw,” McDonald said. “These guys don’t have a flaw. They shoot it. They handle it. They post up hard. They go to the basket.
“They have played a lot of basketball and it’s written all over them. Those three guys are not necessarily where it starts and ends with, but they are the attention-getters.”
McDonald also said that Minnehaha Academy has two players going Division I in football.
“It brings with it across-the-board challenges that you rarely ever see,” McDonald said. “Once again, our guys have looked forward to this. They’re connected. When I was in high school, you only heard rumors of people in the cities.
“You never really knew who they were and what they could do. You only heard about it. There was only something written about them. Today, with social media, they see these guys all of the time. There isn’t an unknown, but once you step out on the court, it’s real.”
The Bluejackets know what they’re up against.
“They know they have to play physically, perfectly and all that kind of stuff,” McDonald said. “I give them credit for wanting to take on this challenge. It says a lot about their goals. I think they’d rather see that challenge than to get something handed to them.
“This puts us on a completely different side of things. We’ll have to scrap to compete. We’ll have to have a presence all of the time from everybody to be competitive. That’s what we want coming into the middle of February. It’s time.”
The biggest thing Hibbing has to do is hold its ground.
“You have to keep getting up, stand in their way and keep going at them,” McDonald said. “That’s when it ends up meaning something down the line if you keep sticking your chin in there and going at them with the best you’ve got.”