When the dust finally settled and three champions were crowned, Badger Nation ranks the top performers of the weekend by class.
1) Vander Blue (Madison Spartans, 17U)
There are few reasons for Badgers fans not to get excited about Madison Memorial junior Vander Blue. A 2010 verbal commit for Wisconsin, Blue's game as developed tremendously over the past year alone. Fresh off leading Memorial to the state title, Blue scored from all over the court on the weekend; hitting threes, mid-range jumpers and chipping in with points in paint.
Although his Madison Spartans lost their first game to the Wisconsin Blaze, it wasn't because of Blue, who scored 26 points by his ability to beat defenders off the dribble and be active in the post.
2) Marquis Mason (Wisconsin Swing-Selk, 17U)
Committing to Wisconsin to play wide receiver last month, football coach Bret Bielema said Mason could walk on to the basketball team if he so chooses. Badger fans better hope Mason can pull it off and play two sports for Wisconsin, as the Madison East star was a standout this weekend.
The 6-foot-5 Mason is super athletic around the basket, using his impressive vertical to seemingly grab every rebound, is strong with the basketball and finishes around the basket with top-notch consistency. Mason brings tons of athleticism to the table, which can be proven by his one-handed tomahawk slam in traffic Saturday night, helping him finish with 19 points in the semifinal victory.
3) Chip Rank (Wisconsin Swing-Selk, 17U)
After missing the Selk's opener, Rank came through in the clutch, as his solid jump shot and perimeter fire power led the Selk to the crown. Listed at 6-foot-10, Rank provides a difficult matchup, as he can cause damage on the perimeter or down on the block. He struggles at points on the dribble or moving amidst traffic in the block. It's a detail at this point, because he's going to be a good college player and has offers from North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee and William & Mary. If anyone wonders about his athleticism, all they have to know is that Rank is being recruited by some Division I schools as a quarterback.
4) Kyle Kelm (Wisconsin Swing-Selk, 17U)
Showing great touch around the basket and solid off the dribble, Kelm's aggressiveness on both ends of the court is a huge attribute to his game. Kelm is able to push the ball up the court with relative ease against soft pressure and has the athleticism to drive the ball to the basket or the range to hit a shot from a mid-range jumper to a three-pointer.
A two-star prospect from Randolph, Kelm, who scored 15 points in the opener, sustained a foot injury on Saturday and didn't play on Sunday. He reportedly has offers on the table from Bradley, Creighton, Iowa State, Oregon State, UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee, but has yet to commit to a school.
1) Paul Jesperson (Wisconsin Playmakers, 16U)
Arguably the highest ranked played in the class of 2011, Jesperson, hailing from Merrill, is a lean and trim at 6-foot-6 and has a solid combination of size and skill. Averaging 15.8 points per game last season, Jesperson, who was a first-team all-conference pick in the Great Northern Conference, has solid ball handling for his height and has an excellent shot from three-point range or anywhere else on the court for that matter.
Although he finished with 23 points on the first day of the tournament, Jesperson still needs to get better on the defensive end and add some weight/strength, but his recruitment is already starting to take off. Jesperson has offers from South Dakota State and UW-Green Bay and has visited Madison during last season.
2) Nimrod Hilliard IV (Madison Spartans, 16U)
Hilliard burst onto this season this past season in the Madison area, as he averaged 11.6 points per game for a Madison East team that went 19-4 and registered plenty of big wins, including one over the Vander Blue and top-ranked Madison Memorial.
Receiving second-team all-conference honors in the Big Eight, the 5-foot-10 Hilliard is a skilled point guard who can score, find open teammates and has a solid basketball I.Q. He has excellent quickness for a point guard, which can make up for his sketchy jump shot, and has ice water in his veins.
With the score tied in the 16U championship game, Hilliard (who had 17 points in the championship game) came off a ball screen, split through a double team and threaded a pass through the defense to an open teammate for the game-winning basket with three seconds left.
3) Connor Miller (Wisconsin Playmakers, 16U)
One player that isn't going to be under the radar for long is Miller, a 6-2 combo guard from Eau Claire Regis. Averaging 10.7 points last season and helping lead Regis to the WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinals, Miller's main weapon is his three-point shot, as he gets most of his points from the perimeter.
Miller continues to grow, as there is a four-inch difference in height from his high school program to his AAU program. Miller's length combined with his ability to find the open teammate makes him a rising prospect. With some added weight and strength, Miller could grab some mid-major scholarship offers.
1) J.P. Tokoto (Playground Warriors, 15U)
After seeing him in person, it's no wonder Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan offered a verbal scholarship offer from Bo Ryan a couple weeks ago. Having the body of small forward at 6-foot-5, Tokoto is the real deal, is only going to get bigger and has the necessary attributes to be the top in-state prospect, if not national prospects in the class of 2012. The Menomonee Falls freshman is incredibly athletic, outstanding skills, has a great first step and ball handling skills of a college player.
Although he struggled with his shot at times over the weekend, Tokoto delivered the play of the weekend on Sunday. Following a long miss, Tokoto received the outlet pass in full sprint, took two dribbles, reeled off a quick spin move to shake off a defender and, without hesitating, took off from six feet to throw down a wicked one-handed dunk in traffic, one of his 16 second-half points in the finals.
Tokoto can make a variety of mid-range shots and has tons of athletic ability. Although he has only UW's offer, Arizona State, Florida, Duke, Louisville, Marquette, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and USC are all showing interest, which means that more offers are going to come.