High School Sports

Kentwood’s D’Angelo Minnis gives the crowd what it wants — a lot of crazy 3-pointers

Kentwood's D'Angelo Minnis (5) hits a three-point-shot to tie the game at 35-35 in the second quarter. Kentwood played Union in the 4A boys state championship basketball game at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, March 4, 2017.
Kentwood's D'Angelo Minnis (5) hits a three-point-shot to tie the game at 35-35 in the second quarter. Kentwood played Union in the 4A boys state championship basketball game at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, March 4, 2017. jbessex@gateline.com

No, that’s not Stephen Curry.

Really.

That’s D’Angelo Minnis in that Kentwood High School uniform, drilling all those 3-pointers.

Curry isn’t even his favorite player.

“It’s actually Damian Lillard,” Minnis said, politely and with a smile. “But you can’t hate Stephen Curry.”

Minnis, a 5-foot-10 senior, is the shortest player on Kentwood’s roster and it doesn’t have a whole lot of height to begin with. He’s the only player back who had significant minutes on the Conquerors 4A state title team a year ago. All of its starters graduated.

But when Minnis would jog to the scorers’ table and check in off the bench – after spending his entire sophomore year on the junior varsity team – it was a show.

There was the swish 3-pointer from well beyond the 3-point line at the first-quarter buzzer against Curtis in the state quarterfinals. Then the dagger 3 from the left wing with just over a minute to play in that 57-55 win.

Or the two he hit late against Federal Way to snuff the Eagles’ then 63-game win streak. It wasn’t just that he was making them throughout the season – but that he hit them when the Conks seemed to need them most.

“Hey, he gives the crowd what they want to see,” said Darius LuBom, the since-graduated two-time league MVP who has started eight of his 12 games as a freshman at Western Oregon University this year. “The crowd wants to see crazy shots, Stephen Curry shots. And that’s what he does.”

Kentwood coach Blake Solomon was known to be a deadly 3-point ace, himself, when he played at Kentwood. Now he and his former backcourt mate, NBA player Rodney Stuckey, are coaching the Conks instead of playing for them.

But Minnis’ range?

“It’s unbelievable. It’s pretty much unlimited” Solomon said. “He’s a really, really good shooter. Last year, if he couldn’t get into the paint, he could just back up and it was like the same thing.”

“Great shooter, man,” Stuckey said. “As he goes we go.”

Only Minnis wasn’t always a 3-point shooter.

Short – yes. He’s always been short. He was 4-foot-7 entering the seventh grade.

So he took pride in his defense. He had to set himself apart somehow if he wanted to play.

“I always knew I was going to be a short guy my whole life,” Minnis said. “So I use that to my advantage. I’m lower than a lot of guys, and I’m quick, so I can get a lot of steals. I was short and I had to play defense.”

Then a Stephen Curry video.

He was watching a documentary on the former NBA MVP and Golden State Warriors superstar when Curry said he would take 1,000 shots a day.

Minnis says he tries to emulate his pull-up jump shot after Lillard’s, and same with his side-step 3-pointer and defense. But that Curry video inspired him. Minnis and his father, Deshawn, wake up at 5 a.m. and head to the gym for workouts together just about every morning, and together they put up 1,000 shots.

“He’s one of the most driven kids there is,” Solomon said. “I mean, there’s very few high school kids – or college kids for that matter – who get up at 5 a.m. every morning and get up the number of shots he does every day. It’s good to see all that pay off because when kids put in that work, it’s good to see them rewarded for it.”

Deshawn played some basketball growing up, but not seriously, Minnis said. He works out with his son just so he can be around him more.

Minnis’ brother is a junior, but he doesn’t play sports, instead traveling all over with the school band playing percussion. He stopped playing basketball in the eighth grade to focus on his music.

Minnis is practicing to play the piano and he used to play the clarinet.

“Sometimes my brother and I work on making beats together,” Minnis said. “But I don’t really have any other family members who play sports.”

On the court, get Minnis open for 3.

But don’t let him open up off the court, Solomon said.

“We talk all the time – whenever we’re on long road trips or somewhere, don’t open up the box that is D’Angelo,” Solomon said.

Why?

Solomon just laughed. And tried to sift through all of the soundbites from Minnis running through his head.

“Well, we were talking to him on our way to Camas last year and he said he takes six showers a day,” Solomon said. “Just things like that.

“Just the other day one of our coaches asked D’Angelo, ‘Hey, do you have any lotion? I need to borrow some.’ He said, ‘No, I’ve used to much that my skin is now naturally soft.’ You never know what you’re going to get out of him. Those things are just the tip of the ice berg.”

“I think everyone knows me for who I am,” Minnis said. “I like to joke around and I don’t take things very seriously – except when it comes to basketball.”

He and Solomon spent much of their summer discussing leadership styles, since Minnis is the lone returner from last year’s team.

It’s one thing to wow the crowd off the bench. It’s another to be the target of every game plan, every scouting report and every team’s best defender like he’s seeing this season. And when last year he could feed off LuBom or Rayvaughn Bolton, who is now playing at Eastern Arizona, attacking the paint and opening up his looks, now Minnis has to do more of the creating and dishing.

“Last year he was kind of an energy guy,” Solomon said. “Hit shots, defend, pick up full court – one of those pivotal guys you need, but he was playing behind the best backcourt in the state, in my opinion.

“This year it’s a little different. He’s got to be able to set stuff up. We’ve got other guys we’ve been working with on setting up the offense and the quicker they come along, the easier it will be to move D’Angelo off the ball a little bit, get him coming off screens and get him back to more of his natural scoring mentality.”

Kentwood is off to an 8-2 start, with losses to Bishop Blanchet and Shorecrest. But then it beat Union – the same team it beat in the 4A state title game last year – and is currently riding a six-game win streak.

“At the beginning of the season, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could be good,” Minnis said. “We knew people were going to be like, ‘Oh, how is Kentwood going to be? They lost a lot of their main players.’ Which we did. But we knew that we had a lot of talent coming back and if we work together and build our chemistry we can be really good.

“Because last year I learned a lot about that – how it’s not about you, it’s about the team.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

Twitter: @TJCotterill

SOUTH SOUND BOYS BASKETBALL PRIMER

State preview
Timberline boys basketball player Erik Stevenson, right, and Wilson's Emmitt Matthews Jr. both played on the same AAU basketball team this offseason and enter their senior seasons as two of the most recruited players in a long time from the South Sound. Stevenson is committed to Wichita State, one of the top-ranked college teams in the country, and Matthews to UConn, which has won four national championships. But they are also good friends, though also competitors. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

ICYMI: State preview: Can these local basketball phenoms have big seasons to match big-college pedigrees? (Plus preseason all-state teams)

CLASS 4A

TEAM TO WATCH

So the South Sound has been pretty good at this basketball thing. Kentwood, Federal Way and Curtis have combined to win six 4A state titles in the past nine years, and four in the past five years. They each, again, appear to be the top contenders in the South Sound, with Kentwood reloading even after losing its entire starting five from last year’s state crown. But maybe a sneaky contender is Enumclaw, with 6-foot-7 Kaden Anderson and 6-foot-6 Peter Erickson back from their run to the Tacoma Dome a year ago.

4A NPSL CASCADE

FAB FIVE

Guard – D’Angelo Minnis, Kentwood, 5-10, sr.: Kentwood graduated its entire starting five from its state-title run a year ago. But Minnis was a big contributor off the bench. Can hit from long, long range and great on-ball defender.

Guard – Mahlik Hall, Kent-Meridian, 6-1, sr.: Returning first-team all-league point guard scored a season-high points against Mt. Rainier last year and followed with 28 against Mt. Tahoma.

Forward – Jett Briceno, Kentridge, 6-3, jr.: If there’s one constant in the South Sound, it’s that Chargers coach Dave Jamison (323-180 record in 20 years coaching entering the season) can get his teams to the playoffs. And he’s got a combo guard in Briceno who can attack in multiple facets.

Forward – Lonyatta “Junior” Alexander, Kennedy Catholic, 6-2, fr.: Can the Lancers make it seven straight trips to the state tournament? They graduated eight seniors from their state-quarterfinal run a year ago, but don’t mistake this team’s youth for lack of talent.

Post – Tyler Cronk, Kentridge, 6-8, sr.: Not just one of the nation’s best high jumpers in track and field (he once cleared 7 feet, 2 inches). Athletic senior is averaging 14.9 points per game through the early season.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Kentwood (27-3 in 2016-17), Kentridge (17-9), Kennedy Catholic (20-9), Mt. Rainier (16-8), Kentlake (2-18), Kent-Meridian (4-17), Tahoma (12-11), Hazen (2-18)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 23: Kentridge at Kentwood, 7 p.m.

4A NPSL OLYMPIC

FAB FIVE

Guard – Pa’Treon Lee, Auburn, 6-2, sr.: “Joosey” still has the keys to Auburn’s team, a season after averaging 18 points and earning first-team all-league. Physical point guard.

Guard/Forward – Jaden McDaniels, Federal Way, 6-9, jr.: Name sound familiar? Brother is 6-foot-10 San Diego State forward Jalen McDaniels, who led Federal Way to back-to-back state titles. Coach Jerome Collins says all the Pac-12 is after this McDaniels.

Forward – Talan Alfrey, Auburn Mountainview, 6-3, sr.: You might know Alfrey as this year’s TNT All-Area football player of the year. But he’s also the reigning 4A NPSL Olympic defensive player of the year (in basketball and football).

Forward – Kaden Anderson, Enumclaw, 6-7, sr.: Tough in the paint and can stretch defenses from 3. Athletic senior led Hornets to the Tacoma Dome last year averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds.

Forward – Etan Collins, Federal Way, 6-5, sr.: Athletic big man who can run the floor. Collins was a second-team all-league selection last year and one of the few returners from the Eagles’ last title team.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Federal Way (25-4 in 2016-17), Enumclaw (16-13), Auburn (12-12), Todd Beamer (10-12), Auburn Mountainview (6-14), Auburn Riverside (14-10), Decatur (11-10), Thomas Jefferson (6-14)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 17: Enumclaw at Federal Way, 7 p.m.

4A SPSL

FAB FIVE

Guard – Jaylen Scott, Bellarmine Prep, 5-11, so.: One of a litany of skilled guards for the Lions (just like every year, it seems). Scott is an explosive scorer with his blend of quickness and 3-point touch. Averaging 17.9 points.

Guard – Jordan Parker, Curtis, 5-11, sr.: There’s few 3-point shooters in the South Sound like Parker. Through eight games he had already made 36 3s, while also acting as the Viks’ floor general.

Guard – James Baker, Rogers, 6-0, sr.: One of the few teams in the SPSL with a majority of its roster back (including four starters). Baker is an electric scorer who earned all-league honors a year ago. Averaging 21.5 points.

Guard – Landen Neff, Puyallup, 6-3, sr.: Is both a first-team all-league football player and baseball player. That should tell you his toughness. Averaged 18 points a game for the Vikings a season ago.

Guard/Forward – Zach Paulsen, Curtis, 6-4, jr.: More of a wing, but with Curtis’ lack of size, he’ll move into the post out of necessity and is plenty comfortable there, too. Leading Vikings with 16.9 points.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Curtis (23-5 in 2016-17), Bellarmine Prep (17-10), Rogers (5-15), Puyallup (13-10), Olympia (12-10), Sumner (5-15), South Kitsap (7-14), Graham-Kapowsin (3-17), Emerald Ridge (14-10)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 9: Curtis at Bellarmine Prep, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A

TEAM TO WATCH

If a South Sound team is going to end Seattle’s Metro League’s six-year reign at the Tacoma Dome (the last non-Metro team to win it all was Lakes in 2010), this feels like it could be it. A Metro League school has won 20 of the past 25 3A state titles since 1992. But Lincoln is coming off a trip to the 3A state semifinals and returns four of its five starters (though the reigning PCL MVP transferred to Rainier Beach). Timberline has a Wichita State signee, Wilson has a UConn signee, North Thurston is off to a hot start and Spanaway Lake might have its most talented, cohesive team ever.

3A PIERCE COUNTY LEAGUE

FAB FIVE

Guard – Divante Moffitt, Spanaway Lake, 6-4, sr.: What one coach says of Moffit: “He’s the state’s best-kept secret.” Athletic point guard is averaging 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists so far (including 27 points, nine rebounds, nine assists against defending state champion Nathan Hale).

Guard – Emmett Linton III, Lincoln, 6-0, sr.: Was really good last year. But this year? Looks like “Bullet” can take over games with mix of quickness and smooth jumper. Father is in the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame as a boxer.

Guard – Jordan Garner, Spanaway Lake, 6-3, sr.: Another in Spanaway Lake’s big three (Moffitt, Garner, Isaiah Turner) that’s hoping to get the Sentinels back-to-back state appearances for the first time in school history. Lefty is the tough, physical presence Spanaway Lake needs.

Guard/Forward – Emmitt Matthews Jr., Wilson, 6-7, sr.: How many UConn signees come from the South Sound? Lefty and reigning TNT All-Area selection can beat teams from just about any position. Averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds last year.

Forward – Willie Thomas, Lincoln, 6-6, sr.: Don’t let Thomas get lost in the shuffle of all the talent in this league. This athletic senior does everything for the Abes, including being a steal trap around the rim. Reigning PCL defensive MVP. Since the start of last season, Abes are 32-2.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Lincoln (26-2 in 2016-17), Wilson (20-8), Spanaway Lake (16-9), Lakes (8-14), Bonney Lake (10-12), Stadium (9-13), Bethel (2-18), Mt. Tahoma (4-15)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 24: Lincoln at Wilson, 7 p.m.

3A SOUTH SOUND CONFERENCE

FAB FIVE

Guard – Jeremy Spencer, North Thurston, 6-0, sr.: Sharpshooter has already put up three 30-point nights so far. This after earning second-team all-league last year, averaging 17 points.

Guard – Chris Penner, Capital, 6-1, sr.: Few sophomores had a season as big as Penner did last year for Tacoma Dome-bound Cougars, averaging 19.2 points, four rebounds, four assists.

Guard – Erik Stevenson, Timberline, 6-5, sr.: The Wichita State signee is more than a silky 3-point shooter. He got four 30-point games so far, including seven 3-pointers against Union, and is a highlight dunk waiting to happen. Also leading the Blazers in rebounds so far (6.3).

Forward – Clay Christian, North Thurston, 6-3, sr.: Strong enough to play tough inside, but can also step out. Tough matchup, and that’s why he was a first-team all-league guard who averaged 24 points per game a season ago.

Guard/Forward – Seth Kasteler, Peninsula, 6-4, sr.: Returning first-team all-league selection from a year ago averaged 16 points, six rebounds per game. Natural slasher usually finds a way to get to the free-throw line.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Timberline (18-8), North Thurston (14-11), Capital (22-5), Peninsula (11-12), Gig Harbor (13-9), Yelm (5-15), Central Kitsap (12-12), Shelton (5-15)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 24: North Thurston at Timberline, 7 p.m.

CLASS 2A

TEAM TO WATCH

Foss graduated some big pieces from its 2A title team a year ago, including reigning TNT All-Area player of the year Roberto Gittens, but so far has looked like it is primed to contend for the top trophy from Yakima again thanks to this pressure defense, led by a guard trio of Demetrius Crosby, Micah Pollard and Damani Kelly. Though, also look out for this 6-foot-6 freshman Kenzel Massey. But Fife is so deep and experienced that it appears coach Mark Schelbert has that team primed to make a run, too, and Clover Park returns one of the area’s most dynamic scorers in Davien Harris-Williams.

2A EVERGREEN CONFERENCE

Black Hills
Black Hills starters (from left) TJ Mickelson, Noah Brewer, Jewell Day, Jason Underhill and Joe Crumley and head coach Jeff Gallagher wait for player introductions before Friday night's boys basketball game at Tumwater High School on Jan. 15, 2016. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

FAB FIVE

Guard – Joe Crumley, Black Hills, 6-1, sr: It’s hard to Jeff Gallagher to imagine that this is Crumley’s final year. He first started attending Gallagher’s camps in the seventh grade and now he’s firmly Black Hills’ starting backcourt after averaging 14.2 points last year.

Guard – Jordan Thomas, W.F. West, 6-4, sr.: He’s got the reins to the Bearcats’ offense a year after running the show at Centralia. Earned first-team all-league last season, though W.F. West is without Dakota Hawkins, who was injured during football season.

Guard – CJ Geathers, Tumwater, 5-11, sr. They’re still working out some of the particulars under new coach Josh Wilson, but Geathers provides the scoring spark after averaging 12.5 points per game last year.

Forward – Thomas Drayton, Tumwater, 6-5, jr.: Tough power forward earned all-league honors a season ago. Was also starting tight end for T-Birds’ football team.

Wing/post – Brandon White, W.F. West, 6-8, sr.: Consider that White played point guard last season. And check that height one more time. With Thomas in the fold, that allows White to move to either the post or wing, depending on the matchup.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

W.F. West (10-12 in 2016-17), Black Hills (11-11), Tumwater (17-6), Centralia (17-9), Rochester (3-17), Aberdeen (8-12)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 23: W.F. West at Black Hills, 7 p.m.

2A SPSL MOUNTAIN

FAB FIVE

Guard – Demetrius Crosby, Foss, 6-1, sr.: Returning starter on Falcons’ state title team, then gets the 2A SPSL Mountain defensive MVP during football season. Best athlete in the league and physical defender (averaging 21.7 points, 6.5 rebounds so far).

Guard – Micah Pollard, Foss, 6-1, sr.: Sharpshooter for state-champion Foss last year. Doing a bit of everything this year (19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.4 assist), including hounding defense (4.8 steals).

Guard – Cooper Schelbert, Fife, 6-2, sr.: Coach Mark Schelbert’s kid has some game. Shooting guard earned second-team 2A SPSL Mountain honors last year. But what makes Fife most dangerous is its versatility and depth.

Guard – Joe Flanigan, White River, 6-2, jr.: The lone returning starter the Hornets return from a season ago, but if there’s one thing Rick Tripp does is get his players to run his system, and Flanagan leads that. He was an honorable mention all-league pick.

Forward – Jalen Green, Lindbergh, 6-7, sr.: Older brother is UW’s Dom Green. Had 36 points and 18 rebounds against Franklin Pierce and had 33 points and 18 rebounds against Fife. Has an offer from Portland.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Foss (25-5 in 2016-17), Fife (14-12), White River (14-11), Lindbergh (16-11), Foster (0-18), Washington (5-15), Franklin Pierce (3-17)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 16: Fife at Foss, 7 p.m.

2A SPSL SOUND

FAB FIVE

Guard – Deondre Russ, Renton, 5-10, sr.: Fast floor general for Renton. Averaged 7.5 points, 3.1 assists a season ago and earned second-team all-league.

Guard – Davien Harris-Williams, Clover Park, 6-0, sr.: Averaged 22.8 points per game a season ago and is one of four returning starters for the Warriors. Inside, outside – can score in bunches, including a season-high 43 in a win over River Ridge.

Guard – Torrey Cady, Steilacoom, 6-3, jr.: Averaged 10.5 points per game a year ago but taking on a bigger role this season. Had 21 in a loss to Renton, including four 3-pointers.

Forward – Joebert Alexander, River Ridge, 6-1, sr.: Just about every face from reigning league-champ River Ridge is new, including coach Patrick Williams (a Lincoln grad). But Alexander has shown to be an inside force, especially on defense.

Forward – Malik Coats, Renton, 6-5, sr. – One of three returning all-league selections for the Indians from a season ago. Coats was a first-team pick as a physical presence (10 points, 6.7 rebounds per game).

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Renton (13-11 in 2017-17), Clover Park (17-10), Highline (11-13), Steilacoom (10-10), River Ridge (17-9), Eatonville (8-12), Tyee (9-11), Orting (1-19)

MARK THE CALENDAR

Jan. 9: Renton at Clover Park, 7 p.m.

SMALL SCHOOLS

TEAM TO WATCH

Don’t be spooked by Life Christian returning just three players from its run to Spokane a year ago (not including TNT first-team All-Area selection and all-state pick Luke Lovelady) for the 2B semifinals. The Eagles have the guard play to stay in contention with Eric Overgaard back running the point and flanked by Noah Robinson and Omari Maulana. In 1A, this is the final run for 19-year Cascade Christian coach Jerry Williams, he said. So expect the Cougars to send him out with a bang as he chases 300 career wins.

FAB FIVE

Guard – PJ Talen, Tacoma Baptist, 6-2, sr.: Reigning 1B Associated Press first-team all-state selection after averaging 24.6 points and 11 rebounds in the Crusaders’ run to Spokane for the 1B state tournament.

Guard – Noah Robinson, Life Christian, 6-2, jr.: One of three returners from last year’s third-place team. But Robinson was a key contributor, averaging 10.1 points. Lethal backcourt with him, Eric Overgaard and freshman Omari Maulana.

Guard – Dylan Cooley, Cascade Christian, 6-3, sr.: Averaged 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and earned second-team 1A Nisqually honors for the Cougars a year ago. Has never missed a practice.

Guard – Adam Bailey, Mount Rainier Lutheran, 6-4, jr.: Team captain and dynamic guard who can play in the low post and on the perimeter. Also the team’s defensive leader under second-year coach Alex Carter.

Forward – Henry Lenaburg, Charles Wright, 6-5, sr.: One of three returning starters for the Tarriers, Lenaburg brings an inside-out presence and sweet shooting touch. Averaged six points, six rebounds last year.

t.cotterill@thenewstribune.com

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