When it comes to youth basketball in Minnesota, the month of March is known as “state tournament” time. The Grade State Championships for both boys and girls traveling teams take up the first two weekends of March, followed by the boys and girls State High School Tournaments that we see on TV every year.
It was with that in mind that 20 years ago MYAS realized that something was missing. Something for the thousands of players who play house league and recreational league basketball across the state of Minnesota every winter. Born from that idea, the Rec State Championships began in the year 2000 and have been gaining popularity every year. Last year 225 house league and recreational teams participated from grades 3 through 12 crowning 25 champions at their own respective levels.
In the Beginning
Kevin Wilson, who is an MYAS senior program director and The Rec State Championships director, says that Rec State was created for just that purpose–to give the multitude of rec teams the opportunity to play and compete in a state tournament. “The kids playing on traveling teams get the opportunity, so we wanted to give the rec teams the same experience. Most rec teams play in leagues and typically play one game on a Saturday so this is quite different.”
John Cisewski coaches in the Armstrong/Cooper Association and has been involved coaching in Rec State since 2007. Cisewski, who coaches an 8th grade boys team this year, has coached teams from 6th grade through 12th grade in Rec State.
“For us” said Cisewski, “it was a good opportunity for kids to get some more playing time. In our Armstrong-Cooper league we used to play each other like five times in one year. So, for me, it was just finally good to get out and play other teams rather than ourselves.”
High School Hops
Another unique feature of Rec State is that there is an offering for boys high school teams, of which there were 56 last year including Wade Klick’s Osseo/Maple Grove team that won the 11/12th grade A-level Championship.
“Our players had an absolute blast because it was their last time playing together” said Klick. “That’s the last time that they could play organized basketball on a team with a uniform, with their buddies. They all took pictures and they talk about it still when they all meet up.”
Klick was also impressed with the quality of competition, even though it’s “house or rec” teams. “It’s nice that they have different levels for teams to participate in. So I really liked that they have an elite level, B level and C level depending on how many teams they get.”
Cisewski also found that the different levels being offered made a big difference. “The biggest thing for us is that we could be somewhat of a mediocre team and playing in the C division and still be competitive. That was always a good thing for us to be out there, play in a competitive level and still have really good basketball games.”
Typically the Rec State Championships are later in the month of March, including this year when the games will be played on the weekend of March 21-22. Since all that is left of the high school season is the finals of the state tournament at Target Center, that frees up most regular high school league refs for rec state. Just one more bonus for the Rec State Championships.
“We have high school certified officials for Rec State” said Wilson. “We pull out all the stops to make sure that this is an experience to remember.”
“It’s a great tournament” said Cisewski. “Fun to interact with other teams, other schools and get some really good games out of it. I mean, it’s very, very competitive and it’s just a fun weekend.”