Top 10 Pro Athletes Under 30 from Minnesota

20 Sep

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With the Twins (and their fans) suffering yet another loss, and the Vikings tough Week 2 loss, I thought something different would be good. So today, I ranked the Top 10 professional athletes who are from high schools in Minnesota. There are several others who could make this list in a couple of year, and several others such as Brad Hand or Eric Decker that will make it. But here are my rankings for the top ten. How would you rank them? Who is missing?

#10 – Blake Wheeler – The Breck School – 8/31/86  

After a junior season in which he led The Breck School to a state championship, he spent a season in the USHL before playing three years for the Gophers. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He came to the NHL in 2008 with the Boston Bruins. He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in February. In three seasons in the NHL, he has accumulated 57 goals and 70 assists. The Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets. He signed a two years, $5.1 million deal this past offseason.  

#9 – Tom Gilbert – Bloomington Jefferson – 1/10/83

Gilbert played three seasons at Jefferson before spending a season in the USHL. After being drafted by the Avalanche in the 5th round of the 2002 draft, he spent four seasons at Wisconsin. He spent most of the 2006-07 in the minor leagues before a late season call-up. He has played at least 79 games in each of the four seasons since. In that time, he has 30 goals and 11 assists. In 2008, he signed a six year, $24 million deal.

#8 – Glen Perkins – Stillwater – 3/2/83

Perkins graduated from Stillwater and pitched two seasons for the Gophers. In that time, he was 19-5 with a sub-3.00 ERA and the Big 10 Pitcher of the Year. The Twins used their second first-round pick (22nd overall) to select the southpaw. He quickly advanced through the Twins farm system and made his big league debut in September of 2006. He spent 2007 in the Twins bullpen. He went 12-4 in 26 starts for the Twins. He really struggled in 2009 starting for the Twins. He really struggled in 2010 pitching for the Rochester Red Wings. Somehow in 2011, he has been the Twins and one of the league’s most reliable, dominant left-handed relievers.

#7 – Kris Humphries – Hopkins – 2/6/85

At Hopkins, Humphries helped his team to the 2002 Minnesota State basketball championship. In 2003, he was a McDonald’s All-American and Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball. After committing to attend Duke, he changed his mind, stayed home and played one season for the Gophers. (Side Note – I haven’t watched Gophers hoops or college hoops since that year.) In his season with the Gophers, he averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds. To no one’s surprise, he left school and entered the NBA draft. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Utah. He spent two years with the Jazz, three years in Toronto, and part of a season in Dallas. He was traded to New Jersey during the 2009-10 season where he has finally been given an opportunity to play more than 13 minutes a game. He responded well. In 2010-11, he averaged 10.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, including making 44 starts. He sits out right now thanks to the NBA labor issues, but he will become a free agent at which point he should have a big pay day. Apparently, he got married recently too. Not sure if anyone heard about that.

#6 – Keith Ballard – Lake of the Woods (Baudette) – 11/26/82

Ballard played for Lake of the Woods high school in Baudette through his sophomore season. He then went to the USHL and spent a year with the US National Development team and a year in Omaha. Then in three years with the Gophers, he scored 33 goals and had 67 assists. He also was part of two national championship teams. In 2002, he was the 11th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres. He was traded two times before he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. Due to the NHL Lockout, he spent his first season in the minor leagues. He then spent four seasons with the Coyotes and two years with the Florida Panthers. Last year, he played for the Vancouver Canucks. He has scored 35 goals and assisted on another 121 goals. He has also played in many international competitions.

#5 – Zach Parise – Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Faribault) – 7/28/84

Parise is a rare top high school player who actually played four years at his high school. In 125 games during his final two seasons with Shattuck, he scored 146 goals and had another 194 assists. He spent two seasons at the University of North Dakota. The New Jersey Devils made him the 17th overall selection of the 2003 draft. He spent one year in the minor leagues before being promoted. He played in 81 or 82 games in each of his first five seasons before a torn meniscus limited him to just 13 games last year. He signed a one year, $6 million deal with the Devils for the 2011-12 season. In his six years, he has scored 163 goals and assisted on another 178. He has participated in many international competitions and really made a name for himself thanks to a great run in the 2010 Olympics.  

#4 – Marion Barber – Wayzata – 6/10/83

At Wayzata high school, Barber was a great all-around athlete. He was a sprinter in track, a centerfielder in baseball and a running back and defensive back in football. Football is in his blood. His dad played six seasons as a running back for the Jets in the 1980s. His brother Dominique is a safety with the Texans. As a senior in high school, Barber ran for nearly 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had ten interceptions, three of them off of Joe Mauer. He spent three seasons with the Gophers during which he scored 35 touchdowns. He entered the NFL draft following a junior season in which he teamed with Lawrence Maroney. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Dallas Cowboys. In six years with the Cowboys, he ran for nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also caught another 163 passes for another 1,231 yards and six touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler after a 2007 season in which he ran for 975 yards. He was released by the Cowboys and is now the #2 running back of the Chicago Bears.

#3 – Lindsay Whalen – Hutchinson – 5/9/82

Whalen was a four year starter at Hutchinson high school before leading the Gophers women’s basketball team to incredible popularity. Before she arrived, the Gophers had been to the NCAA tournament just one time. In her four years, they made it to the tournament three times, and no one in Minnesota will forget that Final Four run in 2004. Unfortunately, the WNBA didn’t allow regional signings and Whalen was selected with the 4th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Connecticut Sun. She led the Sun to the WNBA championship her first two seasons. She was traded to the Lynx and has played for them the past two years. Many believe that she should have been the 2011 WNBA MVP as she led the Lynx to the best record. In eight seasons, Whalen has averaged 12 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. She has played professionally in Prague the last couple of seasons as well.

#2 – Larry Fitzgerald – Holy Angels Academy – 8/31/83

Fitzgerald spent the final three football seasons of his high school career at the Academy of Holy Angels after a freshman year at Minnehaha Academy. Fitzgerald was a ball boy on Denny Green’s Vikings teams, and learned a lot from Cris Carter and Randy Moss. After a remarkable two-year career at the University of Pittsburgh in which he was a runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting, Green (coaching the Arizona Cardinals) drafted him with the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 draft. In his seven seasons with the Cardinals coming into this season, he had 613 catches for 8,204 yards and 65 touchdowns. He has been a Pro Bowler five times, and recently, he signed an 8 year, $120 million contract to remain with the Cardinals.     

#1 – Joe Mauer – Cretin-Derham Hall – 4/19/83

At Cretin-Derham Hall, Mauer averaged over 20 points per game. He was all-state his final two years. He was the national player of the year in both football and in baseball. To say he was a pretty good athlete might be an understatement. Florida State and Bobby Bowden offered Mauer a full ride to Mauer to play football, but when the Twins used the #1 overall pick in the 2001 draft (and a signing bonus north of $5 million), baseball became Mauer’s career. Mauer was on the fast track and on Opening Day 2004, he was the Twins catcher. Mauer is the only catcher in major league history to win three batting titles. He has played in four All Star games, won four Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove awards and was the 2009 American League MVP (When he led the AL in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage).  

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss in the Comments section.

Don’t Forget – The TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be on Saturday at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake during Game 1 of the Twins/Cleveland double header Gt there around 11:30 and stay through the game.


12 Responses to “Top 10 Pro Athletes Under 30 from Minnesota”

  1. DB September 20, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    Hey Seth! I think you might want to consider TJ Oshie for this list. He skated for Warroad High leading them to two MN class A state titles in 3 years. In 3 Years at UND he led the NCAA in game winning goals as a freshman, had a total of 59 goals and 83 assists. He was a multiple time WCHA final Five selection and and NCAA all-tournament selection. He has 44 goals and 77 assists in 3 years with the St. Louis Blues.

    • Seth September 20, 2011 at 8:22 am #

      Being I have lived in Warroad 11 of the last 14 years and watched him play in HS and followed his career, that may be a pretty big oversight on my part. His grandpa (Henry Boucha) was a pretty good hockey player as well. Oshie definitely should be either near the bottom of this list, or mentioned as a “will show up on this list soon!”

  2. Erik September 20, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Fitzgerald has to be ahead of Mauer unless this list is most accomplished in career and under 30 and even then I don’t recall Mauer leading the Twins to the World Series as Fitz and Warner led the Cards to within one play of a Super Bowl championship. I’d put Parise ahead of Barber as he’s been an all star all but one year in the league and was captain of the Olympic team that won a silver medal but he did not play 4 years at “high school” if he did he would have been in the MN state hockey tournament and played games against Edina, Breck, Warroad, Roseau, etc. Prep school is much different.

    • Nate September 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Erik I agree with both your takes. It could be a “what have you done for me lately” feeling, but Parise seems to have been very solid while Barber I feel like has underperformed much of the time. Also Fitzgerald has really been nothing but brilliant with only two seasons in which he didn’t reach 90 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving. On the other hand Mauer has been really good when healthy but has struggled mightily in a few bouts with injury. So I give Fitzgerald the nod on durability or maybe just frustration for Mauer’s 2011 season.

      • Seth September 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

        This isn’t a current best list, it’s about accumulation. I definitely would have no problem flip-flopping Fitzgerald and Mauer, although I don’t think that the Super Bowl has anything to do with that. Flip-flopping Parise and Barber would be fine too.

        I think that the ‘frustration for Mauer’s 2011 season’ factor shouldn’t be part of it. If that’s the case, then Parise missed most of last season, so would we drop him?

  3. tborg September 21, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    James Laurinaitis? I’d put him higher than Barber at this point.

    There have to be others, don’t there? If not, this is sort of a depressing list.

  4. mike wants wins September 21, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    On Fangraphs right now is an interview with John Gordon.

    Isn’t there some tennis player that could be on this list?

    • tborg September 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

      Mardy Fish (currently in the top 10 in the world in tennis) was born in Edina, but spent his formative years in Florida.

  5. SL__72 September 29, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    There are a ton of NHL players from MN.

    David Backes is a former MN HS hockey star and is currently the Blues captain and best player.

    Dustin Byfuglien didn’t play HS hockey in MN I don’t think but he was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Roseau.

    Alex Goligoski had a very good season last year.

    Kyle Okposo just signed a 5-year contract with the Islanders.

    For football, at this point I’d think Ryan Harris would be the #1 MN player.

    Marcus Sherels deserves a mention as an up-and-comer.

  6. SL__72 September 29, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Nevermind on Harris. I didn’t realize he was injured again.

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