Northsiders resist surge in gun violence

MSR News Online (June 6, 2016)

After several shootings in North Minneapolis during the month of April of this year, crime statistics show that violent crime has increased by 11 percent over last year at this time. If you think the residents of North Minneapolis are accepting this violence, then guess again. Saturday, June 4, from 10 am to 4 pm marked the 7th annual “Stop the Violence March” and rally. READ MORE…

Minneapolis North fulfills expectations

Three years ago, Tyler Johnson, Isaac Johnson, O’ Dell Wilson IV and Jamil Jackson Jr. were the foursome that was going to lead Minneapolis North back to the Promised Land. They were going to restore the memories of dominance in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

Their coach, Larry McKenzie, was new to North but an accomplished veteran — winning four consecutive Class 3A titles at Minneapolis Patrick Henry from 1999-2002 — who had just finished a short stint at Holy Angels.

Expectations were high. The Polars were talented but young. READ MORE…

Minneapolis North rebuilding basketball legacy after Class A championship win

KMSP (April 10, 2016)

They built a basketball legacy in the 1990s, but low enrollment and the near closure of North High School in 2010 took a toll on the program. But after nabbing a state championship title last month, many say the school is on the rise again. “For us to end the season on a win, it feels good. I can’t explain it,” Senior Jamil Jackson said. Winning is something North High’s boys basketball team does well.

“From 1980 on, Minneapolis North dominated basketball, one of the best programs in the state,” Coach Larry McKenzie said. But for the last 13 years, there hasn’t been much to celebrate. The school went down from 1,700 kids to roughly 60 to 70 kids,” McKenzie said. “What was traditional a great program with a big legacy had dropped off the map.” Now the basketball program is having a resurgence and the school is academically on the rise as well. “This is the beginning of a new era for the North High,” Jackson said. READ MORE…

Community Swells With Pride As Polar’s Win State Hoops Title

Insight News (March 22, 2016)

A school that was on the chopping blocks four years ago can now again call itself a champion. The Polars of North Community High School are state champions in Class 1A boys basketball following a 68 – 45 win in the title game over Goodhue, March 12 at the Target Center. In a bit of irony, just four years ago when North was set to close, enrollment at the school was just 68 students – one student per point scored by the Polars in the championship game.

Now, thanks to protests and community pushback, North’s enrollment is just above 300, graduation rates are up 28 percent and 90 percent of the school’s seniors are slated to graduate in a couple of months. “Nine out of the 12 kids on this team are on the A and B honor roll; that’s what I’m most proud of,” said North head coach, Larry McKenzie. “Four of our five starters are on the honor roll. We have three seniors who are going to college next year. That’s what this is all about. These are student athletes in every sense of the word.” READ MORE…

Minneapolis North Takes State

MSR News (March 16, 2016)

For Minneapolis North and head coach Larry McKenzie, the third time was the charm. During his post game conference, McKenzie – who led Minneapolis Patrick Henry to four Class AAA titles from 2000-2003 – made it clear that while he was happy to get title number five, it wasn’t just about him or his players. “We are glad to be here,” he said smiling during his opening statement. “We worked hard for this. This championship is for the school and community. “READ MORE…

Back at State, Minneapolis North Inspired and Challenged by Program’s Celebrated Past

Channel 5 Eyewitness News (March 9, 2016)

Minneapolis North Community School’s boys basketball program was as powerful a powerhouse as you’ll see in prep sports. In 23 years from 1980 to 2003, the Polars made fifteen State Tournament appearances. They finished as runners-up three times and claimed five State Championships in 1980, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2003.

The teams from ’95-’97 are regarded among the most talented, if not *the* most talented, in Minnesota high school hoops history. Point guard Khalid El-Amin, who later led UCONN to a college championship, was the leader. It would have been hard to imagine after that most recent State trip in 2003 that Minneapolis North wouldn’t return for 13 years. It also would have been hard to imagine the school would shut down. In 2010, that was the proposal from Minneapolis Schools’ Superintendent. With enrollment depleting and academic standards slipping, the school that had truly served as a “Community School” since 1888 was on the chopping block. READ MORE (AND WATCH)…

Minneapolis North finds fire in tradition of boys’ basketball

The Polars return to the state tournament after a 13-year absence with a goal of honoring their past.

Minneapolis Star Tribune (March 8, 2016)

The basketball history is so rich at Minneapolis North that there are times before practice starts when coach Larry McKenzie calls his players over, has them sit on the court and just look at the championship banners hanging on the wall.

“We use that as motivation,”senior guard Tyler Johnson said. “Do we want to make a name for ourselves? Can we be remembered as one of the great teams in North history?”

The Polars, once considered a yearly state tournament shoo-in, have been conspicuously absent for more than a decade. The last time North – a program with five state titles, 19 state tournament appearances and its distinguished alumni – qualified for the state tournament was 2003.

“Who would have thought North would have a 13-year drought?” McKenzie asked.

That lengthy hiatus is over. Ranked No. 1 for most of the season, the Polars cruised through the Section 4 playoffs and earned the top seed in the Class 1A bracket. They play first-time entrant St. Clair in Thursday’s quarterfinals at Williams Arena, their first step on a path the entire north side of Minneapolis hopes will lead to another state championship. READ MORE…

Totino-Grace boys’ basketball coach teaches through ‘odd one out’ feeling

Robert Ware, the first-year Totino-Grace basketball coach, teaches on and off the court.

Minneapolis Star Tribune (February 15, 2016)

Robert Ware’s first brush with Totino-Grace basketball came in 1998 when his Minneapolis Henry team played the Eagles and star Darius Lane. In those days, hoops fans showed up to the Fridley private school gym by 4 p.m. to ensure a bleacher seat for a 7 p.m. varsity tipoff. Ware grew up in Minneapolis. “My biological dad wasn’t around – ever,” Ware said. “I had a bad relationship with my mom and the different things going on in her life. I stayed with friends from time to time. That really saved me. That and coach [Larry] McKenzie and the basketball family [at Henry]. That kept us out of trouble. Then once I really learned what hard work was about, I bought in. READ MORE…