New look suiting Titans well

The Tartan High School boys basketball team that advanced to the section final last season featured some seniors who played well down low. With those players now graduated, the Titans are going with a bit of a new look offensively.

Despite the change in tactics, Tartan has flourished through the first third of the season. The Titans, at 8-0, were one of only four unbeaten Class AAAA teams last week.

“We’re still trying to find a little bit of an identity,” said Tartan head coach Mark Klingsporn. “We’ve changed some things from last year based on personnel changes. We’re playing more four-guard offense and it’s kind of a process. I don’t expect us to be very good at it until the end of the January so it’s a work in progress.”

Tartan improved to 8-0 with a runaway victory over South St. Paul on Jan. 3. Four different Titans scored in double figures and a total of 10 made it onto the score sheet.

Despite the change, Klingsporn feels his squad hasn’t dropped off compared to last year’s team.

“I think we have as much potential as last year,” Klingsporn said. “We just have to skin the cat a little bit differently.”

Among the returning players is senior Jordan Horn, who is in his fourth season as a starter. He leads the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game and is the team leader.

“When your high school program is pretty solid, it’s hard to start as a freshman,” Klingsporn said. “I think we’ve had five guys who were four-year starters, so that says a little bit about his success.”

Also averaging double digits are seniors Joevon Walker and Jordan Thompson, who are averaging 13.6 and 11.1 points per game, respectively. Kingston Myles, another senior, has started since his sophomore year and is fourth on the team in scoring.

The South St. Paul game was the Metro East Conference opener for both teams. Tartan is the defending co-champion in the conference, but for Klingsporn and his players there is another title that occupies their attention more.

“Section tournament’s always the No. 1 goal,” said Klingsporn, who is in his 25th season as head coach at Tartan. “Game to game is the No. 1 thing we talk about with the idea that we’re ready in March for section play.”

Tartan last won a section championship and played in the state tournament in 2014. Last year’s squad appeared to have a good shot at making state but came up short in the section final against district rival North. 

“I think our team really felt like we let a section championship get away from us last year,” said Klingsporn. “We played really well in the section semifinal, but we didn’t play so well in the section final.”

Tartan was the No. 3 seed in Section 4AAAA last year and, after a low-scoring victory over Stillwater in the first round, faced a challenge in playing at second-seeded Cretin-Derham Hall in the semifinals. The Titans beat the Raiders by eight points to gain the final.

In the section title game, Tartan and fourth-seeded North went back and forth before the Polars pulled out the 70-65 win.

Section 4AAAA will undoubtedly be tough again this season, but the playoffs are more than a month away. There are plenty of other things to worry about in the here and now.

For Tartan, that includes a pair of Metro East Conference road games this week. The Titans visit Simley on Jan. 10 and Mahtomedi on Jan. 13.

Mahtomedi is one of the top teams in the state in Class AAA and a serious contender in the Metro East Conference.


Hall of famer

Prior to the beginning of the season, Klingsporn was inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was one of four inductees who were feted at a ceremony on Nov. 5 in Minneapolis.

During his coaching career, which included eight years as an assistant at Tartan and four years as the head coach at North, Klingsporn has won more than 500 games. 

Klingsporn said the hall of fame honor is more a reflection on the program than on the individual.

“I think that it’s a program thing; it’s not a ‘me’ thing,” said Klingsporn. “There are a lot of things that go into it. Administrative support goes into that. I think your assistant coaches go into that and obviously all the kids you’ve had play in the past. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of good kids.”

In 25 seasons at Tartan, Klingsporn, who graduated from the school in 1976, has coached nine teams to the state tournament and the 2000 squad won the state championship. He has eight conference championships and Tartan has posted 18 straight 20-win seasons. He has won multiple section coach-of-the-year awards and was the Class AAAA coach of the year in 2000.

“I’ve been blessed to have kids who I can challenge to be better players and better people and they’ve responded to that,” Klingsporn said. “That’s how we’ve been successful. To me, it’s a Tartan thing. I’m proud that our high school basketball program is considered one of the best in the state for a long term.”


Brian Meyers can be reached at or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.


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