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Under the basket at Minnehaha Academy, Shoreview natives Joe Doerrer and Nolan Newberg trained their phone cameras on the spindly 7-foot, 1-inch presence at center court. Chet Holmgren, then a senior with the Redhawks, towered over the rest of the gym, his black face mask and navy-blue jersey amplifying his foreboding stature. For Doerrer and Newberg's fledgling social media brand Strictly Bball, the nation's No. 1 prospect represented opportunity.

Holmgren finished off alley-oop after alley-oop that night in February 2021. He twisted through the lane, barely leaving the ground to throw down monster jams on his overmatched opponents. Strictly Bball captured it all. Overnight, their 59-second TikTok about the game took off. It now has just shy of 5 million views.

Featuring Holmgren, who's projected to be among the first few picks in the NBA draft on Thursday, catapulted best friends Doerrer and Newberg into the forefront of online high school basketball coverage on their first foray into the niche. Today, Strictly Bball has 1.2 million followers and over 81 million likes on TikTok, claiming to be the "#1 Source for High School Hoops Stories."

"Chet was so fun to watch up close," Doerrer said. "Honestly, at the start, it was just fun to be back in a live sporting event. We didn't really expect it to be our biggest piece of content."

Doerrer and Newberg, each 21, were next-door neighbors in Shoreview, best friends since preschool. They made their first attempt at a basketball edit together in 2013 for Vine, the social media platform that featured strictly seven-second videos. Doerrer held up his iPod to the TV to videotape a DeAndre Jordan poster dunk, a video of a video they laid over a soundtrack.

"We grew up together, so I guess we're kind of oriented the same way as friends and as business partners," Newberg said. "It's just super crazy that we get to work together and we're building this brand."

They started the TikTok page in February 2020, but growth stalled in the months before the Minnehaha game. Their short videos, typically close-up, vertical shots of one of the friends giving his NBA opinions, had only generated about 5,000 new followers in the previous six months. NBA content was increasingly saturated on TikTok, and Strictly Bball got lost in the noise.

"Right after the Chet Holmgren video we kind of realized like, all right, this is definitely a really untapped market," Newberg said. "It's an untapped market that we really want to gear our content towards and really think we could find a lot of success doing high school basketball."

They capitalized on the wealth of high school basketball talent in Minnesota to carve out their niche. Besides Holmgren, that Minnehaha team had such stars as Hercy and Mercy Miller and Prince Aligbe. Strictly Bball also featured Cretin-Derham Hall's Tre Holloman and Totino-Grace's Taison Chatman and Duluth sharpshooters Bjorn and Anders Broman.

The audience that attracted in the state has now pushed them across the Midwest. From their home base in Doerrer's basement, the two have already traveled to Ohio, Indiana and South Dakota this year to cover Amateur Athletic Union tournaments, racking up millions of views with their signature style — voiceover on quick-cut highlights shot from the baseline, just like the first time at Minnehaha.

"I would attribute our success mainly to our ability to effectively tell a story," Newberg said. "Basically, all of our content now is either a specific play, or if it's a whole entire game, it's just how well we can tell a story and keep the viewer engaged throughout the entirety of the video."

That may not sound challenging when their videos rarely top a minute and a half, but the nature of TikTok makes it easy to scroll to the next video as soon as the scroller gets bored. Capturing and keeping attention on the platform is an art form with unlimited potential.

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon, an assistant professor at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, said it's too early to know if the extreme short-form storytelling Strictly Bball uses has staying power, but she said its potential to capture audiences is exciting.

"These sort of videos require low participation from users — users need to fill less the gaps in information — and with many senses involved, they may foster a higher-level involvement from a user perspective," Bélair-Gagnon said via email. "In a way, you can compare that to streaming or when television arrived in the household decades ago replacing previous forms of media. … And that relates to your point about Strictly Bball in Minnesota, where fans can look at particular plays or fun musical moments rather than consume the whole game."

At least for now, it's worked for Doerrer and Newberg. They can charge $2,000 for a sponsored TikTok and have made up to $10,000 in a month with the account. There's a Strictly Bball shop on the web, too.

Five years from now, it's hard to know where they'll be, Newberg said. As long as they're telling the stories they want to tell, they're happy.

"We've thrown around different ideas like hosting youth basketball camps that are centered around content, we make content around them, or maybe different events that we can host that could really amplify what we're doing," Doerrer said. "But right now, the focus is on the content and just growing on all the platforms we're on."