National recruits Jones, Vaughn to compete in Timberwolves Shootout Jan. 5

 

 

Alex Conover
Wolves Editorial Associate

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The class of 2014 will go down as a special one in the history of Minnesota high school basketball.

The group—currently juniors—features an exceptional collection of talent, especially its top two college prospects: Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones and Robbinsdale Cooper’s Rashad Vaughn. Jones is the top-ranked player nationally in 2014 according to ESPN, and Vaughn is a couple slots behind at 10 overall, rated as the top shooting guard.

Anyone with an appreciation for hoops is wondering where they can see this duo play in person, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have your answer this year. On January 5th, the 17th annual Timberwolves Shootout will feature the much-awaited match-up between Apple Valley and Cooper, bringing these top talents against each other for the first time.

“It’s a great showcase event,” said Jeff Munneke, Vice President of Fan Experience and Community Youth Basketball. “To showcase not only the coaches and the community and the team, but also individual players where there are 50-60 college coaches here in the stands, watching these kids. It’s a good showcase for them, and plus it’s just good basketball.”

There are six other teams participating in the Shootout, including top players like post Reid Travis of DeLaSalle (scholarship offers from Minnesota, Boston College, Purdue, others) and sharpshooter Matt Thomas of Onalaska, Wisc. (committed to Iowa State). But make no mistake, the majority of tickets sold to this event will be with the intentions of seeing Jones versus Vaughn.

Holding the No. 1 ranking in the nation from ESPN is an incredible honor, especially when it means joining company such as LeBron James, Kevin Love and recent top NBA pick Anthony Davis. Tyus Jones has been recognized as a top prospect since he was an eighth grader on varsity, and his game tends to speak for itself.

“Tyus has the ball in his hands most of the time and just controls the game,” Munneke said. “Tyus makes people better. Probably the best analogy I can think of is a Jason Kidd-type player; he probably shoots a little better than Jason Kidd at the time. But he’s that type of player that also goes in and rebounds, plays D.”

And where Jones goes, the fans go as well. He’s been packing gyms left and right, most recently selling out a Breakdown tournament in Minnetonka two hours before gametime.

“The big games against good teams are packed,” said Ryan James, writer for GopherIllustrated.com and Northstar Hoops. “Apple Valley has had to put out advisories on those days to let people know that they have to get in the building early—or they won't get in. He's the biggest high school draw since Sam Jacobson sold out gyms on a game-by-game basis in the early 1990s.”

It goes without saying that Jones is highly recruited. His top eight college choices—Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State—are naturally an elite group. According to James, there are rumblings of frontrunners beginning to emerge.

“I think Kentucky and Duke are the favorites for Tyus,” James added, “but he's just listed the list of eight final teams as equal so far. The efforts of Coach Calipari and Coach K have really caught his attention, I've heard from my sources. Michigan State is there too, but I think third behind the blue schools. Publicly, Tyus has stated he's wide open.”

There have been no shortage of coaches calling the Vaughn household, either. The star from Cooper has over 20 offers from top programs, including Baylor, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse. The hometown Minnesota Gophers and rival Wisconsin Badgers are among the teams patiently hoping they make Vaughn’s final cut.

“I think that Rashad Vaughn is completely wide open right now without any favorites,” James said. “He's visited several schools already and continues to get offers. The latest was Florida.”

Vaughn plays a different game than Jones, as he is taller and longer. He often finishes above the rim or scores from deep. His size and athleticism projects him as an elite shooting guard at the next level. If not for Jones, he would be arguably the state’s top prospect since Hopkins’ Kris Humphries in 2003.

“He plays on the perimeter,” Munneke said of Vaughn. “He’s going to shoot jump shots, he’s really athletic. He can get to the basket. He’s long and rangey, and most of the top schools are having conversations with him.”

While Apple Valley played in last year’s event, this is the first time in the Shootout for new Cooper coach Steve Burton and his players. Munneke mentioned that one potential benefit of playing in the event is getting used to playing on the Target Center hardwood—the same court where the state championships are played in the spring.

“If we are fortunate to be playing there in March, we can say we have been before,” coach Burton said. “Also, with tourney-type atmosphere, we can be prepared for the rest of the season. We will be tournament-tested by the time sections start.”

It’s safe to say that everyone’s excited for this year’s marquee match-up at the Shootout. If you buy a ticket to the event, don’t be surprised if you end up sitting next to a college coach with his eyes keenly focused on two talented young men with bright futures.


For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.