Shootout Alumni Recall Talent, Atmosphere and Exclusivity Of Event

by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

 

Wolves forward Kevin Love and Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, pictured above in 2012, are two of 26 Timberwolves Shootout alumni who made it onto NBA training camp or regular season rosters in their basketball careers. (Photo credit: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

NBA Alums Recall Shootout's Talent, Atmosphere & Exclusivity

Wolves fans are well aware of Kevin Love’s game by now. The two-time All-Star just led the NBA in scoring during the month of December, he’s still leading the NBA in rebounds per game this season and he’s putting up a career high in assists per game in 2013-14.

Long story short, Love is cementing his status as one of the NBA’s premier players every night he steps on the court.

But long before the All-Star Games, the national telecasts and even a trip to the NCAA Final Four, Love was showcasing glimpses of what was to come as a high school senior at the Timberwolves Shootout. In 2006-07, Love put on a clinic as his Lake Oswego (Ore.) team squared off against Osseo. By the time the game was over, Love put up 41 points, 17 boards and blocked seven shots—and in the process, he unleashed a full-court chest pass to Rick Adelman’s son, Pat, that Wolves Vice President of Fan Experience Jeff Munneke still considers the No. 2 highlight in the Shootout’s 17 years.

“That was fun, that was a lot of fun to come here,” Love said. “And always in an NBA arena when you’re a senior in high school or anytime you’re in high school, it’s an unbelievable experience.”

Love is one of 26 Shootout Alumni who eventually made it to the NBA—and countless others have come through and gone on to play major college basketball. It begs the question who might be coming through the doors on Saturday for the 18th annual Timberwolves Shootout? Who might we see in the NBA a few years down the road?

Last night’s Wolves game against the Pelicans was a prime example of Shootout alumni making good on their NBA dreams. Love notched 21 points on the night, while fellow Shootout alum and 2013 NBA All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday added 19 points and five assists for the Pelicans.

Holiday played for Campbell Hall in high school, and he actually played in the Shootout twice—once during Love’s year of 2006-07 and another time in 2007-08. He’d follow Love to UCLA, though the two did not play together there as Love left for the NBA Draft after his freshman year.

What surprised both Holiday and Love about the Shootout as the passion and enthusiasm of the fans who participated in the event. Both being from the West Coast, it was the first time they’d experienced Minnesota sports in person. Love said it was a great crowd on hand, and it gave him an indication of how much support sports teams at any level in this state—high school, college or pros—can receive from the fanbase.

Holiday said the same thing.

“I’d never been to Minnesota, but at first I was surprised at how good the talent is out here,” Holiday said. “But basketball is for real. The arena gets crazy, it gets loud, and it gets even louder for an NBA game. So basketball around here is for real.”

The list goes on. Currently in the NBA, players ranging from Steve Blake and Josh Smith to Wesley Matthews, DeMarcus Cousins and Nate Wolters all played in the Timberwolves shootout during their high school careers.

Matthews, now with the Blazers, happened to come through Target Center last year on the same day the Timberwolves Shootout took place. He reminisced a bit about that day, as his James Madison Memorial High School squad beat Tartan 59-50 in 2004-05.

“It was a lot of fun,” Matthews said. “It’s not too often in high school you get to play in an NBA arena against an out-state team. We embraced it.”

That’s another major part of the draw of the Timberwolves Shootout. For the players, they get to experience incredible talent playing head-to-head, they get the enthusiasm of the crowd and they get the thrill of playing in an NBA arena.

Holiday, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, said he always dreamed of getting to play at Staples Center. Target Center, he said, was the closest chance he got to that before making the jump to college and the pros.

Looking back, these NBA players seem to feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play in such a high-profile national event. Today’s Shootout is more regional than in years past, primarily pitting the top Minnesota schools against the best of the Midwest, but the talent is still a top draw.

The Division-I and NBA alumni list, which continues to grow each year, attests to that.

“It shows the status of how good the tournament is,” Holiday said. “Obviously there will be many more.”

Love’s Lake Oswego program was a perennial power when he was there—winning a state championship and getting to another state final in his last two years with the team. Adelman noted earlier this year just how good the competition out in the Oregon high school ranks was during those years, so Lake Oswego certainly earned the national spotlight. Getting to participate in the Timberwolves Shootout was another honor that team earned during Love’s high school years.

“This is one of the, I believe, the national events, so it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of players go on to the next level in college but even the next level in the NBA, too,” Love said. “It was pretty cool to see.”


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