HAMPTON, VA -- One of the things you can depend on when watching Team Howard Pulley in action during the Nike EYBL circuit, is that point guard Tyus Jones is always going to show. I've covered the AAU circuit in person for about a decade now, and along the way there have been a few special players who always seem to have their team in the game and with whom you can feel confident that when the ball is in their hands at crunch time, good things will happen.
The best prospect I have ever seen in this regard was former Duke PG Kyrie Irving, now an NBA stud. Irving, though, was special and that made you want to watch all of his games. Jones may [private] not be in Irving's elite class, but he's not far from it, for he has that gift of squeezing out the best from his teammates, even when they are not the most talented bunch.
More so than ever this EYBL season, Jones has had that special presence. He wants the ball when the game is on the line. Whether it is scoring the ball, getting off a tough pass to a teammate, or finding a way to get to the line, Jones thinks on the fly with the best of them. And he demonstrated all of that this past weekend in Hampton.
Another thing I noticed is that Jones is starting to get his opponents' best shot every time out, as players try to prove themselves against the best, in front of the various talent evaluators at these events, and boost their own rankings in the process. One such game where Jones stood out was a match-up against Wisconsin Elite and star guard Rashad Vaughn, a fellow Minnesota standout being recruited by the likes of UNC and others. The two went at it all game long in front of a bevy of America's best coaches, including Duke head man Mike Krzyzewski, who never missed a minute of any of Jones' games.
In a close, high-scoring game, Jones once again took over down the stretch. It started on the defensive end with a key steal, leading to his drawing a foul which helped Howard Pulley tie the game. With a minute left in the game and the score tied, Jones wiggled free for a three-point dagger. A game Wisconsin Elite team answered, cutting the lead to 81-80, but Jones iced the game with another three-pointer, giving his team an 84-80 win in one of the session's better games.
"Up and down, more of a motion offense and style," Jones stated post-game when asked what kind of team he wants to play for in college. It was easy to see from his performance that this is a kid who could man the controls with ease for a program like Duke.
As you have seen in our other interviews, Jones is saying he wants to make a Fall decision, but if you are looking for a tip on where he is leaning, you are unlikely to get it from the many interviews he does. Jones is quick to crack a smile but he has a serious poker face as well. He knows how to navigate the unsteady waters of recruiting and the recruiting media just as effectively as he does a defense when he enters the lane.
"In the college game, I just try to watch all the point guards and take bits and pieces from each one. In the NBA, I love watching Chris Paul and how he takes apart the game," said Jones post-game.
It's no wonder why Krzyzewski has taken such a liking to Jones and wants to coach him, for he is a good Duke fit and a player the Blue Devils would like to grow even more.
When asked what he would work on as the summer begins, Jones said, "Just overall speed and strength."
Jones is a cool customer on the court, never out of control and an assist machine. In the past, it's amazed me how much he stuffs the stat sheet in that his smooth performances are not choppy in nature but almost like a silent, steady killer. In other words, you think he has 16 and 5 only to find out he has 28 points and 12 assists. He just blends in without being overly flashy like some players try to be in an effort to be noticed.
I joked with Tyus, whose mom liked the name from having heard of former UCLA guard Tyus Edney, that he was like "Jack Frost" on the hardwood, cool and deadly. That earned a little smile for he is not the type to pound you with cocky assertions while being interviewed.
"I'm just trying to make plays, that is what I am always trying to do. My teammates have been playing great this weekend, so I feel I owe it to them to make a play down the stretch and that's what I've tried to do the last two games," said Jones, always one to defer to his teammates after a win.
Jones is a competitor. He just finds ways to help his team win. He's a young man well aware that not all the teams playing now will end up in a steamy Augusta, South Carolina come July for the Nike Peach Jam. If you get the opportunity to see Jones in person, look at the determination on his face as he drives a crowded lane and watch how he finds the best opportunity presented him, taking advantage of any little weakness by his defenders.
"Definitely, definitely. Peach Jam is the ultimate goal, so every win you can get whether it's by one point or fifty points, each one is key," said Jones when I asked him of his drive and the importance he seemingly placed on every game.
"Competitive game, overtime, it was a great game," I said to Jones.
Jones agreed. "It was. It was a great game. Going back and forth all game long, there is nothing better than good competition, so it was fun."
And it is becoming fun to watch Tyus Jones and how he finds ways to help his Howard Pulley team win. [/private]
I take a look back at the Nike EYBL Session 2 and give my thoughts on prospects and how they may have improved from a season ago. Here is my take on some of the key Duke prospects with some added tidbits -
Justise Winslow - The thing that most impressed me about Justise Winslow was his court vision which makes him a really good passing wing. Winslow plays on a very talented team which is interchangeable at some positions. There are times when he [private] brings the ball up the court which is a testament to his getting better with his overall handle since a season ago. Winslow is a team oriented player who seems well versed in what he can and cannot get away with in that he is in touch with his capabilities. He can take his man off the dribble an moves strong to the rack when he gets his man on his hip or a screen is set. Winslow can also battle inside due to his strength. I can certainly understand why Krzyzewski and the staff prefer him over Theo Pinson. IMO, Winslow has done a better job of harnessing his skill set and it certainly doesn't hurt that he's a high character kid on and off the court, valuing education and showing a wise mind when dealing with media and teammates alike. Duke is in sold shape here and Winslows' brother probably prefers the Blue Devils but he glows when talking of Arizona too, so there is work to be done and this one will likely come down to the wire.
Theo Pinson - The athletic wing has moments where he seems to lost his focus and that does not always allow for a consistent effort. But when he is on, he's a very talented young man who plays at a high level. Pinson still needs work on his stroke and finishing better on drive. Actually, he would be better served kicking out more often when he finds traffic on drives instead of trying to create a sensational shot. Duke is still recruiting Pinson but it is clear that he is their second choice to Winslow at this time but as we know in recruiting, things can change in a days time.
Tyus Jones - Jones is a flat-out competitor and a cool customer. I have said in the past that he's a silent killer at times and this season he demands the ball even more when the game is on the line. And his Howard Pulley teammates want the ball in his hands for he always seems to come through at crunch time. Pulley seems to always play in close games and they overachieve due to Jones play. I joked with him during an interview that he was "Jack Frost," in that he is so cool in the clutch, almost always coming through. In fact, it would be story worth and draw attention if he flopped when the game is on the line for it is so rare it happens. Jones has a shifty speed which is not jet like but is effective in that he changes speed well. His handle is solid and he can get shots off even when everybody in the gym knows a shot is coming often getting to the line. He's also a deadly three-point threat even when not open and he can find the seams in the defense making him a ridiculous stat stuff with concerns to assists. Jones maintains that he will be a package deal with Jahlil Okafor and Coach K and Izzo among others were at all of his games.
Devin Booker - Duke is still recruiting or staying in touch with Booker despite getting a verbal from Grayson Allen. Booker has good defensive footwork and likes playing on ball defense. He has a nice stroke from the outside or can break you off the dribble. He also hustles non stop or at least he did in my views. He seems well versed in the game of basketball and plays with a quiet, cool confidence.
Elijah Thomas - He is not a super flashy big man, just one who gets the job done, defends well and can throw down dunks with ease. Thomas is still getting use to his frame and he can intimidate opponents. He plays with enthusiasm and confidence and is alight hearted kind of kid off the court, whose Mom plays a huge role in his life. He is a big time prospect in next seasons class that likes Duke a lot but he has other schools who are right there as well. Thomas will draw more and more attention, so strap yourself in for a long recruitment on this one.
Harry Giles - Coach K really, really like this kid and was the first coach in the gym to see him in his opening game. Giles? He's a long, lean, sure-fire talent who is incredibly coordinated for his height and age. Potential. He's oozes in it and he was one of the few kids playing on the 16U teams which drew a bevy of major college coaches, Giles mentioned that he is already tiring of the media process, so stay tuned. He seems a bit shy off the court but not so much so on it. While he can not always be super vocal, he does talk on the court and directs teammates for he understands spacing well at his age. He took it the length of the court for slams, made sweeping hook moves where he kissed the ball off glass and attributes his handle to wanting to be a guard when he was growing up. Ridiculous upside. [/private]
HAMPTON, VA -- The Nike EYBL tour continued this past weekend as session 2 took place in Hampton, Virginia, and BDN was once again there to cover the grassroots event. One of the players who continues to impress with his hustle and great footwork is Devin Booker, a 6'5" WG from Mississippi.
Many have wondered aloud if Grayson Allen's recent commitment to the Blue Devils would affect Booker's recruitment. We sought out the answer to that in our chat with Booker.
Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski [private] watched him play in his last game yesterday and Booker showed well. Before that, Steve Wojciechowski took in one of his games.
Booker told Blue Devil Nation that Duke is still in contact with him and that the Blue Devils are still on his list. But he also admitted that the verbal from Grayson Allen does have some effect. At the same time, though, he followed up quickly by saying he is not afraid of competition and having to earn a spot wherever he decides to go to school. The most important factor in choosing a school will be the trust he feels with his eventual coach.
Booker said this his recruitment would slow in the summer while he just concentrates on getting better. Michigan State, Michigan, Missouri, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and some others have continued to show interest. He is set to cut his list by the end of summer but at this point he doesn't know how many teams would make the list.
As for camps, it looks as if he will attend one of the Nike Skills Academies, but he was undecided on which one. He also mentioned a desire to compete with USA Basketball.
It remains to be seen what the future holds with concern to Duke recruiting him, but sources close to the situation indicated he was still on their list. [/private]
LOS ANGELES – Over the years Texas has mostly been known as a football state. High school football runs rampant in small and big towns all over the state. It’s become a ritual for cities to flock to their local high school games on Friday nights and watch the stars of the future. However, there’s been a change over recent years in Texas. What once was a football state has now brought out some of the top basketball talent in the country. One only needs to look at the team listings for the Nike EYBL and see that the state of Texas alone has four AAU teams in the league, more than any other state.
Next year Duke will sport two players from the state of Texas in sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon and incoming freshman Matt Jones. Duke will hope to continue the Texas pipeline by adding 2014 wing Justise Winslow. Winslow, who attends St. Johns School, a very strict academic institution, has been on Duke’s radar for quite some time now. The 6’6 wing has a chiseled frame that would allow him to step onto a NCAA court right now. Recently he was awarded the Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the state of Texas, an honor that was won by Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart last year.
Winslow, who hails from Houston, credits his excellent academics to his brothers, specifically his older brother, Joshua Winslow, who plays defensive back for Dartmouth. Being an excellent student, Winslow says that academics will be a factor in his decision. His brother Joshua is pushing him to [private] choose the best academic school possible when Justise makes his final decision.
In the first session of the EYBL in Los Angeles Winslow’s Houston Hoops team went 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 24.5 points. His team is filled with athletic Division 1 prospects which include future North Carolina Tar Heel Justin Jackson, Khadeem Lattin and Kelly Oubre. On a team filled with talent Winslow still shines through. Winslow ran point-forward for Houston Hoops and looked very natural doing it. Perhaps his best attribute is his passing skills which allow an offense to be run through him. His strong frame allows him to get to the basket and finish through contact. Winslow also has a knack for not taking bad shots, a quality lost on many young basketball talents. In 4 games of the first session Winslow averaged 14.5 points, 4.3 assists, 6.8 rebounds, and 52 percent shooting from the field.
BlueDevilNation caught up with the top priority prospect and discussed his recruiting, his high school, why he likes to read the Wall Street Journal and other topics.
BlueDevilNation: What do you feel like you’ve most improved on over this past year?
JW: I think really just being a leader out there. Someone who my teammates can respect. Also my shooting and ball handling, reading pick and rolls and things like that.
BDN: What do you feel you still need to improve on?
JW: Well everything. You never can be satisfied, but, you know, especially my shooting and ball handling.
BDN: I don’t believe I’ve seen one yet but have you made a final list?
JW: No, not a final list. I’m down to 10 right now.
BDN: Who are those final 10?
JW: North Carolina, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Texas A&M, Baylor, University of Houston, Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford.
BDN: Do you have a timeframe for when you’d like to make your decision?
JW: I’m going to narrow it down pretty soon, probably going into June. Hopefully I can sign and be committed by November.
BDN: So the early period then.
JW: Yea, hopefully.
BDN: You had a few in-home visits recently. Take me through the Arizona one if you could.
JW: Well they were my first one. It was Thursday at noon. They came over and it went pretty well. Coach Miller thinks I’m the key to him getting to his first Final Four. But, you know, over the years I’ve built a good relationship with Coach Miller so it was really a comfortable visit.
BDN: You also had one with Duke as well. Could you take me through that visit?
JW: You know, Coach K, I had an unofficial visit with them this past spring also. Coach K thinks I can come in and step in and be that elite wing that they’ll be missing in the next couple of years with probably Jabari leaving and Hood leaving also. They just think I can come in and have an instant impact. And just the Duke brand and education.
BDN: What’s your relationship like with Coach K?
JW: Great. He was the USA basketball coach and I made the USA 17U team so I got to meet him there and talk to him there. He’s a great guy.
BDN: Speaking about your USA experience. Do you think that has translated over to your high school and AAU playing?
JW: I think with the USA experience, you know, no one’s really playing selfishly so it kind of helps you identify your role on whatever team you’re playing with. I think that’s something I carried into school and into AAU just to know my role and try to play to the best of my abilities.
BDN: Have the Duke coaches compared you to anyone by any chance?
JW: Well they compared me to Gerald Henderson and Grant Hill, things like that. But they also say that I’m special and unique in my own way.
BDN: You ran a lot of point for Houston Hoops, does that differ from your role in high school?
JW: Ah not really. I would just say in school ball I have the ball in my hand a lot and I run the floor. But out here, I do whatever the coach wants me to do and it goes back to just knowing my role and playing my role.
BDN: Are you taking any official visits soon?
JW: Official? No. I think I’m going to try and take an unofficial to UCLA soon because I haven’t been out there with Coach Alford there. So that’s something I’m looking to do.
BDN: Have you spoken with Coach Alford recently?
JW: Yea I had an in-home with him.
BDN: How do you like him?
JW: Oh he’s cool. He’s young, energetic. I like his style of play.
BDN: Other than a school championship next year, what are your personal goals?
JW: To win the Gatorade Player of the Year again for Texas.
BDN: You won it this year. Congratulations.
JW: Thank you. You know, to make those McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand game.
BDN: Did you get a chance to watch those games this year?
JW: I watched the McDonald’s game but I didn’t get a chance to watch the Jordan Brand game. You know that’s just one of my goals since growing up.
BDN: Oh absolutely. I wanted to ask you about your fantastic competitive drive. Where does that come from? Was it natural or did you learn it over the years?
JW: I think that just, being the youngest in my family, never winning, I just tried so hard to win. I used to get, not picked on, but, my older siblings would bug me and pick on me a little bit. Toughen me up. So I think that’s really what makes me a tough competitor.
BDN: You have an older brother at Dartmouth, correct?
JW: Yes sir.
BDN: What’s his influence on you like?
JW: He’s a great influence on me. He wants me to be the best player, but, in this recruiting process he wants me to go to the best academic school possible.
BDN: Well he’s at a great school. I saw you recently tweeted a picture of you reading the Wall Street Journal. Do you read that often?
JW: (laughs) Kinda, not really. But I think it’s good to be up to date with the current events, with the things going on in Boston and Korea. It’s good to know about those things.
BDN: Do you have a favorite subject in school at all?
JW: Math and physics.
BDN: You also said you recently saw the movie 42 (Jackie Robinson Story). How was that?
JW: Oh it was great. In school ball I actually wear 42 kind of for that reason. So that’s just a big role model in my life because he did so much for baseball and for other sports.
BDN: Oh I had no idea. You go to a fantastic academic school in St. Johns. How did that decision come about?
JW: Just, you know, my siblings, my brother, the one at Dartmouth went there. He was a big role model in my life. Going back to the academic thing he just wants me to go to the best academic school possible. So going there provided me with a chance because if basketball doesn’t work out..
BDN: You’d have something to fall back on..
JW: Exactly. Exactly.
BDN: Thanks a lot for your time. Good luck the rest of the weekend.
JW: No problem. Thank you. [/private]
LOS ANGELES – As Duke’s search for wing players continues it has brought them to Jalen Lindsey, a 6’6 swingman from Nashville Tennessee. Lindsey, who currently sports a 4.0 GPA, says that Duke has recently expressed interest in him. The swingman possesses solid athleticism which he thinks is one of his strengths. Lindsey, who plays for Christ Presbyterian Academy, is coming off of back to back Class AA state championships and many believe his team is in line for a threepeat next year. This past year he won the state championship tournament MVP as well as the Mr. Basketball award for the state of Tennessee.
BlueDevilNation was able to catch up with the Nashville product and discuss the new interest from Duke.
BlueDevilNation: For someone who hasn’t seen you before could you give us a scouting report?
Jalen Lindsey: I’m definitely, I’m really athletic. I use my athleticism a lot. You know, I can knock down the three too. It’s kind of an all around game so you gotta be prepared for anything.
BDN: What would you consider a strength of yours then? [private]
JL: Athleticism definitely.
BDN: What do you feel you have to work on?
JL: Oh definitely ball handling. That’s something I’ve been working on for months and months lately, years actually.
BDN: Is there any player you try and model your game after?
JL: Uh not really, not really.
BDN: You’re just kind of your own guy?
JL: (laughs) Yes sir.
BDN: Does your role differ from AAU to high school ball?
JL: Yea it’s completely different cause I’m like the tallest guy on my high school team so I’m kind of a post man, post-forward. And in here (AAU) I’m a 3 so I have to go back and forth between those two.
BDN (Andrew Slater): You won a state title this past year…
JL: Yes, yes. Second year in a row.
BDN: Do you view yourself as a 3 or a 2?
JL: I do, I view myself as a 3 and every college coach and a lot of my friends tell my I’m going to play the 3 in college and hopefully if I go to the NBA I’ll play the same position.
BDN: What’s your current height and weight?
JL: I’m 6’6 195lbs.
BDN (Andrew Slater): What kind of student are you?
JL: I have a 4.0GPA
BDN (Andrew Slater): Wow..you’re articulate so..
JL: (laughs) My dad, my mom and dad are on me about grades so I definitely work hard in class.
BDN: Do you have any recent offers?
JL: Not any recent offers. I have 20 total offers, I couldn’t name them all right now but not any recent offers.
BDN: Any schools that have recently come into play?
JL: Yea, uh, Duke has been coming onto me pretty hard. Duke’s been coming in pretty hard lately.
BDN: Have you spoken with them recently?
JL: I have. I spoke to Coach James like 2 days ago.
BDN: Did they say they’d be here to watch?
JL: Yes, definitely.
BDN: What do you know about Duke?
JL: You know, I know Duke’s a great school. Great coach and they got a lot of background and I really like Duke.
BDN: So you would be open to them?
JL: Yea, definitely.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Have you taken any recent visits?
JL: I haven’t. I haven’t.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Do you have any planned?
JL: I plan on taking some visits during the summer but I’m not sure which ones.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Are you going to cut down on your list?
JL: Yea, sooner or later I will. Sooner or later I’m going to cut down on it to where there’s less schools.
BDN (Andrew Slater): More manageable?
JL: Yea exactly. I’m just taking my time right now.
BDN (Andrew Slater): What are some factors that are going to be in your decision?
JL: Academics for sure. And then you got the facility and the relationship between the coaches is a big thing for me too.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Just out of curiosity how did you select your high school?
JL: My coach I’ve been playing with him since I was young..
BDN (Andrew Slater): I remember he played college ball at Vanderbilt?
JL: Vanderbilt, yea. So I’ve played with him since I was little, I was on his AAU team so I joined them and that was it.
BDN: And just one last question. You have a new teammate in Grayson Allen can you give me a scouting report on him?
JL: Grayson’s a great player. He’s athletic, he can dribble, he can shoot, he’s got the whole package. Grayson’s a great guy too so he’s fun to play with. [/private]