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]
I made my annual trip to Hampton, Virginia today for the Nike EYBL Session II event where most of the nation’s top players gathered to play in front of what seems like every major college coach in the country. As always, Blue Devil Nation focuses in on the players you want to hear about, and also gives you a heads-up on some new names popping up. That said, let’s get right into Day One.
Tyus Jones was Priority One for Coach K
If you have been living under a rock you might not realize that Duke is all in on Apple Valley (MN) High’s Tyus Jones, a 6-1 PG generally ranked as the second best overall prospect in the Class of 2014. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski watched Jones’ entire game, but of course so did other coaches vying for his services, including Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. Jones scored five points down the stretch, including knocking down a key three-pointer to give his team a 62-61 lead with 1:30 left in the game. He then iced it by drawing a foul on another three-point shot, though he took a nasty fall in the process. Jones, like always, rose to the occasion and willed his team to a win and that is the mark of a winner. That is what Tyus Jones is all about, for his team is not always as talented as its opponents, yet they find ways to win. Jones had 20 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds the last time I checked but those numbers may be a little off.
Jones told Blue Devil Nation that at this time he is looking at a making a Fall decision, and he reiterated that he would likely be a package deal with 6’10″ center Jahlil Okafor, who balls for Chicago’s Whitney Young High and plays for the Mac Irvin Fire on the AAU circuit. If it’s going to be a package, that likely means it comes down to Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky, but the Blue Devils and Spartans have long been considered the leaders in most circles. Check out this video [private] with Jones -
Wojo watched Okafor sit
Duke Assistant Coach Steve Wojciechowski left no doubt that Duke is interested in Jahlil Okafor by sitting through his game — despite the fact that Okafor did not even play. Okafor is still nursing an injury and it’s unknown at this time whether he suits up before the weekend is out. This game was going on at the same time Tyus Jones was playing, forcing the coaches to split up.
Coach K takes in Harry Giles
Coach K was the first and only coach in the gym for the first half of Class of 2016 Harry Giles’ game. Giles is a talented young prospect with some skills. He attributes those skills to wanting to be a guard when he was growing up, but a growth spurt killed that. At one point, a Villianova assistant was overheard saying, “Coach K is down there too,” to John Calipari, who peeked in from behind the curtains. By that time, eleven more coaches were watching. K and Calipari ended up exchanging pleasantries for about three minutes and then retreated back to their neutral corners. Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, as always, was slithering around the gym as well. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but Harry Giles is just 14!!!! He will be the real deal when he grows into his body. He likes to direct teammates where to go and how to space properly. Giles did get upset when his teammate turned the ball over, costing his team the game. Giles scored 16 in the loss. The 9th grader will also compete with Team USA on May 28th of this year. Check out his video below -
K takes in Justise Winslow
Forward Justise Winslow, the major Duke target out of Houston, dished 5 assists in his game but somehow was credited with zero ,which led to his voicing displeasure on Twitter late last evening. Coach K made it a point to watch Winslow, as did Rick Barnes of Texas, Steve Alford of UCLA and John Thompson Jr. of Georgetown. Interest is now lukewarm for Theo Pinson, who seems to want to be coddled, stating that he wants to play for a team that really wants him. That team could be N.C. State, who is turning up the pressure. K and company have also been watching 6’6″ Stanley Johnson out of California, who I feel is a back up to Winslow now. Pinson is not totally out of the picture but he is not their player of choice at that position — Winslow is. Winslow said Jones and Okafor would be a package deal, but for Justise it is no secret that Arizona has made an impression, leading me to believe it’s a two team race — Arizona and Duke. Winslow glowed when talking about Wildcat coach Sean Miller and he liked the atmosphere in Tucson as well. Justise also mentioned that it was closer to home, meaning his mom could attend more easily. While K watched Winslow, Wojo took in 6’9″ PF Elijah Thomas, a 2015 prospect out of Texas.
I lost the previous update and this one is not nearly as good, but it should give you an idea of what happened yesterday. More to come. [/private]
In a state that is historically more known for their contributions to the game of hockey, a trio of rising seniors, Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn, and Reid Travis, have caused coaches to flock to the hardwoods of Minnesota. The standout, so far, has been the smallest of the three, 6’2″ Tyus Jones, a highly skilled and cerebral point guard from the city of Apple Valley.
In late March, Tyus Jones capped off a brilliant year by scoring twenty-six points, grabbing eleven rebounds, and dishing out eight assists in front of more than thirteen thousand people at the Target Center. That performance against Park Center HS helped Apple Valley HS (30-1), located just outside of the Twin Cities, capture it’s first state title in basketball and avenge its only regular season loss. With Tyus, throughout the journey, was his older brother, trainer, and best friend, Jadee, an assistant coach for the Apple Valley Eagles.
The coveted point guard credits his brother, Jadee, who puts him through intense basketball-specific training sessions, with developing his game and providing support through the years. Jones, who embodies the expression “Minnesota nice,” is quick to add that his critical support system extends to his parents, Debbie and Rob, who also both played college basketball, cousins, aunt, and grandparents.
As a reward for his season (averaging twenty-one points and nearly eight assists per game for the state champion) and work off of the court (B+ student and community involvement), Gatorade named the junior as their Minnesota Player of the Year for a second straight season.
Last July, Tyus Jones lead a very talented and deep USA Basketball squad to a gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania. Jones felt that he was able to carry over the leadership and level of preparation that was a regular part of USA Basketball into his success in Apple Valley. Beyond the patriotic pride and handsome medal, Jones gained a close bond with the players, sharing the collective experience of training and playing for a communal goal. In particular, he became tight with his 6’11″ Chicagoland roommate, Jahlil Okafor. Tyus felt that Jahlil shared many of the same core values that he had been raised with. They laughed and enjoyed playing with each other. By the end of their time in Lithuania, they decided that they wanted to continue playing together in college. They both independently reconfirmed that desire this weekend. Despite a four hundred mile separation, the duo communicate on a regular basis.
The young point guard with an old soul cut his list of suitors in March to seven: Minnesota, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Baylor. A few months after Tyus Jones and his family visited Duke for their Countdown To Craziness, the first in-home visit for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski this year was to Tyus Jones’ living room. This weekend in Garden Grove, California, the four-time NCAA Championship coach was omnipresent for each of Jones’ four EYBL games, including his final game where Jones scored thirty-eight points and dished out six assists against a good CP3 squad. The ten pounds of muscle, mostly in his upper body, that Jones added to his lean 6’2″ frame enabled him to withstand the physicality of constantly penetrating into the heart of the defense.
After an EYBL game, Tyus spoke with me about a variety of topics, including his relationship with Jahlil, sharing an accomplishment with his family, the possibility of doing a one-and-done, his motto of T.O.A.O. (The One And Only), and his last time going through the AAU circuit.
With this being your last AAU season, what sort of thoughts and emotions were going through your head? Does it mean more to you?It’s kind of a surreal feeling to know that this is going to be my last AAU season. Every year, you just don’t think about it. You’re just go and you play, but it’s a different feeling, you know, knowing that this is going to be your last go-around. You know, with this being your last go-around, you feel like you’ve got to make the most of it.
Has it generally been a fun experience for you through the years?
Definitely, definitely. It’s something where you’re always with the best players, you’re playing against the best players, too, and you get to travel. It’s been a lot of fun through the years.
You’re also coming off of a state championship victory…
[private] That was just an unbelievable experience.
I was happy for you.
Thank you, I appreciate it. It was the first time for us to be able to make the state and to win it. It was a great feeling to finally get over that hump.
Did you feel redemption? What were your emotions when you walked off of the court that day?
You can’t even explain it in words.
I wish I could.
Yeah right, so do I. (laughs) You just can’t explain it, but it was great and I enjoyed it and it will stick with me forever.
How, if at all, did your experience with USA basketball, in terms of leadership, with that championship run?
Oh, it helped me a lot. Yeah, it helped a lot. I think just being out as USA at the training camp and then going overseas teaches you a lot. It’s just an experience to be sort of a different way of basketball at really the highest level.
You also recently won the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a junior. That’s quite an honor because they take into consideration both basketball and your off-the-court work.
It really meant a lot to be able to win that award because I really just worked really hard for it.
Going back to the state title, you were able to share it with your brother and your friends, so it had to have meant more than some of the individual awards..it’s sort of a communal thing.
Yeah, that was great to be able to share it with them and my whole family. And my brother’s my best friend. He’s been with me since I was born.
I remember he coached you and trained you from a very young age. His name is Jadee.
Yup, Jadee Jones. He trained me and he worked me out. He pushed me from the player that I am today. I really give a lot of the credit to him.
It must have been really meaningful to him to win the state title with you.
Yeah, it meant a lot to him.
What do you think you’ve improved upon most since last summer?
I think really just leadership in general. I think I’ve tried to be as vocal as possible. I always just try to bring the team in and try to make sure that we’re playing as one.
It looks like you’re physically more mature than you were last year, at least in your arms and your upper body.
Yeah, a little bit, a little bit. I had an injury at the beginning of the winter season, so I wasn’t able to lift as much as I would have liked to, but during the season, we just got started and I really couldn’t catch up. That set me back a little bit, but I’m really able to go hard now and just improve.
That should help you as a point guard trying to get through the lane.
Yeah, it should. It’s very important. Good point.
You’ve had some recent in-home visits. Touch on them for the audience, please.
Duke, Baylor, Michigan State, and Ohio State were all in recently. They came and they did their presentations.
What was that experience like? Because as a kid, you never would have…
Yeah, that was crazy. You never think of that being possible growing up. It was such an honor having all of those coaches in your house. You know, sitting in your living room and talking to you. You know, it was just great. We had fun with it.
What about visits for you? Do you have any upcoming ones? I assume you haven’t been able to take any recently.
No, nothing recently and I don’t have any planned yet, but I’m probably going to be taking my officials in the fall.
I know you did some unofficials last fall.
Do you have a timeline for when you’d like to decide by and what’s the latest on your recruitment? These are things people are always curious about.
Hopefully, by the fall, but I can’t say for sure, you know. I don’t want to rush it. But, you know, hopefully in the fall. There’s nothing really new with my recruitment. I cut my list to seven. Baylor, Duke, Michigan State, Minnesota, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio State.
That’s an impressive group. Last I heard, you and Jahlil are thinking about doing a pairing. Is that still the case? Are you still very close?
It is and we are. We’re still real close. We talk all of the time.
What do you like about Jahlil on and off the court?
Well, on the court, I think everybody knows that he’s the most dominant player in the country without a doubt. Everybody knows what he can do. But off the court, we really bonded because he’s a really great young man.
He’s also a lot smarter than people give him credit for.
Yeah, he’s smart. He’s got a great support system. He was raised the right way and I think that’s why..what we have in common, because I was raised the same way.
T.O.A.O., the one and only, that’s sort of become your motto.
How did you come up with it? How did it become your motto?
It did. It is. Some people try to, well, people don’t know what it stands for, but it’s just a saying that you want to be your own person. You got to strive to be the greatest person that you can be, the best of the best.
The best Tyus Jones you can be, not somebody else.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you don’t want to just be the next so-and-so, you want to be the best you.
I get so sick and tired of hearing about the next blank.
Yeah, exactly. You don’t want to hear that you’re the next somebody, you want to hear that you’re the best Tyus Jones. I only want to be the best Tyus Jones. That’s all I’m saying.
By the way, with Jahlil, are you going to do a joint press conference or who is going to decide first?
I’m not really sure. We’ll have to think about that. We haven’t really talked about that part. I’m not sure how we’ll do that yet.
What are your goals for this AAU season?
My goals are for all of us to win the Peach Jam. I think that’s what every team on the circuit’s goal is. We’re just trying to improve and get better and really come together as a team.
How do you feel about the squad?
I feel great about it. I feel like we’ve got a great bunch..great bigs, great wings, great guards. I think we’re all pretty smart. I think we’ve just got to play smart and try to connect.
Play to your strengths?
Is there any competition or rivalry between you and Mudiay at all?
No, sir. Eman is a great player. He’s just a great player and no, there’s no.
I was just curious.
No, he’s a great player and I respect him so much.
What is your relationship like with the various coaches on your list? Coach K, Coach Izzo, Coach Pitino.
No, I have great relationships with every coach on my list. You know, they’ve all done a great job. You know, really, that’s why they’re the coaches remaining. They’re the ones that I was most interested in.
Are they constantly contacting you or how often is it for you? Take the audience into your world.
It’s somewhat constant, but it’s not as bad as the stories you hear. You know, they’re very respectful. They know I’m a person and a student as well.
How often would you say?
You know, once or twice a week, maybe a couple of times, but you know, you’ll talk to the assistants even more.
What do your relatives make of all of your success and the hubbub?
They’re just going along and enjoying it with me. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am and the person I am today.
I remember being very impressed when I was in Minnesota and you had all of your relatives lined up right behind me.
Yeah, my family has been really great. I feel like I’ve got a great support back in Minnesota. I couldn’t ask for a better one. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am.
What are going to be some factors in your decision?
There’s obviously a lot of stuff that goes into it. You’ve got to look at the school, being a part of it, in terms of giving you a good education. And all of the schools on my list have a great education, so that’s one factor. And then you’ve got to look at how the coaches relate to the players. Specifically, or especially, the point guard. You know, that’s the thing that I’m looking for and also what type of players are they bringing in and also the players that they have on the team and how they are off the court.
How important do you think chemistry and fit will be for you?
I think fit is the right word because you want to go somewhere where you’re comfortable. You don’t want to go somewhere where you can’t be yourself and you feel like you’re not a part of it.
Because you’re going to be around those guys more than anyone.
What are you working on with your brother? I know he’s a trainer.
Explosion, strength, just basketball specific training. You want to bulk up, you want to be stronger in a way that can help you. I worked with my brother on a lot of explosive stuff trying to get bigger and trying to get stronger with the ball.
And have you seen it pay off?
I have. Each year, I feel like I keep growing.
You’re dunking now.
It gets easier for sure.
What’s your favorite pass or favorite shot that you’ve ever made? Do you have one?
You know, any pass that I’m able to set up my teammates on, I enjoy. I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing them having so much joy. It helps us score. I threw a couple of nice lobs today.
Yeah, I saw.
(laughs) Those are always great. Those are always fun.
What’s your current size?
About 6’2″ and about 185.
In terms of the mindset, are you thinking on-and-done or staying beyond that and enjoying the college experience?
It’s sort of a tougher question
I think you need to go into it trying to have success. Don’t look past that…at all. If you go into it with the mindset of trying to have success, you’ll be successful. If you leave after one year, then that’d be great. If you stay all four years, then that’s just how it is. There’s really nothing that you can complain about. You’re going to college to play basketball.
Tom Konchalski is a 6’6″ sexagenarian who can walk into a basketball gym from South Side of Chicago to Harlem and South Florida to Maine and be enthusiastically greeted by coaches at all levels, anxious players, and grateful parents. Modest, focused, loyal, industrious, pious, honest, and generous, Mr. Konchalski embodies all of the qualities that his heroes, Mother Theresa and C.S. Lewis, championed.
For the better part of five decades, the Queens, NY native has analyzed recruits, coached players, and advised coaches, parents, Athletic Directors, and players. A devout Catholic, Mr. Konchalski has prayed on the behalf of everyone from the ’69 Mets to Coach Jack Curran, his high school gym teacher and future Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who passed away last month at the age of 82.
A consummate workaholic, Mr. Konchalski travels via public transportation and the generosity of his legions of friends to observe recruits on an almost daily basis with the ferocity of a hungry lion eying cheetahs. His omnipresent yellow legal pads and Bic Cristal pens have been the tools of choice to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of everyone from LeBron James as a freshman to seniors looking to catch on at a Division-III college. In a world of three-minute YouTube highlight videos misconstrued as scouting tapes and fly-by-night internet recruiting charlatans looking to broker players, Mr. Konchalski is refreshingly anachronistic.
Three days ago, a pair of his friends, Bernard King, who invited Mr. Konchalski to join him on his official trip to the University of Tennessee, and Rick Pitino, who worked closely with Mr. Konchalski as a counselor at the Five Star Basketball Camps, were announced as inductees to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Author John Feinstein ’78 once wrote that Konchalski, the publisher and editor of the HSBI Report, was “the last honest man in the gym,” but the statement doesn’t quite convey all that he has done for this game and the people involved in it at all levels.
Recently, Mr. Konchalski, a friend and mentor, gave his assessment of the 2013 Duke commitments and some Blue Devil recruits.
Jabari Parker: Well, obviously he has a great combination of size, skills, athleticism, and savvy. To proclaim him the best player since LeBron as Sports Illustrated did last year is that it raises the one question about him that I have which is whether or not he can be an assassin. LeBron was an assassin. Kobe was an assassin. I think he was better as a junior than Kobe was. I saw Kobe a lot. Kobe was always an assassin. Obviously, he has great skill, size, and athleticism. He’s productive and has a very mature understanding of the game. He’s also got very good character and he’s coachable. He’s thinking about staying two or three years. It would be a wonderful thing if he did. It would be a breath of fresh air. It would be a tremendous thing for college basketball if he did. I would say the closest player to him at Duke would be Grant Hill because they’re forwards, they’re both big forwards. Eventually, he’s going to be a three-man. He’s a hybrid forward right now. He’s closer to being a three-men offensively than he is being a three-man defensively. He’s just a forward right now, a hybrid forward, that’s got to tighten his body.
I’ll tell you what he did. Between his freshman and sophomore year, he really tightened his body. He lowered his percentage of body fat. He became much more athletic and much more explosive. He’s got to continue to streamline his body, maybe see a nutritionist, and get on an exercise regimen. I guess the closest comparison would be Grant Hill although Grant Hill was a different physical type, but overall, Grant Hill is the closest comparison in terms of Duke players.
The one reservation I have about Jabari…here’s a guy who has an obviously high basketball IQ. When he’s in shape, he has good athletic ability. He had improved his athletic ability towards the end of his sophomore year and towards the beginning of his junior year and he has skill. The one reservation that I had was whether he had a killer’s instinct. I didn’t know if he’s an assassin. He’s developed more of a disposition to take over games and to be assertive in the last year. Now, that’s something that I think runs contrary to his nature. He’s got to overcome his off-the-court temperament. He’s got to be bipolar or sort of a schizophrenic to be a good basketball player. You have to be a lot meaner on the court than you are off, but I think he’s making strides in terms of his aggressiveness and assertiveness and willingness to take over games, not to defer to other teammates and whatever..to be the go-to guy..and that’s what he’s got to do because I think Kobe always had it and LeBron always had it, but, for the most part, it’s something that you’re born with..that kind of toughness and aggressiveness and wanting to really take over games. Crush the opponent and when they’re down to sort of put your foot on the neck and that sort of thing. And I think he’s made strides in that regard. I hope he gives serious thought when he goes there not to be an automatic one-and-done. Not that it may not happen, but he should have an open mind in that respect.
Semi Ojeleye: Semi Ojeleye..his win or strength is his versatility. He can defend multiple positions. Now, I think he’s going to be even more valuable to them on the defensive end of the court. He’s an inside-outside player who I really liked. He plays a lot much more for result rather than effect. He’s not a guy who goes out there to showcase his different skill sets. He’ll step out and hit the three, he’ll handle the ball, he’ll play a little bit on the perimeter, and he can go inside and bang a little bit too and generate some points inside. He’s really..I’ll tell you what he does..he plays quick. I really think he’s going to be a terrific Duke player because I think it’s more likely that he’s going to be a three or four year player. He’ll really stay around and help them on the defensive end and he can guard the four-man, he can guard the three-man, even at times be able to guard a two. I really think he’s a major recruit for them. I hadn’t really paid attention to him at the Boo Williams, but you had mentioned him and I didn’t really remember him, but when I saw him down at the Peach Jam, I really, really liked him.
Matt Jones: Matt Jones has a very unorthodox shot. He’s a bit streaky as a three-point shooter. He’s long and lean, he’s got to get a little bit stronger. He’s a big guard who I think has growth potential as he gets stronger and shoots the ball. You know, he doesn’t have good rotation on his shot. He has an awkward shot, but it puts the ball in the basket. For the most part, it’s been effective for him. He’s another guy who’s going to be a three or four year player with them. Hopefully, Jabari will stay for more than one year and if you get a Jabari, you’ve got to take him, but you’ve got to build the program more around guys that are going to be there three or four years. You’ve got to have balance.
Jahlil Okafor: Jahlil is a guy who has terrific skill for a big guy and another guy who is a very intelligent person like Jabari. And, you know, he’s not an explosive athlete, you know he’s not a bad athlete and he runs okay. Obviously, I think he can really streamline his body and, when he gets to college, people are going to get him into the weight room. He’s going to do an awful lot of work. His percentage of body fat with drop dramatically, but he has terrific hands and really good skills for a post player. You know that he can step out, shoot the elbow jumper, he’s a good passer, he can pass out of the post, and he’s not quick-reacting to the ball, he’s not quick moving laterally to the ball in the lane around the basket. That’s what I think he’s got to work on- his body and also his lateral movement. But just in terms of overall, he has a big strong frame, he has a superior basketball IQ for a big man. Usually big, young guys don’t understand the game as well as he does. He’s very intelligent and, you know, another nice guy who can be, you know, because of his size, he can be down the road, you know, I’m not saying he’s more skilled than Jabari Parker, but because he’s 6’10″, 260 or 270 or whatever he is, I think he can be an even greater influence on the game than Jabari Parker. I would say he’s about 6’10″, they list him at 6’11″. I think he’s a legitimate 6’10″ when I stand next to him. He’s a major weapon both on the high-post and the low-box. He can be a major, major factor in college. On the defensive end, I don’t think he’s as much of a shot-blocker. He impacts the game through intelligent positioning.
Quickness is comprised of two components. It has a physical and an extra-physical component. The physical component is just how naturally quick you are. The extra-physical component is, first of all, mental preparation and correct technique. You could be quicker just by being mentally prepared and alert. And the other part using correct technique, but I think he’s a guy, I think any big guy, ought to live with a jump rope. Both those guys, in particular, should live with jump ropes. They both have the kind of bodies where they can put on weight and where, if they’re not careful, but I think both of them should live with it as their daily routine for both of those guys. They’re both guys who are extremely intelligent and have very good skill and they both, I think, can be really dominating players at the college level if they stay around long enough and possibly dominating players at the level beyond that. I think at the college level, Okafor is a center. He’s a center because he’s a force. If a college coach can fill the middle of his lineup with a point guard, a leader, someone who’s going to run the team and with a quality post-man like that, well, then that’s the team. Everyone wants that one position down…Fives want to be fours, fours want to be threes, threes want to be twos, twos want to be ones, and ones probably want to coach the team. But if you look at even a great team, they’re teams that have dominating big men and great guards. The wings fill in around those players, but that’s what you need. You need someone that’s going to run the team and organize the floor, hopefully contain the point guard at the other end of the court. Hopefully contain the ball at the other end of the court. Stop dribble penetration from their point guard and you need a big guy in the post. You need to be able to score easy baskets. And even the thing is, even as 3 point arc-oriented as most teams are and as many college teams are, and how Duke has become increasingly, still, the more post-offense presence you have, forget about even on the defensive end, the more open 3′s that show up. Most 3-point shots are shot off of inside-out action or relocation. Things like that. Just in terms of the half-court, the more you can draw the defense in, the more you can open up the spot-up outside shooters. In the past, Duke sometimes has become too reliant on that and not as much of an interior offensive presence. Both of those guys are going to be terrific players.
Trey Lyles: Trey Lyles is a 6’9″ kid with good skill, good body, and the guy who has a real good feel for the game. He has a high court
IQ. Usually that’s a term that’s more applied to perimeter players. When you talk about guards..especially point guards…in terms of high court IQ, but he plays for result rather than effect and he’s very efficient. You know he can score. He doesn’t need to have the ball on the floor in order to score, although he can put the ball on the floor some from the high post. But the main thing is that he’s very efficient. He does an awful lot offensively without the dribble. And he’s a guy who, you know, can score. Can score from the high post and down in the low box. When he went to Basketball Canada when they had their camp at the end of the summer and they had Steve Nash, who’s the Jerry Colangelo of operations of Basketball Canada right now, they had all of their guys…Jamaal Magloire came in to work with the big guys and everyone was there and they had all very good young players. Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Myck Kabongo, then they had Andrew Wiggins, and Tyler Ennis, and Trey Lyles. Trey Lyles, from what my brother told me, is as impressive as any player that they had in their program. They are really, really high on him. When they played down in South America in FIBA Tournament, you know, he had a very good tournament. When he came back, people in Basketball Canada are as high on him as they are on Andrew Wiggins. He doesn’t have quite the athleticism that Andrew Wiggins has, but what really, I think, makes him different is his understanding of the game and his efficiency for a big guy. Usually, big young guys aren’t as..well, they don’t have the feel for the game that he does and they don’t play with the degree of efficiency with which he plays.
Tyus Jones: He’s a point guard, combination guard, a high scorer. He can handle the ball, control the tempo, he plays at different
speeds. He’s very good. He has a very good tempo to his game. He has a very good sense of ball security with his game. He shoots the ball extremely well.
Kevon Looney: He has size. He was 6’7″, 6’8″ when I saw him in Chicago. He can play on the
perimeter and in the low-post, he can defend. He’s probably a better low-post defender than he is a perimeter defender right now. Well, certain players he can defend on the perimeter. He’s got a nice stroke, he sees the floor well, he’s a good passer. I really think he can be an elite level player. Now, I’ve only seen him once. I can’t think of any more skilled power wing players in the class of 2014. In terms of position, assuming he grows, I think he’s more of a perimeter player..because I think at that size with his skill set, it makes him more valuable.
Theo Pinson: Pinson is a big kid with a lot of quickness. He’s got good skill level, he can shoot the ball, he handles the ball well, he uses his great athleticism to defend multiple positions. I don’t think he’s a knock-down shooter, but he’s pretty good.
Justice Winslow: He’s a lefty from Houston Hoops. He’s an intense competitor. He’s versatile. His versatility is one of his greatest strengths. He’s strong enough and athletic enough to post and score inside. He can rebound. I don’t think he’s much of a three-point threat right now, but he has a good mid-range game. He’s a pretty good passer. He’s a kid that’s very strong, great body, and he really uses his strength to post-up in match-ups against others. He’s really a very difficult matchup because of his versatility and his range. He’s also very skilled with the ball. He can get to the basket. He’s a very difficult matchup because of his strength, his quickness, and his ability to get the ball to the basket. He really plays hard. He’s a very intense competitor.
Malachi Richardson: People talk about him being a second guard, but I don’t really think that he quite is now. He can shoot the three and he’s a very good three-point shooter, but he’s, you know, a big wing who’s probably more of a 3/2 than a 2/3 right now. He’s a guy who has a great touch, who has a lot of athletic ability, and has a good body. You know he’s grown an inch since his freshman year at Trenton Catholic Academy and he’s got a lot of potential. If he wants to be a two guard, he’s got to be a little better playing off of the dribble, a little better playing with the ball, and he’s got to work awfully hard at guarding a two guard because, right now, his better defensive nature is as a three man. What he is right now is a skilled wing with good size and a lot of athleticism..and at an early age, in terms of only being a sophomore, so he has an awful lot of potential.
Isaiah Briscoe: Well, I mean, he played terrific against St. Anthony’s and didn’t play like a sophomore. He was very assertive, he was very aggressive, looking to take the ball to the basket, and really forced the issue. Here’s a guy who has size, can shoot the ball, he has aggressiveness, he is not intimidated at all. The one thing here, I think, about him is that he’s got to be very careful about his body. It’s going to be very imperative for him to get on a good diet and to stay in as good a condition as he possibly can because he has the kind of body type where he can put weight on. He’s a decent athlete, but he’s not a great athlete. He’s not a tapered athlete. He’s not someone that when you look at him you think “athlete”. When you look at him, you see someone who is a scorer and a guy who scores primarily on his aggressiveness, which is based on his temperament. He has a scorer’s temperament. He doesn’t defer to anyone. He’s ready to play against the best teams in the country right now. He won’t be intimidated. He won’t back down.
He’s about 6’3″. I don’t think he’s really a lead guard. I think he’s a combination guard right now, but he can handle the ball. You know what they try to do. They try to take anyone who can dribble the ball three times without kicking it into the seventh row, they try to call him a point guard or a lead guard. That’s not it at all because, first of all, not only do you have skill with the ball, but it’s more of an attitude. It’s more of a temperament, it’s more of a disposition to try to make other people better, and really, you know, a real good leader. A real point guard or a real lead guard is someone who thinks, he probably thinks pass before he thinks shot and I think that’s not the case with Isaiah. You know, he’s a guy who can handle the ball and will make plays for some other people, but his first instinct is to look to score himself. Almost by definition, there are more piano carriers than there are piano players, so I mean, anyone that can score like him, you don’t want to take that away from them. You don’t want to domesticate him too much and it’s easier to find someone to set the table than to find someone that will put the ball in the basket. Coach Taylor is probably going to give him the opportunity to display with the ball in his hands next year, but I don’t think there are many synthetic point guards or lead guards. I think it’s more something that you’re born with. Leadership and temperament are what makes a true point guard. [/private]
There is never a shortage of feel good moments for Duke fans when Countdown to Craziness kicks off the basketball season and on Friday night a celebration of the program ensued. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his program had more than just this years team on display during the festivities. They also had a bevy of highly rated and key future prospects in attendance and they hope it will not be these young mens last visit to Durham.
It wasn’t long after BDN began it’s coverage of the event that all of the Duke Assistant Coaches, Jeff Capel, Chris Collins and Steve Wojociechowski came walking down the steps beside the Swartz-Butters Building which houses Coach K on the top floor with all of the visiting prospects. Among [private] those were a point guard who does nothing but make his team better and win, Tyus Jones.
Jones is believed to have Duke and Michigan State at the top of his list, so it was important that Duke made a good impression and from afar it appears that may have happened. Also attending was a 6-10 behemoth from Chicago Jahlil Okafor and a sleek wing in North Carolina native Theo Pinson. All three of these players played on one of the better Team USA Development Teams in recent memory and all know one another from the AAU circuit as well. Depending on how your perceive information, it is said that these guys along with Justise Winslow would not mind playing together in college.
Duke also had a visit from another stud prospect in Karl Towns and a junior high sensation and specimen in Harry Giles.
Anyhow, back to the walk through campus by the prospects. As they descended down the steps quite a few Duke fans took notice and trust me from the folks I met who follow or are members of BDN, a lot of them and others were well aware of these kids visits. Suddenly, there was a small mob of picture and autograph seekers and the guys took time out to accommodate the fans.
Several minutes past before the prospects made their way fully onto the concourse with K-Ville dead ahead. By that time, owrd had spread and more Duke fans were taking notice. I could not help but think how disappointed some kids would be after getting their Duke caps and such signed for these guys not to matriculate but the greeting is one the average fan would have hoped for and a positive thing.
As they got closer to K-Ville, several groups of students, mainly coeds, held signs up letting each player know they were wanted in Durham. All of them seemed touched if not a tad embarrassed by the moment but all were certainly impressed by the situation. The group then made their way towards the Chapel and campus and later appeared behind the bench in Cameron as the event took place.
All of them sat directly behind Coach Krzyzewski and he would often turn to them individually and collectively and chat of what was happening on the court or offering some nuggets of wisdom. Several times during the game you could hear their names shouted but there were never any orchestrated cheers which lasted long but each of these kids knew they were honored guests.
If body language is any indication, the group enjoyed themselves and the Duke atmosphere and there were several times where the group had collective laughs at various antics, such as Marshall Plumlee dancing with his crutches. No real information past that at this time but I sure more will come out at some point today and I will pass on what I can. Talk about it on the BDN Premium Message Board. [/private]