Apple Valley boys’ basketball coach Zach Goring knows well how Duke is able to recruit so well in Minnesota. Three of his former players — Tyus Jones, Gary Trent Jr., and now Tre Jones — all committed to the Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“He pushed hard for all three of them,” Goring said. “He was in many of our open gyms. He is kind of the one guy who really has an ‘it’ factor when he walks into the gym.
“He was a USA Basketball coach. He and his staff do a great job on home visits of showing what Duke has to offer, and I’m not surprised any of our kids have went to Duke. It’s a tough place to turn down, especially when Coach Krzyzewski is sitting in your living room offering a chance to play for him.”
Goring, in his 10th season as Eagles head coach, said all three of those players were heavily recruited by many programs, but Krzyzewski’s sustained success helps Duke continue to attract top recruits.
“I just think when schools really have it going like he does right now, and they have the environment they do at Cameron Indoor Stadium, kids kind of gravitate towards that,” Goring said. “The top players in the summer really get to know each other well. They play on these circuits and start talking about, ‘Let’s go somewhere together.’ When there is a top-10 kid in the country, Duke is certainly an option of a place where they would want to go play. I think kids trust that he will do a good job with them and prepare them for the next level.”
Did other programs have a shot at landing the former Apple Valley stars?
“With Tyus, Michigan State was very involved, Tubby Smith with the Gophers, Ohio State was around a lot,” Goring said. “With Tre, it was a little more quiet. I think Duke and Minnesota, UCLA, Arizona, but I think in the back of everyone’s mind, Tre has always loved Duke and I think a lot of folks thought he was a shoo-in to follow his brother to Duke.”
Tyus’ Final Four run
According to 247sports.com, Tyus was the No. 8-ranked player in the country for the Class of 2014, Trent was the No. 18 prospect in the Class of 2017 and Tre was the No. 15 prospect in the Class of 2018. Goring assessed the skills of each of his former stars.
“[Tyus] was a great player right from the start,” Goring said. “He started for us as an eighth-grader and just came in and ran our team and just showed tremendous IQ.
“… It was something that kind of caught, I think, the state by storm, with an eighth-grader playing at the highest level in a great conference and being really productive. We knew he would be really, really good at that age. He just continues to grow each year and get better and better.”
What did he recall about Tyus’ play in the 2015 NCAA tournament, when he averaged 13 points, 4.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game and was eventually named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four?
“So Tyus made it in 2015 and they won the national championship down in Indianapolis,” Goring said. “He had a great run through the regional and then in the Final Four and ended up being the Final Four MVP and then he was drafted by the Timberwolves.”
Trent also started for the Eagles in eighth grade. Unlike Tyus Jones, he was a more of a big-bodied player and nearly unstoppable.
“We had a great run with him,” Goring said. “He was a part of two state championships. His size — like a 6-6, 6-7 [shooting] guard that shot 40-45 percent from three-point range — he was almost unguardable as a high school player. If you put a smaller guy on him, he would just either take him into the post or outmuscle him from the perimeter. If you put someone bigger on him, then [the defender] would have a hard time keeping up with him on the perimeter. He is a tremendous three-point shooter.”
With Tre Jones at Duke, Goring said the best part of his game is underappreciated — his defense.
“He’s doing a great job at Duke from the fact he can really guard,” he said. “He is being talked about as the national player of the year defensively, and takes great care of the basketball. He’s around 5- or 6- to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That is what you’re looking for in a point guard is to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter players and also be able to take care of it offensively and put teammates in spots to be successful.”
Has stayed in touch
Goring said he and his Apple Valley coaching staff have kept in touch with their former players. He said the Duke staff does a tremendous job as host to high school coaches, even after the recruiting process is over.
“Tre just left us last year, so our staff, we have been down to Duke three or four times when the boys have played,” Goring said. “It has been such a neat experience to meet Coach Krzyzewski, and they have done a great job of making us feel welcome when we’re down there and attending practices and sitting behind the bench at games. They have a really neat thing going on down there where they get the top players in the country, and I can see why players go down there with that environment.”
You’d be hard pressed to think of a Minnesota high school that has produced more high-end talent than Apple Valley over the past decade. And there’s a good chance Tre Jones could join his brother in playing for a national champion by the time the nets are cut down at U.S. Bank Stadium after the Final Four next month.
Zimmer on draft prep
Coach Mike Zimmer said preparation for the NFL draft, to be held April 25-27 in Nashville, is in full swing at Vikings headquarters at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
“Yes sir, too much,” he said this week. “The coaches are doing football in the morning and the draft in the afternoon. The defensive coaches have a lot of projects that they’re working on. The offense is going through playbooks, going through systems, going through cut-ups right now on different things to try and figure out different things and how we want to do it and be good at it.”
Does he think the Vikings’ offensive line could be improved in the draft?
“This draft is good for offensive linemen,” he said. “There’s a lot of good guards, some tackles, a couple centers. There’ll be some guys there for us and not just [in] the first round but second, third and fourth rounds, probably.”
Zimmer also said help will come from cornerback and 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes as he returns from an ACL tear suffered last October.
“He’s doing good and hopefully we can get him back as soon as we can,” Zimmer said. “He’s a good kid, a good corner and we’ll be excited to get him back.”