The Howard Pulley Panthers are arguably the hottest team in AAU basketball right now.
Their 21-1 record speaks for itself, which includes 17 straight wins.
This weekend Howard Pulley became the first team to qualify for the Nike Peach Jam championships in July. Minnesota high school basketball is definitely being represented at the highest level this spring.
“We lost our first game, but that was due to us just playing with each other again and getting back on the EYBL platform,” DeLaSalle junior Gabe Kalscheur said. “We’ve been playing together, playing lock-down defense and feeding off one another’s energy."
There haven't been many three-point shooters in the country better this spring than Kalscheur, a Gophers target.
Jones, an Apple Valley junior, had a 31-point, 17-assist performance on Mother’s Day against Houston Hoops in Atlanta keeping himself in the 2018 class best point guard conversation.
"Tre Jones is the floor general," Kalscheur said. "It’s fun playing around him, Daniel (Oturu) and everyone else.”
Cretin-Derham Hall big man Oturu is a double-double machine. The 6-10 junior has slammed and swatted his way into the hearts of Gophers fans. They can’t wait for him to join the team in 2018-19. And Orono junior Jarvis Thomas has been a highlight machine in the frontcourt with him in his first EYBL season.
"We just love playing with each other," Oturu said. "Running the floor really helps open up more stuff for our shooters and all looks at the rim. It helps when we all come together for one common goal."
With Pulley dominating the EBYL so far, Gophers fans are trying to imagine Jones, Kalscheur, Oturu and Thomas teaming together in college and winning a Big Ten championship in maroon and gold. Interest from the home state program is growing, but Thomas doesn't have a Gophers offer yet. Oturu has already been trying to convince uncommitted Kalscheur and Jones to follow him since he became Richard Pitino's first 2018 recruit earlier this year.
“Daniel talks to me about coming to the U a lot,” Kalscheur said. “I just laugh and I say, ‘I don’t know yet.’ I’ve talked to Tre about (us) going to the U. But it’s kind of hard knowing where everyone else is going to go yet. It’s a little too early.”
Kalscheur is averaging 17.2 points, 2.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds and shooting 46 percent from three-point range in 12 EYBL games. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard attended many Gophers games this season and is constantly in contact with assistant Ben Johnson and Pitino.
"It was great to see they had a great year," he said. "It erases what happened there in the past. That's really good for their program."
The 6-2 Jones also likes the direction of the Gophers program. But he said this spring that he’s wide open and plans to schedule official visits after the AAU season. The schools recruiting him the hardest are Duke, UCLA, Baylor, Arizona, Oregon and Minnesota. Jones is averaging 20 points, an EYBL-leading 9.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game in 12 games.
“He was always a highly-touted, highly-rated kid,” Scout.com recruiting director Evan Daniels said. “He’s ramped things up. You could make a case he’s the best point guard in the country. He’s just a kid who knows how to run a team, has tremendous feel for the game and really distributes the ball.”
Jones could soon be as heavily recruited as his older brother, Tyus, once was in high school before signing with Duke. That makes Kalscheur the most likely to join Oturu in the Gophers' 2018 class. But he's raising his profile as well this spring. He leads the EYBL after three sessions with 44 three-pointers.
"There's value in being able to shoot the ball the way Gabe Kalscheur does," Daniels said.
Kalscheur led Pulley to the Jayhawk Invitational championship in Kansas two weeks ago. He picked up his second major conference offer from Pittsburgh this month.
“It feels really good to be playing at a high level and playing efficient and well against a high level of competition,” Kalscheur said. “I’ve been working on my game since last summer to get better. Last year, I had to play behind (Duke-bound Gary Trent Jr.) and (Wisconsin-bound Brad Davison). It’s my time now to show why I deserve and belong on the circuit.”
It sure seems like the entire Pulley team has adopted that mentality as well.
Hurt update: Rochester John Marshall sophomore star and Gophers target Matthew Hurt gets the cast on his broken arm removed Friday. He’ll need another week or so to recover after that. But the five-star Class of 2019 forward could return to the court for D1 Minnesota’s AAU team next month.
D1 Minnesota is 5-3 in the Adidas Uprising series without Hurt. Armstrong junior forward and Gophers target Race Thompson leads the team with 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds. Delano junior guard Calvin Wishart averages 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.