Reusse: Late Cooper fade shouldn't deter recruiters

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2013 - 3:09 AM

Rashad Vaughn got little help in a loss to Tyus Jones and Apple Valley.

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Apple Valley's James Horton defended as Robbinsdale Cooper's Rashad Vaughn drove to the basket.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Rashad Vaughn played the full 36 minutes and scored 36 points on Friday night. His Cooper team lost 85-70 to always-mighty Hopkins.

Vaughn played the full 36 minutes and scored 35 points on Saturday afternoon. Cooper lost 80-70 to Apple Valley, with point guard and super recruit Tyus Jones.

The Hawks are going to have to get their act together if they have any hope to make it through a Class 4A section that includes Osseo and Park Center and reach the state tournament come March.

"We have a tough section," Vaughn said, then added, "But we should be right by that time."

Everything looked right for Vaughn, a 6-foot-6 junior, with 12 minutes remaining in Saturday's featured attraction of the four-game Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center.

Cooper was leading 36-35 at halftime, and then Vaughn came out and scored 10 points in 5 1/2 minutes to push the Hawks to a 54-43 lead. The last six were on a pair of smooth three-pointers, which caused some smiles among the coaches sitting in a group along the front row:

North Carolina's Roy Williams, Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and a gent with a stately mustache identified by observers as Orlando Smith of Minnesota.

The crowd also included most of Smith's current players, including Joe Coleman, a player with size and talent similar to Vaughn's -- but less of a long-distance game.

Jones is the point guard who started attracting big names in college coaching in his freshman year. Vaughn's reputation started to grow in the spring and summer tournaments, to the point that he's now 1B to Jones' 1A with the recruiters making visits to Minnesota.

When he drained that second three to up the lead to 11, it looked as if this matchup would belong to Vaughn. He had 25 at the time, while Jones was sort of cruising into the offensive zone, looking for teammates to accept a pass.

And then Tyus went to work, and so did an Apple Valley team with a better-balanced roster, and Cooper went tumbling to its fifth loss in nine games this season.

Cooper's offense became Vaughn getting the ball at the top of the key and trying to figure out a way to get past a collection of defenders ready to crowd his lane to the basket.

Apple Valley's offense became Jones sliding past his primary defender, looking for an open teammate or continuing to the basket. There were times when Tyus looked almost too cool for school, and then when the game was being decided, he was tremendous.

What happened to the Hawks?

"We were prepared and ran our offense for a lot of the game," Vaughn said. "Then we lost our discipline. We're a young team. We're still learning."

Vaughn seemed to be repeating what he had heard in the postgame locker room from coach Steve Burton. Or, more likely, from Pete Kaffey, Burton's No. 1 assistant and a coach who offered an impressive monologue during the game.

As Apple Valley started its comeback in the final 12 minutes, Vaughn didn't see the ball on a couple of Cooper trips to the offensive end.

"Shoddy, Shoddy," Kaffey said loudly to Vaughn. "You're hot. You gotta keep it going."

Vaughn couldn't keep it going -- although it wasn't for a lack of trying. He was 14-for-33 from the field, including 4-for-11 on threes. There was little evidence of teammates setting screens to help Rashad get better looks over the final 10 minutes.

"When everybody started going one-on-one, they came back on us," Vaughn said. "We get rowdy as a team, and games get away from us."

North Carolina is alleged to be one of the few powerhouse teams that had not offered a scholarship for the fall of 2014 to Vaughn.

Williams and assistant Hubert Davis arrived in their front-row seats Saturday with 10 minutes left in the first half.

The Tar Heels' brain trust saw plenty of reasons to embrace the theory that Jones is the No. 1 junior point guard in America. Presumably, the quickness, the spring and the shooting stroke caused the twosome to leave with a similar opinion of Vaughn as a wing player.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

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