You didn’t hear much from Timberwolves players on Twitter or elsewhere when their team won next month’s draft No. 1 pick in the recent draft lottery. But I caught up over the weekend with Zach LaVine to talk about his upcoming youth camp at St. Thomas Academy and other things.
He didn’t watch the lottery results live, but it didn’t take long for him to learn that his Wolves got lucky for the first time in their history.
“I was happy,” he said from Seattle, where he spending much of the summer. “We’re building for the future and it’s another up-and-coming player for us. It’s going to be great…The No. 1 pick is the best player in the draft. That’s what people think. It has the potential to be. Whoever it is, he’s just going to help us out even more. I’m excited to see what we’re all about when we get back and get everything going again.”
LaVine said he still plans for the Wolves’ Las Vegas team in July, when he’ll likely get his first close look at the newest Wolves, including that No. 1 pick.
LaVine has played against Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell on the AAU circuit before, but can’t recall playing against Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns. He did watch plenty of Okafor and Towns playing college ball last season.
The Wolves are expected to pick one of the two big men – Okafor or Towns – but Flip Saunders reiterated the other day that he’s keeping all options open. That presumably includes the possibility of trades (probably involving anything but that No. 1 pick) and looking hard at Russell, a smooth-shooting point guard who just might become the most productive in this draft, as well as European prospect Kristaps Porzingis and guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the Dallas-raised prospect who played in China last season.
The Wolves started draft workouts Friday at Target Center by bringing in six players – including former Gophers guard Andre Hollins – expected to be second-round picks or rookie free agents.
The Wolves hope to bring as many candidates for that No. 1 pick to town so they can show them the new practice facility, but likely will travel to see whoever they can’t get in here. It's not clear yet whether those meetings with Towns and Okafor will include both workouts and interviews with each, or just interviews.
“I got to see them throughout the year, I watched a lot,” LaVine said of Okafor, Towns and Russell. “Okafor, he’s good. He’s really skilled, extremely skilled. He’s a do-everything big man: Can pass, shot the little pull-up, stuff like. He’s got those ginormous hands, it’s crazy.”
Asked whether he’d prefer his team add a big man or another guard who can stretch the floor with shooting, LaVine said, “I don’t think that’s my decision. I’m not going to speak on that. The coach and the GM, whatever they think is best for the team…”
LaVine vacationed in Hawaii soon after the season ended and was in California recently to work with trainer Drew Hanlen. He’ll spend a lot of the summer back home in Seattle working out, with gaining weight and getting stronger the top things on his list.
“Just getting on my grind,” he said. “I’m working on everything. I feel like I eat a lot, I’m hitting the weights. My body just needs to mature a bit.”
He attended youth basketball camps growing up near Seattle and now will be presenting his own for grades 3 through 12 at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights June 10-12. There will be morning and afternoon sessions, based upon age. Grades 3-6 will go from 9 to 12:30 pm, grades 8-12 from 1-4:30 p.m.
Cost is $185 for the camp’s three days, which will include individual drills, games and an emphasis on teamwork and sportsmanship.
“I went to a lot of different ones – ball-handling camps, shooting camps, my high school had one from the third grade – when I was growing up,” LaVine said. “I always thought they were fun. Now, it’s a privilege to have my own. I want to give back to the community. I know I have a big fan-base there in Minnesota, so I thought it’d be a lot of fun and I thought the community would like it and enjoy it.”
LaVine said his dad, former high-school coach, his Seattle-area trainer Tony Willis and others involved in his training over the years will help him out.
He also promises “a special-guest appearance” but says “I can’t give too many details now.”
Will he teach the campers to dunk like he does?
“None of that, maybe in a couple years,” he said. “I’m going to teach them how to shoot and dribble like. I don’t know if I can teach them how to dunk, though.”
If you missed it online last week, here’s footage of LaVine after working out in California, playing wide receiver and dunking footballs. You can see it here.
His camp is being billed as his “1st annual.”
For registration or more information, visit www.perfectfootwork.com
* Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are going back home to Canada for not one, but two preseason games in October.
They'll play the Bulls (and probable new coach Fred Hoiberg) on Oct. 10 in Winnipeg and Toronto in Ottawa on Oct. 14 as part of the NBA's fourth annual Canada Series.
The Raptors also will play the Clippers in Vancouver and Washington in Montreal during the preseason.