College coaches hit the road for the first open period of the AAU season over the weekend, so Apple Valley point guard Tre Jones definitely picked a great time to show how much he's improved in a year.
Jones, the state’s top Class of 2018 prospect, helped his Howard Pulley AAU team finish 3-1 to start the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League season in Hampton, Va. He averaged 18 points, 9.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals in four games.
Of course, Gophers fans back home saw the buzz this week about the younger brother of Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones and wondered where the home state program stands with him.
Jones told Scout.com hoops recruiting director Evan Daniels that he was impressed with an unofficial visit with Richard Pitino and the Gophers last week.
“It was really good,” Jones told Daniels in a video. “They’re putting in a brand new practice facility, which is going to help them a lot. They’re making major strides over there and that’s great to see.”
Jones told USA Today this weekend that “I think I’ll be making my decision at the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall at the latest,” he said.
His recruitment is still wide open right now. But Jones says UCLA, Minnesota, Duke, Arizona, Baylor and Oregon are recruiting him the hardest. The 6-foot-2 floor general was asked if staying home and playing for Minnesota was a draw for him.
“A little bit for sure,” Jones told Daniels. “I’m a family guy. My whole family’s at home. Tyus is playing right there, five minutes away from the University of Minnesota. So that would be amazing.”
It's still too early to tell if Pitino could really land Jones, because his older brother also spoke highly of the Gophers until cutting his list down and leaving them off in the end. You get a sense that this is a slightly different situation with Tre, even with Duke involved again. But everything will be much clearer when he schedules his visits after the AAU season.
Jones was Minnesota's Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Apple Valley to the Class 4A state title in March. He's known best for his defense and rebounding (USA Today's story on him being best rebounding point guard in the nation).
But Jones has made huge strides as a scorer and facilitator since last year. He currently leads the EYBL in assists, which included dropping 15 dimes to help Pulley beat Mac Irvin Fire (Ill.) on Saturday. Jones had a 30-point, eight-assist, seven-rebound performance Saturday in a Pulley victory against the California Supreme led by Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, and Bol Bol, son of former NBA shot-block leader Manute Bol.
This is Jones' second season in the EYBL's 17s division. So how much difference does a year make?
"For sure, I'm more comfortable this year," Jones said on Scout.com. "I feel like I'm a much better leader for our team, and I'm much better on the offensive end."
Jones’ Pulley teammate Daniel Oturu, a Gophers commit, stood out in the Hampton session of the EYBL, as well. The 6-9, 220-pound junior big man averaged 9.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in four games.
Oturu was interviewed on video by D1Circuit.com about the Gophers and Pitino.
“Looking to have fun and winning a lot,” he said about what he was looking forward to the most. “Making (NCAA) tournament runs.”
Gophers target Gabe Kalscheur from DeLaSalle averaged 17.0 points on 53 percent shooting (16-for-30) from three-point range for Pulley in Hampton. The 6-4 guard had high games of 19 and 26 points over the weekend.
In other AAU events, D1 Minnesota went 1-3 in the opening weekend of the Adidas Uprising league in Dallas. Gophers freshman Michael Hurt’s younger brother, Matthew, is out for a month with a broken hand. Hurt, a 6-10 sophomore, is one of the top 10 players in the 2019 class. So you can imagine how much his presence was missing on the court.
Armstrong junior Race Thompson, a Gophers target, tried to help replace Hurt inside. He averaged 13.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists in four games. The 6-8 forward had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Texas Pro and 21 points and eight rebounds against Game Elite (Ga.).
-- Former Dayton recruit and Champlin Park senior guard McKinley Wright played with D1 Minnesota in Dallas. Wright, the state’s Mr. Basketball, averaged 14 points, 2.7 assists and two steals in three games. Wright, who had 22 points against Game Elite, hasn't turned 18 yet, but he won't play with his former AAU team after Dallas. He had a crowd-pleasing putback dunk in a game with Pitino in attendance this weekend. But Minnesota doesn't have a scholarship to offer Wright at the moment. He's also hearing from Butler, Baylor, Tennessee, Colorado and Indiana, where former Flyers coach Archie Miller left for.
-- The Gophers coaches made a trip to New York to watch the Under Armour Association AAU circuit. Pitino reportedly offered a scholarship to 6-5 2018 guard Jaylen Sims from Charlotte United Christian in North Carolina. Sims, who can play point guard and shooting guard, plays AAU ball for Team Charlotte run by former Tar Heels standout Jeff McInnis. His body and game reminds me of current Gopher Dupree McBrayer.
-- Playing for Grassroots Sizzle at Under Armour in New York, Minnehaha Academy 2020 point guard Jalen Suggs finished fourth overall in scoring at the session, averaging 19.3 points in four games. Suggs was also third in steals per game with 2.8. He's the Gophers top target in the class.