Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn first became friends in elementary school when they played together on a Minneapolis Hustlers AAU team that, according to Vaughn, was quite good. “We got fifth at nationals,” he said.
Must have been, considering those Hustlers had two future first-round NBA draft picks. The Wolves’ preseason finale against Milwaukee at Target Center on Friday didn’t really mean much in the big picture. But to Jones and Vaughn it meant a little more.
“It was the start of our basketball careers,” Jones said of those AAU days. “And we’ve been friends ever since.’’
Both rookies, Vaughn, the former Robbinsdale Cooper star and UNLV player, was drafted by the Bucks with the 17th pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Six picks later Jones was picked 24th by Cleveland, then traded to the Wolves. Friday, in his first professional game back home, Vaughn was in the Bucks’ starting lineup.
“I’m excited to get back here, play in front of friends and family,” Vaughn said.
It’s not the first time Jones and Vaughn have gone face-to-face. It happened Tuesday in a preseason game with the Bucks in Madison, Wis.
But there have been bigger games. Jones was a star at Apple Valley, which beat Cooper in 2013 in the Timberwolves Shootout, a game in which Jones scored 18 points with eight assists and Vaughn scored 35. That same year, in a the Elite Youth Basketball League — a program run by Nike for top players during the summer — Jones and Vaughn faced off in an overtime thriller in Hampton, Va. Jones was playing for the Howard Pulley team while Vaughn was playing for Wisconsin Playground Elite. Pulley won in OT. Through it all they have kept in touch.
“It’s been kind of cool, to follow each other’s journey,” Jones said.
Said Vaughn: “For both of us to get drafted in the first round in the same year, to be playing against each other at the highest level is definitely a blessing.’’
Vaughn, who had several friends and family at Friday’s game, got a much better reception than Jones did in Madison. Jones, who led Duke to a victory over Wisconsin in the NCAA championship game, was booed the minute he hit the court Tuesday.