Kids these days.
They’re older than they used to be.
For the best young athletes in the Twin Cities, 20 is the new 30.
A flock of young athletes has graduated from puberty to the outskirts of stardom in Minnesota, making the Twins, Timberwolves and Vikings as simultaneously promising as they have been for decades.
Teddy Bridgewater, Anthony Barr, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones are all between 19 and 23, with only Barr being older than 22. All have adapted to the national stage with the ease of an average teenager adapting to new social media.
Wednesday night, the Timberwolves unveiled the first picks in the last two NBA drafts, as Towns and Wiggins played in an open scrimmage alongside Tyus Jones and Zach LaVine at Target Center. The event drew more than 15,000 fans, and Towns displayed as much personality as game.
Before the scrimmage, he grabbed a mic and welcomed the fans. During the game, he dribbled the length of the floor for a layup, hit a three-pointer, dominated the boards, hit a lefthanded half-hook and even politely kissed coach Flip Saunders’ wife the first time he came off the floor.
Wiggins last year played his best against the best competition, performing better in the NBA than he did in his one year at Kansas. Jones thrived as an eighth-grader on the Apple Valley varsity and as a title-winning freshman at Duke, and looked just as comfortable on the Target Center floor wearing a Wolves uniform as he was playing showcase games there in high school.
“I’ve had a number of games on this court during my career so I’m somewhat familiar with it,’’ Jones said. “Obviously it’s a different uniform and a different level of competition, but I’m somewhat comfortable with it.’’
Sano spent his first week in the big leagues acting like the Twins’ most mature hitter. Soon he and Buxton, who is out with a thumb injury, will play in the big leagues together for the first time.
Bridgewater, the Vikings quarterback, carries himself like a 10-year veteran. Barr, who barely played linebacker in college, adapted to Mike Zimmer’s defense well enough to become one of the NFL’s best rookies until he was injured last year.
They all have different personalities — from Buxton’s country reserve to Sano’s cocky playfulness to Towns’ happy-go-lucky charm. What they share is remarkable composure while facing great expectations early in their professional lives.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan noted that the wave of talented youngsters in baseball has featured players with as much polish as talent. “I don’t think it’s a cycle,’’ Ryan said. “I think it’s becoming closer to the norm.’’
Young stars increasingly arrive in the pros prepared to handle fan attention, media demands, professional pressure and in-game situations.
They are the product of the first generation to grow up with social media, blanket television coverage, intricate sports video games and one-click access to refined training techniques.
They expect to be scrutinized and interviewed, because they have watched thousands of television interviews. They have been trained by their agents to ease through interviews while making themselves attractive to sponsors. They have faced every game situation and decision while playing video games. And they began preparing themselves to be pros when most kids were happy with an allowance and a spot on the couch.
Towns and Jones competed with the best players in the country long before they went to Kentucky and Duke.
Towns said his one season at Kentucky “felt like playing four years of college ball,’’ and that coach John Calipari “prepared us for the pros.’’
“I’ve had two practices,’’ Towns said, flashing a big smile. “And I feel like a veteran.’’
There’s a lot of that going around.