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Watch Out for Team Jones in Pro Am

June 27, 2017 - (0) comments

 

Local basketball fans already have incentive to watch Twin Cities Pro Am games but next month becomes even more appealing. Tyus Jones, the Timberwolves reserve point guard and 2014 Minnesota Mr. Basketball, will join brothers Tre Jones and Jadee Jones on Team Jones.

The NBA doesn’t allow players to participate in summer league games like the Twin Cities Pro Am until July. It’s then that Tyus can make undefeated Team Jones even better.

Tre is preparing for his senior season at Apple Valley High School, where Jadee, 31, has coached the junior varsity. Tre is one of the nation’s most sought after prep point guards and in a Team Jones win over Hybrid Nation on Monday night was at times the best player on the floor. That’s saying something since the first-year league has rosters filled with college and pro players on the six teams.

Tre played his first game since injuring his ankle in late May. He said “the rust” was coming off Monday night. That pleased him and so did the anticipation of playing with Tyus for the first time since Tre made the Apple Valley varsity as an eighth grader.

Tyus Jones (photo courtesy of Minnesota Timberwolves)

There’s more to the anticipation, too. “Once Tyus is back and all three of us get to be out there, that will be kind of cool,” Jadee said. “That will be the first time we’ve ever played together.”

At times all three Jones brothers will be on the floor together at the TC Pro Am games that are played at DeLaSalle High School. Jadee, who played collegiately at Mankato, profiles himself more as a shooter, while Tyus and Tre can do many things but are often praised first as playmakers.

“We really know each other’s games so it will be fun.” Jadee said. “We’ve talked a lot about it. Get a chance to be out there together. Can’t wait until we can make it happen.”

The Team Jones roster also includes Gophers sophomore forwards Eric Curry (now with short hair) and Michael Hurt. Even without Tyus, Team Jones is 3-0 so far on a league schedule that started June 19 and continues for several more weeks. Should Team Jones be made the favorite to have the best regular season record and win the playoffs?

“I don’t know if you can put it on us yet,” Jadee said. “See how we do once Tyus comes…but we really like our team.”

Pro Am Notes

The draw for many fans attending the free games of the Pro Am league is the Gophers players including incoming freshman Isaiah Washington. Known for flashy moves and shots, the New York City point guard might have a skillset unlike any player who has ever been a Gopher. The best comparison could be with Ray Williams, the former Gopher guard-forward, also from New York, who dazzled crowds at Williams Arena in the 1970s before playing in the NBA.

Washington has made an early impression on Pro Am commissioner Jamar Diggs. “He is a special athlete,” Diggs said.

Former Gopher Trevor Mbakwe, who plays for Hybrid Nation, was asked if Washington’s flamboyant style might make it more difficult for the former New York City Mr. Basketball to fit in with older teammates. “I am sure there’s going to be times when Nate (Mason) is going to have to bring him to the side to do something. Change what he’s doing, but I don’t think that‘s going to be an issue at all (fitting in),” Mbakwe said. “We have great upperclassmen.”

Mason plays in the Pro Am league for Hybrid Nation so he isn’t on Washington’s N1 Motion team that includes Gopher Jordan Murphy, but as a senior point guard Mason’s job will be to mentor the freshman. Monday night he sat next to Washington on the bench during N1 Motion’s game against Diggs Team.

Washington looked disinterred in playing defense in the game but earlier in the evening Diggs cautioned about making too much of any player’s profile in Pro Am games. “To be honest, this is glorified pickup (basketball),” Diggs said. “No matter who comes in here, you can’t notice too much what’s going on. It’s not a college game. It’s not a professional game.”

Mbakwe, though, has picked up on the excitement of fans about Washington. “We’re lucky to have him here,” Mbakwe said.

Mbakwe stays in touch with former Gopher teammates including Royce White, who is trying to make a comeback after being an NBA No. 1 draft choice in 2012. “He’s a hell of a player,” Mbakwe said.

So good, Mbakwe contends, that White is worth a $100 million contract in the NBA. And Mbakwe compares White, a versatile scoring, rebounding and playmaking forward with Draymond Green, a star front court player on the NBA champion Warriors. “What Draymond Green is doing right now, Royce could be doing,” Mbakwe said.

Mbakwe and Diggs both played professionally overseas last season. Mbakwe was in St. Petersburg, Russia but isn’t sure about where he will be next season. Diggs, who was a high school standout at DeLaSalle, was MVP in the Lithuania League and is also sorting out plans while running the Pro Am league he organized.

 

Twins Buy-Sell Decision Still Too Early

June 25, 2017 - (0) comments

 

A Sunday notes column with the Twins leading off:

The Twins are a surprise contender for the American League Central Division title, and this morning were only a half game out of first place. The turnaround from 2016 when Minnesota finished with a 59-103 record doesn’t predict, however, whether the front office will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline July 31.

Club president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners on Friday it’s too early to determine what direction the franchise will go with its roster by the end of July, and even in August when MLB teams can still make moves through waiver deals. He made it clear that whatever course the club determines will be decided by Derek Falvey, the chief baseball officer who was hired last fall.

“We’ll try to do what’s best for our club,” St. Peter said. “I have great confidence in Derek Flavey to lead that decision making process. … It’s a little early to get into where we stand in that. Obviously our club has been competitive but it’s also obvious we have a lot of work to do.”

Falvey & Levine

Falvey and others involved with the Twins leadership, including general manager Thad Levine, are taking a long-term view in rebuilding the franchise. While it’s a positive to be playing above .500 with a 38-34 record, the goal is to become a consistent winner that can deliver championships. The Twins have holes on their roster, including at times an alarming lack of quality pitching. The farm system only has a couple of prospects who will make top 100 lists of baseball’s most promising players.

“There are a lot of positives with this (current roster) group of players,” St. Peter commented. “That said, we’ve also seen challenges and we need to find ways to get better. I am optimistic that Derek is going to explore every avenue going forward, and not just in the short-term but probably more importantly over the long-term.”

On July 22 the Twins celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 1987 World Series championship team during a pregame ceremony at Target Field before Minnesota plays the Tigers. That Twins won the first world title by a Minnesota pro sports team since the 1954 Minneapolis Lakers were NBA champs.

The 1965 Twins were in the World Series, the 1981 North Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Vikings lost four times in Super Bowls in the 1970s, but St. Peter said Upper Midwest sports fans are “eternally grateful to that group (the ’87 Twins) for actually bringing home a world championship.”

The ’87 team wasn’t a preseason favorite to reach the World Series. Part of the love affair for fans with that team was how they surprised most everyone with their success. “It’s by far, in my opinion, the most popular group-team in Minnesota sports history,” said St. Peter who expects many members of the team to be in Minneapolis for the reunion.

Earlier this year the Twins’ Eduardo Escobar represented the club in a cow milking contest against the Angels’ Blake Parker in Anaheim. St. Peter said a milking contest could be part of his franchise’s plans for next season and help celebrate agriculture.

Asked about potential Twins to participate, St. Peter identified Escobar and Chris Gimenez who he said was known as a “decent milker” while participating in cow milking with other clubs. Years ago the promotion was popular at Met Stadium.

It’s not believed (just kidding) cow milking skills or experience will be factors in determining the Twins’ roster coming out of spring training in 2018.

Longtime Wolves followers might wonder about the reported relationship between Jimmy Butler and coach Fred Hoiberg during the last two seasons in Chicago. Butler, the All-Star small forward traded to the Wolves last week, was apparently critical and challenging of Hoiberg’s coaching. Hoiberg, who played for the Wolves and worked for the organization years ago, is a terrific person and classy guy.

Westgate sports book moved the Wolves from 100-1 to 60-1 to win next year’s NBA title after the Minnesota-Chicago trade, according to a Friday online story by Todd Dewey for the Las Vegas ReviewJournal. The Bulls’ odds went from 100-1 to 200-1.

Athlon Sports is celebrating 50 years since its inception and its Big Ten football magazine now on newsstands includes a feature ranking the 50 top college players dating back to 1967. Minneapolis’ Larry Fitzgerald Jr., the wide receiver who played at Pittsburgh, is No. 23. Former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss, who scored at least one touchdown in each of his college games at Marshall, is No. 22. Running back Herschel Walker, who also played for the Vikings and won the Heisman Trophy while leading Georgia to the national championship, is No. 1 on the list.

Teddy Bridgewater’s rehabilitation of his knee is ongoing but optimism about his chances of playing quarterback again for the Vikings is more certain than several months ago.

Jennifer Hines, tournament director for the 3M Championship, is one of three women in the country directing PGA tournaments. Another director is Hines’ sister, Tracy West, with the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.

This year’s 3M Championship is July 31-August 6 at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. Jack Nicklaus will be among the golf legends expected to play in a special event. Joe Durant won the tournament last year. Admission is free all week.

Creative Charters, the Stillwater-based fan tour company, is offering a package with more than football for the Gophers game on September 9 in Corvallis against Oregon State. The trip includes activities on the Oregon coast with fishing, whale watching, wine tasting and more. Details at Creativecharter.com.

The 29th annual Bruce Smith Golf Classic last Monday at Faribault Golf Club included former Gophers Seth Helgeson, Darrell Thompson and Ben Utecht. The fundraising event benefits Faribault schools and has generated about $225,000 over the years. It honors Bruce Smith, the Faribault native who won the 1941 Heisman Trophy playing for the Gophers.

Kaitlin Langer, who finished her senior season at St. Thomas as the D3Hoops.com Player of the Year, majored in real estate studies and is “affiliated with a RE/MAX office in Rosemount,” according to the latest issue of the University of St. Thomas magazine.

 

Twins Need Santana Momentum Tonight

June 20, 2017 - (0) comments

 

A Tuesday notes column with items about the Gophers, Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings.

Losers of four consecutive games and now out of first place in the American League Central Division, the Twins are yet again counting on Ervin Santana. He starts tonight’s game at Target Field against the White Sox and he has won almost 25 percent of Minnesota’s games so far this season.

The Twins were outscored 28-8 by the Indians in their four losses from last Friday through Sunday. The Indians now lead the Twins by 2.5 games in the division and the two teams play this coming weekend in Cleveland. Before going on the road, the 34-33 Twins have three games at home against the White Sox, who are 31-37 and in last place in the Central Division.

Santana is 8-4 with a 2:56 ERA. A win tonight will keep him near other major league pitchers for most victories this season. Santana could finish the season as a 20-game winner and the club MVP. The 34-year-old right hander has exceeded expectations and the Twins need one of his better efforts tonight to end their slide.

The Twins have lost 12 of their last 16 home games.

Six of the team’s games at Target Field have been impacted by weather this spring. Three games were delayed and three postponed.

It was 40 years ago that the Twins’ Rod Carew made his famous run to become baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941. Carew was a national story and appeared on the July 18, 1977 cover of Time magazine. Carew finished the season at .388, the highest of his Hall of Fame career.

Williams, who played for the Minneapolis Millers before joining the Red Sox, hit .406 in 1941 and is still the last man to average over .400 for a season. Williams, when he was 39 years old in 1957, led the American League in hitting with a .388 average.

When the Gophers play Miami at Williams Arena next November as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, they will see five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker. The freshman is projected to be the No. 8 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, according Nbadraft.net.

The website has former Apple Valley five-star shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. leaving Duke after one season and being the No. 9 player taken in the first round. J.P. Macura, the shooting guard from Lakeville North, will be a second round pick at No. 44 after completing his senior season at Xavier.

Amir Coffey

Nbadraft.net doesn’t project any Gophers being selected in either the first or second rounds in 2018. The Gophers, though, have a few players, including sophomore forward Amir Coffey, who might work their way on to hypothetical draft boards in the next nine months.

Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac, who led the Seminoles to a home win over the Gophers last season, seems like the right fit for the Timberwolves when they use the No. 7 selection in Thursday night’s NBA Draft—if he is still available. Isaac, 6-10, is a slender but versatile defender who reportedly could bring the kind of defense and toughness the Wolves need. He was a freshman All-American last season.

The Wolves, who would surprise no one if they trade their No. 7 pick, are hosting draft night parties from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday night at Kieran’s Irish Pub in Minneapolis, The Liffey in St. Paul, Bunny’s Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park, and Champps in Eden Prairie.

P.J. Fleck, the Gophers’ 36-year-old football coach, talking about all he has experienced at a young age: “It seems like I should be 67 by now and retiring. My high school gave me the lifetime achievement award in the hall of fame. I got that when I was 34.”

Former Gophers trainer Jim Marshall turns 87 on July 3, the same day ex-Minnesota and Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla has his 101st birthday.

Former two-time Gophers All-American tackle Bobby Bell was 77 last Saturday.

Sam Richter, a St. Louis Park native and former Gophers football letter winner, was inducted last week into the Minnesota Speaker Hall of Fame by the National Speakers Association. Richter is only the 28th person ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. Richter, who was an Academic All-American, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on sales intelligence and digital reputation management.

Nemer Fieger, the St. Louis Park-based marketing agency, is working with the Gophers athletic department to better communicate the successes of women’s sports, according to Julie Manning.

Manning, executive associate athletics director, also said the department has launched a campaign to raise $10 million over three years to provide additional resources for head coaches of women’s sports.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will be in Dallas this weekend for a family wedding. After eight eye surgeries, there probably isn’t a player in the NFL who question’s Zimmer’s toughness.

After two rounds through yesterday, Minikahda Club teaching pro Jeff Sorenson was among the leaders in the PGA Professional Championship in Sunriver, Oregon, according to news from PGA.com. Sorenson finished third in the 2013 tournament at Sunriver Resort.

The Minnesota Youth Football Summit is a free event this Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium that will look at how young players can have a better experience. More information, including online registration, is available at myas.org/football.

 

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