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Watch Out for Team Jones in Pro Am

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June 27, 2017

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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.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers.

Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section.

A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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