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Sophomore PG Tyus Jones will be special

10/18/2011

Shooting 3s ...

Jones is a special sophomore

I had a chance to sit down with Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley) last weekend in Colorado Springs. Going into camp, I thought Jones was the best pure point guard in high school basketball and he did little to change my impression. Jones was the second-youngest player in the entire camp but after Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon), he’s the most mature. Jones is an intelligent kid on and off the court and that’s vital to the position he plays. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to be a floor general in college and beyond. He samples from my all-time favorite PG, Chris Paul, and like CP3, Jones is a thinking man’s pass-first point guard who is introspective. He’s so much more mature than his age and his game follows suit. Mentally, this kid is at such a high level you know he’s going to be elite for a long time.

Jones is a program-changer. Former Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser once said that he hands Paul the ball to start the game and he’s comfortable Paul will hand it back to him in good shape following the game; Jones is the same way. Honestly, there may be only five programs in college basketball Jones couldn’t start for now. His skill in running a team, making players better and being an extension of the coach -- which is a gift that is rarely replicated.

During the fall period, I was surprised to learn just how few head coaches came in to see him. In Jones’ words, a lot of assistants buzzed his gym but only Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg were the lone head coaches to see him. Honestly, that’s a little mind-boggling. I get it, he’s a sophomore but in my opinion, he’s capable of creating championship expectations on the college level. Jones has offers from Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Marquette, Michigan State, Arizona, Baylor, Ohio State and Providence. Duke hasn’t offered yet but the Blue Devils are going to factor into this equation before it’s all said and done. Jones will visit Ohio State unofficially Nov. 5.

The point guard is the most valuable position in college basketball. Want proof? Look at the Final Four and national championship teams over history. College basketball does not and won't have a glut of great point guards the next few years. Jones, who makes guys around him better, is special and to think he has three more years of high school remaining is scary.

Weekend major commitments

John Thompson’s Georgetown Hoyas are in business. Over the weekend, the program secured a verbal commitment from D’Vauntes-Smith Rivera (Indianapolis, Ind./Oak Hill). The Hoyas did well to nab D.S.R., who was once a commitment for Xavier. Smith-Rivera is Oak Hill’s No. 1 scoring threat; he’s always been a kid who can get buckets. Georgetown will turn to him and ask him to play a role he’s comfortable with and don’t be surprised if he turns into one of the more reliable scorer’s in the Big East.

Wake Forest owns a six-man recruiting class and coach Jeff Bzdelik is beginning to put his mark on the Deacons recruiting. Wake’s had enough off-the-court troubles but now the second-year coach has cleaned house and next fall he’ll have his own troops. Devin Thomas (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) was a hot name in the spring and he could be a JV Jared Dudley type player. This class is now ranked No. 10 with a pair of ESPNU 100 talents and a bunch of nice pieces.

Saint Joseph’s backcourt of the future will be current freshman Chris Wilson and 2012 addition Kyle Molock (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman). Multiple knee injuries derailed the one-time Purdue pledge but reports out of his area this fall reveal a talented point guard of the highest mid-major ilk. More importantly, the kid has something to prove and he picked a level that suits his game for future success.

The rise of Jimmie Taylor

USA Basketball’s fall mini-camp was awesome. It was a closed environment and that meant no groupies, no baseline mix tape cameras and a focus on getting better and competing. USA Basketball invited 29 kids to the event. In June, they’ll reconvene, make some camp additions and get down to the business of cutting their roster to 12 players. Every player that was cut from last year’s U-16 team came back to camp. Think about that: how many kids in today’s day and age experience getting cut at this stage in their career? Not many. We give more participation trophies than ever but these kids, many of them, had to deal with the heartbreak of getting snipped for the first time in their lives. They learned a valuable lesson in picking themselves up off the ground and getting back to work.

Making this team is not going to be easy. Potential future NBA players will get cut from this roster. Last weekend, I watched kids compete hard in hopes of making the squad. I’d say almost everyone there knew coming in that they were under the microscope and acted accordingly. It was awesome to see player-driven competition in its purest form. These kids showed up to camp ready to work and they were self-motivated.

Of the 27 healthy players, the majority of them demonstrated noticeable improvement, especially the big guys. Jimmie Taylor (Greensboro, Ala./Greensboro) is coming on strong. He was the best shot-blocker in camp and reminded me of John Henson. Taylor is pushing 6-10 and his arms make him appear to be a 7-footer. Like Henson, he seems to unfurl to pin shots on the backboard and he’s capable of tracking shots and chasing down blocks. What he lacks in meat on his bones, he makes up for with his instincts and leaping ability. This kid is going places. Offensively, he’s coming into his own. Taylor’s personality is to fit in but he’s becoming comfortable speaking his mind and calling for the ball.

He lives about 35 minutes from Alabama’s campus and is the Tide’s prime target in the Class of 2013. If Anthony Grant’s going to nab Taylor, there will be traffic regionally and eventually on a national scale. Taylor said Bama, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State are on him the hardest. Guys in the heart of SEC territory are often difficult to pick off. Know this: programs are going to try.