NCB On The Trail: Tyus Jones

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The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday, the USA team defeated the World team 84-73 for the first USA win since 2011. The USA squad featured a balanced attack as four players scored in double figures: Justise Winslow (Duke signee) led the USA team with 16 points, Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Kelly Oubre (Kansas) each scored 14 points and Tyus Jones (Duke) added 13.

Let's take a look at what we learned from this year's Hoop Summit.


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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


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CHICAGO -- Wednesday marked the 37th Annual McDonald's All-American game featuring the top high school boys basketball players in the country. The game took place at the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

Best low-post player: Jahlil Okafor


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CHICAGO -- The prestigious McDonald's All American Game annually brings together the best talent in high school basketball, all on one stage. Here are a few game matchups to watch for this year's star-studded event, which can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday night at 9:30 ET.


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Recruit and return: Duke 

March, 21, 2014
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To return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Duke and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Tyus Jones
G: Quinn Cook
G: Rasheed Sulaimon
F: Amile Jefferson
C: Jahlil Okafor


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Roundtable: Future NCAA tourney stars 

March, 18, 2014
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March Madness is in full swing with conference tournaments and selection Sunday giving way to the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.

With each possession of each game now carrying far greater magnitude, championships are being decided by the players and teams that are able to control their emotions and execute under intensity and pressure.

Coaches go to great lengths to simulate these types of scenarios during the course of the year. Programs such as Kentucky and Connecticut actually monitor their players’ heart rates during games and practices, measuring and ultimately trying to reduce the variance as much as possible, while other coaches dedicate a huge amount of practice time to late-game situations in hopes of relieving the pressure of a potential tense moment, replacing it with a sense of preparedness.

Ultimately though, so much of being able to thrive in high-intensity situations comes down to a player’s DNA, and that is something that can be evaluated during the recruiting process, especially at this time of year, when high schools are going through their own postseason tournament runs.

With that in mind, we again went to our team of experts at Recruiting Nation and asked them which current high school prospects are built for future March Madness success, specifically in the game’s most critical minutes.


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video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



This is not just a good question, it is a great question!

Currently, Duke sits at No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25, No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and third in the ACC standings. Quinn Cook is averaging 11.7 points and 4.5 assists per game, the latter of which ranks fifth in the ACC. He also makes 82 percent of his free throws and is a valuable piece to the Blue Devils' success.

Cook has really transformed under head coach Mike Krzyzewski and staff. They helped him become more efficient because, at times, he used to lose control and make immature plays. I really like Cook's competitiveness and how he has matured on the court. He was always talented and a great kid off the floor.

Incoming Duke recruit Tyus Jones is a pure point guard who can score, while Cook is more of a combination scorer and setup man. Cook scores best when he drives to the basket, but he is also capable, although not great, on his 3-point shot (34 percent this season).

I believe they will both start and could play off each other quite well. No team will be able to press them, and they will be hard to guard as they can go by defenders and operate with ball screens extremely well.

That ultimate decision will be made by Coach K and his trustworthy staff.

Playing the comparison game 

February, 20, 2014
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It's a constant topic of conversation: Which player does this prospect remind us of?

Well, given that the current college basketball season has been dominated by freshmen, we took a look at Jeff Goodman’s latest ranking of college freshmen and played the comparison game.

Duke’s Jabari Parker reminds us of Duke signee Jahlil Okafor.
Although they obviously don’t play the same position or have the same style, the similarities are there, and not just the superficial ones such as their hometown of Chicago or college destination. Although Parker does his work primarily from the perimeter and Okafor on the block, Okafor has that same level of maturity that will allow him to adjust to offensive structure just as quickly as Parker has. Furthermore, Okafor likely will take over for Parker and become the immediate focal point of the way Duke plays in the half court. The Blue Devils have tailored what they do offensively to Parker this season, and they’re likely to do the same for Okafor next season.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.


A very interesting question about a possible new trend in recruiting.

As we all know, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014, Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), and No. 4 Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley) decided together to attend Duke. They met on the basketball court when they were very young (third grade), and were invited to play for USA Basketball together in high school.

They first developed a friendship off the court, then became great teammates on the floor. Together, they experienced a high level of success.

Through their friendship and basketball talents, they both decided to attend Duke and be teammates.

It was a well-thought-out plan, not some fly-by-night deal.

They realized that they needed and wanted each other's talent on the floor and friendship off the court. I believe they will support each other when things get tough.

I am totally good with two guys going to the same school together, as long as it's well-thought-out for both parties. Remember, there is always a risk with this type of deal because it might work out for one, but not for the other. It really helps if the two players involved have a friendship based outside of basketball.

I am in favor of a good plan, but not some random package deal.

Video: 2014 McDonald’s Boys’ East roster

January, 29, 2014
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Matt Schick and national recruiting director Paul Biancardi announce the East roster for the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago. Headlining the East are the nation’s No. 1 point guard, No. 1 power forward and No. 2 overall recruit.
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The McDonald's All American Game is annually the nation's most prestigious high school basketball all-star event. The rosters have been announced for the Class of 2014, and this year's game will once again be played at the United Center in Chicago and will air live on ESPN on April 2.

Here's a deeper look at five exciting matchups we'll see in the 2014 contest.

1. The battle of the giants
Jahlil Okafor (West) vs. Myles Turner (East)


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

When you speak of Tyus Jones (Duke), Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU) and Joel Berry (North Carolina), you are looking at three of the elite point guard recruits in the country. Each brings his own talent, physical tools and traits to play the position. I don't see a drop off among them at all.

Berry has been a starting point guard since his freshman season, so he knows how to lead. He is tough-minded, makes open shots, defends the ball and makes winning plays. Berry was recently was named to the USA Junior National Select Team that will compete in the Nike Hoop Summit in April.

Jones is the best passer of the trio and manages the end of games extremely well. Mudiay has more of the physical tools such as size (6-5, 190 pounds) and speed and is the best driver of the three. From his penetration, Mudiay also displays excellent passing vision.

Point guard is the most important and most difficult position to make the adjustment to the college game, and as future leaders, they all have a huge learning curve processing the game and performing at the next level. Duke, SMU and North Carolina each signed elite players and people with these three point guard prospects.
The Duke Blue Devils have the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2014 and the first player to commit in that group was Grayson Allen. Much has been discussed and written about ESPN No. 1 Jahlil Okafor , ESPN No. 4 Tyus Jones and ESPN No. 14 Justise Winslow but Allen has had a strong senior campaign.

Sitting at No. 24 in the senior class, let’s take a closer look at what Allen will bring to the Blue Devils.

Part athlete, part basketball player

Allen understands the game and has plenty of skill but what most don’t realize is that he may be physical ready as a freshman. Allen is a very good athlete with a vertical jump that raises your eyebrows -- which helps him tremendously as he tries to finalize a play and throw it down. He stands close to 6-foot-4 with a strong frame and room to put more muscle on. He has long arms which help when shooting, rebounding, defending and trying to block a shot. He’s a good blend of a basketball player and athlete who can use his physical tools to perform and produce.

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Basketball is played right through the new year, so as we look back and plan ahead let’s take a look halfway through this season at which 2014 prospects have performed best in 14 categories.

1. Best in the low post: Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), Duke signee
If a team needs to score a basket in the lower half of the painted area, Okafor is the one to pass it to. He has secure hands to catch almost any pass and a soft touch with superb footwork. He also has a wide mobile body to seal his man and the patience to throw the ball back out and re-post his 7-foot-3 wing span.


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