Minnesota Boys All State Basketball

Can Tyus Jones be a good NBA player?


It’s August, which means that college hoops websites start scrounging for content, and ironically enough, within nine minutes of each other on Thursday morning, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com and his old buddies over at CBSSports.com posted rankings of the Class of 2014 recruits with the best NBA future in front of them.

CBS polled coaches during the summer months, and 50% of those that answered said that Jahlil Okafor would have the best NBA career. It’s not hard to see why. Okafor is 6-foot-11 and already checks in at over 250 pounds. He’s not a twig, but he also has the nimble footwork and array of post moves necessary to be a low post scoring threat at the highest level. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he could end up being a sane version of Demarcus Cousins down the road.

Goodman had Okafor second on his list behind Texas native Myles Turner, a guy that we’ve wrote plenty about this summer. Turner is an incredibly well-spoken and intelligent young man — he’s not quite about the fact he wants to be a counselor when basketball comes to an end — but thanks to a broken ankle last summer, he was a virtual non-entity entering the summer. But an athletic, 6-foot-11 shot blocker with range beyond the three-point line doesn’t stay quiet for long, and he quickly shot his way up top 100 lists. The name that keeps popping up with Turner is LaMarcus Aldridge.

Big man Cliff Alexander and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay filled out the rest of the top four in the CBS poll, while those two — and Kelly Oubre — populated Goodman’s top five.

The most interesting aspect of these lists is that Tyus Jones, the guy who many believed was, at worst, a top three player in the class entering the summer, is way down on these lists. CBS had him fifth, while Goodman didn’t even have Jones in his top ten.

And, if we’re being frank, that’s not necessarily a major surprise. Jones is a slender, 6-foot-0 point guard. He doesn’t have the overwhelming athleticism or the unstoppable quickness that some of the best NBA lead guards have. He’s not a physical specimen, comparatively speaking, which puts some limits on his upside. There are questions about his defense and his ability to shoot from the perimeter as well.

But it’s also important to remember that Jones embodies the concept of being a ‘pure point guard’. He’s a tremendous passer with an ability to get the ball where it needs to be on time and on target, which is a trait that is difficult to teach and develop. He understands how to run the pick-and-roll as well as any point guard at the high school level in recent memory. He reads defenses particularly well and is patient enough that he doesn’t need to overpenetrate or force shots that often. Even at this level, where Jones is probably quick enough to beat anyone off the dribble, he’s proven that he understands how to use change-of-pace to beat people off the bounce, and while he prefers to create for others, he’s crafty enough to finish around the rim with difficult, off-balance layups or an array of floaters and short jumpers.

Simply put, Jones understands how to play the game. He understands how to run an offense. He’s unselfish. While the term is overrated and quite often misused, he’s as pure as a point guard can get.

He’s not Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He’s not Kyrie Irving, and he’s probably not Tony Parker, either. He may never be a star.

But I have a tough time seeing a future where Jones doesn’t find a way to hang around the NBA for a decade.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.