Courtesy Jadee Jones

The Basketball Joneses: Tre Jones quest to climb out of brother Tyus’ shadow

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Tyus Jones was a celebrity in Minnesota by the time that he was in eighth grade.

Before he was even enrolled at Apple Valley High School, he was starting on the varsity team, calmly handling point guard responsibilities against kids four years his senior while playing in gyms so packed you couldn’t get in the door if you showed up at tip-off.

That wasn’t just for high school games, either. Summer league, fall league, local AAU and EYBL events. If Tyus was playing, people were watching. For five years, he was to the Twin Cities what LaMelo Ball was to Las Vegas last week.

“For the state, he galvanized a huge interest in basketball,” Jadee Jones, Tyus’ older half-brother, said. “Before he was a junior in high school, if you typed Apple Valley into google, it showed up Apple Valley, Calforinia. Now it shows up Apple Valley, Minnesota.”

Tyus never left his hometown high school, spending five years with the Eagles while winning a state title, getting named Mr. Basketball and becoming a McDonald’s All-American as a senior. He enrolled at Duke where he won the 2015 National Title and the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award before becoming a one-and-done, first round pick by the local NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was enough that the town of Apple Valley, a Twin Cities suburb with a population of roughly 50,000 people and little previous basketball history to speak of, turned April 22nd, 2015, into Tyus Jones Day, where he received a key to the city, threw out the first pitch at a Twins game and had his number retired at Apple Valley High after a parade through the town.

For Tyus, that’s quite a legacy to leave.

For Tre, the youngest of the three Jones’ brothers, it only increased the burden of expectation that came with growing up in the shadow of a local legend.


Tyus Jones, Getty Images

Perhaps the most striking fact about the success that Tyus and Tre have had is that it is not the direct result of winning the genetic lottery.

Both brothers stand roughly 6-foot-1. Neither crack 200 pounds. Tre is more athletic than Tyus, but neither of them will ever be confused with, say, Russell Westbrook or John Wall or peak-Derrick Rose. From a basketball perspective, they are both very average when it comes to the kind of measureables that make NBA GMs salivate over potential.

Enter Jadee Jones.

A former Division I player himself — Jones played two years at Furman before transferring back to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato — Jadee is as responsible for the basketball development of both of his little brothers as anyone. He graduated from Mankato in 2009 with a degree in Health and Exercise Science and a dream of becoming a basketball trainer, making a career out of “blending improvement of the physical traits with skill development.” He’s also 10 years older than Tyus and 14 years older than Tre, an awkward age gap that slots the elder somewhere between father figure and best friend. That, however, ended up being perfect for the three, as Jadee has thrived in the role of coach.

AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness

Basketball is the life-blood of the Joneses. Mom, Debbie, won a state title as a point guard in North Dakota and spent some time playing in the Junior College ranks. Tyus and Tre’s dad, Rob, played at Division III Wisconsin-Parkside. Another half-brother, Reggie Bunch, played at Robert Morris University, while an aunt, Darcy Cascaes, and an uncle, Al Nuness, were all-conference players at North Dakota and Minnesota, respectively.

“All basketball, all the time,” Jadee said. “Gets to Grandma a little bit. She wants to be able to talk about different things.”

Jadee returned to Apple Valley at the time that his family started to realize that one of their own, Tyus, had a chance to be something special. There was no better guinea pig for Jadee, and after Tyus had completed his first season on varsity as an eighth grader, the two began training as if Tyus — and Tre — were already professionals. The specific workouts have changed over the years as Jadee has learned more and the younger pair continued to improve, but the core philosophy has remained the same: Monday-through-Thursday, it was weights in the mornings and skill sessions in the afternoons as they prepared for whatever tournament or tryout Tyus had the upcoming weekend. If there were no trips on the weekend, the workouts continued. During the school year, schedules changed as the boys had class and team practices to attend, but the dedication didn’t; it was not uncommon to see Tyus or Tre leaving the house before dawn to make it to a 5:30 a.m. workout.

As time as passed things have changed. After returning to Minnesota from Duke, Tyus now lifts in the morning at the Timberwolves’ facility. The Monday-through-Thursday schedule is tailored around Tre’s summer travel. Jadee has turned working his brothers out into a successful business called Top Flight Basketball Academy, and those daily workouts now include a handful of other local high school, college and professional players.

But that hasn’t stopped the trio from finding some time almost every day to train.

“[Jadee] has sacrificed so much just trying to help me and Tre become the best basketball players we can be and achieve our goals and dreams,” Tyus said. “He’s someone who is extremely smart, knows the game, studies the game, knows the body. I’m thankful to have an older brother like that in my corner.”

“He’s the toughest on me as a coach,” added Tre. “I know that that’s because he sees the potential in me and he wants me to be the best player I can be, and I want nothing less than that.”


Tre Jones, Jon Lopez/Nike

Tyus was a sensation as an eighth-grader, when he was the starting point guard for Apple Valley’s varsity team.

“We are playing every single game sold out. Most games were sold out at the JV game,” Jadee, who has worked as Apple Valley’s JV coach and an assistant for the varsity team, said. “It was a circus at away games. Every where we went, the other team, that was their biggest crowd of the season. It was wild. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

At one of those games, a little kid was plucked out of the stands at halftime to compete in the kind of challenge that you see at halftime of every basketball game: Make a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer and a half-court shot in 30 seconds. It seemed cruel. He was too small.

That little kid proceeded to make the layup. Then the free throw. Then the three-pointer. By the time he knocked down the half-court shot, the crowd had erupted. That kid was a fourth-grader by the name of Tre Jones.

That night seven years ago serves as an apt metaphor for Tre’s career to date. The attention always seems to be on his older brother, but when given his chance to shine, Tre has done just that. Tyus won Mr. Basketball in the state as a senior, but Tre was on the varsity roster as an eighth-grader that year, just like Tyus. When Tyus was in the process of winning that national title at Duke and taking home the MOP trophy, the one that earned him a parade, Tre was busy winning the first of two state titles for the Eagles. The second one came this past spring, when, for seemingly the first time in his life, all the focus was on him.

Tyus Jones (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Prior to last season, Tre wasn’t even the most famous player on either his Apple Valley High School team or the loaded Howard Pulley EYBL team both brothers played for. Gary Trent Jr., a top ten player in the Class of 2017 and a Duke commit himself, was. But Trent transferred to Prolific Prep in California for his senior season, leaving Tre as the face of both teams.

He more than lived up to the hype, leading Apple Valley to their third state title in five years — and his second state title, besting Tyus — before leading Pulley to an impressive EYBL season and a spot in the Elite 8 at Peach Jam, the preeminent summer event on the AAU circuit. In the process, Tre staked his claim to the title of best point guard in the Class of 2018, rocketing up recruiting rankings. Last fall, he was generally thought of as a top 50 talent. He’s currently the 9th-ranked player — and the top point guard — in 247’s composite recruiting rankings.

“Tyus set the bar, and Tre came along. Everyone said Tre is playing in Tyus’ shadow,” Debbie said. “When you follow somebody, and your brother had that kind of success, people expect that stuff early. I think Tre maybe developed the accolades a little later.”

That wasn’t always easy on Tre.

“Early on in his high school career, maybe his freshman year and even sophomore year, it was tougher for him, trying to pave his own way and kind of do his own thing and earn his own stripes,” Tyus said. “The older he’s gotten, the less pressure he’s felt as the success has come.”

The irony of it all is that the cause of all this outside pressure on Tre — the success Tyus has had, his local celebrity, the enormity of the footsteps Tre is trying to follow in — provided the youngest Jones with the perfect blueprint on how to handle it. Tyus was the most famous basketball player in the Twin Cities at 14 years old, and he lived up to the hype. If anyone knows how to handle pressure, it’s him.

“It’s something we talk about quite a bit,” Jadee said. “Doing everything you can control to maximize the opportunities you have and being the best player and person that you can be is more important than outdoing someone else. Tre, he puts a lot of pressure on himself … but I think he more gets wrapped up in the process of what he’s doing day-to-day instead of check marks for what he’s doing compared to Tyus.”

“He has had some success and he grew into it, yes, but the foundation of the mentality was there. Tyus handled an immense amount of pressure as well, because when he was in eighth grade everyone in the state of Minnesota recognized him and wanted to watch him play. Everything was a circus, and you could never tell [by the way Tyus acted] that was the case. I saw him have one bad game in five years of high school. The pressure never bothered him.”

Tre Jones, Jon Lopez/Nike

Tyus quickly learned the value of putting in the work. It dates back to a fall league game before his sophomore season, when he went up to dunk on an opponent. He missed the dunk off the back of the rim, but the difference was clear. After a full spring and summer of going through Jadee’s workouts, the improvement was right there in front of him. The results were tangible.

And addicting.

And Tre saw it all. He was in fifth-grade, doing the same things that Tyus was doing, watching his idol throw himself headfirst into a dream, using the day-to-day grind to block out that external noise.

“They would be getting up before school to work out, or they would be going two-a-days, and that’s when I didn’t need someone else to push me,” Tre said. “Someone else can only push you so far. Once I saw Tyus go through it all, and especially when his hard work started to pay off, that’s when I took it upon myself.”

Some believe Tre has a higher ceiling that Tyus simply because he’s a better athlete. He’s longer, he’s springier, he’s a better defender. At this point, Tyus is still a better shooter than Tre, but what has always set Tyus apart from other point guards is the way he sees the game. “He’s a general,” Jadee, who knows his brothers’ games better than anyone, says. “He can see what’s happening and initiate actions to manipulate what he sees. He does that on a level that you don’t see the impact that he has, because he’s moving the ball or himself at a certain time to a certain spot.”

“Tre goes at being a point guard with a lot of fire. With his feet, the things you can see, the hustle plays, the defense, the rebounding, taking charges, scoring in transition.”

Their play matches their personalities — Tyus can be quiet and pensive, Tre is a busy-body that wears his emotions on his sleeve — and part of the change in Tre’s perception had to do with how well both Apple Valley and Pulley did despite losing Trent.

Maybe Tre has more of Tyus’ ‘natural point guard’ ability in him than people realized.

Which means that maybe, one day, Tyus will be known as Tre’s older brother.


via @trejones03

The question in recruiting circles now is whether or not Tre is a lock to follow in Tyus’ footsteps in college.

Is he going to Duke?

Many believe he is, but according to every member of the Jones family that NBC Sports spoke to, that decision will be left to Tre.

He wants to be recruited. He wants to develop a relationship with different coaching staffs. He wants to make sure that he is making the right decision on where to go to school. As it stands, Duke is one of five schools left on his list, along with UCLA, USC, Minnesota and Ohio State. The Buckeyes weren’t previously in the mix, but due to Tre’s relationship with Chris Holtmann and his staff when Holtmann was at Butler, he’s now considering the school; the coach was always on his list.

“[Tyus] is behind me, any decision I make, what I feel is best for me,” Tre said. “He went [to Duke], but at the same time he’s been through all this. He knows whatever the best fit for me is the best fit for me. He’s going to support me 100 percent.”

“We already got a lot of Duke gear,” Jadee said, chuckling, “but when all the cards are out there, if he feels like there’s another spot that’s better for him, we’ll support that.”

That’s how the family rolls.

When it comes to basketball, they always support each other. Blood is thicker than college. No questions asked. The traveling party that made it down to North Augusta for Peach Jam was nearly ten-deep, including Jadee, Tyus and Grandma. The closer the games are to home, the bigger the Jones’ section in the stands gets, whether it’s a high school game, a Pro-Am or a YMCA game for one of Jadee’s three sons.

“My oldest is going to start his four-year old YMCA basketball league stuff this winter, and we’ll probably have eight or nine people there,” he said. “First and last out of the gym.”

The only real sibling rivalry that Tyus and Tre care about?

Who ends up being the cool uncle.

“It’s me,” Tre said. “We both have a lot of fun with our nephews, but of course I’m going to say me.”

ODU graduate transfer Trey Porter headed to Nevada

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Nevada is adding an immediate impact big to its roster.

The Wolf Pack received the commitment of Old Dominion graduate transfer Trey Porter, they announced Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10 Porter averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks for ODU last season. He announced his decision to finish his career elsewhere last month.

“We are so excited about Trey Porter joining our Nevada Family,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. “Trey is an incredible athlete, has tremendous length, and has huge upside. He is a great rebounder who can score the ball in the post and face up. He has phenomenal speed for his size and will really fit in our uptempo style on both ends of the floor.”

Porter, who began his career at George Mason, shot 58.8 percent from the field last season and registered four double-doubles.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to play at a program like Nevada,” Porter said in a statement. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I could tell how invested the coaching staff, program, and university were to my success and how I would fit in with the team. I am ready to get back to Reno and get to work on next season.”

Nevada upset Cincinnati and Texas in the NCAA tournament last season to reach the Sweet 16. They finished 29-8 overall. The Wolf Pack have uncertainty with their roster with Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin all testing the NBA draft waters.

Loyola extends Porter Moser through 2026

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A trip to the Final Four might prove significantly lucrative to Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser.

The Ramblers announced Wednesday that they reached a new contract agreement with Moser that will extend his deal through 2026 with what the Chicago Tribune called a “hefty raise” on his $420,000 per year salary, citing an anonymous source.

“As I have said many times before, I am a Catholic kid from Chicago who played in the Missouri Valley Conference,” Moser said in a statement released by the school. “This is the trifecta for me. We have invested so much time and energy in this program and I’m beyond excited to continue the journey. Watching Chicago as well as Loyola students, alumni and fans get excited for this team was exactly the vision we had when we took over the program.

“I will continue to challenge our fans to fill Gentile Arena as we did for the final home game to make it one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the country.”

The Ramblers went 32-6 last year, winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles ahead of their magical run to the Final Four for the first time winning the NCAA tournament in 1963. They return three starters from the Final Four squad, including MVC player of the year Clayton Custer.

“We are excited to be able to announce a new contract for Porter that will keep him at Loyola a long time,” athletic director Steve Watson said. “He is the perfect fit for Loyola and operates his program the right way, with student-athletes who achieve excellence on the court and in the classroom and are also excellent representatives of the institution.

“We are fortunate to work at a university like Loyola, that values and has made a commitment to athletics. It is nice to reward Porter not just for an outstanding season, but also for the job he has done during his time here.”

 

Dayton adds Michigan transfer

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After two years with a limited role at Michigan, Ibi Watson is returning to his home state.

The Wolverines guard is transferring to Dayton, it was announced Wednesday.  

“We are very pleased to have Ibi join our Flyer Family,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said in a statement.  “He is a young man who knew what he wanted after leaving a great University and winning basketball team at Michigan.  He has seen first-hand what it takes to be successful at this level.”

Watson averaged just 5.2 minutes per game during his sophomore season in Ann Arbor. He will sit out the upcoming season and then have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

“I know he will utilize his redshirt year to improve himself in every way,” Grant said, “and having an experienced, talented player to go against every day in practice next season will only help our younger players grow.  Ibi is an important piece of our future. Our team and campus community will enjoy having him become a Flyer.”

The Pickerington, Ohio native was a first-team all state selection as a senior when he averaged more than 19 points per game. He now joins Dwayne Cohill, Jhery Matos and Frankie Policelli as Grant’s 2018 class.

Report: NBA unlikely to change one-and-done rule before 2020 draft

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The Commission on College Basketball made a whole host of recommendations Wednesday. From increasing penalties on cheaters, to restructuring summer basketball to player representation, the report had plenty of ideas (though it omitted the most obvious).

One of its core recommendations, however, came in an area the NCAA has zero control.

The NBA draft.

The Commission suggested that the “one-and-done” rule be scrapped in favor of letting players leave straight from high school to the pros, a rule that has been collectively bargained by the NBA and its players union.

If any change is going to happen, it’s got to happen there, and it apparently won’t be in the next couple years. The NBA is unlikely to change its draft entry requirements ahead of the 2020 draft, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The subject has been broached by both the league and the union, but how any negotiation about the issue will unfold is uncertain, according to the report.

The NCAA has little leverage on the matter as the NBA and the union ultimately will act in what they believe is in their own best interests with little mind paid to what the NCAA wants. The NCAA also has little leverage in the matter as its most heavy-handed card to play is freshman ineligibility, which would seem to be an unwieldy and ill-advised option.

Disallowing an entire class to play their freshman season would likely have unintended consequences that harm college basketball while doing little to actually solve the problem The Commission set out to fix – illicit money in the game.

Commission on College Basketball Proposals: Can they actually work?

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On Wednesday morning, The Commission on College Basketball finally unveiled their findings on what changes need to be enacted in the sport to clean up the mess that has been created.

And while The Commission’s findings were far from perfect, there were some suggestions that they came up with that might actually have some benefit to the sport.

It just takes some time to actually dig them up.

Best I can tell, there are six talking points that we need to address stemming from today’s release.

Let’s work through all of them.

1. A BIG ‘NO COMMENT’ ON THE OLYMPIC MODEL AND CHANGES TO AMATEURISM RULES

We discussed this in depth in a column already posted on the site, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but the bottom-line is this: Amateurism rules are never going to work, at least not in the current form. There is too much money on the line for too many people. The Commission opted not to address the issues involving amateurism because of pending litigation involving the NCAA’s use of an athlete’s name and likeness, but based on some of the comments that Condoleeza Rice made, it seems as if they at least realized that amateurism is a root cause of the problems they were trying to answer.

Hopefully, change will be coming at some point.

2. BEGGING (BLACKMAILING?) THE NBA AND NBPA TO CHANGE THE ONE-AND-DONE RULE

The one-and-done rule, which has come to define the sport of college basketball over the course of the last 12 years, is not a college basketball rule. It is an NBA rule, which means that the NCAA is essentially powerless to change the minimum age requirements that NBA owners wanted back in 2006, when they stopped allowing high school kids to declare for the NBA draft.

The Commission’s response?

To recommend that they combat the one-and-done rule by considering reinstating freshman ineligibility or by punishing programs that recruit one-and-done players by forcing them to lose a scholarship for each athlete that leaves school after one season.

Both of those suggestions are, of course, undeniably and unbelievably idiotic.

In the last 11 drafts, there have been an average of 10.2 freshmen that have been selected. This year, there are 17 freshmen that have declared for the draft and signed with an agent. This is in a sport with 351 teams that are all allowed to give out 13 scholarships; do that math, and there were roughly 4,500 Division I college basketball players. The Commission suggesting that it is a good idea to make those 1,100-or-so other Division I freshmen ineligible for a year because they’re mad the NBA forces 1.5 percent of the class to enroll makes me wonder why we should take any of their other suggestions seriously.

Simply put: This is an empty threat.

The other option, forcing a school to have one-and-done players count against one of their 13 scholarships for one season after they leave, is just as dumb. It’s not going to stop programs from recruiting those players, but it is going to make scholarship opportunities for other athletes disappear into thin air. For an organization that claims to have the best interest of “student-athletes” in mind, revoking scholarships in anyway is and always will be hypocritical. It should never happen.

And that’s before we get into the idea that the one-and-done players are the be-all and end-all of what’s happening here. They’re not. Brian Bowen, the central figure in the allegations made by the FBI that resulted in Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, was not a one-and-done prospect. Silvio De Sousa, who was allegedly funneled money by two different shoe companies to earn a commitment to two different programs, is not a one-and-done prospect. Nine of the 15 players that were mentioned in February’s Yahoo report as receiving money and/or loans were one-and-done players. The practice of boosters paying the best players dates back to the 50s. John Wooden’s legacy is, in part, a result of Sam Gilbert being flush with disposable income.

There is, always was and always will be a black market for the best players entering college basketball, whether those are the top 15-20 players in each class — the one-and-dones that will go straight to the pros — or the players ranked in the 20-40 range, that will spend a few years on campus, developing into the crafty veterans that have won Villanova and North Carolina the last three titles.

Shoe companies with nine-figure sponsorship deals with universities want to protect their investment. Coaches that get seven-figure raises and multi-year contract extensions when they win big want to win big. Boosters with deep pockets that love their school’s basketball team are always going to look for a way to get the best players on campus.

That’s a college basketball “problem” that’s only a “problem” because something as stupid and old-fashioned as amateurism still exists.

It’s not a one-and-done problem.

3. ALLOWING PLAYERS ACCESS TO AGENT REPRESENTATION

This is certainly a good thing.

I’ve said all along that it is silly to think that it’s a bad thing for kids that have earning potential that reaches eight or nine figures cannot have a professional advising them on what they can do. There are details that are going to need to be worked out — like, for example, how the NCAA handles the inevitable loans that agents are going to make to the players they sign — but without question this is a good thing.

4. UNDERCLASSMEN THAT AREN’T DRAFTED CAN RETURN TO SCHOOL

In theory, I like this suggestion, but in practice, I think that it is going to be somewhat more complicated than people realize.

For starters, the NBA draft is in late June. Players start the process of declaring for the draft in mid-March, when they get knocked out of whatever tournament their team ends up playing in. That means there are more than three months where they will be away from their team, their coaching staffs and, potentially, out of class while they train and prepare for becoming a professional.

The other side of it is that players getting selected late in the second round often end up coming nowhere near making that team’s roster. Many times, agents and teams will already be in touch about the possibility of a second round pick signing a training camp deal or playing with that organization’s G League team. There are people that will tell you it’s better to go undrafted than it is to be selected late in the second round because it puts the player on the market and lets them pick a destination that is the best instead of being forced to go somewhere based on getting picked.

The sentiment here is great, but I’m not sure it is as simple as it seems on paper.

5. CHANGING THE WAY SUMMER BASKETBALL WORKS

This is where things stop making sense.

With all due respect to the people that were on The Commission, I’m not sure that any of them — outside of John Thompson III — truly have a feel for how AAU and grassroots basketball truly operates. Do you think that Condoleeza Rice has ever actually been to an Under Armour Association event? Have they spoken to the organizers of events like Hoop Group’s Pitt Jam Fest or the people that run Nike’s EYBL?

“We create more opportunities than anyone within the system,” said once source that helps organize events in the summer.

What it seems like The Commission is proposing is bringing summer basketball in-house, whether that is under the umbrella of the NCAA itself, USA Basketball, the NBA or all of the above. The problem with that is that there are so many different levels to college basketball and college basketball recruiting. I played college basketball. The coaches that recruited me at the Division III level saw me when I was playing on an AAU team, but the idea that there would be any benefit for anyone if a player of my caliber and one of the top players in the country were to be at the same event is ludicrous.

Then how do you determine who plays at what events? Do you really want the NCAA running hundreds of summer tournaments that include each include many hundreds of teams? How are they going to determine which players go to which events? How are they going to determine which coaches are allowed to be at which events?

And, this may be the most important part, they aren’t going to eliminate shoe companies from getting involved at the youth level. If anything, if they take away the access coaches have to shoe company events, they’ll only be making the people that run scouting services that much richer.

Asking for transparency from these apparel companies isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but then will the NCAA provide transparency into what happens with the billions of dollars that they bring in?

As one source so eloquently put it, the NCAA running their own camps is “Lolololol”.

Pretty much sums it up.

6. CHANGING ENFORCEMENT

One of the proposals that The Commission made is for stricter punishments for those that go outside the rules — longer postseason bans for schools, lifetime bans for serial offenders, punishments for schools that hire offenders. I guess that would be a deterrent, but not everything that goes on here involves people associated with the NCAA or the schools.

But that is beside the point.

Because the real issue is that the NCAA cannot dig any of this stuff up themselves. The enforcement arm is toothless, and while I do think that hiring independent investigators would help, the truth is that this was all brought to light because the FBI is allowed to tap phones and send in undercover agents that can splash around thousands of dollars of government money.

What independent investigators is going to be able to do that?