Bloodlines Run Strong at Timberwolves Shootout

Bloodlines Run Strong at Timberwolves Shootout
Jan 07, 2007, 08:01 pm
There was plenty of NBA talent in the Target Center on Saturday afternoon, but the only current Minnesota Timberwolf in attendance was on the sideline calling the game. Mark Madsen, and several thousand other area hoop fans got the chance to watch a number of the best high school prospects in the country, in town to take on the best the host state had to offer. On display were the basketball born and raised Larry Drew Jr. (son of former NBA standout Larry Drew Sr.), Jrue Holiday (brother, Justin, headed to Washington next fall), and Kevin Love (son of former Laker Stan Love). While Wisconsin-bound point guard Jordan Taylor stole the show from Drew, Holiday and Love put on a show that those in attendance won’t be forgetting about anytime soon.


Leflore (AL) 72, Minnetonka 66
Benilde-St Margaret 56, Taft (CA) 54
Campbell Hall (CA) 71, Hopkins 61
Lake Oswego (OR) 74, Osseo 58
Cretin-Durham Hall 72, Westbury (TX) Christian 69
Linn-Mar (IA) 59, Maranatha Christian, 53

Taylor, Battle shine in upset win over Taft

Larry Drew, Jr. is obviously an elite point guard prospect.’s #20 junior and top uncommitted point guard prospect is the son of a former NBA star. The likes of Roy Williams and Ben Howland are both hot on his trail. He displays superb decision making and excellent court vision whenever he has the ball in his hands.

But what about the relative unknown who surprised almost everybody this fall by garnering an offer from Wisconsin and making an early pledge to Bo Ryan shortly thereafter?

In a matchup of power conference-bound junior floor generals, Benilde’s Jordan Taylor outplayed Drew, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds and leading the Red Knights to a surprising win over the #6 team in California (according to the LA Times).

”It was a true team effort. Everybody was fired up and everybody played well.” Taylor said.

The clearly more talented Taft built a double-digit lead early in the first half and appeared on the verge of putting the game away before a late Taylor-led rally got Benild back in the game. Taylor’s NBA-range 3-point attempt rimmed out at the buzzer, but the Knights had the momentum going into halftime despite being down 29-22.

The second half saw 6’7 junior Armond Battle (16 points, 8-9 free throws) heat up for Benilde, slicing through the Taft defense on well-time forays to the basket and getting to the free throw line at will down the stretch. Taft junior Bryce Smith (16 points, 4-8 3-pointers), kept the visitors in the game with his sweet shooting stroke, but Benild managed build a slim lead headed into the stretch run.

With three minutes left on the clock Benild went into stall mode, as there is no shot clock in MSHAA play. Drew, who never got going offensively, was in foul trouble and had to sub in and out the rest of the way. Taft would get their chances, but couldn’t convert at the free throw line down the. It appeared as though the visitors weren’t exactly used to the typical Minnesota non-shot clock stall tactics.

At one point with under a minute to play, Drew sat out an offensive possession despite Taft having the opportunity to get their star back in the game.

“You know, I think coach was so wound up in the action that he forgot to put me back in,” Drew said.

While Drew’s upside as a pass-first point guard was on full display, he never really got his offense going. He rarely got to the basket in the halfcourt, and struggled to finish when he did. The junior finished with 4 points on 2-7 shooting, to go along with 10 assists and 4 turnovers.

“Today was definitely a down day for me and my team, and I accept full responsibility for the loss,” a self-critical Drew said after the game, “I could have attacked the basket more, I could have made better passes. It isn’t like me to have that many turnovers.”

While Battle, a developing high-major wing with plenty of upside, would lead the Red Knights in scoring, it was Taylor’s unwavering floor general and physical presence that allowed Benilde to pull off the upset. He consistently controlled the tempo, slowing the game down and playing a major part in keeping an opponent that obviously wanted to run and gun bogged down in the halfcourt. Taylor shot just 2-10 from the free throw line, but has decent form on his shot and looks a perfect fit in Wisconsin’s flex offense.

“I think we were a little rattled and out of rhythm in the first half,” Taylor said, “We we settled down at the half and came out with a lot more fire in the second.”

Holiday Brothers too much for Hoffarber, #1 Hopkins

Jrue and Justin Holiday might not have a former NBA star as their father, but basketball obviously runs in the family blood. The much-ballyhooed brothers scored a combined 48 points and their Campbell Hall squad took down two-time defending Minnesota state champ Hopkins 71-61.

Minnesota’s top high school basketball program, Hopkins is currently ranked #1 in Minnesota class AAAA and considered a heavy favorite to win a third consecutive state crown. Shooter Blake Hoffarber is a recent Minnesota Golden Gopher signee and one of the top senior prospects in the state, and the roster is so deep coach Ken Novak brings several legitimate D1 prospects off his bench.

But Hoffarber and the Royals didn’t have enough to stick with the Campbell’s guard duo. Jrue, showing the type of competitive drive and killer instinct rarely seen in a player so young, dominated all aspects of the game and finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. His older brother Justin, headed to Washington next fall, was electric in the open court and converted numerous beautiful finishes around the basket. The older Holiday finished with 28 points on 9-13 shooting, adding 14 rebounds and 4 assists.

“Jrue is a great player. He’s very athletic, and pretty long. There are a lot of players like that, but he’s one of the best,” Hoffarber said about his matchup against’s #3 junior.

While Benilde clearly found their California opponent vulnerable in the half court and in the end-game situation, Campbell Hall was an entirely different story. Jrue Holiday got to the basket at will in the half court, and the Vikings used the shot clock stall tactic quite effectively down the stretch in a game that may have been a bit tighter than the final score indicated.

While Hoffarber ended up with 24 points on 10-19 shooting, he was hounded relentlessly by Jrue Holiday and never really went on one of his patented scoring streaks. Other than a pair of three pointers on consecutive possessions midway through the second half, Hoffarber’s outside shooting wasn’t much of a factor.

“I really don’t think we played well today, but we are always going to have games like this and we didn’t overcome it,” Hoffarber said. “They were unselfish and killed us on the boards, and are a great team.”

The 6'4 Jrue showed just about everything one could ever hope to see in a high school-age basketball prospect. He displayed dazzling command with the ball in his hands, threading the needle on numerous highlight reel passes and showing excellent discretion on when to look for his own offense.

Holiday was defended very well by standout Royal sophomore Raymond Cowles, but did a phenomenal job of picking his spots and not forcing the action. Nonetheless, he thinks he still has work to do in this area.

“Today I was taking it in on 3-4 people, and I can’t do that. I have to dish it out.” Holiday said.

He isn’t an elite athlete on the NBA level (still a very, very good athlete), but players with Holiday’s shot creating tools and general basketball IQ are very hard to ignore.

The one thing we didn’t see out of the younger Holiday on the night was an outside shot (he didn’t attempt one), but he is billed as owning an outstanding stroke. It is safe to say that comparisons ranging from Randy Foye to Gilbert Arenas would be quite valid at the moment.

The 6’6 Justin, older than his brother by a year and committed to Washington, is a surprisingly different player. Where Holiday could emerge as an elite combo guard at the NBA level, Justin is your classic skywalking slasher. He won’t be creating his own shot off the dribble any time soon, but is an outstanding slasher, finishes well at the rim, and is a threat as a spot up shooter. As he gets stronger, the older Holiday will provide plenty of highlight reel fodder in the post-Quincy Pondexter era at Washington.

For more in-depth coverage of Jrue and Justin Holiday, head back to later this week.

UCLA-Bound Love Dazzles

Watching elite power forward prospect Kevin Love play is quite the treat. His 6’9, 260 pound frame certainly helps out quite a bit, but some of the things the Oregon native does on the court defy explanation.

On his way to a 41-point outburst, Love dazzled the crowd with an array of highlight-reel passes, powerful dunks, and feathery soft touch from almost every area of the court as Lake Oswego defeated Osseo 74-58.

Osseo managed to keep within striking distance most of the way, but there was little doubt of the outcome in this one. Love did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it. There were several of his trademark passes, a beautiful 3-point make, and plenty of finishing through contact around the basket.

But what really impressed the crowd were numerous powerful dunks, two of which came off the dribble when facing the basket in the half court. So many in the stands probably left raving about his athleticism and powerful finishing ability, his freakish skill and feel for the game may have gone overlooked by many.

Love’s 41 points came on 11-21 from the floor, 18-22 from the line, and 1-2 from beyond the arc. In addition scoring at will, Love grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out 7 assists.

His understanding of how to use contact, space, and timing to his advantage is more advanced than plenty of veteran NBA big men. There isn’t a player at any level who can throw outlet passes quite like Love.

Is it any surprise that Love is the son of a former pro? That would be Stan Love, former Oregon Duck standout and LA Laker in the 70’s.

“My dad really put the ball in my hands and kept my game strong. I just kept working, and I was blessed with a gift to play basketball With the size I was blessed as well, it just comes together and fits really well,” said Love.

Considering what Ben Howland and the Bruins are accomplishing at the moment without a star big man, just how absurdly good can UCLA be with a post threat like Love added to the mix?

Other Notes

- Marquette-bound junior Nick Williams is the biggest name for LeFlore (Al), but it was the play of senior wing Chris Blake that put the nationally ranked team over the top against Minnetonka. Blake is an athletic, 6’5 wing who should be able to garner significant attention at the mid-major level.

- Larry Drew isn’t the only high-major signee suiting up for Taft. Garrett Green, a 6’8 forward who recently inked with LSU, is a project with a capital P, but it is easy to see why John Brady offered the scholarship. Green is an excellent shooter with some potential to move out to the wing eventually. He swished a huge 3-pointer in the closing moments of the loss to Benilde. Unfortunately, those were his only points in the game. Green doesn’t have a big man’s mentality and will likely need a couple of years before he is ready to contribute in the SEC.

- Hopkins has quite a few D1-caliber players other than Hoffarber, with the most promising being 6’4 sophomore Raymond Cowles. Cowles is a bit small for a wing and unlikely to grow much more, but makes up for it with a thick build, long arms, and a physical on-court mentality. He did a great job of sticking with Holiday, and hit all three of his 3-point attempts to finish with 12 points. Cowles has been offered by UNI, but hasn’t been out on the national circuit much. It should be interesting to see how the Rashad McCants lookalike develops. 6’7 Hopkins big man Mike Broghammer is a bit of a project, but has a nice body and is getting division one interest. He scored 4 points and grabbed 6 rebounds against Campbell Hall, including one decent post move.

- Cretin-Durham Hall senior Joe Springer hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to take down Westbury (TX) Christian.

- The final game of the night didn’t feature any national names, but was a competitive game nonetheless. Linn-Mar (IA) was back for its second Shootout after current Wisconsin freshman Jason Bohannon led the Lions to an emphatic victory against Trevor Mbakwe and Henry Sibley. Linn-Mar got the 59-53 win over 1A powerhouse Maranatha behind 20 points from Indiana State bound-shooting guard Jordan Printy and 9 from Bohannon’s younger brother Zach. Maranatha has a couple of D1-caliber prospects in SG Alex Thomas and PF David Hanson. The 6’6 Hanson finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds and routinely abuses much bigger area post players. Thomas is a 6’5 wing with the ability to get his shot off from anywhere. He is still a work in progress, but the elevation on his jumper is certainly eye-grabbing.

- While the visiting teams certainly were at a disadvantage in terms of how far they had to travel (and yes, there was a bit of home-cooking from the stripes), it was also obvious that many of the better Minnesota kids aren’t as used to playing other elite prospects. The teams playing national schedules have been going up against top competition all season long, and this was particularly evident in the LeFlore-Minnetonka opener. Benilde looked a bit wide-eyed as well, but adjusted nicely as the game went on. Nearly everybody we talked to brought up the longer NBA floor as a major factor, while Hopkins coach Ken Novak pointed to the late start of the Minnesota season as something that may have further affected the conditioning of the Royals.

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