I saw a little action from the recent AAU tournament this past weekend. The main attraction was the 17+ team, the Howard Pulley Panthers. It’s the best traveling AAU team in Minnesota. My friend Kevin has a brother (Michael) that plays for this team.
(A little background: Kevin, the oldest brother, became famous for his stifling defense at St. Thomas and memory loss at the bar Major Goolsby’s in Milwaukee. The second brother of this trio is Dan and he became famous for his long-range shooting at Marquette and his ability to tolerate six traveling fanatics. Michael is the youngest brother and he’s already famous for his silky smooth J and being waaaay cooler than his brothers. Back to the column...)
Anyways, the team is consisted of about 10-12 local Twin Cities kids that are all bound to play college ball at some level. The two headliners are Royce White and Rodney Williams. The Royce White name should ring a bell since he just verbally committed to the Gophers a couple weeks ago. White and Williams are two very highly recruited players in the whole country. On rivals.com, White ranks 32nd and Williams ranks 43rd. To put that in perspective, in the last five years, Minnesota has had only two players ranked better than 43rd. Cole Aldrich was 30th in 2007 (now at Kansas) and Kris Humphries was 15th in 2003 (now in the NBA). So, if you’re not catching my drift, these kids are real good. Nationally good.
I’m kind of a college basketball recruiting nut, so I was excited to see this team and specifically these two players in action. This was my first time seeing both White and Williams. First reaction is that they both lived up to the eye test and the ability test. Both are in the 6’6"-6’7" range and both are extremely athletic. Williams needs to put on some lbs and White is already pretty cut for being just 17 years old. Ally-oops, flat footed-stand still dunks, and threes were in both of their arsenals. Williams probably had the dunk of the year and only about 200 people saw it. It was ridiculous. He jumped from about the third block up the lane (yes, that far) on the right side and two handed hammered it. Brought down the house. Kevin mentioned that it was like “Rucker Park, MN edition” after the dunk. The whole bench exploded with about half the guys on the court.
On the flip side, I personally saw one thing that wasn’t that pleasant. Royce White’s attitude. I only saw one game and they beat the team by 40 points, but he was unbelievable lackadaisical and cocky for most of the game. Almost like he was too cool. Side note: He also had a mohawk with a huge letter “M” carved in the back of his head. I guess he wants to broadcast that he in fact is signing with the U. I don’t know if this is always like he acts, but it was noticeable. Everyone else on the team played relatively hard given the fact that they were killing them, but White stood out. I’m interested to see how he plays when Tubby’s watching. I bet his demeanor changes. And it will have to, because Tubby isn’t going to put up with that shit.
Overall, the team has good talent and White & Williams have the potential to be game changing college players. The word is that they are good friends and it would be great for the program to get both of them and let Tubby work his magic.
Your Minnesota Twins just took 3 of 4 from the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. They are now 20-17 and leading a balanced Central division. We talked a lot of Twins last week but this weekend series win vs. the Sox was a good sign. This wasn’t a below-average team, they had the best record coming into this series and we took three games. Our pitching is holding up, our bats are coming around and are fielding is right there again. I didn’t see this coming. If we’re hanging around the lead at the end of May and into June, then that’s a pattern and I’ll really start getting my hopes up. Right now, it’s cautious optimism. Random Twins thoughts:
-The Neshek injury is a biggie. From the sounds of it, he’s gone for the season. The Neshek/Nathan combo was almost like having two dominant closers on your team. If you can get to the 8th with a lead, it was pretty much game over. Now, the 8th inning is going to have to be pieced together by guys like Rincon, Guerrier, Crain, and Reyes. Some decent arms in that group but not nearly as effective as Neshek. Gardy is going to have to work his pen very well to soften this blow.
-Craig Monroe is seeing the ball like a beachball. He’s on fire. I didn’t think I’d say that line this year. A common theme this year so far, stuff happening that most didn’t see coming. Monroe’s hot hitting is one of them. Along the same lines...
-Livan Hernandez is 6-1! I think he’d get votes for the AL Cy Young right now. He throws about an 85 mph fastball but he keeps winning. Unreal.
-Morneau hasn’t had a homerun in 13 games. I’m calling one tonight vs. the Blue Jays. I deposited my money in the bomb pool, so pay up when it happens.
One week from today is the NBA draft lottery. The Timberwolves are again in prime position for a high draft pick. No surprise there. They have the third-best position with a 13.8 percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick, which if we get, would be historic, since we’re a really shitty organization. We’ve made it past the first round of the playoffs one effing time and yet, we’ve never got the No. 1 pick. Is this the year? History says no. But, it has to happen one of these years or I’m going to start thinking this franchise is cursed.
We can go as high as No. 1 (unlikely) and as low as No. 6 (likely). Guys I want: Rose, Beasley, Bayless, or Lopez. Guys I don’t want: Gordon, Mayo, or foreign guy from Italy. Those are the players that have been projected near the top of most mock drafts. Like everyone lately, I’m on the Derrick Rose bandwagon. An ultra quick, pass first, but not a midget point guard. He also can fill it when he wants. This is still a dream since anywhere out of the top two puts you at zero chance of landing him.
I know I sound like a poser since I’ve been pimping Beasley on this site for five months, but after everything went down with the season, march madness and media reports, I’m going with Rose now. If we get Beasley, I’m not going to pissed. Let's get that straight. But, word is his attitude sucks and Rose would fit in with our team better. Is Beasley going to play the 3? Big Al is a perfect 4, so moving him would seem stupid. Whatever happens, Beasley on this team wouldn’t suck but I’m rooting for that “make everyone else better point guard” and that is D. Rose.
So, stay tuned to next Tuesday to see where our luck lands...
May is finally the month that the NFL kind of takes a break, which has been nice. Vikings notes have been minimal at this time. That of course doesn’t stop me from mentioning them on the back end of this column. It’s the Vikings for Christ sake; they are king in this town.
Anyways, SI.com and ESPN.com have both come out with their power rankings now that the draft is done. SI has the Vikings as the seventh ranked team heading into pre-season and ESPN has them at #12. Too high? Too low? Or just right? Personally, No. 7 seems aggressive and No. 12 seems a little low. I would put us at #10, a good round number. With the additions we’ve made (Jared Allen in particular) and assumed maturation of some players (T-Jack), I like the 10th spot for the Purple. That puts us right around the fourth or fifth spot in the NFC. I can live with that.
Another quick note- Our schedule came out maybe a month ago and here it is for those that don’t pay attention:
@Green Bay, Indy, Carolina, @Tennessee, @New Orleans, Detroit, @Chicago, Bye, Houston, Green Bay, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Chicago, @ Detroit, @Arizona, Atlanta and NY Giants.
Two things: 1) I should switch that No. 10 ranking, I only see three losses (Indy, @Jacksonville, and one of the Green Bay games). 2) The coldest place we play is Oct. 19th at Chicago. Everything else is perfect weather. That could be huge.
We’re comin, We’re comin...