Timberwolves Shootout prep tourney is ‘real deal’

Apple Valley's Tyus Jones, a Duke signee, is one of 11 Division I recruits who will take part in the Timberwolves Shootout on Saturday.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love walked out of the Target Center tunnel, amazed by the bright lights, pristine hardwood floor and mammoth arena surrounding him and his teammates.

It’s easy to forget the All-Star’s first hoops foray here didn’t occur Oct. 29, 2008 in his NBA debut. Two years earlier, he was one of 26 prep phenoms to play in the Timberwolves Shootout and go on to play at professional basketball’s highest level.

And Love still hasn’t forgotten those first steps onto the floor.

"Playing in an NBA arena when you’re a senior in high school," Love said, "it’s an unbelievable experience."

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The shootout returns for its 18th run-through this Saturday with four games featuring top high school programs from around the country and 11 Division I recruits, including Minnesota-bred Tyus Jones (Apple Valley) and Reid Travis (DeLaSalle).

In the 2006-07 set of games, Love teamed up with Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman’s son, Pat, with Oregon powerhouse Lake Oswego. New Orleans guard and fellow UCLA product Jrue Holiday played in the first of two shootouts that same year.

The list of event alumni to reach the NBA also includes Steve Blake, Josh Smith, Kris Humphries, DeMarcus Cousins and Nate Wolters.

"This is one of, I believe, the national events," said Love, whose high school team knocked off Osseo seven years ago. "It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of players go on to the next level in college but even the next level in the NBA, too. It’s pretty cool to see."

The list of Division I college prospects to play in the shootout is much more expansive — guys like the University of Minnesota’s Rodney Williams, Wisconsin product Jared Berggren and Kansas’ Josh Selby. First held during the 1995-96 basketball season, each edition of the event has featured at least five top-tier recruits, and most years in the 10-15 range.

Headlined by Jones (Duke signee), Travis (Stanford) and Chicago St. Rita’s Victor Law (Northwestern) and Charles Matthews (undecided), this year’s shootout includes 11 players that have accepted or received major-college offers.

Such eye-catching talent is nothing new, Holiday said.

He grew up in Los Angeles dreaming of playing at the Staples Center, but the Timberwolves’ home presented his only chance during high school to experience an NBA arena.

Holiday didn’t leave disappointed.

"It’s a pretty good tournament to come through and play in," said Holiday, who squared off against Love in Wednesday’s Minnesota victory over New Orleans. "Obviously a really good experience for somebody being from L.A., up playing in a new place at such a young age. The tournament is the real deal."

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