Despite pumping out three McDonald’s All-Americans in 2014, the state of Minnesota still flies way under the radar in the grand scope of the basketball world. Remotely located, it’s not necessarily a pass through for travelers to any particular basketball mecca, nor is it a destination city for most ballers due to its frigid winters. Still, the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes pumps out ballers, as we saw in the Twin Cities Pro-Am.
The brainchild of former Wofford guard and overseas pro Jamar Diggs, the TCPA filled the void for the now defunct Howard Pulley Pro-Am. Blending high school, college, and NBA players, the Twin Cities Pro-Am offers elite talent at all three levels with a sick atmosphere to match. Held at the famed De La Salle HS in downtown Minneapolis, fans packed out “The Island” for all of the tourney games to see local legends go at it with the next wave of stars. The top DJ in Minny was spinning tracks and sponsors such as N1 Motion, Catalyst Training, and Dr. Dish were giving out freebies for the hoopheads in the building. Ultimately, it was Team Tyus that beat the defending champ Errol Carlstrom Playaz in Diggs’ continually emerging event.
“My goal was to create a unique space with the highest level of talent for fans of Minnesota basketball,” Jamar explained to SLAM. “From promising prospects to proven vets, the premise was to provide special rivalries for the players to compete and for the fans to enjoy — for free.”
Here are some of the players who caught our eye at the 2018 Twin Cities Pro-Am:
Tyus Jones, 6’1, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
The T’Wolves ever developing guard was out there playing chess while everyone else was playing checkers. His innate ability to control the game with his pick-and-roll play was yet another example of why he’s been a floor general beyond his years. Leading his Team Tyus unit to the ‘chip, Jones showed off a more sculpted physique and improved ability to finish through contact for what could be a breakout fourth campaign in the League.
McKinley Wright, 6’1, PG, Sophomore, Colorado
The top college baller at The Island was undoubtedly McKinley Wright, who is coming off of a freshman campaign that saw him earn All Pac-12 freshman team honors. The gritty playmaker straight killed cats with his change of pace, finishes above the rim, and sick plays off of ball screens. The one time Dayton recruit has continually proved the doubters wrong and as he continues to gain consistency on his outside J, will establish himself as one of the very best PG’s that the NCAA has to offer.
Rashad Vaughn, 6’6, SG, Free Agent
Still trying to find his place in the League, many forget that Rashad Vaughn is still younger (not even 22 years old yet) than a lot of the players who were picked in this past June’s NBA Draft, despite the fact that he has three years of NBA experience under his belt. He showed effortless range, an improved ability to create off of the bounce, and a willingness to lock down on D that we hadn’t seen before. With endless two-way deals sitting on the table, Rashad is holding out for a guaranteed roster spot and certainly showed that he has the natural talent to lock one up.
Royce White, 6’8, PF, Fiat Torino (Italy)
One of the bigger basketball enigmas as of late, Royce White is still raising awareness for mental illness and balling with the best of ’em. The point forward was an outstanding playmaker with the ball in his hands, displaying his unique ability to create for others at 260 pounds and the agility to slyly manuever around opposing bigs. Signed to play for Larry Brown in Italy this year, White has the opportunity to take both his game and his advocacy to new heights in ’18-19.
Geno Crandall, 6’4, PG/SG, Senior, Gonzaga
While many outside of the region may have never heard of Geno Crandall prior to this summer, rest assured that it is a name you will familiarize yourself with this upcoming season. The most highly sought after grad transfer is heading to Gonzaga after putting up averages of 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists at North Dakota. Against pros, he showed a reliable jumper from NBA range, made great passes with either hand, and showed a readiness to compete on both ends with whomever he matched up with. Crandall joins a veteran laden Zags squad that will find itself amongst the top-5 in NCAA polls to start the season.
Zeke Nnaji, 6’10, PF, Hopkins HS (MN), 2019
A player whom we stumbled upon two and a half years ago running with Howard Pulley 15U has continually improved to the point that he is now a consensus top-40 dude in the country. Playing against grown men with a minor knee injury, the athletic big punished the rim, shot the ball well from the perimeter, and showed a ton of versatility on the defensive end. With offers from just about every big time program in the country, Nnaji has experienced one of the more meteoric rises of anyone in the class of 2019.
Cameron Rundles, 6’2, PG, Stella Leuven (BEL)
Perhaps the toughest dude in the Pro-Am, Cam Rundles didn’t care who you were or where you played, he was going to go right at you on both ends. The fearless lead guard came with an attack first mindset, shot the rock well from deep, and put the clamps on opposing guards. The Minneapolis native has consistently carved out a nice niche for himself on the European market and is expected to have a breakout year in Belgium.
David Roddy, 6’5, PF, Breck HS (MN), 2019
Even though Roddy doesn’t fit the prototypical mold, he still kills everyone as a 6-foot-5 power forward. With his shooting and post-up play, Roddy was a consistent all-around scoring threat. A high major athlete on both the gridiron and hardwood, he grabbed hoops offers from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern over the past week.
Video via And-One Films.