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Apple Valley star Tyus Jones
Rene Pulley might be biased, but he is not wrong.
Pulley, the executive director of Howard Pulley Basketball, was instrumental in pulling together 40 boys' basketball teams from around the country -- including his own -- that will play locally in this weekend's Nike EYBL tournament.
"Minnesota has never had a tournament this huge," Pulley said. "This has never happened before. This sets a precedent."
It's hard to argue, considering Pulley is an authority on the subject -- and considering the numbers back it up. In addition to the volume of teams playing at the High Performance Academy in Eagan, the quality is staggering. Pulley said many of the top 50 prospects in ESPN's class of 2013 rankings -- including No. 1-ranked Chicago Simeon senior-to-be Jabari Parker, playing for Mac Irvin (Ill.) -- are expected to compete in this weekend's tournament.
Also slated to play: Tyus Jones, the Apple Valley point guard phenom, who plays his AAU ball for the Howard Pulley 17U squad. He is ESPN's No. 3-rated player in the Class of 2014.
The EYBL tournament has the most wide-reaching star power, but it's just one of three major ones coming to the Twin Cities this weekend. The NY2LA Sports Spring Extravaganza will be played mainly at Hopkins and Minnetonka high schools, while the Best Buy Spring Classic is at Bloomington Jefferson and Kennedy. All three run from Friday through Sunday with various age groups represented.
Pulley said the Nike EYBL tournament is expected to bring in roughly 200 college coaches, including heavy hitters from all the top programs. Plenty of those coaches also will check on recruits at the other two local tournaments. The tournaments will jump-start the AAU spring season -- and the time during which college coaches can evaluate players.
Gophers coach Tubby Smith said he is glad to see the NCAA reinstate this evaluation period after "they did away with it for the past couple years." And having players so conveniently located minutes away from campus isn't a bad thing, either.
"That's going to be a big help. That's going to be huge," Smith said earlier this month. "They get a chance to enjoy our fine city, and we don't have to go far to watch."
Fans likely feel the same way. All three tournaments are open to the public, with day passes available for purchase. A weekend pass for the EYBL tournament is $25. Howard Pulley's first game is at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the Georgia Stars, with two more games Saturday and one Sunday.
"I always feel good about our squad every year. They really look good in practice-playing against themselves," Pulley said with a laugh. "We'll find out how good we are, and the Georgia Stars will let us know."