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Apple Valley basketball phenom Tyus Jones donned a Duke University Blue Devils hat while announcing he would be attending Duke University during a live ESPN televised special Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at Apple Valley High in Apple Valley, MN.

 

Minnesota high school basket­ball will make its ESPN de­but on Thurs­day night. The cameras will come to Apple Valley for a show­down between fu­ture Duke teammates Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor.

Jones’ Apple Valley team and Okafor’s Whit­ney Young High School (Chi­ca­go) will tip off at 6 p.m. in front of ESPN2’s na­tion­al audi­ence and a sold-out Apple Valley gymnasium.

The chan­nel is avail­able on most Twin Cities cable tel­e­vi­sion packages.

“It’s good for Minnesota and our high school to get a chance to have a game on ESPN. It’s a great op­por­tu­ni­ty,” Jones said. “It’ll be re­al­ly fun, re­al­ly exciting, and there will be a lot of en­er­gy.”

The na­tion­al broad­cast comes just three months af­ter ESPN came to St. Paul for a football game between Cre­tin-Derham Hall and Stillwater. The in­ter­est in the Twin Cities is a re­sult of its grow­ing crop of na­tion­al­ly hyped tal­ent.

Cre­tin-Derham Hall’s de­fen­sive end Jashon Cor­nell is rat­ed the Class of 2015’s No. 1 play­er by ESPN. Jones has been ranked as high as No. 1 in ESPN’s boys’ basket­ball rat­ings and is cur­rent­ly No. 4 over­all.

ESPNU recently traveled to Apple Valley for Jones’ college announcement. He and Okafor, a 6-11 center rated No. 1 in the country, made their decision together on a split TV screen. They’ll return to TV together on Thursday as a result of ambitious thinking.

The two national standouts and Apple Valley coach Zach Goring came up with the idea and pitched it to Whitney Young nearly two years ago. Their pitch not only caught the attention of coaches and school administrators but also ESPN.

The network called Goring last December inquiring about broadcasting one of the Eagles’ games. Goring shared that he and Whitney Young coach Ty Slaughter had been in discussions about a game and ESPN jumped aboard.

Duke’s coaching staff, including head coach Mike Krzyzewski, is even intrigued by the matchup and will attend Thursday’s game, Jones said.

The game is part of what ESPN is calling the GEICO ESPN High School Basketball Showcase. It is 12 games across their ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU networks and includes nine of the nation’s top 10 recruits.

“We’re re­al­ly ex­cit­ed about hav­ing the show­case at our school. It’s going to be a neat deal,” Gor­ing said. “We’ll try to catch our breath [af­ter it’s all over], but my thought is these experi­enc­es [big games] are what high school basket­ball is all about.”

Apple Valley en­ters the game 5-0, with victories over several top Minnesota programs, in­clud­ing DeLaSalle and Hopkins. The Eagles are ranked No. 16 in the na­tion by MaxPreps and No. 41 by USA Today.

Whit­ney Young is 1-1 af­ter drop­ping its sea­son o­pen­er to a team from Southern Cali­for­nia. The Dol­phins are unranked in MaxPreps’ poll but are No. 34 in USA Today’s rankings. They start­ed the season ranked No. 5 af­ter re­turn­ing three Division I-bound seni­ors. Paul White, a 6-8 pow­er for­ward, is ranked No. 64 among ESPN Top 100 re­cruits and has signed with Georgetown.

Jones and Okafor have faced off be­fore in the Nike E­lite Youth Basketball League. Each has de­feat­ed the oth­er. Thursday’s game marks one fi­nal chance to play as opponents be­fore join­ing for­ces at Duke next sea­son.

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Tag(s): Rankings  Featured  Star Tribune  Hopkins  Apple Valley  Stillwater  DeLaSalle  Valley  Valley (IA)