Could 2014 targets Jones, Mudiay be UK's next Wall-Bledsoe combo?

broberts@herald-leader.comApril 29, 2013 

On one side of the Boo Williams Sportsplex on Sunday morning, Tyus Jones was making big play after big play down the stretch to lead his team to a victory.

Right across the hall, Emmanuel Mudiay was turning up the intensity in the final minutes of a different game, trying to guide his squad to the same result.

Jones was being watched by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and several other top coaches.

Arizona's Sean Miller and Baylor's Scott Drew were among those keeping an eye on Mudiay.

John Calipari was checking in on both.

So who's the best point guard in the class of 2014? It's a debate that echoed through the Sportsplex in Hampton, Va., all weekend.

Some questions just don't have clear-cut answers.

"This one's tough," Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "I've been going back and forth all weekend. They both played so well when I saw them that it's very hard to determine who the better player is, who the better prospect is."

Going into the weekend, Scout.com and ESPN had Jones ahead of Mudiay. Rivals.com and 24/7 Sports had it the other way around.

If the rankings allowed for ties, Daniels would happily use one here.

"It is definitely a 1A, 1B situation," he said. "They're both tremendous talents. They're both elite-level point guards."

And they're both considering the University of Kentucky.

Mudiay is tall for his position with an impressive ability to get to the basket.

"Emmanuel, from a physical standpoint at 6-4, has a big, strong body and he's also a very good athlete," Daniels said. "He has good speed, he can get in the lane."

Jones is a 6-0 playmaker who throws passes at all angles, finding his target the vast majority of the time.

"Tyus is smaller, but I think he's probably more careful with the ball. He doesn't turn it over a lot," Daniels said. "And he has a really good pace. He can get anywhere on the court he wants."

Jones and Mudiay will be seniors next season, and that means they'll be paying a lot more attention to their recruitments.

Jones, a Minnesota native, has already trimmed his list to seven schools: UK, Duke, Michigan State, Baylor, Ohio State, Kansas and Minnesota.

Coaches from those seven schools were stalking him all weekend, and they've all tried to show that he's a top priority.

The morning after UK lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT, Calipari showed up in Minneapolis to see Jones play in his state tournament.

That visit didn't go unnoticed.

"It meant a lot to me," Jones said. "It was good to see him at my game, especially after them ending their season. It shows a lot that he would show up the next morning. All the coaches are very busy and they all have hectic schedules, so any time they can come up and visit you, it's a good feeling."

The head coaches from Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas and Baylor stopped by last week for in-home visits with Jones. New Minnesota coach Richard Pitino couldn't, because the previous Gophers staff had used up all of their visits.

That made Calipari the only one who could have made the trip, but didn't.

"I was a little bit (surprised)," Jones said. "Just because every other school came in."

Jones again noted that he knows how busy the coaches recruiting him can be.

Calipari did indeed have his hands full last week. He made several recruiting trips, and of those was to Texas for an in-home visit with Mudiay.

"Coach Cal is a great person," he said. "He definitely knows what he's doing with his point guards. ... You're never going to go over there and think that you can't win a championship. Because he always has a championship team every year."

Mudiay made it clear that he isn't a "done deal" to UK, as some fans and observers seem to think.

He specifically mentioned Arizona, Baylor and Oklahoma State as other schools recruiting him hard.

Mudiay singled out Travis Ford for the "great job" he did with Marcus Smart this past season and for the fact that Ford was also a point guard in college (at Kentucky).

Many UK fans have been holding out hope for a replay of the 2009-10 season, when John Wall and Eric Bledsoe teamed up in Lexington for a two-headed point guard attack that yielded impressive results.

Jones seemed open to the possibility. Mudiay, not so much.

"To be honest, no, because I want to play the point guard position," Mudiay said. "That's what I look at. I'm a point guard. I don't do that combo guard."

Calipari apparently isn't trying to sell either player on Wall/Bledsoe, Part II.

"He said he wants me as his point guard," Mudiay said.

That settles that.

So, if you're a college coach, would you rather have Jones or Mudiay?

It gets back to the original question, which is one that will be repeated for months — and maybe years — to come.

Who's the best point guard in the class of 2014?

To the two coaches lucky enough to land one of them, it doesn't really matter.

"You're probably throwing an office party if you get either one of those guys," Daniels said.

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