He's baaaaaack. Or is he?
Apple Valley's Tyus Jones, the state's most heavily recruited player, is said to be doubtful to play Friday in the Breakdown Granite City Classic boys basketball showcase at St. Cloud Apollo.
The 6-foot-2 junior point guard, recruited by virtually every major college in the country, has been dealing with back spasms that have limited his playing time in the early going.
His status is uncertain for Apple Valley's game at 6:30 p.m. Friday against St. Cloud Tech.
"We want him ready in March," Apple Valley head coach Zach Goring said.
Teams lined up
Jones is one of a number of outstanding players in the classic, which includes defending state Class 4A champion Osseo and the No. 2 Eagles.
Also participating is No. 10 Prior Lake and three state-ranked Class 3A squads, including No. 3 Blake, No. 6 Rocori and No. 7 Delano.
The Granite City was ranked as one of the top three in Minnesota by college scouts quoted in a recent Star Tribune story.
"I know it's seems cliche, but again, this is by far our best lineup of teams," said Justin Hegna, the Breakdown Granite City Classic director and a former St. Cloud State player from Becker. "Being a St. Cloud person, it's really exciting that we are able to attract these teams to the area.
"The word is out, as from requests already for next year, that the Breakdown Granite Classic is the holiday hotbed in Minnesota. And add what a great job Emmett (Keenan, activities director) from Cathedral does with their tourney, it's a hoops junkies' dream."
Toss in area teams like Tech, Apollo, Sartell and Becker along with Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville and it's an ideal showcase.
"We really like it," Becker head coach Regan Anderson said. "We get to get a couple of games in and our kids definitely like to see all the talent there.
"Plus, we get to get games for our ninth-graders and B squad and JV. It's a good two days for us."
Apple Valley has the spotlight, mostly because of Jones. Many of college coach's biggest names have seen him play and/or made a recruiting visit. John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Tubby Smith, Bill Self, Thad Motta and Mike Krzyzewski.
"It's been really fun," Goring said. "I'm a huge college basketball fan, too.
"You've got to pinch yourself every once in a while to see if it isn't a dream that you're looking at film with Coach Krzyzewski."
But, Jones is not the only player being scouted.
Prior Lake has 7-footer Carson Shanks, who has signed with Utah State. He is paired up front with 6-10 Jeff Probert, who has signed with Division II Northern State of Aberdeen, S.D.
Osseo, ranked sixth in the state in Class 4A, has Ian Theisen, a 6-9 junior being heavily recruited. He is no relation to head coach Tim Theisen, whose team also features Bridge Tusler, Minnesota's 2012 Mr. Football Award winner and an outstanding running back as well as a fine point guard.
The Orioles also have Wheeler Baker, a 6-2 junior guard.
Hegna said that Blake has some of the most underrated talent in the state, led by Kebu Johnson, John Veil, Blaine Crawford and J.R. Bascom.
Area players to watch include Rocori's Jonah Eisenschenk, a 6-5 forward committed to Minnesota Duluth, Sartell's Patrick Fischer (Bemidji State), Tech's Andy Foley and Apollo's Brett Maslonkowski.
Rocori's Mac Mueller and Sartell's Tim Immelman are other area players to watch.
"You are going to see some familiar college colleges attending this year, especially Division I and II," Hegna said.
Delano is led by Toby Hanson, a standout guard, and forward Zach Checkal.
But the showcase talent in the showcase tournament might be Jones, who played in last year's Granite City after missing it as a freshman because of a kidney laceration.
"I really enjoy coming up to the Granite City Classic," said Goring, a former St. Cloud State player. "I bump into so many friendly people who remember my ties to Husky basketball.
"And it's a great opportunity to get in some games for all our levels, from 9A and 9B to sophomore and JV. We stay overnight and get in some team bonding, too."
And while Jones' status is uncertain, the Eagles do have a lot of talent surrounding him.
There are Harry Sonie, a 5-10 senior guard who has been a three-year starter for Apple Valley.
Another three-year starter is Dustin Fronk, a 6-2 senior forward who averages 15 points and eight rebounds per game.
Players to watch include Brock Bertram, a 6-10 freshman, Robert Tobroxen, a 6-6 junior, and Gary Trent Jr., a 6-0 eighth-grader who is the son of former Minnesota Timberwolf Gary Trent.
"I really like our team," Goring said. "We've got eight of our top nine back and then we bring in a 6-10 freshman. We haven't had size in the past, so it's kind of exciting."