Former Minnesota prep and college basketball standouts Zeke Nnaji (Hopkins, University of Arizona), Tyrell Terry (DeLaSalle, Stanford University), Daniel Oturu (Cretin Derham Hall, University of Minnesota), and Tre Jones (Apple Valley, Duke University) have matured the past couple of years from leaders of their state championship teams to prestigious members of the NBA Draft Class of 2020.
The 2020 NBA Draft has come and gone. So rather than dwell on the player’s collegiate careers, feelings on being drafted, and the emotion accompanied with such moments of accomplishment—which have been written about before, since, during, and after the draft—let’s look back at the state championship runs in which each led their team, beginning a journey to professional basketball at the highest level.
As a 6’11” senior, Nnaji led Hopkins to the Class 4A state championship with a victory over 55-40 Lakeville North, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for the Royals. The center averaged 24.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He was a first-round No. 22 pick drafted by the Denver Nuggets.
The 6’2” Terry is a recent No.31 second-round draft pick of the Dallas Mavericks. In 2019, he scored 19 points and dished out 10 assists to lead DeLaSalle to the 63-56 victory over Waseca to help the Islanders capture the Class 3A title. He was a contributor to the school’s 2016 and 2017 state championship teams during his four-year varsity career.
Oturu, a 6’10” center drafted No. 33 in the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves, led Cretin Derham Hall to the 2018 Class 4A state championship in dramatic fashion with a game-winning dunk with .05 seconds remaining to defeat a Jones-led Apple Valley team defending their title. Oturu was traded by the Wolves to the New York Knicks, who in turn traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Jones, a ‘6’2” guard and the most accomplished of the foursome, saw his high school career end with runner-up Class 4A finish in 2019, but the second-round San Antonio Spurs No. 41 pick accomplished quite a bit before then.
He helped Apple Valley capture state titles in 2013 (eight-grade), 2015 (ninth-grade), and during his junior year in 2017 after scoring 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 60-54 victory over Champlain Park.
It was quite an evening for Minnesota prep basketball.
Addressing the media shortly after being drafted, Terry congratulated Nnaji, Oturu, and Jones on their draft selections while acknowledging its impact on the state of Minnesota.
“To have us all be selected tonight is an extreme blessing. I congratulate those guys,” Terry said. “It does a lot for the state of Minnesota as far as recognition. I think Minnesota is on the come-up as far as talent goes in the basketball world. I hope the world kind of wakes up and realizes that now.”
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.