- Mike Grimala, ESPNHS
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Each week this summer leading up to the AAU National Championships in Orlando in July, ESPNHS will profile one of the nation's top AAU teams and tell you why you should be paying attention.
Team: Texas Titans
Location: Dallas, Texas
Coach: Scott Pospichal
What you need to know about the Texas Titans:
The Texas Titans are just in their seventh year of existence, but coach Scott Pospichal has already developed his squad into an elite national program. Many of the key contributors on the Titans' 17U team have played together for the entire seven years, so they're extremely familiar with each other and with Pospichal's system.
"We've been together since the fifth grade," said Class of 2013 shooting guard Matt Jones. "We just know how to play together. As a team, we know what we want. We know where the ball should go, so we don't have to worry about that. We're just out there, playing and having fun."
Combine that continuity with the Titans' absurd talent level and you've got a recipe for a national championship contender. In addition to Jones, one of the sweetest shooters in the country, the Titans also have Julius Randle, the No. 2 player in the ESPN 100 and power forward Damian Jones, No. 70 on the list. And all of the team's stars buy into Pospichal's defense-first approach
"We're a very disciplined team," says Pospichal. "We want to be a tough defensive team. We're not trying to be great in transition, and very rarely do we take the first shot. We're a deliberate, half-court team and we pride ourselves on execution."
The Titans went 15-5 during Nike Elite Youth Basketball League play, tying for the fourth-best record during the circuit's regular season. That qualified the squad for the Nike Peach Jam, where they reached the quarterfinals in 2011.
Julius Randle, F, 2013: At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Randle is almost impossible to defend around the basket. "He's an absolute beast," says Pospichal. "He's a talent like I've never seen." Randle is the Titans' No. 1 option on offense, and he's posted 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during EYBL play.
Matt Jones, G, 2013: A pure shooter in the Ray Allen mold, Jones stretches defenses and makes opponents pay for double-teaming Randle. The Duke recruit hit 51 percent of his 3-point attempts in EYBL play and averaged a team-high 17.0 points per game. "I try to pick my spots when I want to score or attack," says Jones. "I want to focus on making my teammates better and helping our offense run with confidence."
Preston Troutt, G, 2013: Troutt doesn't get as much attention as his highly-recruited teammates, but the 5-foot-11 guard has been with the Titans since the beginning and understands how to run the system. "He's our third scorer," says Pospichal. "He's a really good jump shooter, and he plays an important role in spacing the floor for us." Despite playing through a shoulder injury, Troutt has averaged 7.0 points per game this summer while hitting 47 percent of his 3-pointers.
Damian Jones, F, 2013: A new addition to the Titans, Jones hasn't been in the system as long as lifers like Matt Jones and Troutt. But the Louisiana native brings a rugged low-post game and a willingness to do the dirty work under the basket.
Great American Shootout: June 8-10 in College Station, Texas
Great American Shootout: June 22-24 in Pearland, Texas
Nike Peach Jam: July 18-22 in North Augusta, S.C.
AAU Super Showcase: July 24-30 in Orlando, Fla.
The Titans were one of the most impressive teams during the EYBL regular season, and they have to be considered among the favorites to win the Nike Peach Jam. The team has championship experience, as Randle, Jones and Troutt have all won national titles before in various age groups.
"It's something we've done before," says Pospichal. "Our younger teams have won national championships, and these guys expect to win."
Beyond Peach Jam, the Titans will also be playing at the AAU Super Showcase in Florida. Because of team's familiarity, they expect to be playing their best ball at the end of the summer.
"We've got a deep team," says Matt Jones. "The whole team believes we can win. When everyone is out there playing and performing their role, we can really get it rolling. We're just trying to get better with every game."
Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).
1063dMike Grimala and David Auguste