When point guard Tyus Jones came out of Apple Valley to attend Duke in 2014, he was the No. 7-ranked prospect in the country, and he really ushered in this current wave of world-class prep basketball players from the state of Minnesota.
Now the 2018 class features Tyus’ brother Tre Jones, the No. 8-ranked player in the country, who is planning to attend Duke after he graduates from Apple Valley, like his brother.
There’s no doubt that there has never been a pair of brothers from Minnesota who have been decorated with those kinds of rankings and accolades.
You could look nationally to brother combos such as the Ball family with Lakers guard Lonzo Ball and his younger brothers playing overseas, or twins Brook and Robin Lopez, but this is a first for our state.
“I would give a lot of credit to my mom [Debbie Jones],” said Tyus, now in his third season with the Timberwolves. “Both of my parents [his father is Robert Jones] actually played basketball, but my mom has been our coach growing up all the way until we got to high school. I would give a lot of credit to her and also my older brother [Jadee Jones].
“He is someone who has trained us and been in the gym numerous hours with us. I give my mom and my older brother a lot of credit.”
Debbie played high school basketball for Devils Lake in North Dakota and went on to play college basketball while Robert played collegiately at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside.
“Every coach you are very thankful for and you learn something new at every level,” Tyus said. “All of my grade school coaches, middle school, all the way up through high school. I learned a lot from them and I’m fortunate for that.”
Duke extended family
As a Duke freshman, Tyus Jones started all 39 games on a national championship squad and averaged 11.8 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
He cemented his spot in Blue Devils history when he scored 23 points in the NCAA championship game against Wisconsin and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player three years ago in Indianapolis.
Jones talked about the impact of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Tremendous, he’s one of the smartest basketball minds ever, I think, to be around the game,” he said. “To be able to learn from him for a whole year, he helped take my game to a level that I didn’t know was possible just in terms of thinking the game and the mental aspect of it.”
Tre had big footsteps to follow from Tyus, but he has equaled his brother. He was named a McDonalds All-America selection after averaging 22.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game in the regular season for Apple Valley, which is chasing its second consecutive Class 4A state title and fourth since 2013, Tyus’ junior year with the Eagles.
Tyus said the family didn’t put any pressure on Tre to choose Duke.
“My family is very close with everyone at Duke, that’s an extended family for us,” Tyus said. “But at the same time, we were letting him make his own decision with wherever he felt was best for him. But ultimately he was very comfortable with Coach K and everybody down there, just from his previous relationship.”
While Tyus left his home state for college, he said being selected in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft by the Wolves was dreamlike. He recalled Flip Saunders calling to give him the news that they were trading up to draft him.
“It was crazy. I remember it very vividly. You always dream of being in the NBA and then to be drafted by your hometown team, you think you’re dreaming, literally,” Tyus said. “I remember getting on the phone with him and him telling me they were going to trade for me. He told me he was going to walk down to my draft party and see me and my family. It was a special night.”
This season has easily been Tyus’ best with the Wolves. He has earned praise from Tom Thibodeau for anchoring the second unit, and any time he has had a chance to start, he has thrived. He entered Saturday averaging 5.0 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting, both career highs.
“I think just confidence,” Tyus said about what brought about his improved play. “Confidence and just more comfortable out there on the court. The longer you’re out there, the more you’re playing consistently, I think the easier the game will come. It will kind of slow down for you. You’re not in a rush and you’re more comfortable overall.”
Still, he said that the biggest credit for his improvement goes to his brother Jadee, who played collegiately at Furman and Minnesota State Mankato.
“He is someone who has been my trainer since I was in eighth grade, and he is someone who has helped me become a much better shooter,” Jones said. “It has been a lot of hours put in the gym and a lot of shots. Repetition, repetition, repetition to become a better shooter.”
Yes, there’s no doubt the Joneses are one of the great basketball families in the state. Tyus now has a chance to take the Wolves to a place they haven’t been in more than a decade, the playoffs.
• Before signing with the Vikings, Kirk Cousins spent time in town during Super Bowl week. He visited the Gophers football team and coach P.J. Fleck, who has known Cousins for a few years. “I know our team enjoyed his message,” Fleck said. “He is a winner in every sense of the word and exudes positivity and professionalism. He is exactly the kind of person you want around your program and leading a team. I am so excited he is a Viking.”
• At his news conference Thursday, Cousins said he had a great relationship with Michigan State assistant coach Brad Salem, the son of former Gophers coach Joe Salem, as they worked together for two years with the Spartans.
• Fleck talked about how Gophers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. has looked this spring: “[He] has done a phenomenal job, he is really improving every single day. You can see the development mentally with him, just in terms of bring in the system. He’s so much more comfortable in the system. He’s playing a lot faster.” Winfield will most likely get a medical redshirt for last season.
• Karl-Anthony Towns on if the Timberwolves can make the playoffs in a tight Western Conference even if fellow All-Star Jimmy Butler isn’t back for the regular season: “Absolutely, there’s not a doubt in my mind. But for us, we have to get back all around to what we are in the playoffs, and not be a first-round-and-out team.”
• While the Vikings have the eighth-hardest strength of schedule in the NFL in 2018, they are tied for the easiest schedule in the NFC North with the Bears. The Packers have the toughest schedule in the league and the Lions are second.
• Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino has one scholarship left for the Class of 2018 and is targeting St. Louis’ Courtney Ramey, the 40th-ranked player in the country. It would be an unbelievable get if the Gophers could land the four-star point guard.