Tyus Jones strolled into Michelle Lundquist’s classroom as a sophomore. The Apple Valley High School math teacher knew of the budding star’s basketball prowess.
“I waited for the ego and the big head that often accompanies someone of such great talent,” Lundquist said. “I remember thinking that very thing the first time he walked through my classroom door.”
Lundquist remains one of his teachers in his senior year.
“Over two years later, I am still waiting for the ego and big head,” Lundquist said. “I know I will always remember Tyus Jones for who he is rather than what he can do. He brings a grace and humility to the sports world that is not often seen today.”
He also brings extraordinary talent to the basketball floor. Jones set more than 10 school records, filled gyms with fans every time he played and drew scholarships offer from the nation’s most prolific college programs. More people turned out to watch his team win the Class 4A title last March than for any game since the tournament split into four classes in 1997.
That likely explains the exhale of disappointment from basketball fans when Jones’ prep career came to a halt Thursday in a double-overtime loss to Cretin-Derham Hall in the Section 3 finals. The Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year heads off to Duke next fall without making one last state tournament appearance this week at Target Center.
“The impact Tyus has made on Apple Valley basketball has been remarkable,” Eagles coach Zach Goring said. “Even more important than that is the way he has represented our program, our school and our community in such a positive light.”
In the classroom
Jones, who also won Metro Player of the Year honors in 2012, takes more pride in dishing off to a teammate for an assist than he does scoring. He is more focused on team success than what he accomplishes as an individual. He is exactly the same in the classroom.
“The characteristics that make him a great basketball player and won him the Eagle Excellence award [dedicated, driven, hardworking] in 2012 still shine through,” Lundquist said. “He is willing to teach other students how to do the math, too.”
Lundquist first had Jones as a student in Algebra 2 as a sophomore. He currently is in her CAPS (College Algebra, Probability and Statistics) class. Jones carries a 3.2 grade-point average.
“As seniors they get to choose their own seats, and he is always front and center,” Lundquist said. “Tyus is one of the top students in my class.”
His determination in the classroom also played a role in his selection of a college. His final choices boiled down to Baylor, Duke and Kansas.
“It was definitely a hard decision,” Jones said. “All the colleges recruiting me were great schools with great academics. I could see myself at all of them.”
He is undecided on a major, but is leaning toward broadcasting and/or African-American studies.
When he trimmed his list of possible destinations down to eight, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State were also in the mix.
“It was really tough for me to pick one, and have to say no to all the other coaches.” Jones said. “It was a long recruiting process. There was a lot of long nights and trips to schools.”
He finally lifted a burden of weight off his shoulders Nov. 15 when he selected Duke along with his friend Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young in Chicago. The two were teammates on the Team USA 17-and-under squad.
“When I put that Duke hat on, there was a pretty big sigh of relief,” Jones said. “I selected Duke because it was the best fit for me and my family.”
First and foremost
Jones isn’t one to stray too far from home. He values the importance of family.
“I spend a lot of time with my family,” Jones said. “Our family is extremely close. We enjoy each other’s company.”
His parents, Robert and Debbie, divorced when Jones was in elementary school. They both continue to play significant roles in his life.
Jones lives in Apple Valley with his mother and two brothers, Jadee and Tre. Jadee played college basketball at Furman and Minnesota State Mankato. Tre is in eighth grade.
“My mom and dad are both a big reason for my success,” Jones said. “They have always been there for me.”
His father and Jadee were instrumental in the college recruitment process. Jadee also serves as his trainer.
“I’ve leaned on Jadee a lot, especially with recruiting,” Jones said. “He helped me through the process. Our relationship has gotten even better because of everything he has been doing for me.”
With that being said, Jones will be the first to acknowledge that Debbie is the glue to the family.
“She has done a fantastic job raising the three of us,” Jones said. “I can’t thank her enough for what she has done. It’s something you don’t consider or appreciate until you get older. I really appreciate everything she has done for us. She has a lot of pride.”
Career comes to a close
The explosive point guard shattered school records, including career, season and single-game marks. He could care less about them.
“I wanted to try and accomplish something in high school that had never been done before at Apple Valley, bring a state championship banner to the school,” Jones said.
He did just that a year ago. Apple Valley defeated Park Center 74-57 in the Class 4A finals before a crowd of 13,309 at Target Center.
“It was a crazy atmosphere, unbelievable environment,” Jones said. “If it wasn’t for my teammates or coaches, I wouldn’t have been playing in that game.”
He hoped to help Apple Valley return in his final prep season, but Cretin-Derham Hall upset the top-ranked Eagles 89-77 in the section championship before a raucous crowd at Farmington High School.
“Our whole vision was to win another state championship,” Jones said. “For it to end short of another state championship is very disappointing. In my mind, the one thing that separates players is being a winner.”
It’s an attribute that Jones doesn’t have to worry about, even in defeat.
“I don’t think we’re going to see another player like Tyus for quite a while,” Cretin-Derham Hall coach Jerry Kline Jr. said after the section final. “He’s a special talent.”