Colorado Springs, Colo. - Apple Valley's Tyus Jones has been on Tubby Smith's wish list since 2009, when Jones joined the school's varsity squad as an eighth-grader.
He's received a variety of accolades over the last two years, confirming his stock as one of the top 2014 prospects in America.
But earning a spot on the U.S. Men's National Developmental Team, which features the country's top 15- and 16-year-old basketball players, is the biggest accomplishment of the youngster's career. Jones and 11 other players will compete for a gold medal in the FIBA AMERICAS 16U Championship for Men in Cancun, Mexico, June 17 to June 21.
Jones won a position on the 12-man roster Sunday after three days of grueling, college-level practices.
I watched every session and I was impressed by Jones's development at the training camp.
The 27 players who landed at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Friday are all high-major prospects. Some of these kids will play in the NBA one day. It's a very talented assembly. The kids who didn't make the squad are highly skilled.
By making the cut, Jones raised his stock on a national level and also justified the hype that's enveloped the 15-year-old's career.
Both Minnesota and Iowa have offered Jones scholarships to their respective schools. Many, many more will offer soon.
Jones has a chance to lead the U.S. to a gold medal. He's arguably the best point guard on the roster, so I won't be surprised if he's the starter. If his squad finishes with a gold, silver or bronze, it will qualify for next year's 17U world championships in Lithuania.
This is a great opportunity for Jones and the other kids who were picked.
Here's my assessment of Jones after watching him for three days during the 16U tryout:
The U.S. coaching staff, led by Iowa prep coach Don Showalter, stressed "team" from the first day of practice. Coaches said they wanted players who could help them facilitate cohesiveness in a short time span. It was the perfect setting for a player like Jones, a true point guard.
With big, strong, fast athletes around him, Jones played to his strengths. He made great passes. He efficiently ran the offense. He distributed the ball with equity and put his teammates in positions to make plays. He led exciting fast breaks but also showed his ability to anchor a halfcourt set.
He didn't make many mistakes and always played with poise.
Jones also improved as a defender, the weakest part of his game, throughout the training camp. On the first day, he struggled on defense. On the final day of the tryout, however, he was one of the better on-the-ball defenders at the camp. He also became more vocal, a trait coaches demanded from the point guards.
He's still raw, however, around the basket. Jones has the acumen and ballhandling ability to get anywhere on the floor. But when he drove to lane at the tryout, he often ended up in a jam against big athletes playing inside.
The other point guards at the training camp were better finishers. But Jones executed in other areas and he scored in stretches. He has to learn to finish at the rim. Greater shooting range will also help him become a more complete point guard.
But there's not much to criticize about a 15-year-old that ESPN.com recently named the best point guard in the entire 2014 class. He's a member of the 16U national team because he's a fluid point guard who can lead.
Jones is probably the best prep player in Minnesota. This weekend, however, he held his own against the best players in the country, a group he's definitely a part of.
The Gophers want him and it's easy to see why. He could change the entire program. Plus, good players will want to join Jones wherever he goes because he makes his teammates better.
But as Jones continues to improve, they'll have more competition for his services.
Jones recently told me that he doesn't have a favorite school. Last month, he took an unofficial trip to Minnesota. He said he liked the school and the coaches.
But he said he doesn't want to commit early to any school. So expect a waiting game when it comes to his school selection.
-On a sad note, Malik Price-Martin, a 6-9 standout from Miami who made the 16U national team, learned Sunday night that his brother had been killed in Florida. He was not with the team Monday. But USA Basketball officials said he will definitely keep his spot if he decides to return to the team prior to the 16U tournament in Mexico. Tough situation for Price-Martin.