If credits rolled after an Apple Valley boys’ basketball victory, they would undoubtedly begin “Starring Tyus Jones,” the most talked-about national recruit in Minnesota.
But the credits wouldn’t stop. Just ask anyone who has watched the Eagles amass 28 victories and the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A basketball tournament that begins Wednesday.
They would roll on, saying: “Also starring …”
For an outside observer, it might look like it’s Jones and a supporting cast. But Class 4A’s No. 1 team has worked hard to remove any such thinking.
“We just do our roles. We try to make [Jones] look good and he makes us look good,” said Fronk, who averages 15.2 points per game and is a Star Tribune All-Metro second-team member. “There is no jealousy on the team. There is a lot of stuff being said outside of the team, but we worry about what’s in the locker room and this year we’ve been especially good at that.”
In the locker room is every piece necessary for Apple Valley to claim the Eagles’ first boys’ basketball state championship in their sixth appearance.
Fronk, a senior guard, is a long-range shooting threat. He’s averaging just under 40 percent from three-point range, where he’s collected more than half his points.
Sonie, a senior, is known for defense and given the responsibility of guarding the opponents’ best player. He leads the team in steals and minutes.
Austin, a junior, provides inside power. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in strength. Bertram, a 6-10 freshman center, gives Apple Valley a huge advantage in the post. Austin and Bertram both shoot over 60 percent from the field.
First off the bench is Tobroxen, a smart and lengthy guard who has proved he can defend the opponents’ best scorer. Eric Berenz, Matt Christiansen, James Horton and Chris Laymon also see regular playing time.
“It says we have a lot of players besides Tyus that can play,” Eagles coach Zach Goring said. “There is a lot of talent in this group right now.”
During a four-game stretch when Jones was sidelined because of a back injury, the Eagles defeated Hopkins (ranked No. 2 at the time) and defending Class 4A champion Osseo (No. 5 at the time).
The run meant a lot to the team’s seniors. Though they willingly follow Jones’ guidance, they finally got their chance to shine without him in the game.
“That was a challenging point of the season,” Sonie said. “We’ve always been the back seat to Tyus, so when he went out it gave us a chance to prove ourselves.”
Most the Eagles have been playing together since sixth grade. They’ve been a part of Jones’ rise to the top of every college coach’s recruiting list. They’ve watched gymnasiums go from mostly empty to overflowing when he’s playing. The long history has preserved the unity.
“It shows character as a team. I praise them for that,” said Jones, who averaged 20.9 points, 7.6 assists and three steals per game this season. “I don’t look at them as my cast. They are my team. … My teammates.”
The egalitarian approach was evident in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game, a 94-63 rout against Rosemount.
Jones led his team with 19 points, but had eight assists. Four others scored in double figures. After Sonie took a charge, the four others were there to pick him up. Fronk made sure to give Jones a pickup nudge after he missed a dunk. And Tobroxen’s back-to-back three-pointers were followed by Jones yelling, “I see you, boy!”
“They’re just a complete team all around,” Rosemount guard Cole Northwick said. “[Jones] always has someone to look to.”