Tyus Jones has kept close tabs as his brother, Tre Jones, has played his way through his freshman season as a guard for Duke. Now, with a No. 1 seed in hand, Duke is about to start its NCAA tournament run with a game Friday in Columbia, S.C.
“I’m excited for him,’’ said Tyus, who led Duke to the 2015 NCAA title with a 68-63 victory over Wisconsin. After scoring 23 points in that game, Jones was named the tournaments Most Outstanding Player. The Apple Valley High School product subsequently declared for the NBA draft and wound up with his hometown Timberwolves.
And now, perhaps, his brother will follow in those footsteps.
“I’m excited for him,’’ Tyus Jones said. “I’m excited for their team. ACC championship, that was awesome for them, awesome to see. They’re playing really well right now.’’
Having been through it, the elder Jones has been able to offer some advice.
“I told him to just stick with it, take it one game at a time, and kind of ride the momentum from the ACC tournament. He’s done a great job with the ups and down of the season.’’
Jones said his brother might have benefited from having watched that 2015 run; Tre Jones was at all of his brother’s games that spring.
“He saw the excitement, the energy that’s in those arenas, how every game is win or go home,’’ Tyus said. “It’s a different kind of pressure, a different kind of energy. At the same time, those are the games you want.’’
The Wolves play at Charlotte on Thursday night, only 90 or so miles from Columbia. Might he try to get permission to go to Friday’s game?
“We’ll see now the game goes first,’’ he said. “And then I might talk to Ryan [Saunders, the Wolves interim coach] about it. But it’s cool, because my family is going to come down and come to our game in Charlotte, then drive over [to Duke’s game].’’
It is a difficult time for the Jones family. Tyus recently announced on Instagram that his mother, Debbie Jones, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was caught early, and she was doing well.
For Tuesday night’s 117-107 loss to Golden State, the Wolves were again without Derrick Rose (right elbow), Luol Deng (Achilles), Robert Covington (knee) and Jeff Teague (left foot).
And the Wolves’ injury list might have grown Tuesday. Forward Taj Gibson strained his left calf in the first half and did not return to the game.
Teague, who has been bothered by that sore foot on and off all season, had it re-examined, but Saunders had no updates Tuesday.
With only 11 games left this season, Saunders was asked if shutting down the injured players had been discussed.
“We always want the best team on the floor to compete,’’ he said. “And I will always say that.’’
• Saunders, a University of Minnesota alum, said he has been in nearly daily contact with Gophers coach Richard Pitino, via text, as the Gophers prepare for their NCAA opener Thursday. “Everyone knows my love for the Gophers,’’ Saunders said. “I’ll always bleed maroon and gold.’’
• To commemorate the Prince-inspired City Edition uniforms the Wolves have worn at times this season, the team will give fans attending the April 5 game vs. Miami with a collectors’ edition 7-inch vinyl of “Rock ’n’ Roll is Alive! (And it lives in Minneapolis).”