North Augusta, S.C. - With his Howard Pulley 17-and-under squad battling in a must-win game, Apple Valley rising sophomore Tyus Jones put together his best performance in the Peach Jam tournament Thursday, while managing to attract interest from one of the best programs in America.
Jones scored 31 points on 13 for 19 shooting in Howard Pulley's 84-80 victory over BABC in North Augusta, S.C. It wasn't enough to get the local program into pool play, despite its 3-2 record, because CIA Bounce lost to Mac Irvin Fire in a game that ultimately determined Howard Pulley's fate.
But Jones impressed Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who watched the 15-year-old's performance from the sidelines. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Minnesota's Tubby Smith were there, too.
After the game, Duke's staff let Howard Pulley's coaches know that it was "very interested" in Jones.
Once he'd learned about Duke's interest, Jones said he felt "blessed."
Howard Pulley's coaching staff expects the young star to attract a multitude of offers in the coming weeks. He was one of the top point guards at Peach Jam, the premier event in summer grassroots basketball.
There was a definite buzz about the prospect throughout the week.
I think Hopkins' Siyani Chambers, Benilde-St Margaret's Isaiah Zierden and former Benilde center Kyle Washington raised their profiles at the event, too. I'll have more on those three players Friday.
But Jones solidified his status as the top-ranked point guard in the 2014 class on ESPN.com with his performance.
Tubby talks about playing faster next season
The Gophers lost a three-point shooting ace in Blake Hoffarber and a lockdown perimeter defender in Al Nolen. But an athletic recruiting class should help the Gophers play at a faster pace next season, Smith said Thursday.
"That's the style I'm comfortable coaching," Smith said. "That's something we're going to do more of. We're going to try to create more offense with our defense, something we didn't do last year," he said.
Smith and sons
Smith watched a variety of prospects Thursday with son and assistant Saul Smith. His eldest son, Loyola University (Md.) assistant coach G.G. Smith, joined them on the sidelines during Howard Pulley's matchup against BABC.
Smith said he never pushed his kids to become coaches, but he's glad they enjoy the profession the way he does.
"I think it was just natural," he said. "They make a comfortable living and do what they love to do. They all have a passion for playing and coaching, so that's good. I'm happy for them."
-On Thursday, Smith watched Indiana Spiece Heat, which features prospects DeJuan Marrero and A.J. Hammons.