Scoggins: Apple Valley's Jones calling the shots with recruiters, too

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2012 - 10:52 PM

The prized Apple Valley guard, wanting to defuse stress in the process, set ground rules to deter overly aggressive pursuers.

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Apple Valley basketball star Tyus Jones

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

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Tyus Jones' basketball career is temporarily on hold. The Apple Valley phenom suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb this summer, had surgery two weeks ago and can't resume basketball activities for another month.

"I'll be ready for the season," he said, his shooting hand protected by a splint.

Jones' basketball life off the court is anything but on hiatus right now. The recruiting calendar made sure of that.

On Sunday, Gophers coach Tubby Smith, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Stanford's Johnny Dawkins came to Apple Valley to spend time with him. Kentucky coach John Calipari jetted in for a 30-minute sales pitch Monday. North Carolina's Roy Williams is scheduled to visit next week. More coaches will travel to see him during this contact period.

Such is life for the nation's top-ranked point guard in the Class of 2014.

"It's definitely starting to get more serious," Jones said. "You can kind of feel it. I'm still having fun with it, but it's picking up."

For now, Jones remains "wide open" in recruiting and doesn't anticipate he'll choose a school until before his senior season. He has scholarship offers from nearly every elite program, a list that includes Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State.

He has options, really attractive options, but in recruiting, that can be a blessing and a curse. It's wonderful to be wanted, but the pressure also can become overbearing if not handled properly.

At its worst, college recruiting, particularly football and basketball, deteriorates into an ugly exercise of self-importance and underhanded tactics. Coaches pressure kids to give verbal commitments. Blue-chip recruits often bathe in that adulation and attention and act as if their high schools should be renamed in their honor.

Recruiting is the lifeblood for programs and remains wildly popular with fans and media, but sometimes it makes you want to hold your nose.

That's what makes Jones' approach so refreshing. He enjoys the process but doesn't necessarily love to be recruited.

There's a distinct difference in those two things. He formulated a smart, mature game plan to manage his recruitment with input from his tight circle of family members.

The NCAA allowed coaches to make unlimited phone calls and texts to recruits starting June 15. Jones' camp contacted schools recruiting him and asked that they keep communication to a minimum. Basically told them that Jones doesn't need his ego stroked so don't bombard him with texts saying how much they love him.

"[I] have a phone bill too," Jones said, smiling. "I heard that from my grandpa. The coaches have been very respectful, and it hasn't been bad at all."

He gets maybe two texts a day from coaches, even fewer phone calls. Instead of spending all his time on the phone with recruiters, he can worry about other things such as school work, basketball and his social life.

"We didn't want it to all of a sudden become a free-for-all for coaches," said older brother, Jadee. "We tried to communicate with them that more isn't necessarily better. Don't try and win by texting and calling him the most."

Jones and his family arranged to take unofficial visits to schools that intrigue him the most. His contingent already visited the Gophers, Baylor, Michigan State and Ohio State. They plan to visit Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas soon.

That is not cheap. Recruits must pay their own expenses on unofficial visits. But Jones' family wants to gather as much information as possible before deciding where to take his five official visits this winter.

"It's not easy, but you have to look at it as an investment into the future," said Debbie Jones, his mother.

Jones wants to take his time, let the process play out. He admits "there's definitely pressure to stay at home" but that seems like a supreme long shot for the Gophers considering their competition. He's evaluating many factors in each program, but his goal is to play in the NBA.

"I think that's any basketball player's dream," he said. "That will always be in the back of your head. But right now I'm just focusing on the next level. Even if you are looking at the NBA you have to go to college and perform."

The competition for his services only will intensify as his recruitment narrows in scope. Talented point guards always are in hot demand, and Jones is considered the best nationally in his class. College basketball's aristocracy -- Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas -- maintain their place because they don't like to lose in recruiting either.

"It's competitive," Jones said. "It's a business for them, for the coaches, for the colleges. I'm trying to just have fun with it and not let it stress me out."

So far, so good.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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