Jalen Suggs pulled his jersey free of his shorts, gestured to the TV cameras, and waved to red shirts packing the stands. He chest-bumped JaVonni Bickham at midcourt and then was lost in a wave of court-storming fans.
Now Suggs knows what college basketball will feel like.
It will feel a lot like a winter night in Apple Valley’s gym.
For the second December in five seasons, ESPN broadcast a game in Apple Valley featuring a member of the Jones family. With brother Tyus in attendance, Eagles senior point guard Tre Jones dueled with Suggs, the sophomore phenom from Minnehaha Academy.
The Eagles are the defending Class 4A champs; Minnehaha is the reigning 2A champ. Jones is one of the nation’s top high school point guards and headed to Duke; Suggs is considered the top point guard in the class of 2020 and is being recruited by Kansas as well as the Gophers.
After Jones fueled a frenetic comeback, Minnehaha held on for an emotional 82-79 victory, as Jones wove his way to the basket for 39 points.
“We couldn’t stop him,” Minnehaha coach Lance Johnson said.
After bemoaning the loss, saying he and his teammates “fight” in practice because they’re so competitive, Jones said of his duel with Suggs: “I loved it. The guy is the top point guard in the country.”
“He’s a great player,” Suggs said. “One of the best players in the nation. Easily the best point guard.”
The last time ESPN visited Apple Valley, Tyus Jones, in his senior season, faced Chicago’s Whitney Young and fellow Duke recruit Jahlil Okafor, on Dec. 12, 2013. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski attended and drew up instructions for the two before settling into his press-row seat.
Krzyzewski texted encouragement to Jones but couldn’t make it to the game. Jones and Suggs felt like they had been here before. Because they had.
Both attended the Jones-Okafor duel, Suggs as a fan and Jones as an eighth-grader who served as a role player for the Eagles that night.
“I’ve been in that atmosphere before,” Suggs said. “Growing up, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Apple Valley coach Zach Goring has made the most of the Jones years. The administration and school even know how to put on a national event, providing press row seating and better hospitality than some college programs.
Gopher standouts Amir Coffey and Isaiah Washington and former Gopher standout Kevin Lynch attended, along with current Timberwolf Tyus Jones, who was mobbed for autographs at halftime.
“This was a great night,” Goring said. “And they’re really, really good.”
The first half played out like a football game — fast, physical and occasionally as if the ball were oblong. Suggs made two of his eight field-goal attempts; Jones was 2-for-12.
Both players asserted themselves at the beginning of the second half. Jones, especially. He made six of his team’s first seven baskets. While his outside shot often hit the front of the rim, he repeatedly scored on twisting, slithering drives, taking advantage of his remarkable quickness and body control.
Suggs’ final line: 19 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, one block, 5-for-18 from the field.
Jones’ line: 39 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, one block, 13-for-33 from the field.
“There was a lot of talent out there tonight,” Goring said.
Minnehaha senior Bickham made the biggest difference, producing 25 points and nine rebounds. And in a gym where Tyus and Tre produced as eighth-graders, Minnehaha eight-grader Prince Aligbe, a 6-5 wing, wound up covering Tre Jones on crucial late-game possessions.
“Jalen is talented but we have other talented guys who show up,” Johnson said.
Because of the tragic explosion at Minnehaha, the Redhawks have not had a home gym this season. Johnson thanked St. Thomas Academy and a local military base for sharing their gyms.
Then again, Johnson might be able to charge for attendance to his practices. He has an all-sophomore starting backcourt, plus a talented eighth-grader. As Apple Valley enjoys the last year of the Jones dynasty, Minnehaha is building its own.