USA Journey Continues For Duke-Bound Tyus Jones
Already a two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball after helping his country to undefeated records at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.) will be back in a USA Basketball jersey at the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit on April 12 at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore.
“I was just really excited, very excited and honored,” Jones said of his reaction to being asked to join the USA team for the Nike Hoop Summit. “Honored because I get to represent USA Basketball again, and that’s a big honor. I’m just looking forward to trying to help that team win.”
The 2014 USA Junior National Select Team that will compete in the Nike Hoop Summit will be convened for just one game against a World Select Team, and Jones will be surrounded by familiar USA teammates as the USA looks to get a win after losing in 2012 and 2013.
Jones will be joined by five of his USA teammates who also played in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and/or the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
“I have watched (the Nike Hoop Summit) the past few years, and I know it’s real competitive, a lot of good talent in that game. I’m really looking forward to playing and competing.
“I do think the experience we have this year will make a difference,” Jones continued. “We have a lot of guys who already have played USA Basketball. Everyone on the team is already close. We are close friends. We know each other from summer ball and everything like that. So, we already have good chemistry. It’s important that we do get a win this year, especially after the last couple of years how it went. I like the group of guys we have, and we are excited to get together and hopefully bring home a win.”
In fact, his chemistry on the court with his former U.S. teammates also will extend into his freshman year at Duke University, which will begin in the fall. Along with Jones, also signing a National Letter of Intent with Duke University were Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.), Jones’ teammate on the 2011 and 2012 USA teams, and Justise Winslow (St. John’s School/Houston, Texas), who won gold with Jones at the 2012 U17 championship.
“Duke was a good fit because myself and my family bonded with the coaches.,” Jones explained. “I have a really good relationship with Coach K. The style of the play and their system, I felt, fit me, and I could contribute to their team. I ultimately felt that I would learn the most playing under coach K and under the Duke staff. I was comfortable at Duke.”
Before he takes the court in Portland and long before he embarks on his college career, however, Jones has yet to finish his senior season at Apple Valley High School in Minnesota, where he is looking to help his team repeat as class 4A state champions.
“I think it has gone really well,” Jones said of his final prep season at Apple Valley. “We still have some work to do and some things to finish, but it’s gone really well. I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way than how it has. I think my team is playing well and we are just looking forward to coming down the home stretch now, with playoffs about to start. We are looking accomplish the main goal, which is winning another state title.”
Regardless of the team’s playoff outcome, Jones has etched his name in Apple Valley history after setting a school record with nine made 3-pointers in a win over Lakeville South that saw him finish with 31 points and eight assists.
“It means a lot to hold the record,” Jones said. “It shows I’ve been working hard. I’ve been playing at Apple Valley since I was in eighth grade, so it meant something to me to get that record. It was just a happy moment.”
As one of the best players in his class, Jones captured the attention of college basketball fans around the country before he signed with Duke, and he is featured in dozens of videos on YouTube. With exposure comes expectations, but Jones said that pressure isn’t something he lets under his skin.
“I just try not to let it get to me,” Jones said. “My parents are great, great support. Without them I wouldn’t be able to handle a lot of the stuff. It’s just how they raised me -- to focus on the stuff that you can control and don’t let anything get to you. And pressure, I try no to worry about pressure. I just try to live life and be happy about things and look at it as a positive rather than a negative.”
You might have expected to point to an athlete when asked about his role models, but instead Jones talked about his family.
“Both my parents are role models because I love how they have raised me to be the person I am today,” Jones said. “They just are good people, as well as my older brother (Jadee Jones). I look up to him just because of the relationship we have and how he is always there for me and always has my best interest at heart.
“I was raised to believe that there is much more to life than basketball, and basketball is just an extra. It really is just something you do on the side, and luckily I’ve put a lot of work into basketball, but there is so much more to life than basketball. It’s about respecting your peers and respecting others and just being a good person.”
With just three games left in the regular season and playoffs looming, Jones said he and his family are watching the winter Olympics, and he admits to harboring his own Olympic dream.
“It’s always fun watching the Olympics, and definitely now that I have played for Team USA and represented my country; I can imagine how important it is to those participants in the Olympics.” Jones said. “It’s definitely something that my family and myself will be watching very closely.
“The Olympics are an ultimate goal. I think everyone would love to participate in the Olympics, but there are stepping stones to that. Right now, my main focus is on college, after my high school season.”
In the meantime, Jones said he is honored to have twice represented his country on the basketball court, and he will look to make the most of his third opportunity in April.
“Playing for USA Basketball has taught me a lot of small stuff, preparation, working hard and never taking any possessions or plays off. USA Basketball has been a big contributor to me as a player and a person, and I’m very blessed that I’ve been able to be a part of it.”
Don’t miss Jones, or any of the future NBA and NCAA stars in the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, and get your tickets to the game: wwwrosequarter.com/nikehoopsummit..