Courtesy Jadee Jones

The Basketball Joneses: Tre Jones quest to climb out of brother Tyus’ shadow

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Tyus Jones was a celebrity in Minnesota by the time that he was in eighth grade.

Before he was even enrolled at Apple Valley High School, he was starting on the varsity team, calmly handling point guard responsibilities against kids four years his senior while playing in gyms so packed you couldn’t get in the door if you showed up at tip-off.

That wasn’t just for high school games, either. Summer league, fall league, local AAU and EYBL events. If Tyus was playing, people were watching. For five years, he was to the Twin Cities what LaMelo Ball was to Las Vegas last week.

“For the state, he galvanized a huge interest in basketball,” Jadee Jones, Tyus’ older half-brother, said. “Before he was a junior in high school, if you typed Apple Valley into google, it showed up Apple Valley, Calforinia. Now it shows up Apple Valley, Minnesota.”

Tyus never left his hometown high school, spending five years with the Eagles while winning a state title, getting named Mr. Basketball and becoming a McDonald’s All-American as a senior. He enrolled at Duke where he won the 2015 National Title and the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award before becoming a one-and-done, first round pick by the local NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was enough that the town of Apple Valley, a Twin Cities suburb with a population of roughly 50,000 people and little previous basketball history to speak of, turned April 22nd, 2015, into Tyus Jones Day, where he received a key to the city, threw out the first pitch at a Twins game and had his number retired at Apple Valley High after a parade through the town.

For Tyus, that’s quite a legacy to leave.

For Tre, the youngest of the three Jones’ brothers, it only increased the burden of expectation that came with growing up in the shadow of a local legend.


Tyus Jones, Getty Images

Perhaps the most striking fact about the success that Tyus and Tre have had is that it is not the direct result of winning the genetic lottery.

Both brothers stand roughly 6-foot-1. Neither crack 200 pounds. Tre is more athletic than Tyus, but neither of them will ever be confused with, say, Russell Westbrook or John Wall or peak-Derrick Rose. From a basketball perspective, they are both very average when it comes to the kind of measureables that make NBA GMs salivate over potential.

Enter Jadee Jones.

A former Division I player himself — Jones played two years at Furman before transferring back to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato — Jadee is as responsible for the basketball development of both of his little brothers as anyone. He graduated from Mankato in 2009 with a degree in Health and Exercise Science and a dream of becoming a basketball trainer, making a career out of “blending improvement of the physical traits with skill development.” He’s also 10 years older than Tyus and 14 years older than Tre, an awkward age gap that slots the elder somewhere between father figure and best friend. That, however, ended up being perfect for the three, as Jadee has thrived in the role of coach.

AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness

Basketball is the life-blood of the Joneses. Mom, Debbie, won a state title as a point guard in North Dakota and spent some time playing in the Junior College ranks. Tyus and Tre’s dad, Rob, played at Division III Wisconsin-Parkside. Another half-brother, Reggie Bunch, played at Robert Morris University, while an aunt, Darcy Cascaes, and an uncle, Al Nuness, were all-conference players at North Dakota and Minnesota, respectively.

“All basketball, all the time,” Jadee said. “Gets to Grandma a little bit. She wants to be able to talk about different things.”

Jadee returned to Apple Valley at the time that his family started to realize that one of their own, Tyus, had a chance to be something special. There was no better guinea pig for Jadee, and after Tyus had completed his first season on varsity as an eighth grader, the two began training as if Tyus — and Tre — were already professionals. The specific workouts have changed over the years as Jadee has learned more and the younger pair continued to improve, but the core philosophy has remained the same: Monday-through-Thursday, it was weights in the mornings and skill sessions in the afternoons as they prepared for whatever tournament or tryout Tyus had the upcoming weekend. If there were no trips on the weekend, the workouts continued. During the school year, schedules changed as the boys had class and team practices to attend, but the dedication didn’t; it was not uncommon to see Tyus or Tre leaving the house before dawn to make it to a 5:30 a.m. workout.

As time as passed things have changed. After returning to Minnesota from Duke, Tyus now lifts in the morning at the Timberwolves’ facility. The Monday-through-Thursday schedule is tailored around Tre’s summer travel. Jadee has turned working his brothers out into a successful business called Top Flight Basketball Academy, and those daily workouts now include a handful of other local high school, college and professional players.

But that hasn’t stopped the trio from finding some time almost every day to train.

“[Jadee] has sacrificed so much just trying to help me and Tre become the best basketball players we can be and achieve our goals and dreams,” Tyus said. “He’s someone who is extremely smart, knows the game, studies the game, knows the body. I’m thankful to have an older brother like that in my corner.”

“He’s the toughest on me as a coach,” added Tre. “I know that that’s because he sees the potential in me and he wants me to be the best player I can be, and I want nothing less than that.”


Tre Jones, Jon Lopez/Nike

Tyus was a sensation as an eighth-grader, when he was the starting point guard for Apple Valley’s varsity team.

“We are playing every single game sold out. Most games were sold out at the JV game,” Jadee, who has worked as Apple Valley’s JV coach and an assistant for the varsity team, said. “It was a circus at away games. Every where we went, the other team, that was their biggest crowd of the season. It was wild. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

At one of those games, a little kid was plucked out of the stands at halftime to compete in the kind of challenge that you see at halftime of every basketball game: Make a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer and a half-court shot in 30 seconds. It seemed cruel. He was too small.

That little kid proceeded to make the layup. Then the free throw. Then the three-pointer. By the time he knocked down the half-court shot, the crowd had erupted. That kid was a fourth-grader by the name of Tre Jones.

That night seven years ago serves as an apt metaphor for Tre’s career to date. The attention always seems to be on his older brother, but when given his chance to shine, Tre has done just that. Tyus won Mr. Basketball in the state as a senior, but Tre was on the varsity roster as an eighth-grader that year, just like Tyus. When Tyus was in the process of winning that national title at Duke and taking home the MOP trophy, the one that earned him a parade, Tre was busy winning the first of two state titles for the Eagles. The second one came this past spring, when, for seemingly the first time in his life, all the focus was on him.

Tyus Jones (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Prior to last season, Tre wasn’t even the most famous player on either his Apple Valley High School team or the loaded Howard Pulley EYBL team both brothers played for. Gary Trent Jr., a top ten player in the Class of 2017 and a Duke commit himself, was. But Trent transferred to Prolific Prep in California for his senior season, leaving Tre as the face of both teams.

He more than lived up to the hype, leading Apple Valley to their third state title in five years — and his second state title, besting Tyus — before leading Pulley to an impressive EYBL season and a spot in the Elite 8 at Peach Jam, the preeminent summer event on the AAU circuit. In the process, Tre staked his claim to the title of best point guard in the Class of 2018, rocketing up recruiting rankings. Last fall, he was generally thought of as a top 50 talent. He’s currently the 9th-ranked player — and the top point guard — in 247’s composite recruiting rankings.

“Tyus set the bar, and Tre came along. Everyone said Tre is playing in Tyus’ shadow,” Debbie said. “When you follow somebody, and your brother had that kind of success, people expect that stuff early. I think Tre maybe developed the accolades a little later.”

That wasn’t always easy on Tre.

“Early on in his high school career, maybe his freshman year and even sophomore year, it was tougher for him, trying to pave his own way and kind of do his own thing and earn his own stripes,” Tyus said. “The older he’s gotten, the less pressure he’s felt as the success has come.”

The irony of it all is that the cause of all this outside pressure on Tre — the success Tyus has had, his local celebrity, the enormity of the footsteps Tre is trying to follow in — provided the youngest Jones with the perfect blueprint on how to handle it. Tyus was the most famous basketball player in the Twin Cities at 14 years old, and he lived up to the hype. If anyone knows how to handle pressure, it’s him.

“It’s something we talk about quite a bit,” Jadee said. “Doing everything you can control to maximize the opportunities you have and being the best player and person that you can be is more important than outdoing someone else. Tre, he puts a lot of pressure on himself … but I think he more gets wrapped up in the process of what he’s doing day-to-day instead of check marks for what he’s doing compared to Tyus.”

“He has had some success and he grew into it, yes, but the foundation of the mentality was there. Tyus handled an immense amount of pressure as well, because when he was in eighth grade everyone in the state of Minnesota recognized him and wanted to watch him play. Everything was a circus, and you could never tell [by the way Tyus acted] that was the case. I saw him have one bad game in five years of high school. The pressure never bothered him.”

Tre Jones, Jon Lopez/Nike

Tyus quickly learned the value of putting in the work. It dates back to a fall league game before his sophomore season, when he went up to dunk on an opponent. He missed the dunk off the back of the rim, but the difference was clear. After a full spring and summer of going through Jadee’s workouts, the improvement was right there in front of him. The results were tangible.

And addicting.

And Tre saw it all. He was in fifth-grade, doing the same things that Tyus was doing, watching his idol throw himself headfirst into a dream, using the day-to-day grind to block out that external noise.

“They would be getting up before school to work out, or they would be going two-a-days, and that’s when I didn’t need someone else to push me,” Tre said. “Someone else can only push you so far. Once I saw Tyus go through it all, and especially when his hard work started to pay off, that’s when I took it upon myself.”

Some believe Tre has a higher ceiling that Tyus simply because he’s a better athlete. He’s longer, he’s springier, he’s a better defender. At this point, Tyus is still a better shooter than Tre, but what has always set Tyus apart from other point guards is the way he sees the game. “He’s a general,” Jadee, who knows his brothers’ games better than anyone, says. “He can see what’s happening and initiate actions to manipulate what he sees. He does that on a level that you don’t see the impact that he has, because he’s moving the ball or himself at a certain time to a certain spot.”

“Tre goes at being a point guard with a lot of fire. With his feet, the things you can see, the hustle plays, the defense, the rebounding, taking charges, scoring in transition.”

Their play matches their personalities — Tyus can be quiet and pensive, Tre is a busy-body that wears his emotions on his sleeve — and part of the change in Tre’s perception had to do with how well both Apple Valley and Pulley did despite losing Trent.

Maybe Tre has more of Tyus’ ‘natural point guard’ ability in him than people realized.

Which means that maybe, one day, Tyus will be known as Tre’s older brother.


via @trejones03

The question in recruiting circles now is whether or not Tre is a lock to follow in Tyus’ footsteps in college.

Is he going to Duke?

Many believe he is, but according to every member of the Jones family that NBC Sports spoke to, that decision will be left to Tre.

He wants to be recruited. He wants to develop a relationship with different coaching staffs. He wants to make sure that he is making the right decision on where to go to school. As it stands, Duke is one of five schools left on his list, along with UCLA, USC, Minnesota and Ohio State. The Buckeyes weren’t previously in the mix, but due to Tre’s relationship with Chris Holtmann and his staff when Holtmann was at Butler, he’s now considering the school; the coach was always on his list.

“[Tyus] is behind me, any decision I make, what I feel is best for me,” Tre said. “He went [to Duke], but at the same time he’s been through all this. He knows whatever the best fit for me is the best fit for me. He’s going to support me 100 percent.”

“We already got a lot of Duke gear,” Jadee said, chuckling, “but when all the cards are out there, if he feels like there’s another spot that’s better for him, we’ll support that.”

That’s how the family rolls.

When it comes to basketball, they always support each other. Blood is thicker than college. No questions asked. The traveling party that made it down to North Augusta for Peach Jam was nearly ten-deep, including Jadee, Tyus and Grandma. The closer the games are to home, the bigger the Jones’ section in the stands gets, whether it’s a high school game, a Pro-Am or a YMCA game for one of Jadee’s three sons.

“My oldest is going to start his four-year old YMCA basketball league stuff this winter, and we’ll probably have eight or nine people there,” he said. “First and last out of the gym.”

The only real sibling rivalry that Tyus and Tre care about?

Who ends up being the cool uncle.

“It’s me,” Tre said. “We both have a lot of fun with our nephews, but of course I’m going to say me.”

Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Devonte’ Graham, Jock Landale need more attention

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1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Trae Young finished with 48 points and eight assists in an overtime loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, and it has sent the internet into a tizzy because Young finished with 39 shots on the night, only making 14 of them.

And that is frustrating to me, mainly because I think that people are getting on Young for all of the wrong things.

Young’s performance last week against Kansas State was problematic because the way he was playing didn’t work. He was forcing offense, he was turning the ball over and he wasn’t making the right reads. That how he ended up with 12 turnovers — the most by a high-major player in this millennium — on a night where the Sooners lost by 18 points. I wrote all about that here.

On Saturday, however, I thought Young looked like himself. The problem was that his teammates didn’t carry the weight. If you’re going to criticize Young for shooting 14-for-39 from the floor, you need to also acknowledge that his teammates shot 14-for-43 from the floor. Many of those were open looks that Young created. We discussed that on the podcast this week:

That happens sometimes. The result was Young going into takeover mode, and it almost worked.

The real issue with his performance had nothing to do with turnovers or tough threes or taking too many shots; it’s that he shot 6-for-19 from inside the arc. Many of those shots he missed were makable floaters or layups that were considered but could — even should — have been finished. It looked a lot like these:

On the season, Young is shooting just 45 percent around the rim and ranks in the 33rd percentile in PPP on those shots.

That is what should concern Oklahoma fans and the people that think Trae Young can be Steph Curry.

Not a night where he had to put the team on his back because his supporting cast had an off-night.

2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: Brunson’s efficiency is still at an unheard of level, and there’s an argument to be made that what he is doing on his usage is more impressive than what Young is doing with his usage, particularly given how things have gone since league play began. Here is a complete list of players with an offensive rating of better than 130 on KenPom with a usage rate above 22.9 since the 2003-2004 season:

3. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
4. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona

5. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: There were a lot of question marks about whether or not Devonte’ Graham was going to be able to handle taking over for Frank Mason II as the star guard in the Kansas back court. With just over half of the season gone by, Graham is averaging 18.1 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 43.5 percent from three on 7.3 attempts per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio that’s clocking in at 2.6:1. He’s shooting a higher percentage from three this year than he did last year while taking more and playing as a point guard, meaning he’s getting fewer catch-and-shoot rhythm threes.

Oh, and should I mention that he is doing this for a Kansas team that is currently sitting all alone in first place by two full games in the loaded Big 12 despite getting exactly zero minutes from Billy Preston this season and needing to enroll a backup big man early just so that they don’t have to play a 6-foot-3 walk-on at center?

Since Big 12 play started, Graham has come off the floor for a grand total of 10 minutes in seven games.

If he isn’t a first-team all-american for you at this point in the season you need to have your voting privileges revoked.

6. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s: Landale is averaging 22.4 points, 10.2 boards and 2.0 assists for a Saint Mary’s team that is one bad weekend at the Wooden Legacy away from being undefeated with a win at Gonzaga under their belt. Landale is not just a big guy overwhelming mid-majors opponents. All of these highlights come from that win in Spokane as Landale showed the entire arsenal while carrying SMC to a win. It’s worth noting that the guy guarding him here, Johnathan Williams III, is considered an above-average to very good defender, and Landale makes light work of him.

If you love big men with dainty feet and a soft touch, this clip will be basketball porn for you:

7. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State
8. JEVON CARTER, West Virginia
9. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
10. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech; TRA HOLDER, Arizona State; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada; YANTE MATEN, Georgia; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; SHAKE MILTON, SMU; ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona

VIDEO: Buzz Williams forgets when TV timeouts happen

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There was a funny moment in the second half of Virginia Tech’s win over No. 10 North Carolina on Monday night.

With the Hokies leading the Tar Heels and less than 12 minutes left on the clock, VT head coach Buzz Williams strolled on the court to high-five his players after a foul was called. There was just one problem: It wasn’t actually a TV timeout.

Everyone was confused.

The mixups seems to stem from referee Michael Stephens, who apparently told Buzz that the TV timeout would be taking place on that whistle.

It doesn’t make the moment Buzz realized what was happening any less funny:

Bubble Banter: Kansas State, Virginia Tech add crucial wins to help overcome poor schedules

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Monday night.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 37, NBC seed: Play-in): The Wildcats went and added two — potentially three — Quadrant 1 wins in their last three games, beating Oklahoma and TCU at home last week before picking off Baylor (currently 76th in the RPI, but I’d guess they’re top 75 to end the year) on Monday night. A home loss to Tulsa (RPI 112) is going to stick out, as will a non-conference SOS that ranks 344th. Those two things means that the Wildcats have a very small margin for error, but with the way they are playing, I think that they’ll do enough to get in with a seed that seems too low for them.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: , KenPom: 54, NBC seed: Out): The Hokies did quite a bit to change their NCAA tournament chances on Monday by knocking off North Carolina at home. It’s easily the best win on their résumé, and given that their only other Quadrant 1 win came on a neutral against a Washington team ranked 50th in the RPI, it is easily their most important win. A Nov. 16th loss to Saint Louis (RPI 147) looks really bad, but VT still has Miami twice, Duke twice, Virginia, Louisville and Clemson left on their schedule. Those are all potential top 20 wins. They’ll need them to overcome a non-conference schedule that ranked 319th.

TEXAS (RPI: 42, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 9): The Longhorns did what they needed to do against Iowa State at home, picking up a win to help shake off the whooping they took at West Virginia on Saturday. Believe it or not, but Texas currently has four Quadrant 1 wins to their name without anything worse than a high Quadrant 2 loss — at Baylor, at Oklahoma State, Gonzaga on a neutral, Michigan at home.

LOSERS

MARYLAND (RPI: 47, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: Next four out): The Terps picked up their worst loss of the season, falling at Indiana. In a year where Mark Turgeon’s club has already lost Justin Jackson and where it seems like they suffer a new injury just about every week, a tournament berth seems increasingly unlikely. Their next two games are at home against Michigan State and at Purdue. They might beed to win both.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 64, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: Out): The Cornhuskers missed out on a golden opportunity to add a marquee win to their résumé as they lost by five at Ohio State, a top 15 team in the RPI. The Cornhuskers currently do not have a Quadrant 1 win to their name — their best win comes at home against Michigan — and the only chance they’ll have to add one the rest of the regular season comes at Minnesota, who could very well drop off that level. There are only two teams left on Nebraska’s schedule that are in the top 100 of the RPI.

BAYLOR (RPI: 76, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: First four out): Baylor lost at home to Kansas State on Monday night. They’re now lost six of eight to start Big 12 play and their next two games are at Florida and at Oklahoma, both of which would be marquee wins the Bears currently lack.

VIDEO: Kenrich Williams posterizes West Virginia

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I am not sure what was more impressive tonight, Kenrich Williams going for 14 boards and six assists against No. 7 West Virginia, the fact that he played the point for them against that press … or this dunk:

It was the dunk.

Definitely.

Alex Robinson leads TCU past No. 7 West Virginia

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You’d be forgiven if you thought that TCU’s season was done and dusted when starting point guard Jaylen Fisher went down with a knee injury that will cost him the rest of the season.

Fisher was the team’s third-leading scorer at 12.3 points and ranked second in assists. He was shooting 43.9 percent from the floor. More importantly, he was backcourt defensive presence that doesn’t exist elsewhere on the TCU roster.

When the Horned Frogs lost Fisher, they were coming off of their second loss to Oklahoma in the span of two weeks and their fourth loss in the first five games of league play. With two games against both West Virginia and Texas Tech, and a trip to Allen Fieldhouse, left on their schedule, this had all the warning signs of a season in danger of sliding into oblivion.

On Monday night, in TCU’s third game without Fisher, Jame Dixon’s club put together their best performance of the season. They held No. 7 West Virginia to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and led by as many as 20 points in an 82-73 win in Fort Worth, a win that puts an entirely knew feel on where this season can and will go.

The biggest reason for that may be Alex Robinson.

A 6-foot-1 hometown kid and a redshirt junior that transferred into the program from Texas A&M, Robinson has seemingly always been overlooked in this TCU program. Part of that is because he’s not a great scorer or shooter. Part of that is because he isn’t really a defender. And part of is, frankly, is because he never quite got his chance.

And now, with Fisher out, Robinson is not only getting his chance, but he is making the most of it.

TCU is 2-1 in their three games without Fisher, and Robinson has been the star, averaging 12.3 points, 4.7 boards and 10.7 assists. Against West Virginia, one of the nation’s most difficult defenses to deal with, Robinson finished with 17 points, nine assists and seven boards despite barely stepping foot off of the court. He got some help from Kenrich Williams, TCU’s best player, a 6-foot-7 forward that was a high school point guard and did the heavy-lifting when it came to breaking that press.

But that shouldn’t put a damper on how Robinson played on Monday.

And it shouldn’t take away from what he has been able to do with Fisher out.

Suddenly, TCU looks like a team that found themselves on the wrong side of lucky through the first seven games of Big 12 play. They lost five games during that stretch by an average of 3.3 points. Two of those losses came when the Horned Frogs missed game-winning shots at the buzzer.

They were and have been a top 25 team that found out the hard way how tough it is to win close games in this league.

And at this point it is probably fair to say that hasn’t changed despite having a new player running the point.