DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Tre Jones wants to do what big brother Tyus did — lead Duke to a national championship.
The Blue Devils’ newest point guard is embracing the chance to making a name for himself while playing for a program that still reveres his brother, the Most Outstanding Player at the 2015 Final Four.
“Everything I’ve done in my life has been after him anyway,” Tre Jones said in an interview with The Associated Press. “So coming here is just another thing that I’m doing that’s just following him.”
That’s why Tre Jones doesn’t view his situation at Duke as a challenge but as an opportunity to put the lessons he learned from Tyus to good use.
“It’s a challenge, for sure, if you look at it (from the outside), but me just going through it, I don’t look at it as a challenge,” Tre said. “It’s really just a blessing that he was able to come here before he and do what he did, and I’m able to learn from all the things he’s been through, and he goes through, and implement them in my daily life to try to make myself better as well.”
Tyus Jones averaged 11.8 points and 5.6 assists during his only college season, which he finished by cutting down the nets after a national title. His two big 3-pointers helped propel the Blue Devils past Wisconsin in the final. He was later drafted in the first round and wound up traded to his hometown team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Four seasons later, it’s his little brother’s turn to run the point for a Duke team that once again will be dominated by potential one-and-done freshmen. They will get their first taste of college basketball next month when the Blue Devils play three exhibition games in Canada.
The physical similarities are obvious: The natives of Apple Valley, Minnesota, are both 6-foot-1 with similar frames and a strong physical resemblance to each other.
But Tyus says his brother is a more developed player than he was at his age, and Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski says Tre has a bit more athleticism. Tre Jones nearly averaged a triple-double as a high school junior and averaged 22.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists as a senior.
“They’re both very cerebral and they’re involved in every play, mentally and physically,” Krzyzewski said. “The ultimate ‘next-play’ guys.”
Tre Jones says Duke was always his dream school as a kid, even before Tyus committed to the Blue Devils, and Tyus encouraged his brother to tune out the distraction of those family comparisons. Their older brother Jadee played at Furman in the 2000s before transferring to Minnesota State-Mankato.
Tyus said he told his younger brother to “just continue doing what he was doing, which was not paying attention to it, making his own path and just focusing on it and on his career. … I said, ‘No matter where you go, there’s going to be comparisons with family. That’s just how it goes. So just go where you feel is the best fit for you.'”
Both brothers came to Duke as part of talented freshman classes. Tyus Jones had been friends with teammate Jahlil Okafor since they were pre-teens, but Tre doesn’t really have quite that kind of pre-existing relationship with any of his classmates, though he has known teammate Cam Reddish since AAU ball.
He said they joined fellow five-star freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson in a group text during their high school seasons to build that friendship.
“It’s been amazing so far, being able to make Duke my new home,” Jones said. “My brother being here before, I was real familiar with a lot of the things that go on around here, but I mean, to actually step foot on campus and having this be my new home, you just find out a lot more things and I’m just having a lot of fun and (have gotten) a lot better over the past few months, and looking forward to keep pushing forward and keep getting better.”