Tyus Jones

Duke commit Luke Kennard responds to Tyus Jones’ departure

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NEW YORK – On Wednesday morning, Tyus Jones, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, followed in the footsteps of teammates Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, becoming the third Duke freshman to enter his name into this year’s NBA draft.

In light of the news of Jones’ decision, lone Jordan Brand Classic Duke commit Luke Kennard, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Franklin, Ohio, was repeatedly asked to address the state of the post-champion Blue Devils, whose key components have been stripped down and shipped to the NBA.

Kennard, who made waves earlier this season by passing LeBron James on Ohio’s all-time scoring list, acknowledged that, prior to the season, he assumed Okafor would likely be NBA-bound regardless of the season’s result. He also stated Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski explained, when it came to Jones and Winslow’s respective futures, the determining factor would be their late-season performances.

Even with the idea of all three breakout freshman jumping to the NBA implanted in the back of his mind, Kennard made it clear it was still a pill he had to choke down.

“It kind of stinks that they’re leaving, they’re great players,” Kennard said. “I played with Justise and Tyus on the USA Team, U-18, this past summer. It’s going to be tough but we’re ready to come in and just play good and prove [ourselves].”

The departure of Jones leaves the Blue Devils without a point guard to their name, just a season after playing with two — Jones and senior Quinn Cook — in their starting lineup. With the tarp officially being torn off the gaping hole, Krzyzewski is trying to convince either, or both, of 2016 targets Derryck Thornton and Jamal Murray, to reclassify and join Duke a year early.

However, if those plans end up fizzling, Kennard may be the Blue Devils’ fall-back to run the offense next season. Kennard, who played some point in AAU, as well as high school, told SNY.tv that assistant coach Jon Scheyer reached out to him and told him to, “keep working on that ball-handling,” because they may need it sooner rather than later.

If anyone knows about converted point guards, it’s Scheyer. After playing off the ball his first three years at Duke, Scheyer moved to the point in the midst of his senior season and led the Blue Devils to their fourth national title.

Kennard also admitted that, even though his sales pitch may not be as polished as Kryzyewski’s, he’s been doing some recruiting of his own. And while his efforts to lure Caleb Swanigan to Durham proved futile, Kennard said him and fellow Duke commit — as well as future roommate — Chase Jeter have been “going hard” at Brandon Ingram about joining them next season.

Ingram, ranked by Rivals as the No. 19 overall player in the 2015 class, would be a tremendous signing for Duke, but, as a small forward, he would not be the answer to their point guard woes.

While the final recruiting picture remains blurry, one thing is for sure: whether it’s from the two, off the bench, or as the starting point guard, Duke will need some major contributions from Kennard, along with the rest of their incoming class.

Duke’s Tyus Jones becomes third Blue Devil to enter the NBA Draft


Duke announced on Wednesday morning that Tyus Jones will be entering his name into the 2015 NBA draft.

Jones averaged 11.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.5 boards and 1.5 steals this season, earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player as Duke won the national title.

“Coming to Duke was a dream of mine and being a part of such a special team was amazing,” said Jones. “I knew coming in I would be a part of a great team, but I never envisioned I would be a part of such an incredible family. That is what has made winning a national championship such an amazing experience. I am faced with the tough decision of returning to a place I love or pursuing my next dream. With the support and guidance of my family, my coaches, my teammates, and Duke University, I have decided to start my professional career. Even though I am entering the NBA Draft, I will forever be a Duke Blue Devil.”

Jones is the third Duke freshmen to enter the NBA Draft this month, as Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow both already announced their intentions to leave for the NBA. Grayson Allen said that he will be returning to school for his sophomore season.

Jones is projected as the No. 21 pick, according to Draft Express.

His decision puts the Blue Devils in a tough spot next season as they currently do not have a point guard on their roster. They’re in a position where they will have to try to land a fifth-year transfer or try to convince elite 2016 point guard target Derryck Thornton to reclassify and enroll this summer.

Duke’s Tyus Jones helps Kevin Garnett with first pitch at Minnesota Twins home opener (VIDEO)

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Duke freshman point guard Tyus Jones is still riding high off of his national championship and Most Outstanding Player award from the 2015 NCAA tournament.

On Monday, the native of Apple Valley, Minnesota helped deliver the ball for the ceremonial first pitch out to Minnesota Timberwolves veteran Kevin Garnett before the Twins’ home opener against the Kansas City Royals.

Jones is still weighing his options for next season as he decides whether to enter the NBA Draft or stay in school. Regardless of his future, this is a cool moment for Jones in his home state.

(H/T: The Cauldron)

Second-half adjustments push No. 3 Duke past No. 19 North Carolina

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After one half of basketball in Chapel Hill, No. 3 Duke trailed No. 19 North Carolina by two points, a good margin for the visitors given the way in which they played. Luckily for Duke, North Carolina was unable to build a greater advantage and that left the door open for Mike Krzyzewski’s team provided they made some adjustments to the game plan.

The Blue Devils did just that, and their move to change the way in which they attacked the Tar Heels on both ends of the floor resulted in an 84-77 victory.

Offensively, Duke made greater use of the ball screen especially when it came to their talented guard tandem of Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook. Jones exceeded his output in the first meeting, scoring 24 points (17 in the second half) while also accounting for seven assists and six rebounds with just one turnover. As for Cook, he added 20 points and four rebounds, making some key baskets in the second half.

In total Duke finished with four double-digit scorers, with Jahlil Okafor adding 14 points and Justise Winslow 13, but as was the case in the first meeting Duke’s stellar backcourt led the way.

Duke was able to make North Carolina’s big men defend away from the basket, which led to them finding higher quality looks than they did in the first half. After scoring ten points in the paint in the first half, Duke tallied 22 in the second with the majority of those points coming by way of dribble penetration. The North Carolina big men would also factor into Duke’s defensive adjustment, and the Blue Devils’ greatest asset on that end of the floor was a player who finished the game with three points and six rebounds.

Duke used more full-court pressure in the second half, and thanks to Amile Jefferson’s work as the trapping big man North Carolina’s guards were forced to give up the basketball before they wanted to on multiple occasions. As a result, North Carolina big men had to help advance the ball past half court and this kept the Tar Heels out of transition.

Granted, North Carolina did shoot better than 58 percent from the field in the second half but their flow was upset by the Duke pressure. And after both teams managed to score seven points off of turnovers in the first half, Duke managed to score 14 in the second.

After having issues in the first half Duke made the adjustments needed to exploit areas in which they held an advantage. The changes paid off, resulting in Duke sweeping their bitter rival and adding another quality road win to their resume. Having already won games at Wisconsin, St. John’s, Virginia and Louisville, Duke adds another result to a resume that will in all likelihood net the program a one-seed come Selection Sunday.

Freshmen Tyus Jones, Melo Trimble among finalists for Bob Cousy Award


Friday morning the finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, annually given to the nation’s best point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, were announced. Among the players on the list are two of the nation’s best freshmen, Duke’s Tyus Jones and Maryland’s Melo Trimble.

They’re the only two first-year players on the list, which includes six seniors, five juniors and four sophomores.

From a conference standpoint the Pac-12 leads the way with four finalists, with Arizona’s T.J. McConnell, Cal’s Tyrone Wallace, Utah’s Delon Wright and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss being the players on the list. In total nine conferences are represented. Also making the cut is BYU junior Kyle Collinsworth, who has tallied an NCAA-record five triple-doubles this season.

Below is the list of finalists for the award, which was won by UConn’s Shabazz Napier last season.

2015 Bob Cousy Award Finalists

T.J. McConnell, Arizona (senior)
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU (junior)
Tyrone Wallace, California (junior)
Ryan Boatright, UConn (senior)
Tyus Jones, Duke (freshman)
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga (senior)
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (senior)
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (junior)
Monte Morris, Iowa State (sophomore)
Terry Rozier, Louisville (sophomore)
Melo Trimble, Maryland (freshman)
Marcus Paige, North Carolina (junior)
Kris Dunn, Providence (junior)
Delon Wright, Utah (senior)
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington (sophomore)
Juwan Staten, West Virginia (senior)
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State (junior)

Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones propel No. 4 Duke past No. 15 North Carolina

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When a Nate Britt basket with just under four minutes remaining gave No. 15 North Carolina a ten-point lead, the Tar Heels appeared to be in good shape. Continue to attack the paint and the backboards, and hit some free throws late, and Roy Williams’ team would be able to pick up what would have been a huge road win. Unfortunately for North Carolina they were unable to close out the game, and Duke freshman point guard Tyus Jones was the biggest reason why.

Jones scored Duke’s final nine points of regulation, with his layup with 28 seconds remaining tying the game at 81-all (some have argued that Justise Winslow got away with a hold on this play). From there it seemed inevitable that Duke would win, with North Carolina allowing its best chance at the win to slip away. And that’s what happened, as the Blue Devils won 92-90 in front of a frenzied crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

And the biggest difference, even with North Carolina managing to score 62 points in the paint, was the Duke backcourt tandem of Jones and Quinn Cook. Jones scored 22 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds, with Cook adding 22 points and playing some excellent defense on Marcus Paige (there will be more on this in the morning).

Paige, North Carolina’s leading scorer, finished the game with just five points on 2-for-11 shooting. And regardless of what North Carolina was able to do in the paint, they need an effective Paige in games of this magnitude as he’s the team’s best perimeter scoring option. Thanks in large part to Cook, Duke was able to take that away from North Carolina, and it allowed the Blue Devils to remain in the game despite struggling in defending the post.

Post defense involves a variety of areas, including not allowing the big men to set up shop in the paint and putting pressure on passers to make the entry passes more difficult. If there’s anything to point out as an area where Duke will need to improve with an eye towards March (and maybe even early April), it’s how they defend the post.

But even with that being the case, Duke has a backcourt that has and will continue to win them games. While Jones has matured throughout the season, Cook’s been the steady hand that a team so reliant on three freshmen and eight scholarship players so desperately needed. Whatever the team has needed this season, Cook has supplied it.

North Carolina played very well, and in playing fast and attacking the paint as often as they did Roy Williams’ team has its blueprint for the remainder of their season on the offensive end. But even with that being the case, the tandem of Cook and Jones made sure that the Tar Heels’ short drive back to Chapel Hill was an unhappy one.