Big Time PG Prospect Tyus Jones talks hoops with BDN

Few positions in sports are able to control the tempo of a game like a point guard can. For some, speed is the key, while others like to slow the game down completely. Players such as Tyus Jones have the ability to change the pace back and forth, constantly keeping the defender on his toes. Jones has a feel for the game that is far beyond his years.

For Jones the attention he receives is nothing new. His local university, Minnesota, has been recruiting him since the eighth grade, and he has built a great relationship with Tubby Smith and his staff.

The Apple Valley product won a Gold medal this summer with the U17 Team USA squad in Lithuania. He had the chance to share the experience with close friends Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor.

Jones gave BDN a few minutes to discuss his summer and his recruitment, among other topics.

BlueDevilNation: Take me over your summer and how you think it went.

Tyus Jones: I think the summer's gone very well so far. I enjoyed [private] myself this summer. I had a blast this summer and traveling and everything like that and I think I played well. I think I improved. I don’t think I have any choice but to improve. You know, with the level of competition being as high as it is. So, you know, I enjoyed myself.

BDN: Do you feel you there is a difference in your role in AAU and high school?

TJ: You know, my AAU role, I think the games are different. Minnesota high school ball doesn’t have a shot clock so there’s not as many shots. Some teams will more slow it down and things like that but I think I still have a similar role. I got to score, but at the same time distribute the ball and get my teammates involved. So I think, my AAU team and high school team, I play a similar role.

BDN: You obviously had a great opportunity this summer to travel to the Canary Islands and Lithuania. How do you think that experience changed you?

TJ: It was great, it was great. You know the experience was unbelievable to go to a different country and see what their culture is like and how they do things over there. You know even the game of basketball over there, the fans, and just everything is different. So it was a great learning experience. But, you know, we had fun and played well over there.

BDN: Was there one major difference in the culture that you noticed?

TJ: All of their stuff is more compact. You know, the rooms are real small, restaurants and stores are all real small. You sit real close together. So everything was just compact.

BDN: Compared to here where most things are more open and spread out.

TJ: Yeah, exactly. We were able to walk everywhere there.

BDN: You also had a chance to watch the Team USA Men’s team when you got back. Can you go over that experience?

TJ: That was just crazy. To be in the room of the world’s best of the best right now. It didn’t even feel real. It was a great experience. We were very thankful that they gave us the opportunity to do that, and it was great to see even at that level how focused and intense those guys are.

BDN: What, if anything, did you notice about the players’ interaction with each other? Coaches?

TJ: One of the main things you notice is how much respect the players have for Coach K and the assistants. A lot of times you might think NBA players are on top, so they might not want to hear what coaches had to say, but they were tuned in, respectful and listened to anything they had to say. They were still learning the game, which is good to see.

BDN: Can you go over who’s recruiting you right now?

TJ: University of Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State, Baylor, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas.

BDN: Regarding Duke, obviously Coach K coaches the national team. Is that something that players either talk about to each other or take into heavy consideration?

TJ: I think everything goes into consideration. I think you look at every aspect of it, whether it be big or little. So it’s definitely something you look at and it could vary from player to player how big of an aspect that is from a college standpoint. But yeah, you definitely notice it.

BDN: Does it make any difference to you that he wasn’t able to be there to recruit in July?

TJ: No, I talked to him a little bit right before they left and I was still in contact with their assistant coaches. Obviously he had a much more important (laughs) job so you can’t really hold that against a coach or anything.

BDN: Tell me about the local school, Minnesota, that’s been recruiting you for awhile.

TJ: Oh I’ve got a good relationship with Tubby Smith and his staff. They’ve been recruiting me for awhile since I was an eighth grader, so we’ve gotten close since I’ve known them. They had a good run at the end of the year last year which is good to see.

BDN: Do you have any upcoming visits that are planned?

TJ: As of now I don’t have any officially planned out. I’m going to try and do some in the fall, I’m not sure to where.

BDN: Try and make a Midnight Madness event?

TJ: Yeah, I think so. I’m not sure to where though, but yeah I’m going to try and make some.

BDN: Reading a previous interview with you, I read that you said you wanted to become more vocal during the summer. Do you feel like you accomplished that?

TJ: I did, I did. It’s just something I think a point guard has to have, along with coaches think a point guard has to have. You have to be able to communicate. Communication on a team is key and the point guard being the leader out there on the floor, it starts with them. I tried to focus on that and I think my vocal leadership improved.

BDN: Thanks a lot for your time.

TJ: No problem, thank you. [/private]

Duke In-Home with Austin Nichols on September 10th

In today’s recruiting world, some recruits are targeted as early as the eighth grade. Those recruits largely have a target on their backs from the moment they enter the world of AAU and high school basketball. On the other hand, some recruits blossom later on in their high school careers and the attention can feel like a whirlwind. For Austin Nichols, his recruitment blew up as recently as April when Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski offered a scholarship to the 6’8" big man from Memphis.

Nichols, who described himself as more of a small forward/power forward, has recently cut his list down to six schools: Memphis, Auburn, Tennessee, Duke, Vanderbilt and Virginia. Nichols plans on taking all of his official visits at this point.  His official visit to Duke has been set for [private] October 6, when he will also get a chance to take in the Duke vs. Virginia football game as well as meet with academic counsellors to see what his future at Duke could look like.  This follows Duke's in-home visit with Austin, which has been set for September 10.

The lanky forward, who plays for NBA player Mike Miller’s AAU team M33M, ran the court extremely well at the practice this week at the Elite 24, helping him to many easy buckets. His large 7’2" wingspan helped him protect the paint, and he also got his giants paws on lots of  loose balls.

Nichols was kind enough to chat with BDN and discuss his summer, his upcoming visits, Duke’s pitch, and more.

BlueDevilNation: Let’s start off with how your summer has been so far?

Austin Nichols: Really good. It’s been really busy. I just narrowed my list down to six. But yeah, it’s been crazy and a great experience for my last summer.

BDN: Could you just go over that list for the readers?

AN: Memphis, Tennessee, Auburn, Duke, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

BDN: Do you feel there is a difference in your roles in AAU and in high school ball?

AN: Yeah, there is a little bit of a difference. I guess you could say in AAU I have a little bit more freedom where I play the 3/4. In high school I’m mainly a 5. But, you know, it just teaches me to play different positions.

BDN: It must be an honor to be selected to the Elite 24 amongst all these talented players. What do you think of the gear that they hook you guys up with?

AN: Oh yeah, I love it. I’ve never actually worn Under Armour stuff, so for it to be my first time it’s great. I love it.

BDN: What’s your current height and weight?

AN: 6’8 and 210 pounds.

BDN: You’re going into your senior year at Briarcrest. Will there be any difference in the way you take on your role?

AN: Being more of a leader since I’m a senior now. And just coming out every night ready to play. Just try and lead my team to a state championship, you know, that’s the main goal.

BDN: What was it like to play with the pro’s last night?

AN: Yeah, I actually played with them, not against them. That was really great. Brandon Jennings, James Harden, Will Barton and those guys.

BDN: That sounds like fun.

AN: It was. It was great and a really good experience. I loved it.  They’re hilarious. I had a lot of fun and a great experience.

BDN: What do you feel separates where you are from where they are?

AN: I mean there’s definitely a huge difference. I mean they’re pro’s and I’m only in high school, but time will tell once I get into college and take a few years, maybe I’ll get up to their level.

BDN: You said your role changes from high school to AAU.  What do you view yourself as now that your game has evolved and gotten better? And where do you like to be on the court?

AN: About 15 feet and in. Yeah, I like to hit those jumpers, hook shots, I like to run the floor and offensive rebound, push the ball. I think I see myself as more of a 3/4.

BDN: Your recruitment really started blowing up over the last five months or so. How have you handled it?

AN: I just take it day by day and stay humble. Don’t let it get to my head and, you know, just have fun with it.

BDN: Can you just go over your experience of watching the Team USA practice in Vegas?

AN: Yeah, that was great. We were at the Lebron camp and we actually watched them practice at UNLV so that was great. And of course on TV I saw them just about every night they played.

BDN: What did you notice, if anything, between the interactions of the players and coaches?

AN: Camaraderie. They were really close to each other and intensity in practice. They try to bring it every day.

BDN: For your upcoming visits, is it a case where you are definitely taking all of them or could you perhaps decide early if it feels right?

AN: I’m planning on taking all of them. You know, Virginia I have the 8th of September, and I have an in-home visit with Duke on the 10th. On the 15th I’ll be going to Vanderbilt, and I’m not really sure other than that.

BDN: Speaking of Duke, you also have an official visit with them on October 6th. What are you looking for on that trip?

AN: Just, you know, to see how some of the players are practicing, see how the coaches play them. See the campus and everything and just see what the college life is like. I know how Coach K coaches and I’d like to see it in action.

BDN: Will you have a talk with the academic advisors?

AN: Yes, oh yes. In all my visits I’ll try and go meet with the academic part.

BDN: What’s their pitch been like to you?

AN: They said that one of the Plumlees will be gone and Ryan Kelly will be gone so maybe I can step in there and maybe play a pretty good bit as a freshman. But we’ll see. I have to get on campus and see what it’s like first and then we’ll go from there.

BDN: I’ve read a lot that you have a very big faith. Could you tell me how it helps you either on the court or off the court?

AN: Well on the court, I always like to walk through Him. Off the court, if I have no one to talk to I can just pray. You know, I like to keep my bible real close to me. I go to a Christian school and so we read it once in a while. Like I said, if I don`t have anybody to talk to I can just pray and tell him everything. He`s sort of my happy place I go to.

BDN: Thank you very much for your time, Austin.

AN: Oh, no problem.  Thank you. [/private]

Duke Prospects – Friday Night Lights

Friday night means High School Football so here is a quick look at the performances of some of Duke's 2013 commitments, along with a couple of preview articles:

Wide Receiver Darren Andrews [La Puenta (CA) Bishop Amat] caught four passes for 70 yards and scored twice as Bishop Amat defeated Servite 40-23 Darren Andrews shines

T.J. Douglas [Fort Myers (FL) High] threw a 49-yard touchdown pass as Fort Myers rallied to a 23-22 victory over Brandenton T.J.Douglass helps team win late

Safety Jake Kite [Roanoke (VA) Hidden Valley] suffered cramps and had his left shoulder pop out of joint during Hidden Valley's 24-21loss to Patrick Henry

Here is a nice article on wide receiver Terrance Alls [Hialeah (FL) Dade Christian] with a video interview. In addition to his wide receiver duties, Alls will be playing cornerback and returning punts and kickoffs For more click here

Here is a preview article on running back Joseph Ajeigbe [Norco (CA) Norco] which includes a video interview.

As more high schools kick off their seasons, Blue Devil Nation will provide updates on all the players who will be joining the Blue Devils next year, so be sure to check back.

BDN Monday Musings – Are you ready for some football?

It's time to kickoff the 2012 Duke Football season this week, and Monday Musings hopes to see you in the stands at Wallace Wade on Saturday.

Injury-plagued Blue Devils face test up front in opener

The Duke Blue Devils will kickoff the 2012 football season this Saturday when they take on a very solid Florida International Panthers team in Wallace Wade Stadium. While the team has improved in many areas under Coach David Cutcliffe, injuries leading up to the game have been unsettling. As of today, the Blue Devils will be without several key projected starters, including receiver Blair Holliday, linebacker Kelby Brown, tight end Braxton Deaver, safety Jordan Byas and defensive lineman Jamal Bruce. They may also be without linebacker David Helton, who is listed as day-to-day. What this all adds up to for Duke is a serious lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball.  This could really matter in this game as the Devils go up against a team that will push the tempo under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey.  Cramsey's "pedal to the metal" approach will force Duke to go to many unseasoned backups as the game progresses and the front line guys start to wear down.

While the defense will have its hands full preventing big plays, an area that Duke clearly needs to improve upon over last season's performance, the offense faces a stiff challenge as well. The Panthers' defensive front is solid and very deep, so all eyes will be on an improved Duke offensive front, and whether it can give senior quarterback Sean Renfree enough time to work with a bevy of new and unproven wideouts.  Duke did move senior Desmond Scott from running back to wide receiver, and he is capable of making big plays once he gets the ball in his hands.  But until a strong second receiving option steps up, you can bet  that All-ACC wideout Conner Vernon will see nothing but double teams, and it will be tough to get him the ball.

The Scott move may seem odd, as he is the last Duke player to rush for 100 yards in a game.  But this could be indicative of Duke's depth and talent at the running back position, where the Blue Devils have two veterans in Juwon Thompson and Josh Snead and two talented newcomers in Jela Duncan and Sheldon Bell.

So when the ball kicks off around 7:00 this Saturday night to open the season, watch the battle in the trenches where the game could be won.  Click here for more on FIU depth on their Defensive Front.

Interviews with Duke Prospects on the way

We'll start to roll out interviews from the Under Armor Elite 24 this afternoon, starting with Duke Basketball recruiting prospect Austin Nichols followed by 2014 stud PG Tyus Jones.  There are lots of happenings with hoops recruiting, so join BDN Premium for full site access and don't miss any of it.

Bowling ...

Let's face it, we all want to see the Duke football team bowl eligible and ESPN's Heather Dinich has the Blue Devils playing in the Military Bowl.  The Blue Devils face a very tough schedule this season, so that is some serious optimism for Coach Cut and company.  So are any of you  starting to realize how much pressure there is for Duke to win its opener?

Good turnout needed for Duke

It's Duke Employee Day at Duke for the home opener against Florida International and the Blue Devils will need solid fan support to defeat a team coming off two straight bowl seasons.  Let's have a great turnout where the home crowd helps lift the team to victory.  It has all the makings of being a very tense and competitive game, so don't miss it.


BDN recaps 2012 training camp with Duke WR Conner Vernon and LB Kyler Brown

DURHAM - BDN was on hand for Duke's final scrimmage of 2012 training camp earlier this week. Senior WR Conner Vernon had another impressive performance, which included a 75-yard TD reception, and appears poised for a big final season in Durham. Redshirt-freshman LB Kyler Brown, who is expected to be a key player for the Duke defense with his brother Kelby sidelined, also spoke briefly with BDN about training camp and preparing for his first game action this fall.

Conner Vernon


Kyler Brown