HAMPTON, VA — One of the things you can depend on when watching Team Howard Pulley in action during the Nike EYBL circuit, is that point guard Tyus Jones is always going to show. I’ve covered the AAU circuit in person for about a decade now, and along the way there have been a few special players who always seem to have their team in the game and with whom you can feel confident that when the ball is in their hands at crunch time, good things will happen.
The best prospect I have ever seen in this regard was former Duke PG Kyrie Irving, now an NBA stud. Irving, though, was special and that made you want to watch all of his games. Jones may not be in Irving’s elite class, but he’s not far from it, for he has that gift of squeezing out the best from his teammates, even when they are not the most talented bunch.
More so than ever this EYBL season, Jones has had that special presence. He wants the ball when the game is on the line. Whether it is scoring the ball, getting off a tough pass to a teammate, or finding a way to get to the line, Jones thinks on the fly with the best of them. And he demonstrated all of that this past weekend in Hampton.
Another thing I noticed is that Jones is starting to get his opponents’ best shot every time out, as players try to prove themselves against the best, in front of the various talent evaluators at these events, and boost their own rankings in the process. One such game where Jones stood out was a match-up against Wisconsin Elite and star guard Rashad Vaughn, a fellow Minnesota standout being recruited by the likes of UNC and others. The two went at it all game long in front of a bevy of America’s best coaches, including Duke head man Mike Krzyzewski, who never missed a minute of any of Jones’ games.
In a close, high-scoring game, Jones once again took over down the stretch. It started on the defensive end with a key steal, leading to his drawing a foul which helped Howard Pulley tie the game. With a minute left in the game and the score tied, Jones wiggled free for a three-point dagger. A game Wisconsin Elite team answered, cutting the lead to 81-80, but Jones iced the game with another three-pointer, giving his team an 84-80 win in one of the session’s better games.
“Up and down, more of a motion offense and style,” Jones stated post-game when asked what kind of team he wants to play for in college. It was easy to see from his performance that this is a kid who could man the controls with ease for a program like Duke.
As you have seen in our other interviews, Jones is saying he wants to make a Fall decision, but if you are looking for a tip on where he is leaning, you are unlikely to get it from the many interviews he does. Jones is quick to crack a smile but he has a serious poker face as well. He knows how to navigate the unsteady waters of recruiting and the recruiting media just as effectively as he does a defense when he enters the lane.
“In the college game, I just try to watch all the point guards and take bits and pieces from each one. In the NBA, I love watching Chris Paul and how he takes apart the game,” said Jones post-game.
It’s no wonder why Krzyzewski has taken such a liking to Jones and wants to coach him, for he is a good Duke fit and a player the Blue Devils would like to grow even more.
When asked what he would work on as the summer begins, Jones said, “Just overall speed and strength.”
Jones is a cool customer on the court, never out of control and an assist machine. In the past, it’s amazed me how much he stuffs the stat sheet in that his smooth performances are not choppy in nature but almost like a silent, steady killer. In other words, you think he has 16 and 5 only to find out he has 28 points and 12 assists. He just blends in without being overly flashy like some players try to be in an effort to be noticed.
I joked with Tyus, whose mom liked the name from having heard of former UCLA guard Tyus Edney, that he was like “Jack Frost” on the hardwood, cool and deadly. That earned a little smile for he is not the type to pound you with cocky assertions while being interviewed.
“I’m just trying to make plays, that is what I am always trying to do. My teammates have been playing great this weekend, so I feel I owe it to them to make a play down the stretch and that’s what I’ve tried to do the last two games,” said Jones, always one to defer to his teammates after a win.
Jones is a competitor. He just finds ways to help his team win. He’s a young man well aware that not all the teams playing now will end up in a steamy Augusta, South Carolina come July for the Nike Peach Jam. If you get the opportunity to see Jones in person, look at the determination on his face as he drives a crowded lane and watch how he finds the best opportunity presented him, taking advantage of any little weakness by his defenders.
“Definitely, definitely. Peach Jam is the ultimate goal, so every win you can get whether it’s by one point or fifty points, each one is key,” said Jones when I asked him of his drive and the importance he seemingly placed on every game.
“Competitive game, overtime, it was a great game,” I said to Jones.
Jones agreed. “It was. It was a great game. Going back and forth all game long, there is nothing better than good competition, so it was fun.”
And it is becoming fun to watch Tyus Jones and how he finds ways to help his Howard Pulley team win.