Tag Archives: Blue Devil Nation

2015 Big Man Elijah Thomas Chats with BDN

Elijah Thomas is a 6'9" 235 pound power player out of Texas who is quickly moving up the rankings as one of the top players in the Class of 2015.  As Thomas discusses in the video interview, Duke appears to be showing major interest.  Coach K and the staff watched him several times on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring, and it's no wonder why.  The big guy has a wide body, round shoulders, and soft hands, and just has a knack for getting buckets down low.  He's gotten himself into much better condition, and that will only improve as well.  As the video shows, he's an extremely affable, engaging, and likable young man who appears to have his head on straight.  The following video interview took place this past weekend at the Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, where ET was an easy selection to play in the all-star game.

[private]

More to come.

[/private]

T.O.A.O. : The One And Only Tyus Jones

Duke Recruit 6'2" Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, MN, Photo by Andrew Slater
6'2" Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, MN, Photo by Andrew Slater

In a state that is historically more known for their contributions to the game of hockey, a trio of rising seniors, Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn, and Reid Travis, have caused coaches to flock to the hardwoods of Minnesota. The standout, so far, has been the smallest of the three, 6'2" Tyus Jones, a highly skilled and cerebral point guard from the city of Apple Valley.

In late March, Tyus Jones capped off a brilliant year by scoring twenty-six points, grabbing eleven rebounds, and dishing out eight assists in front of more than thirteen thousand people at the Target Center. That performance against Park Center HS helped Apple Valley HS (30-1), located just outside of the Twin Cities, capture it's first state title in basketball and avenge its only regular season loss. With Tyus, throughout the journey, was his older brother, trainer, and best friend, Jadee, an assistant coach for the Apple Valley Eagles.

The coveted point guard credits his brother, Jadee, who puts him through intense basketball-specific training sessions, with developing his game and providing support through the years. Jones, who embodies the expression "Minnesota nice," is quick to add that his critical support system extends to his parents, Debbie and Rob, who also both played college basketball, cousins, aunt, and grandparents.

As a reward for his season (averaging twenty-one points and nearly eight assists per game for the state champion) and work off of the court (B+ student and community involvement), Gatorade named the junior as their Minnesota Player of the Year for a second straight season.

Last July, Tyus Jones lead a very talented and deep USA Basketball squad to a gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania. Jones felt that he was able to carry over the leadership and level of preparation that was a regular part of USA Basketball into his success in Apple Valley. Beyond the patriotic pride and handsome medal, Jones gained a close bond with the players, sharing the collective experience of training and playing for a communal goal.  In particular, he became tight with his 6'11" Chicagoland roommate, Jahlil Okafor. Tyus felt that Jahlil shared many of the same core values that he had been raised with. They laughed and enjoyed playing with each other. By the end of their time in Lithuania, they decided that they wanted to continue playing together in college. They both independently reconfirmed that desire this weekend. Despite a four hundred mile separation, the duo communicate on a regular basis.

The young point guard with an old soul cut his list of suitors in March to seven: Minnesota, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Baylor. A few months after Tyus Jones and his family visited Duke for their Countdown To Craziness, the first in-home visit for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski this year was to Tyus Jones' living room. This weekend in Garden Grove, California, the four-time NCAA Championship coach was omnipresent for each of Jones' four EYBL games, including his final game where Jones scored thirty-eight points and dished out six assists against a good CP3 squad. The ten pounds of muscle, mostly in his upper body, that Jones added to his lean 6'2" frame enabled him to withstand the physicality of constantly penetrating into the heart of the defense.

After an EYBL game, Tyus spoke with me about a variety of topics, including his relationship with Jahlil, sharing an accomplishment with his family, the possibility of doing a one-and-done, his motto of T.O.A.O. (The One And Only), and his last time going through the AAU circuit.

 

With this being your last AAU season, what sort of thoughts and emotions were going through your head? Does it mean more  to you?It's kind of a surreal feeling to know that this is going to be my last AAU season. Every year, you just don't think about it. You're just go and you play, but it's a different feeling, you know, knowing that this is going to be your last go-around. You know, with this being your last go-around, you feel like you've got to make the most of it.

Has it generally been a fun experience for you through the years?

Definitely, definitely. It's something where you're always with the best players, you're playing against the best players, too, and you get to travel. It's been a lot of fun through the years.

You're also coming off of a state championship victory...
[private]
That was just an unbelievable experience.

I was happy for you.

Thank you, I appreciate it. It was the first time for us to be able to make the state and to win it. It was a great feeling to finally get over that hump. 

Did you feel redemption? What were your emotions when you walked off of the court that day?

You can't even explain it in words.

I wish I could.

Yeah right, so do I. (laughs) You just can't explain it, but it was great and I enjoyed it and it will stick with me forever. 

How, if at all, did your experience with USA basketball, in terms of leadership, with that championship run?

Oh, it helped me a lot. Yeah, it helped a lot. I think just being out as USA at the training camp and then going overseas teaches you a lot. It's just an experience to be sort of a different way of basketball at really the highest level. 

You also recently won the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a junior. That's quite an honor because they take into consideration both basketball and your off-the-court work. 

It really meant a lot to be able to win that award because I really just worked really hard for it. 

Going back to the state title, you were able to share it with your brother and your friends, so it had to have meant more than some of the individual awards..it's sort of a communal thing.

Yeah, that was great to be able to share it with them and my whole family. And my brother's my best friend. He's been with me since I was born. 

I remember he coached you and trained you from a very young age. His name is Jadee.

Yup, Jadee Jones. He trained me and he worked me out. He pushed me from the player that I am today. I really give a lot of the credit to him. 

It must have been really meaningful to him to win the state title with you.

Yeah, it meant a lot to him.

What do you think you've improved upon most since last summer?

I think really just leadership in general. I think I've tried to be as vocal as possible. I always just try to bring the team in and try to make sure that we're playing as one. 

It looks like you're physically more mature than you were last year, at least in your arms and your upper body.

Yeah, a little bit, a little bit. I had an injury at the beginning of the winter season, so I wasn't able to lift as much as I would have liked to, but during the season, we just got started and I really couldn't catch up. That set me back a little bit, but I'm really able to go hard now and just improve.

That should help you as a point guard trying to get through the lane. 

Yeah, it should. It's very important. Good point.

You've had some recent in-home visits. Touch on them for the audience, please.

Duke, Baylor, Michigan State, and Ohio State were all in recently. They came and they did their presentations.

What was that experience like? Because as a kid, you never would have...

Yeah, that was crazy. You never think of that being possible growing up. It was such an honor having all of those coaches in your house. You know, sitting in your living room and talking to you. You know, it was just great. We had fun with it. 

What about visits for you? Do you have any upcoming ones? I assume you haven't been able to take any recently.

No, nothing recently and I don't have any planned yet, but I'm probably going to be taking my officials in the fall. 

I know you did some unofficials last fall.

Yup, yup. 

Do you have a timeline for when you'd like to decide by and what's the latest on your recruitment? These are things people are always curious about.

Hopefully, by the fall, but I can't say for sure, you know. I don't want to rush it. But, you know, hopefully in the fall. There's nothing really new with my recruitment. I cut my list to seven. Baylor, Duke, Michigan State, Minnesota, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio State.

That's an impressive group. Last I heard, you and Jahlil are thinking about doing a pairing. Is that still the case? Are you still very close?

It is and we are. We're still real close. We talk all of the time. 

What do you like about Jahlil on and off the court?

Well, on the court, I think everybody knows that he's the most dominant player in the country without a doubt. Everybody knows what he can do. But off the court, we really bonded because he's a really great young man. 

He's also a lot smarter than people give him credit for.

Yeah, he's smart. He's got a great support system. He was raised the right way and I think that's why..what we have in common, because I was raised the same way.

T.O.A.O., the one and only, that's sort of become your motto.

Yes, sir.

How did you come up with it? How did it become your motto?

It did. It is. Some people try to, well, people don't know what it stands for, but it's just a saying that you want to be your own person. You got to strive to be the greatest person that you can be, the best of the best.

The best Tyus Jones you can be, not somebody else.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you don't want to just be the next so-and-so, you want to be the best you.

I get so sick and tired of hearing about the next blank.

Yeah, exactly. You don't want to hear that you're the next somebody, you want to hear that you're the best Tyus Jones. I only want to be the best Tyus Jones. That's all I'm saying. 

By the way, with Jahlil, are you going to do a joint press conference or who is going to decide first?

I'm not really sure. We'll have to think about that. We haven't really talked about that part. I'm not sure how we'll do that yet. 

What are your goals for this AAU season?

My goals are for all of us to win the Peach Jam. I think that's what every team on the circuit's goal is. We're just trying to improve and get better and really come together as a team. 

How do you feel about the squad?

I feel great about it. I feel like we've got a great bunch..great bigs, great wings, great guards. I think we're all pretty smart. I think we've just got to play smart and try to connect.

Play to your strengths?

Yes, sir.

Is there any competition or rivalry between you and Mudiay at all?

No, sir. Eman is a great player. He's just a great player and no, there's no.

I was just curious. 

No, he's a great player and I respect him so much.

What is your relationship like with the various coaches on your list? Coach K, Coach Izzo, Coach Pitino.

No, I have great relationships with every coach on my list. You know, they've all done a great job. You know, really, that's why they're the coaches remaining. They're the ones that I was most interested in. 

Are they constantly contacting you or how often is it for you? Take the audience into your world.

It's somewhat constant, but it's not as bad as the stories you hear. You know, they're very respectful. They know I'm a person and a student as well. 

How often would you say?

You know, once or twice a week, maybe a couple of times, but you know, you'll talk to the assistants even more. 

What do your relatives make of all of your success and the hubbub? 

They're just going along and enjoying it with me. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am and the person I am today. 

I remember being very impressed when I was in Minnesota and you had all of your relatives lined up right behind me.

Yeah, my family has been really great. I feel like I've got a great support back in Minnesota. I couldn't ask for a better one. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am. 

What are going to be some factors in your decision?

There's obviously a lot of stuff that goes into it. You've got to look at the school, being a part of it, in terms of giving you a good education. And all of the schools on my list have a great education, so that's one factor. And then you've got to look at how the coaches relate to the players. Specifically, or especially, the point guard. You know, that's the thing that I'm looking for and also what type of players are they bringing in and also the players that they have on the team and how they are off the court.

How important do you think chemistry and fit will be for you?

I think fit is the right word because you want to go somewhere where you're comfortable. You don't want to go somewhere where you can't be yourself and you feel like you're not a part of it.

Because you're going to be around those guys more than anyone.

Yeah, exactly. 

What are you working on with your brother? I know he's a trainer.

Explosion, strength, just basketball specific training. You want to bulk up, you want to be stronger in a way that can help you. I worked with my brother on a lot of explosive stuff trying to get bigger and trying to get stronger with the ball. 

And have you seen it pay off?

I have. Each year, I feel like I keep growing.

You're dunking now.

It gets easier for sure.

What's your favorite pass or favorite shot that you've ever made? Do you have one?

You know, any pass that I'm able to set up my teammates on, I enjoy. I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing them having so much joy. It helps us score. I threw a couple of nice lobs today.

Yeah, I saw.

(laughs) Those are always great. Those are always fun.

What's your current size?

About 6'2" and about 185.

In terms of the mindset, are you thinking on-and-done or staying beyond that and enjoying the college experience?

(pause)

It's sort of a tougher question 

I think you need to go into it trying to have success. Don't look past that...at all. If you go into it with the mindset of trying to have success, you'll be successful. If you leave after one year, then that'd be great. If you stay all four years, then that's just how it is. There's really nothing that you can complain about. You're going to college to play basketball.

For free.

Yeah, exactly.

I really appreciate you taking the time, Tyus.

Oh, no problem.

[/private]

Started From The Bottom: An Interview With Grayson Allen

6'4" Grayson Allen of Providence High School in Jacksonville (FL), Photo by Andrew Slater
6'4" Grayson Allen of Providence HS in Jacksonville (FL), Photo by Andrew Slater

At this time a year ago, 6'4" Grayson Allen of Providence HS in Jacksonville, Florida had earned three scholarship offers. Last week, Duke University Coach Mike Krzyzewski opted to make the combo guard his eighth outstanding scholarship offer in the class of 2014.

This weekend, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke associate head coach Steve "Wojo" Wojciechowski watched two games of their most recently offered player at the Nike EYBL LA. After bursting onto the national scene with the Douglas Brothers Elite AAU program at last year's Peach State Summer Showcase, Allen, a former soccer player, opted to switch programs and joined Southern Stampede, enabling the rising senior to compete in Nike's EYBL, the best AAU competition currently available. Teaming up with 6'8" JaKeenan Gant, 6'4" Ahmed Hill,  and 6'5" Jalen Lindsey for the Southern Stampede, Grayson Allen averaged nine points, two rebounds, two assists, and three steals in his three games in LA.

Allen credits his enhanced recruiting interest, which now includes recent interest from Indiana University, to a fusion of self-improvement and exposure. Grayson Allen, whose forename stems from his family's lineage, says that he has a bit of a split personality: a fiery, competitive player on the court and a quieter, more cerebral side (a reported 4.4 GPA in his most recent semester) off of the court,  tendencies demonstrated in more emotionally stable basketball players. The Northern Florida product, who says that he's been compared to former Florida State and NBA guard Bob Sura, attributes his athleticism and physique to a regimen of plyometrics, push-ups, and sit-ups.

After falling two games short a year ago, this past season, Grayson Allen, who expressed a great deal of divine gratitude for his physical attributes, lead Providence HS, a non-denominational Christian school, to a state title win over Coral Springs Christian for a Florida 3A state championship. In the title game, Allen, who averaged over nineteen points per game, erupted for thirty-one points, including twenty-seven points in the first three periods.

Grayson Allen's three-point shooting and theatric dunks in transition at Providence have made him an instant YouTube sensation. He credits his mother, a Jacksonville native, and father, who played "a little high school basketball" in southern Georgia, with keeping him humble and focused throughout this process. Allen, who felt that his November visit to Duke helped clarify some misperceptions on television about Coach K, said that his college decision could come as soon as "next week or next month," depending upon his comfort level.

This weekend in Garden Grove, California, a reflective and congenial Grayson Allen provided an in-depth interview with me about a plethora of topics.

[private]

 

After blowing up, for lack of a better term, last year, how differently will you approach this AAU season? I was wondering if your approach changed at all this year versus last summer.

This year, I just want to play against the best competition. That's why I'm going out here and playing in the EYBL with the Southern Stampede. So pretty much this summer, well, last summer going in, I only had two or three scholarship offers. Now I don't really have to worry about that. 

Has that changed your mentality or approach? That's got to be a relief.

It is a relief. My mom and dad aren't worried, there's no pressure on me. The mentality on the court is that I'm not worried. 

In retrospect, with some perspective, can you explain to the audience how that event effectively changed your life?

You know, definitely, it's a good problem to have. 

Well, your parents must be thrilled.

 Yeah, they are. They're thrilled. You know, it's just a big relief. To me, I had dreams and inspirations to play high-major Division I college basketball and now it's a reality. 

 

When Duke recently offered, what was your initial reaction?

Definitely excited. You know, really excited. They're the most prestigious program out there. They're always in the Top 10, they're academically always great, they're a great school. It's definitely something that excited me.  

What do you know about the program? What do you know about Coach K?

 I built a good relationship with Coach K. From what you see on TV and everything, you don't really get a good view of him. He's just a normal guy. He's funny and everything. I think I built a really good relationship with him. 

 

What did they say to you when they actually offered you?

They just thought I'd be a good fit. They see me as a combo guard, being able to play the one and the two, being able drive the offense. 

In terms of position, what do you view yourself as?

 I think scoring comes naturally first, but I enjoy playing the one, too. I enjoy setting up teammates as much as I do scoring. 

 

What was the experience like winning your first state title recently?

That was the best basketball experience I ever had so far. The season before, we lost in the final four, so when we made it back, it made it even better.

Because you could taste how close you were?

Yeah, exactly. 

 

In terms of the growth of your game since last summer, what do you think you've improved upon most?

I think ball-handling is big. I made a shift from just being able to play the wing to being able to play the point too. And I know, I mean, I think my shooting is a lot more consistent. You know, I'm just always working on my game, my defense, and stuff like that. 

 

Do you think it's a matter of exposure or improvement in terms of when you exploded onto the national scene (again, for lack of a better term)?

I think it was a little bit of both. I was definitely, improvement-wise, well, I think my improvement from 9th grade summer to 10th grade summer was huge. I couldn't shoot a lick going into my 9th grade summer. I had never been taught. I had my elbow out and everything, so I focused on that and, you know, I think that helped a lot and also, you know, I've played in a lot bigger tournaments so, you know, that probably helped too. 

 

Is there a player you try to model your game after?  

I wouldn't, but a lot of coaches compare me to Bob Sura. I never saw him play or anything like that. He played at Florida State. I'd never compare myself to that, but that's about it. 

 

For the vast majority of the audience that's never seen you play, what are your strengths and weaknesses on the court? 

I think probably my biggest strength is my attacking the basket and my athleticism. That probably surprises some people. And you know, when they have to watch that, I also will often take jumpshots. 

 

And what about your areas for improvement? 

I think ball-handling is something that I can always work on it. That can always be more consistent. Defensively, I want to be a really good off-the-ball defender. 

(Jeff Rabjohns): Talk about Tom Crean from Indiana showed some interest. Where's that at?

He's been contacting me a lot more. They came out to my school last week and talked to me. They said they're expecting to see a lot more of me.

JR: And what was their message?

Their message was pretty much that they want to see me play here and Coach Crean's seen me play a couple of times. 

JR: What's your interest level? I know it's early. When Indiana walks in the door, what was your thought?

I'm definitely interested in them. They've got a great program and I watched them play a lot this season. They were one of my favorite teams to watch, they pushed the ball. I mean, I loved the way they scored in transition. I liked the way they played.

 

Are there any misconceptions about your game?

No, I don't think so, at least I haven't heard any. 

In terms of visits taken and planned...

I've been unofficially to Florida, Florida State, and Georgia..NC State, North Carolina, and Duke. I don't have any planned right now. Nothing right now.

 In terms of a timeline, how far along are you?

Umm, well, I'm definitely looking into it more right now. I have a couple of schools in mind that I'm really looking into. Just for me, it's when I'm 100% comfortable with the school, I don't know how long that'll be. It could be next week or it could be next month, I really don't know. 

 

JR: Well, who are the schools that make you feel comfortable right now?

Um, well, the ones that are recruiting me hardest are Florida State, Florida, Georgia, Duke, and Gonzaga. They've really been recruiting me hard. I thought I've really gotten comfortable with them. 

 

JR: Well, when you say a decision could be coming, you could really pull the trigger, like tomorrow? 

Well, I'm getting prepared. I'm getting more and more comfortable with each school. I mean, nowadays, it's just about the comfort level. That's what it's always been about for me. So, you know, whenever that comes, I'll know. 

 

JR: So, do you think you'll give a visit to Indiana before that, or did Indiana come in too late?

You know, I'll think about visiting Indiana before that. I've got to talk to my parents about that.

 

JR: So it's in the planning stage?

Yes, sir. 

 

What's your current size?

 6'4" and about 195 right now. 

 

Do you do a lot of strength and conditioning? It looks like you've really built up your arms. 

Yeah, you know, I really don't use any weights. I use my own body weight. I do things like pushups, sit-ups, just natural things. I do do a lot of plyometiric things with my legs, things like box jumps, things like that. 

I'm assuming you're a good student. You seem relatively thorough in your answers.

Well, I finished my first semester of the school year with a 4.4 GPA.

 

Wow, congratulations. People often reference your athleticism, where do you think that comes from?

You know, I don't know where it comes from. Maybe my dad's side, but I don't think so. 

 

Did your dad play at all?

I mean, my dad played a little bit in high school, but nothing after that. I really don't know where it came from. 

 

As long as we're on the topic, maybe you can tell the audience a little about your family.

You know, my parents are a huge influence in my life. They're always there, keeping my head in check, keeping me humble through this whole process.  

What's their background? Are they from Florida originally? 

My mom's from Florida. She's born and raised in Jacksonville and my dad's from a small town in southern Georgia. 

 

And your unique name, how did you get it?

It's a family name, it's my dad's middle name, I think it was his grandfather's name.  

I figured it had to be a family name. Do you prefer to make a three or a dunk?

A three is worth more, so I'd probably say that, but a dunk can swing so much momentum in the game, so that's always exciting. 

Do you watch any highlight reels of yourself?

 Yeah, actually I do watch them a couple of times. 

 

What are you looking for in a program?

Playing style is big for me. You know, I want to go somewhere where I can fit into the style of play. 

And what style of play do you prefer?

I like to push the ball in transition, give the guards freedom, a lot of ball screens and spacing the floor. You know, I'm really so big on comfort with the coaches, that's big. Having a good relationship with all of the coaches and the players, the people I'm going to be with for four years. That's huge for me. 

Absolutely, so fit is critical.

Absolutely.

 

What would friends or classmates say about you off of the court? Or what would you hope they'd say about you?

(laughs) I think my friends would say that I'm really quiet off of the court. I'm a different player off the court than I am on it. I mean, a different person off the court than I am on it. I don't know how it comes out, but on the court it comes out, but off the court, I'm pretty quiet. 

That's okay. That was the case for me too, but, fortunately for you, you're much more talented. 

(laughs)

Who was the toughest player you have ever defended?

That's a really tough one. I think I'm going to have to get back to you on that one. 

Like they say, I'll be here all weekend. 

(laughs)

 

What are your goals for this summer?

I mean, I just want to win. I'm not really worried about scoring or anything like that, I just want to win.

Well, that's good.

Nothing really more than that.

 

So, how do you feel about your squad?

I think we have the talent to play with anyone. I think everyone sees that as well. We've just got to keep together as a team.

 

So chemistry will be very important.

Yeah, that's the key.

 

Are you playing any other sports?

I used to be a big soccer player, but I gave that up when I was in 8th grade. 

 

Do you think that helps with your footwork?

I think so. I think it really helps with that and my endurance.

 

Is there actually a guy you model your game after? Do you have a favorite player? Do you watch a lot of basketball on television, either college or pro? 

Well, my favorite player to watch is LeBron. I don't think I'll ever necessarily play like him, but…well, I mean I just like watching him play. I like he's just always attacking the basket, you know, 24/7.

 

Are you a Magic fan or..

(laughs) Oh, definitely, a Heat fan.

 

I didn't know for sure with Orlando's proximity to Jacksonville, but the Heat are definitely a lot more of a fun team to watch these days. Back to position for a second, at the college level, would you rather play the two or does it really not matter and you'll play whatever gets you on the court?

I think it's big that I can play both you know, but, like you said, whatever gets me on the floor.

 

Lastly, what would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?

I think that I'd like them to know that I put God first. I thank him for all the blessings and everything that he's given me. I'm definitely thankful for the talent and athleticism that he's blessed me with. I've been able to use and build a platform for myself

 

Which verse of Proverbs is it that you have on the front of your Twitter page?

Proverbs 3:6. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." It's something that I try to live by.

 

That's nice. Thank you very much for your time, Grayson, and good luck to you in the future.

Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

[/private]

A Star At Night: An Interview With Matt Jones

6'5" Matt Jones of DeSoto, Texas, Photo by Andrew Slater
6'5" Matt Jones of DeSoto, Texas, Photo by Andrew Slater

The third of four children born to the affable Mark and Arrolyn Jones and raised in the diverse Dallas suburb of DeSoto,  6'5" Matthew Jones, who, in late November of 2011, became the first pledge to Duke in the class of 2013, has carved his niche in this world by developing into one of the elite shooters in his class. Although he once described himself as a "chubby kid," Jones grew well beyond his parents' heights and has worked hard in the gym to stay lean.

Duke Incoming Freshman Matt Jones, Photo by Nike/Position Sports
Duke Incoming Freshman Matt Jones, Photo by Nike/Position Sports

The more recent focus of Matt Jones' development has been centered around learning to handle the basketball more, being aggressive on offense, looking to become a better passer, and attempting to become a more focused defender. The beneficiary was DeSoto (TX) HS, which compiled a 33-3 record and was ranked nationally for stretches of the season, including after they defeated Simeon Academy of Chicago with fellow incoming Duke freshman Jabari Parker in an early season victory.

In recognition, Jones, who averaged sixteen points and nearly six assists for the top-ranked squad in Texas' largest classification, earned All-State honors in Texas and was named a McDonald's All-American. Clearly coming from a wellspring of a genetic pool, Jones joined his sister Jordan, a 5'8" key freshman reserve guard for the Texas A & M Aggies, to become just the third pair of brother-sister McDonald's All-Americans.

Matt Jones Displaying a Pair of the Jordan Brand Classic Sneakers, Photo by Andrew Slater
Matt Jones Displaying a Pair of the Jordan Brand Classic Sneakers, Photo by Andrew Slater

After playing more of a self-described "team game," with four shots in thirteen minutes, at the United Center in Chicago for the McDonald's All-American game, Jones felt the need to be more aggressive at this year's Jordan Classic game at the Barclays Center. With his close friend and former AAU teammate for the Texas Titans, Julius Randle, a Kentucky commitment, suiting up for the East squad, Matt Jones teamed up with his future Duke roommate, 6'8" Jabari Parker, to lead the West squad, which was coincidentally coached by his DeSoto coach Chris Dyer, to a 102-98 win in Brooklyn.

[private]

What was the experience like both here and the McDonald's All American game?

It was a big honor. There were a bunch of great players and they were great people too. I definitely had fun with that experience. In Chicago, there was a lot of love. I mean, I really felt wanted and with the Jordan Brand, we're just getting started. I know I feel like it's going to be a great weekend. I'm seeing most of the same people that I saw last week. We're definitely having fun, we're definitely talking a lot. It's been fun. Just getting a lot of gear. 

That's a nice backpack and case for your shoes.

Oh, yeah, definitely.

What have they got planned for you? I heard that you went to see Spike Lee last night. What did you see with him? Did you see the new "42" movie?

We just saw a bunch of clips and he was talking about them. I mean, Spike Lee is definitely an ambassador for the movie business. It was a lot of fun to see him. 

It's amazing the places that basketball can take you.

Oh, yeah, I'm grateful for the experience. It's just such a great experience to just be here, to have this opportunity to be here and to see a bunch of great people. Tonight, I think we're going somewhere fancy to eat. (laughs)

(laughs)

I mean, I'm definitely very grateful.

Did your sister give you any advice either about either your senior year or the hoopla that comes with McDonalds American game and the various all-star games? She had a great freshman year and she was really coming along at the end. 

Yeah, she did. She basically told me to just soak it all in. I mean, she didn't really get into like, a bunch of details or anything like that, but she just told me to have fun and live it up because you can only be in this place one time.  To just soak it up and be hungry. She definitely just said to take advantage of the opportunities. 

Your father said she was more like a firecracker and you're a little bit more calm. Is that true?

Yeah, I'm definitely calm. I definitely get slandered sometimes by my dad for being too non-chalant, so I mean, it definitely rubs off. And she is a firecracker.

How would you characterize your senior year?

It was a great season. We beat a whole bunch of players like Cat Barber, Jabari, and Jarrell Martin..all of them McDonalds All Americans and I mean, we definitely had a good season. We didn't end it like we wanted to, but overall. I mean, the ending was tough. 

You'll eventually get over it. 

Yes, sir.

Size-wise, how tall are you?

I'm about 6'5", 190.

What do you think you've improved on most since last summer?

I think really, my handle. I'm really just more confident with it. That's really it, sir. 

That's good to hear. Has it helped your mid-range game, as well?

Yes, sir. It definitely does. It definitely like helps my confidence to create off the dribble more and just turn my shot into a more lethal weapon. A really lethal weapon. 

I know you want to be a Ray Allen type of player.

Yes, sir. 

What has the staff asked you to work on?

They haven't told me much, but they told me to be more of a killer. To just have more of a killer instinct. 

I thought you were a killer sometimes when I saw you, at least in AAU.

Yes, sir, I mean, they just want me to be more consistent with my killer instinct (laughs)

What did you talk about with Jabari? He mentioned you spoke with him last night.

Yeah, I mean, we just talked about life. Well, I just tried to get to know him. I just wanted to get a head-start when we go to Durham. 

You might be roommates.

Yeah, we might. We definitely talked about a lot.

For the audience that doesn't know him, what would you say he's like?

He's a great kid. I mean, he's really funny. He's just so down to earth for being such a great player. I mean, he's just very down to earth and a humble kid. 

Can you tell the audience a little bit about your family?

Well, I have two sisters and one brother.

Well, now, he's a firecracker.

He is, he is. I have a sister that goes to A&M. She just finished her freshman year. She did pretty well and I have another sister that sings. She goes to the Chicago Institute.

I remember your father said that.

I mean, we definitely have a talented family.

Is Mason a player at all? He's sort of a bigger guy.

He had a tournament last weekend and he hit six three's, so...

So, he's got your pure shooting. 

Yeah, yeah. Yes, sir. 

What position does he play?

He plays shooting guard. 

I remember talking briefly with Kyrie last summer in Las Vegas and he was yelling "Uncle Drew! Uncle Drew!"

Yeah, that's him. 

Is there anything different that you're going to do in this game that you didn't do in McDonalds?

I think, basically, I'm going to be a lot more objective. I mean, at McDonalds, I was just trying to play team ball and trying to go for the win. But like, in this game, I just want to end my career right. I definitely want to go out there and get the win and be aggressive. Yes, sir.

I saw you picked the #13 for next year. How did you come to that number?

I just wanted to start a new career with the number 13. It really doesn't mean anything in terms of why I chose it.

Have you thought about what you'd like to major in at all?

I haven't really thought about it, but something generally with health or something like that. I don't really know. 

What would you like to do after your playing career is over? Would you like to be a coach or a broadcaster?

I've thought about coaching, but, like, I don't know. Maybe Coach K will give me a ride on that chair, I don't know. (laughs) But I don't know. Other than that, I haven't really thought about it. 

Do you have a favorite basketball memory?

Probably the McDonalds All American game, so far. I mean, you know, last week, it was just such a prestigious event to be able to go there and soak it all up.

Well, I thought it was an honor you deserved.

Yes, sir. Thank you.

What expectations do you have for both you and the team for next year?

Just a hard working group. I mean, of course, we have a bunch of athletic wings and a really good team all-around. We're just trying to work hard and an athletic team all around. We're just trying to go hard.

What about from you, specifically?

Just a little bit of everything. I'm gonna try to use my shooting as a weapon all over the game and just go over there and play defense. I just love playing defense. I'm definitely going to bring that. I'm going to just try.

Is that the thing you want to be known for? Being a sharp shooter and playing lock-down defense, as well?

Yes, sir. That's it in a nutshell. That's the mentality. That's what I want to bring.

Lastly, describe yourself for the audience that may not know you.

I'm just basically a humble kid. I like to have fun. I'm just a normal person. I like to laugh and chill and basically just do whatever you'd see a normal kid do. That's basically what I do. 

And what's your relationship like with your father? Does he give you advice? 

I mean, he's cool, he just gives me advice. He's very religious and spiritual. It's cool though. He's just my dad, so he's going to be there to talk to me anyway.

Thanks, Matt.

Yes, sir, no problem.

[/private]