Northern Star


by Ryan Jones / portraits by Ahmed Klink

There are two things, Debbie Jones will tell you, that dominate her son’s time and attention. “Anything about basketball, and anything about his family.”

The two are intertwined for Tyus Jones, the second of Debbie’s three sons and arguably the best high school PG in the country. A rising senior at Apple Valley (MN) High, Jones comes from a basketball family: Both Debbie and Tyus’ father, Rob, played small college ball, and Tyus’ older brother Jadee started out at DI Furman before ending his career at Minnesota State-Mankato. Tyus works out daily with Jadee, and their younger brother, 13-year-old Tre, often tags along.

It’s a small, tight-knit clan that also includes Debbie’s parents and Jadee’s wife, who has a baby on the way. And while they all focus on each other, they know the basketball world is zeroed in on the 17-year-old whose play has earned him comparisons to a young Jason Kidd. A mature kid with a mature game, Tyus enters his senior season as one of the most coveted prospects in the nation—not to mention a deserving choice as our 2013-14 Basketball Diary keeper. On or offcourt, Tyus is all about keeping priorities straight.

“It’s been extremely easy for me to take everything in stride, because that’s how I was raised,” he says. “It’s really all I know: Handle the stuff you can control, be a respectful human being. That’s just how my family is.”

And at every level, family is the foundation for where Tyus is today. Bloodlines gave him his talent, and the presence of Jadee especially—10 years his senior—gave him a bigger, stronger foe against whom to test himself as a kid. Now Jadee trains Tyus, running him through daily weight and conditioning workouts to maximize the talent in his 6-2, 180-pound frame. But it’s what Tyus has in his head that really sets him apart.

“I think I have a good basketball IQ,” says Jones, who cites Chris Paul as the point guard he most tries to emulate. “I think I’m just a complete point guard, and I play the game the right way. I love setting up my teammates, but I have that ability to get to the lane, score the ball when needed to, knock down open shots.”

The scouts will tell you that Emmanuel Mudiay of Texas is the only PG pushing Jones at the top of the Class of ’14 position rankings, and college coaches are rightly enthralled. As of June, he had narrowed his list to Baylor, Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas and Minnesota. It’s a nearly identical list to that of Chicago’s Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 1 big and Tyus’ close friend; Jones says they’re all but guaranteed to be a package deal at whichever college they ultimately choose. “It’s something we’d like to do,” Tyus says. “We’re pretty much like brothers.”

It’s only virtual family in this case, but another example of how Jones can trace his success to a reliance on those he’s closest to. Fittingly, Jones says that despite being the center of so much attention, he thinks he’ll end up being only the second-best player in his own family. “I think Tre can be better than me,” Tyus says of his younger brother. “My older brother pushed me to be better, so I’m going to push him.”

That may seem like a lot of pressure for a 13-year-old, but at least Tre knows he’ll have all the help he needs living up to it.

Related: Tyus Jones’ Basketball Diary, Part One