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A humble hoops prodigy

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 03/19/12, 8:35PM CDT


Apple Valley Sophomore Tyus Jones is the 2011-2012 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year

Apple Valley's Tyus Jones looked for an open shot between Eastview's Ben Oberfeld (left) and Joey King (right). Eastview won the game 57-53 to win the Class 4A, Section 3 boys' basketball title and earn a spot in the state tournament.

At 16 years old, Apple Valley's Tyus Jones already has criss-crossed the continent and played in some of the most notable youth basketball tournaments available.

Dallas. Los Angeles. South Carolina, for the high-profile Peach Jam Invitational. Even Cancun, Mexico, where last summer he stood on the podium, accepting a gold medal for leading Team USA to the World Under-16 Championships title.

Last Friday night, however, Jones was right where he wanted to be, in a stifling Burnsville High School gym, making plays and elevating his team in ways that made him the Star Tribune's 2012 Metro Player of the Year in boys' basketball.

At game's end, the sophomore point guard was prone on the court, agonizing over a potential game-tying shot that missed in the closing seconds as Apple Valley fell to Eastview 57-53 in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game.

A state tournament berth had slipped away, made even more painful by the fact that the Eagles lost to their biggest rival.

"That," Jones said, "was a tough night."

Perhaps, but Apple Valley would not have been mere seconds away from a section championship without him.

Under his leadership, he took an undersized, slightly-above-average Apple Valley team and gave it big dreams. He did everything that was asked of him -- and much was asked -- taking on the primary scoring role despite his pass-first instincts.

It turned out to be a role that suited him well; he led the metro in scoring, averaging 28.2 points per game.

"My job is to make my teammates better," Jones said. "I just tried to do what the team needs."

Jones's yo-yo dribble, explosive first step and Mensa-worthy basketball IQ have made him one of the most sought-after high school players in Minnesota history.

Recruiting websites nationwide regularly contact him, trying to nudge him toward their preferred team. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Gophers coach Tubby Smith are regulars at his games. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has called him.

But in an era of chest-thumping, what's-in-it-for-me players, Jones stands apart with his humility.

He knows he could likely find greater prep basketball success elsewhere, but that doesn't interest him.

"When I first started playing for Apple Valley in eighth grade, people were always coming up to me and saying, 'You're going to transfer,'," said Jones, furrowing his brow. "But I always wanted to stay here. I don't need to go somewhere else when I can become the player I can be right here."

It's a challenge Jones relishes. Despite all the accolades, honors and invitations -- he'll likely be playing for Team USA in the World Under-17 Championships in Lithuania this summer -- he is determined to bring success to Apple Valley.

It's about things more important than wins and losses and personal gain, he said. It's about loyalty. It's about home.

"My family is here," Jones said. "They're the ones always supporting me and helping me along. The guys on my team are the guys I grew up with, playing together since traveling [team] days. We know that if we can just keep it together, we can be successful."

2024 Jackson McAndrew Wayzata
2023 Nasir Whitlock DeLaSalle
2022 Tre Holloman Cretin-Derham Hall
2021 Chet Holmgren Minnehaha Academy
2020 Jalen Suggs Minnehaha Academy
2019 Zeke Nnaji Hopkins
2018 Tre Jones Apple Valley
2017 McKinley Wright Champlin Park
2016 Amir Coffey Hopkins
2015 JT Gibson Champlin Park
2014 Tyus Jones Apple Valley
2013 Reid Travis DeLaSalle
2012 Tyus Jones Apple Valley
2011 Joe Coleman Hopkins
2010 Kevin Noreen Minnesota Transitions
2009 Mike Bruesewitz Henry Sibley
2008 Anthony Tucker Minnetonka
2007 Cole Aldrich Bloomington Jefferson
2006 Bryce Webster St. Thomas Academy
2005 Travis Busch Mounds View
2004 Spencer Tollackson Chaska
2003 Kris Humphries Hopkins
2002 Kris Humphries Hopkins
2001 Alan Anderson DeLaSalle
2000 Adam Boone Minnetonka
1999 Shane Schilling Minnetonka
1998 Joel Przybilla Monticello
1997 Jared Nuness Hopkins
1996 Khalid El-Amin Minneapolis North
1995 Nate Holmstadt Monticello
1994 Sam Jacobson Park
1993 Skipp Schaefbauer Elk River
1992 Bret Yonke Eagan
1991 Brian Carpenter Minneapolis Washburn
1990 Mike VandeGarde Bloomington Jefferson
1989 Juriad Hughs St. Paul Central
1988 Mike Polomny Park Center
1987 Kevin Lynch
Dan Banister
Bloomington Jefferson
Minneapolis North
1986 Steve Schlotthauer Mounds View

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