Tyus Jones and the Blooming of Basketball at Apple Valley
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If you live in Apple Valley, or for that matter Minnesota, you’ve probably heard of Tyus Jones.
The current Minnesota Timberwolf etched his name in Minnesota basketball lore well before he became the 24th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Jones began his legacy as an eighth grader, earning the starting point guard job for the Apple Valley High School squad–something not often seen in basketball. Soon, people began to take notice of the six-foot middle schooler thanks to his court smarts and flashy passing.
But he was much more than just a flashy player.
Jones quickly developed into one of the state’s top high schoolers, and colleges soon came calling. Suddenly, he was being hailed as a top-ten recruit nationwide.
“People do not see the time he spends in the gym by himself working on his game,” said Eagles coach Zach Goring.
After two tough losses in section finals in Jones’ freshman and sophomore seasons, Apple Valley finally broke through his junior year. The Eagles had suffered just one defeat all season (more on that later), and were heralded as the state’s second-best team.
They set out to do one better.
After beating Rosemount for a berth in the state tournament, Apple Valley easily handled Brainerd in the state quarterfinals.
A match up with third-seeded Eden Prairie was next, but the Eagles didn’t seem to be fazed. Behind Jones and senior guard Dustin Fronk, Apple Valley earned a chance for its first state boys’ basketball title.
The opponent? Park Center–the lone team to defeat Jones’ Eagles earlier that season. The Pirates featured Quinton Hooker, a guard (and future Mr. Basketball winner) who now plays at North Dakota.
Early on, neither team really grabbed ahold of the title, with each squad trading baskets. In the second half, however, Jones took over–including going a perfect 18-for-18 from the free throw line–and boosted Apple Valley to a 74-57 win, and a state championship.
When asked what it was like to coach the first championship team in school history, Goring, an AVHS alumnus, classified it as, “A dream come true–something the program had been chasing for a long time, and an experience the kids and staff of that team will never forget.”
With the banner hung, Jones prepared for his senior season, for which his Eagles were touted as the state’s top team.
He announced his commitment to college basketball juggernaut Duke in the fall, setting up an ESPN-televised home game with future teammate Jahlil Okafor and Whitney Young High School (Ill.).
The Dolphins and their three Division One prospects proved to be too much for the Eagles, but the game was nonetheless a success for the school.
Unbeaten against Minnesota teams the entire season, Apple Valley fell when it mattered most–the section finals–to Cretin-Derham Hall. It wasn’t a storybook ending to Jones’ legendary career, but the Eagles undoubtedly have a lot to thank him for, as he put the program on the map nationally.
Jones enjoyed much success in his freshman season at Duke, winning the national title as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. His performance in the postseason boosted his NBA Draft stock, and he decided to turn professional after one year.
He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, then immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, reuniting Jones with the state he grew up in.
Tyus Jones’ legacy will certainly be remembered at Apple Valley High School–where his jersey number 21 has been retired–and beyond.
“I think he is in the conversation as the greatest high school player in Minnesota state history,” said Goring. “We played in front of full gyms consistently for five years. No other player has ever done that.”