Becoming the best at anything is hard work. For Apple Valley senior guard Tyus Jones, today was five years in the making. Today, the fourth ranked player in the country stood before family, fans and teammates to announce his next stop in his basketball journey. It has been a journey filled with plenty of emotion as evident when one of the best players the state of Minnesota has ever watched thanked his coaches for the opportunity, and his parents for keeping his feet on the ground even when he soared high above everyone else.
On an afternoon in mid-November, those in attendance witnessed the best performance of his career.
His performance had zero to do with skills or fundamentals, or the thousands of hours that he spent in the gym honing his craft. This performance had everything to do with poise and emotion as he chose Duke University as his college of choice.
"Wow, it's been a long process but without all of you in the gym, I wouldn't have been able to do it," Jones said pausing to regain composure. "Without that opportunity in 8th grade, that really opened up doors for myself, so I just want to thank you for that."
From a media perspective we watched Tyus the basketball player. Every year watching to see if this would be the year that Tyus and the Eagles would break through. Last season, they did, winning the AAAA State Championship. Tyus the basketball player is a champion, but for his classmates, he's just Tyus, who happens to play basketball, something that he made sure to acknowledge.
"Thank you for just being yourself and accepting me and allowing me to be myself," Jones said to his fellow Eagles. "I know it's been a lot of commotion throughout Apple Valley throughout the past few years. It's been a long ride, but I've enjoyed every step of it."
Jones and Chicago's Jahlil Okafor, the top ranked recruit in the nation both committed at the same time live on ESPN U television. The duo had gone on recruiting visits together and spoke openly about playing their college ball together.
"This is definitely more than I expected," Jones said. "About half way through my 8th grade season is when I got my first letter. That really motivated me to be the best player I could be and work hard, it will open up doors."
Five years, he received letters and phone calls from coaches across the country wanting Jones to come to their school and be their floor general. In the end, the motivation to play with a friend, and the history of Duke Blue Devils basketball and coach Mike Krzyzewski was too good to pass up.
"I built a great relationship with coach K," Jones said. "I'm excited to get down there and get to work."