Shootout Feature: Tyus Jones' Leadership Helping Prepare Apple Valley For Future

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Shootout Feature: Tyus Jones' Leadership Helping Prepare Apple Valley For Future

Editor’s Note: The 18th annual Timberwolves Shootout will take place Jan. 4 at Target Center. Eight of top teams in Minnesota and around the region will square off in what is likely to be another memorable day of high school basketball. Leading up to the Shootout, look for features on some of the teams participating. Today's feature focuses on how Apple Valley is getting prepared for life after Tyus Jones next season thanks in part to Jones' leadership this winter.

Alex Conover
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When Apple Valley faced off against DeLaSalle at the Hopkins Breakdown Showcase in December, a subtle—yet symbolic—moment happened.

Tyus Jones—Duke-bound state champion and one of the very best to ever play in this state—subbed out of game action. His younger brother Tre trotted out onto the hardwood to take his place momentarily, and before long the pair of brothers helped orchestrate a win over Class AAA juggernaut Islanders.

Tre, like his brother did before him, is playing for Apple Valley varsity as an eighth grader. And when he replaced Tyus on the court, it was a sign of things to come.

You see, as good as Apple Valley is right now—they’ve got the young talent necessary to sustain this sort of success over the next several years. That will be on full display on Saturday at Target Center when the Eagles take on Blue Valley Northwest (Kan.) at the Timberwolves Shootout. Their matchup is the fourth and final premier high school matchup of the day, tipping off at 2:30 p.m.

Apple Valley’s young talent is getting tutored this year by a very, very good teacher.

“Tyus has always taught me, as a downfall, to always keep my head up,” Apple Valley freshman Gary Trent Jr. said. “We have low points in the game, and he tells us to play through it and stick it out. He’ll always tell you to fill the wing, and because of his vision, he’ll find you.”

Trent, Cameron Kirksey, Brock Bertram and Jordan Bolton are all freshmen or sophomores who are gaining invaluable experience at high school’s biggest stage. But for the Jones family, this has been a season that they have anticipated for a long time.

“When he was in eighth grade, I never thought of it that way,” Tre said. “But probably when he was a sophomore, I thought about it more. That was my goal, to make it to varsity with him for the first time.”

Tyus remembers what it was like as a middle schooler playing against the metro area’s best. Thrust into the varsity fire at a young age, it was sink or swim.

“I had to get used to it, adjust my game and get some different shots,” Tyus said of the physicality he encountered on the varsity level. “They’re 18-year-olds and I was just 13. Halfway through the season, the other teams started throwing their strongest player on me, trying to rough me up. So that was definitely a thing I had to get used to.”

Luckily for Tyus, he had an older mentor to steer him through the rough patches.

“Tom Schalk, he’s out at William and Mary right now,” Tyus said. “He really took me under his wing, he talked to me a lot. He was our best player my eighth grade and freshman year. He had the utmost confidence in me, and I think that really helped. He believed in me, believed in what I was trying to do. He played varsity as a ninth-grader as well, so he was a veteran on my team.”

Head coach Zach Goring has seen Tyus’ evolution all the way through. He’s watched Jones grow from a 13-year-old rookie to a mature, seasoned role model.

“As Tyus has gotten older he has transformed from a player who leads by example to a player who leads vocally now,” Goring said. “The younger players look up to him and follow his lead on how to act on the floor.”

Other senior leaders include Rob Tobroxen and Dennis Austin, starters for the state champion squad. The culture of older players teaching the younger ones at Apple Valley is building the program to new heights. As Schalk taught Tyus in 2009, now Tyus is helping bring along the younger players.

And those young players are looking forward to being teachers themselves.

“I can’t wait,” Trent Jr. said. “I can see myself in the future teaching the younger kids what to do, just being a leader. Using the great example that Tyus has been and all the other great examples that are in my life right now.”

The younger Jones agreed. To be someone who younger players looked up to is someone who he aspires to be.

“That’s a high goal for me,” Tre said. “I want to be like my brother.”

If he and his teammates could be like his brother, Apple Valley will do just fine in the next few seasons.

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