Most of us are well aware of who Tyus Jones is and what he would mean to Gopher basketball. He has been playing the summer basketball circuit, competed for 17U Team USA Basketball and is currently at the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam which is basically the summer championships for high school all-star hoops teams. He is really, REALLY good. He'll be the #1 point guard in his recruiting class and possibly will be the #1 overall player in the class of 2014. He is having a great summer and is really making a name for himself.
Then I see this tweet from Myron Medcalf the other day...
Not sure the state of Minnesota knows what it has in @Tyusjones06. More recognized nationally than he is in his home state. That’s crazy.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) July 22, 2012
I believe that on the summer AAU circuit he is widely recognized and a really big deal, but that is a micro-society of basketball elite where individuals is king. Making a name for yourself in the world of recruiting trumps team. In that world the best of the best are incredibly popular and widely known. It is a different world than the world of high school basketball I would bet that Justise Winslow is more popular at the Peach Jam than he is in Houston. He too is a 5-star, #8 in the Rivals top 100, 2014 recruit who played for 17U USA Basketball this summer. Jahlil Okafor (#4 in class of 2014), 5-star, 17U USA basketball teammate of Jones, from Chicago and is probably more recognizable on the summer basketball circuit than he is at home. Why? Because these kids are sophomores who are just now coming onto the scene. The greatness of their team and their team's success will be catching up to their individual greatness.
So my first question would be what should local basketball fans and Gopher fans be doing any differently? If Jones were playing his high school ball in Michigan or Florida or wherever, would he be treated differently? Should Minnesota basketball fans be filling up gyms when Jones is playing? Check. Should there be discussions about how valuable he is and what he would mean to Gopher basketball? Check. Should the local media be profiling him at such a young age and elevating him to greatness before he is old enough to drive? Check and check.
I cringe when people are being called out for allegedly not giving the rock-star treatment to anyone at this age. We make fun of coaches who are offering scholarships to 8th and 9th graders. But then the insinuation here is that the Gophers are going to miss out on Jones partly because Gopher fans are not treating Jones like the greatest gift to Minnesota high school basketball in his sophomore season. I say, give it time. I think he is more than adequately adored and "recognized" for his elite talent. Jones is a great basketball player, he is going to get better, he is going to be able to pick any college he wants and he will likely be an NCAA star.
The other question I want to ask is, more recognized by whom? Passionate Gopher fans who pay attention to recruiting, even a tiny bit know exactly who Tyus Jones is. Casual high school basketball fans who filled up gyms whenever Apple Valley was playing know who Tyus Jones is. Anyone who reads the Star Tribune and happened to see a couple of Tyus Jones articles they published during the basketball season know who Tyus Jones is. Is Myron insinuating that your casual basketball fan in Texas or North Carolina or California know more about Tyus Jones than your casual basketball fan in Hopkins or Duluth? Cause I doubt it.
I believe that Gopher fans and basketball fans in Minnesota know exactly who Tyus Jones is. I think most of us know what kind of an impact he would have on the Gopher basketball program. He may be the best high school junior in the country and over the next TWO YEARS he will be more and more recognizable. He isn't getting any less attention than any of the recent great high school athletes were receiving at this point in their careers. Joe Mauer wasn't any more widely known during his sophomore year. Same can be said for Seantrel Henderson, Larry Fitzgerald, Royce White, Khalid El-Amin or Kris Humphries.
Jones is the best that local basketball has to offer, his legacy and mystic will grow over the next two years. The scrutiny and pressure to pick "the right" program to continue his career will only intensify. Let's not up the ante when the stakes will be plenty high for the young man soon enough.