Before They Made It: Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones Tyus Jones (photo: Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

Tyus Jones, a heralded guard who has already won two gold medals playing for USA Basketball, was a big contributor to the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s Junior Select National Team last week at the 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit. In the fall, Jones will be part of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s freshman class at Duke University. His mother, Debbie Jones, who was in Portland, OR, for the Nike Hoop Summit, has seen Tyus develop from an active child playing multiple sports to become one of the top rated high school basketball players in the country.

We caught up with Debbie to ask her more about Tyus’ youth experiences:

USA Basketball: What was Tyus like as a child?

Tyus was always very competitive from a very young age.  He would always compete with his older brother and his friends and try to keep up with them even though he was 10 years younger.  Tyus enjoyed watching “Space Jam” and then going outside and shooting baskets and then come back in and watch “Space Jam” again. 

USA Basketball: How did he become active in the sport and develop his skills?

For as long as I can remember Tyus has played basketball.  He first got into a YMCA basketball league pre-kindergarten.  Tyus has developed his skills by being in the gym and putting in the time working at it.  Tyus also played football, baseball and ran track.  I believe by being active in other sports when he was younger helped him with his overall development.

USA Basketball: When did you realize Tyus had what it takes to play at a high level? 

Tyus was always gifted when he was young.  He always played with the older kids in sports and he was very mature for his age, which helped him be able to relate and be around older kids.  As early as elementary school we realized he had an unbelievable IQ and feel for the game.  We knew then with work and the right development, he had a chance to succeed at a high level.  When he earned the starting point guard spot on his high school team as an 8th grader, things really took off.  He then got the USA Basketball invite, made the team and the opportunities have been unimaginable since then.

USA Basketball: What challenges did he have to overcome as a child?

Tyus faced a couple of injuries when he was in high school that kept him on the sideline for the first time.  The challenge for him during those times was to figure out how he could still impact the game and help his teammates from the sideline.  His positive attitude and drive to work to come back better and stronger from those injuries helped him grow as a person and player.

USA Basketball: What advice do you have for the parents of young basketball players?

The advice I would give to parents of youth basketball players is take the time to work with your kids.  Let them have fun and enjoy the process.  Fundamentals, drills, watching the game and just being around basketball is invaluable.  It isn’t about how many games you play but how many reps you get in or shots you get up or the strength and agility you are willing to work at.  Let your kids play multiple sports so they know what they are good at and what they like.  Cross training by playing other sports is good for their bodies.  Let their passion be their passion.  Support and encourage them.

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