EAGAN, Minn. –
CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis billed Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League event this weekend as "the most talent-filled tournament this state has ever seen."
The locals have responded by filling what little seating is available at the High Performance Academy to see elite prospects like Jabari Parker
, Aaron Gordon
and Julius Randle
But nobody is drawing traffic to the facility quite like hometown hero Tyus Jones
. His appearances with the Howard Pulley Panthers have looked like a scene from Rucker Park, with onlookers crammed three-deep on the baseline and tucked into every vantage point available. All that's missing is fans running out on the court after a big dunk.
"It's great to have a lot of fans come out and support us and see what this tournament is about," Jones said. "It's just fun playing in front of a lot of people. There is usually more people around our court than the other courts so we just try to stay focused and not let it get to us."
It certainly hasn't got to the rising junior at nearby Apple Valley
. Through three games, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard is averaging 18.0 points, 5.3 assists and 2.6 steals, leading the Panthers to a 2-1 record. Jones has turned the ball over a total of five times in those outings.
It's nothing new for those familiar with Jones' career. He's coming off a sophomore campaign where he averaged over 28 points and eight assists per game and was a landslide pick as the state's player of the year. He's a three-time All-State selection going back to his eighth grade year when he played varsity basketball at Apple Valley.
Jones was one of just two sophomores selected to MaxPreps.com's All-American Team earlier this month. He seems equipped to handle the pressure of the spotlight, which will undoubtedly intensify as his career progresses.
"My family raised me to make sure I am humble and grounded and not getting big-headed," Jones said. "I stay motivated because I want to get to that next level, Division I basketball."
"He has a great family structure," Howard Pulley Panthers coach Antwan Harris Sr. said. "The pressure comes from within, from trying to be great and working to be great. He works hard every single day. There is no external pressure greater than what he gives himself."
Part of that family structure includes brother Jadee, who played college basketball at Furman and Minnesota State-Mankato.
"My older brother Jadee, he is my trainer, he puts me through workouts and everything like that," Jones said. "He's been through the recruiting process so he knows exactly what it's like. I've been able to talk to him about everything."
Jones says his recruitment is very much open at this point, although Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State and Minnesota appear to be at the forefront. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Minnesota's Tubby Smith and assistants from Ohio State have all checked in to see him this weekend.
"I haven't really made a list," Jones said. "All the schools that have offered I'm open to."
Could all the hometown love push him toward Minnesota?
"I'm defeinitely considering Minnesota," Jones said. "A lot goes into making your college choice. The education, the classes will go into it. There is a lot of stuff that goes into it."
His local following will have one more opportunity to see him in EYBL action with the Howard Pulley Panthers on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. against the Playaz from New Jersey.