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Area Basketball: T-wolves Jones bringing talents to Pillager

Sep 26, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) poses for a photo during Minnesota Timberwolves media day at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

When Tyus Jones hosts the Tyus Jones Basketball camp June 16-17 in Pillager, it won't be his first brush with the area.

During his junior season at Apple Valley High School, the Minnesota Timberwolves' point guard led the Eagles to an 81-67 victory over the Brainerd Warriors in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.

Jones remembered the matchup well.

"It was a tough game for us," Jones said. "Brainerd had a really good team that year. They played very well together. It was not an easy game by any means. That was supposed to be our easiest one of the three (at state) as we were the No. 1 seed. I think they got a bad draw getting the No. 1 seed their first game out. I think they were one of the better teams in the state tournament that year.

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Tyus Jones Basketball Camp

  • When: June 16-17
  • Where: Pillager High School
  • Who: Boys and girls in third grade through varsity
  • Registration: Coming Thursday at www.tyusjones.com

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"That was a very good team. It was a tough game. I remember they had twin guards in their backcourt who were very good."

Now Jones is hoping to prepare the next group of players who will battle the metro's best. This will be the second season of the Tyus Jones Basketball Camp and the first time at Pillager.

Third through fourth graders will run from 8-10 a.m. June 16. Fifth and sixth graders will go from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and seventh and eighth graders are from 2-4 p.m.

The cost for those three sessions is $60 per player.

On June 17, high school girls will run from 9 a.m. to noon. High school boys are scheduled for 1-4 p.m. The cost goes to $85 for the older players.

"Last summer was our first year doing camps," Jones. "This is our second year. I think we concentrate on trying to teach the kids as much as possible and give them something to bring home with them and make sure they're learning during their time at the camp and not just going there and killing some time.

"We're trying to teach them a few different drills or techniques or little tips about the game and ultimately just trying to get them to work, work hard for the day. We're just trying to help them improve."

Last season, Pillager girls assistant coach Matt Moen brought in Christian Laettner to run a camp. While it was successful, many of the younger players had to go home and Google who Laettner was. That shouldn't be a problem this year with Jones, who has been in the spotlight well before that state quarterfinal game against Brainerd his junior year of high school.

"Kid's faces light up," Jones said. "I know it's exciting for them to come see an NBA player and communicate and interact with them. I remember when I was that age. Anytime I was at a camp you were always looking up to the counselors whether they be high school, college or definitely a professional basketball player. I know, now that the roles are reversed, it's very important for me to give back and make their time at camp as memorable as possible."

Jones said the camp's goal is to help kids get better and learn about the game. He hopes, while incorporating fun, he can teach the athletes some finer intricacies about the game. He said the mental side of basketball is the most underrated fundamental.

"Basketball IQ, and I would say your attitude, are things that you can control by studying the game," said Jones. "You can control your preparation, by studying your opponent or studying yourself and what you need to work on.

"Then also your attitude. If you have a positive attitude and you're willing to work and put the time in, I think, that can take you a long way. Obviously the physical part of the game is very important, but I think the mental aspect of the game is just as important, if not more."

Jones said he went to two or three camps each summer when he was younger. The work paid off as he was a prized recruit coming out of Apple Valley. He chose Duke University where he was named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference third team and All-ACC freshman first team during his only season at Duke. His collegiate highlight came during his final game when he led Duke to the 2015 NCAA National Championship and earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award.

That summer he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 24th pick of the NBA draft and then traded to the Timberwolves.

Jones just finished his second season in the NBA. He's only 20 years old. When asked if it's hard to fathom he's in the NBA already Jones replied: "At times it is hard just because things went so fast. I remember this was always a goal and a dream of mine to be in the NBA. Now that it's here, I'm enjoying every day—having fun with it every day and making sure I'm making the most of it. Continue to work hard and continue to try to improve. That's my main focus right now.

"But it is definitely still surreal for me because of how much hard work that goes into getting here. Just how blessed and fortunate you are to have to be to get to this point. It's definitely something I don't take for granted at all."

Registration for the Tyus Jones Camp at Pillager High School will begin Thursday at www.tyusjones.com.

For more information about the camp contact Moen at mmoen@isd116.org.

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
(218) 855-5856
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