Tyus Jones: Only Mama Knows

Tyus Jones

Throughout her son's recruiting process, the mother of Tyus Jones has played a number of roles including travel coordinator, confidant, media liaison, biggest fan, and everything in between. We spoke with Debbie Jones recently about her unique perspective of this highest of high major recruitments.

Let's start with the recent AAU National Championship, what was going through your mind when you saw his team earn that victory?

Debbie Jones, mother of Tyus Jones: Oh, it was simply amazing! No one ever thought we were ever going to do that. The teams we beat down there in Florida were just amazing, I mean the Each 1 Teach 1 team is just loaded with talent and our guys just stepped up and played amazing.

Tyus played great, and Reid was unstoppable, and we just had kids who knocked down open shots and defended, they really just came together as a team and it was a lot of fun to watch. We are just so proud of all the kids and for our organization to have never done that, it was just a real special moment for those kids.

From your personal perspective as a parent who has sacrificed a lot so your son can pursue his dreams, what what that like for you seeing him fulfill one of those dreams?

You know, it was just so worth it in every way. I totally enjoy it, and I try not to miss much of this. So, luckily for me, my job works with me with being gone. Financially it's tough but it's so worth it and with Tyus, because he's been fortunate to have these opportunities. Overally it's just been so worth it in every way...it's priceless.

Now that Tyus has finished his AAU career, what are your top memories of the last few years?

Oh my gosh, there's just so many to remember, and really it starts with USA Basketball. For him to get those invites and then to make those teams, it just seems like from there he took off and came to the EYBL and played in it for three years, and he's just had a fabulous career playing against the best of the best the whole time and having the opportunity to win so much including the gold medals and the national championship, there's just so many great memories. Best of all, you get to know these really talented kids that he plays with, and they are all great kids, great players who come from great families,it's just amazing and even though Tyus is sad that it's ending, he still has all these great memories and he knows the next chapter is going to be great. It's just very emotional, you know?

Is there a difference in the feeling of winning a gold medal versus winning an AAU title?

You know, winning those two gold medals, that's just a whole different level. You are representing your country, you are playing in different countries, that's just on another level by itself and it comes with it's own set of emotions. However, when you come back here, and you are playing here, the crazy thing for Tyus is that he started at the AAU Nationals in Orlando, on that court when he was in the third grade. The team that bounced us out his first year there in the Quarterfinals, was Jahlil's team from Arkansas back when he lived there. Isn't that crazy? They didn't realize until the first USA Basketball Camp that had happened and that Jahlil had lived in Arkansas when he was much younger and that was the year his team won the whole thing and bounced us out in the Quarterfinals. It's amazing how full circle it came for him, he started there, and then he ended there in the same place by winning the whole thing. It's just crazy.

Has there been anybody that has wished Tyus congratulations that just completely blew you guys away?

You know, all the coaches from the schools recruiting Tyus, anytime you deal with them, it's just pretty amazing, they follow you so closely and it's just really great to hear from them. Then you have guys like Dave Telep and Paul Biancardi, those guys reach out, just a lot of different people like them who are always there encouraging you, telling you good job, it's just amazing how close knit it is, the people you run into, you know them and they know you, it's just a small world, it's just been a really great experience all the way around.

Was it difficult for Tyus to not participate in USA Basketball because of family health reasons or did he look at it as more of a blessing to be able to spend time with away?

I think both. He was disappointed he couldn't go for the third time and be a part of that, but at the same time, he's really close with his grandfather and the news we got at the time was cancer, and then he had a heart attack and we just didn't know, it was touch and go there for awhile and we didn't know what was going to come in the next week or the next month, so he felt like if he was out of the country and something happened, he would really regret not being there.

It was tough for him, sometimes you gotta do what's important, and it worked out and you know, my father has been released from the hospital and he's doing fairly well, so we're just hoping that he can maintain that for awhile. Things like that are never easy decision, so you just have to do what's the right thing at the time.

As his mom, how have you seen Tyus grow as a person through all the travel, and the recruiting and the media scrutiny that has come his way?

Tyus has always been a mature kid, from when he was little competing with his older brother who is 10 years older than him. He can have mature conversations with adults, but all this hype around him, he's been able to stay grounded and to embrace it gracefully without it going to his head and without letting it get out of control. He's matured beyond what you would ever think. He just knows how to handle things, he's done a fantastic job.

Was there anything you guys learned through handling the media and recruiting process that you didn't know going in?

The biggest thing is being in control of things, kinda setting guidelines right from the beginning. That's been the biggest help with everything because many times we reached out to people and set those guidelines and they were always so respectful of that and we appreciated that because they knew where we stood. If I was giving advice to anybody on this, that's what I would tell them, is don't make it a circus, be in control, you don't have to have a million texts or calls or emails every day, a couple times a week, that's the biggest thing.

Who do you think gave you or Tyus the best piece of advice during the recruiting process?

There's been such great information from all the coaches, you would never think it would be so easy to have conversations with these amazing, high level coaches who are just extremely busy, they've done everything and seen everything but yet they are so accommodating and so respectful. I don't know if there's one thing that stands out, I just think all the info we've been able to get from them has been so valuable and has been so appreciated.

Tyus recently announced that he's deciding in November after completing his official visits. Has that been a part of the plan being implemented all along, or was it more in response to recent developments in his recruitment?

Well, I think that was what he was hoping to do all along. Now, given where everything is, it's just time to do that and I think he was ready to do that. I don't know if we said all along that we're going to do this, this and this and then deal with this at this time, but it's just how everything has played out. We just made the decision that now is the time to do it, figure out what you want to do and where you want to go and make the decision and be done.

Tyus mentioned recently that he's taking the visits one at a time, but I know you are heavily involved with the logistics side of planning visits and coordinating travel. Do you already have the future plans in the works for where the next visits are going to be after the Baylor visit is done?

We're going to do the Baylor visit, we are talking with other schools, just figuring out some other dates because it's going to be Tyus and Jahlil and possibly Justice, so it takes time to do that. It will be one at a time, and nobody is feeling like we have to do it on this date or another time. Right now, we're obviously throwing out some dates because we don't have months and months to deal with this, we're going to get it done so we get all the visits done by the end of October.

From your opinion, are there any schools that may not receive an official visit since you've visited schools unofficially before?

Well, as you know, he's down to 6 schools, so obviously one of those schools will not be an official visit, but we haven't made that decision yet.

With Minnesota being the hometown school, in your mind, do you guys want to take an official visit there?

That's something we've been talking about, and we'll have more conversations with the coaches over at the U as to whether we are going to do an official over there or if we can just continue to visit them unofficially since he can get there as many times as you want. That's something we are talking about.

Fans like to ask if there's any significance with players who plan to take all 5 official visits as to which school gets the first visit and the last visit. In your mind is that a big deal as to who Tyus visits first and last?

I really don't think it is, I've heard that before but I really don't think it plays a big part in our mind. It ‘s just where we can get to in the timeframe because you never know what schools might have going on, what Jahlil or Justice might have going on, that's more of it than what school is visited first, third or last or whatever.

There's been some families in the recent past have chosen to give fans a final window into the deliberations the family goes through during the visits and after, is that something that you all are thinking about doing or will it be more private?

We actually haven't decided that either. There's a possibility, and we've had some discussions on that. That's just part of what needs to be figured out on how we want to do this with how he wants to say it, does he want to do something at the school, we haven't really made that determination yet, but that's something will get figured out in the next couple of months so that we can know what we're doing and so that people can know what we're doing.

Have you had inquiries from media outlets or TV who are interested in broadcasting the actual announcement?

There's been some mention, but nothing in particular. It's the same consideration, though: do you want to do something like this or not. We haven't gotten really far with that yet. We've discussed, but we haven't gotten too far yet.

Are there pros and cons to doing that in your mind that you have to think through?

You know I really think it's an individual thing, and it just depends what you are comfortable with. I don't think it has to be a big production by any means but sometimes it's nice when you can give people some information, especially the people who have been following Tyus's recruitment. I don't know if it's a pros/cons thing, I just think it's an individual decision.

How much are you and the family members bringing your own opinions about schools to Tyus as he's considering the different programs?

Oh, there's always discussion, and there's always been on-going discussion. We frequently talk about everything, we talk about basketball, about the coaches, about the schools, about the academics, we talk about everything, we hash everything over and over and over again. When he's ready to make the decision, there won't be anything that's been left unsaid because we frequently talk about everything. There's not a wrong decision, it's just whatever he's comfortable with.

In your role, do you see it as more important for you to ask questions to see what he's thinking about schools, or is it more important in your mind to tell him what you think and see what he thinks about that?

I think just being able to openly discuss everything, that all comes into play. He'll voice his opinion and his likes and we'll voice our opinions and say what we are thinking and the reasons why. It just allows you to see that maybe I think differently from you and you didn't think about that. I just think it's really good to have those conversations.

With Tyus moving away, what are you looking for in a coach who will have that daily influence on him that you are used to having?

I mean, you always hope you have prepared your child the right way, to go when he does leave home, you hope you've prepared him to handle everything. Just because you hand him over, it doesn't mean that I don't have a say anymore or we don't talk anymore, you know what I mean? From all the coaches and staffs that we're working with, they are all great people that have prepared numerous young men to be successful in life. I think that's a big part of it, not only is it about success on the basketball court, but it's also about success in the classroom, success socially, setting yourself up for life, not just setting yourself up for the game of basketball.

What's the big questions going into the official visits that need to be resolved in your mind?

You know, personally, I don't think there are these big unanswered questions that are going to get resolved on official visits. We've had the luxury of being on all the campuses unofficially for visits, so we've got basically all the information and we've seen the campuses and met the people, we have all that. Now it's just getting back on campus and re-doing and getting a little more info, getting a little more in depth than on the unofficial, but I really don't think there's these big secret questions that need to be resolved on the official visits. 

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