Although it is widely known in the community that Tyus Jones, the point guard of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has ties to the Devils Lake area, it is often overlooked as something that just gets casually brought up in conversation. With so many in our area jumping onto the Carson Wentz bandwagon for being from North Dakota, why not so much love for Tyus?

Although it is widely known in the community that Tyus Jones, the point guard of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has ties to the Devils Lake area, it is often overlooked as something that just gets casually brought up in conversation. With so many in our area jumping onto the Carson Wentz bandwagon for being from North Dakota, why not so much love for Tyus? 

I went to the Twin Cities, to catch up with the point guard, and bring his story closer to home.

Jones graduated from Apple Valley High School in Minnesota in 2014 then went on the following year to Duke University as a member of the top rated recruiting class in the nation. In Jones’ lone season for the Blue Devils he lead them to become the 2015 National Champions, winning Most Outstanding Player honors along the way. He declared for the NBA draft and was selected twenty-fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers only to be traded to his hometown Timberwolves on draft night. He has since grown to become a major part of the Wolves’ rotation averaging just short of twenty minutes a game as the backup point guard to veteran Jeff Teague.

Jones has come into his own in his third year in the league. The twenty-one year old has fit in the Timberwolves star-studded rotation perfectly.  He is top three in the league in steal percentage.  He also resides on the most analytically successful lineup in the NBA.  Jones, along with Butler, Wiggins, Gibson, and Towns are outscoring their opponents while on the court together at a higher clip than any other five-man rotation in the entire league.  Numbers wise, this tells you the starters actually play better with Jones as their point guard.  

Still young, Jones is well on his way to developing into the Timberwolves’ future starting point guard.  And, what a future that might be for the Timberwolves! There aren’t many teams in recent memory that can match the Wolves’ talent and youth on paper.  With unlimited talent potential in Karl Anthony-Towns (22) and Andrew Wiggins (22), Jones may be well on his way to becoming the floor general for the NBA’s best for years to come.

In visiting the Timberwolves verses the Kings game on Feb. 11, I witnessed a man that was not playing the role of a typical bench player in the NBA.  Jones is the second player on the court, behind only Towns, showing up hours before game time to workout with shooting coaches and begin his warm up.  It became evident right away that Tyus has embraced his role as a local fan favorite by taking time out of his workout to take pictures with fans courtside.  When I approached him, telling him I was from his mom’s hometown of Devils Lake, he just laughed, ”I thought she graduated as a Satan.” Well she did Tyus, but this Firebirds shirt is going to have to do for the sake of the picture. 

This particular night, Jones had the winners of his essay contest “Write Your Own Story” from Excell Academy courtside. Excell Academy is located in Brooklyn Park, MN and was the first location chosen by Tyus’s “Write Your Own Story” initiative, which he donated computers and funds to create a brand new Creative Learning Lab in the school. The group of middle school students, many of whom donned Jones’s number 1 jersey, were taken to half court for a photo with Jones pregame. The kids seemed more excited to see Tyus than anyone else warming up around them. 

While sitting courtside during pregame warm ups, thanks to my press pass, I was lucky enough to have my father, Collin Evenson, along with me as a guest.  Thankfully so, because he struck up a conversation with who just so happened to be Tyus’s uncle, Gregg Cascaes, married to Darcy Deutsch (DLHS Alum). After explaining my story and why I was there, he took it upon himself to get Tyus’ mother Debbie and grandmother Sally to come down and talk to me.  Debbie and Sally both came down, courtside, once they heard that the world-renowned Devils Lake Journal sports team was in attendance.

(So let me just tell you this, I work as the Digital Advertising Manager for the Journal. I’m not a sports reporter, this is my first story I’m writing. I wanted to see if I could get a press pass to a NBA game and this story just fell into my lap. You can’t make this up.)

Debbie (Deutsch) Jones

Debbie (Deutsch) Jones graduated from Devils Lake High School in 1981 after leading the then Satans to their first state championship in any sport since 1925. She was also a Miss Basketball finalist, all state honoree and went on to play basketball at LRSC in college. 

So when asked if she took all or just some of the credit for Tyus’s basketball skills she didn’t have much hesitation in answering, with a big smile on her face,  “I’d like to think most or all.” 

Debbie, whose charming personality radiated before I even had an opportunity to ask her a question, was so happy to have the Devils Lake Journal in attendance, as she reminisced stories of old sports reporters past, mostly about Mike Belmore. Her pride and love for her son and where he is at in his life and career is evident. 

Working as a Paralegal in Edina, MN, Debbie has season tickets about eight rows behind the Timberwolves bench. When asked about how many games she attends, “I try to make as many as possible, depending on Tre’s (Tyus’s younger brother) schedule.” 

Tre, her youngest son, is a senior at Apple Valley and will follow in Tyus’s footsteps, attending Duke next fall, again a top recruit for the nation’s top recruiting class (regarded by many as the best recruiting class ever). Debbie travelled to many home and road games while Tyus was a freshman at Duke and showed much excitement in the opportunity to do the same thing next year with Tre. 

While talking with Debbie, you could tell she really wanted to let it be known what Tyus was doing in the community with the “Write Your Own Story” program and explained it with great enthusiasm. Tyus’s grandmother, Sally, who worked for DLHS for a number of years, stood back patiently catching up with my dad, but she did let it be known how cool she thought it was that the Devils Lake Journal made the trip down.

The Timberwolves, currently number 4 in the Western Conference, played the Sacramento Kings that night, a team in complete rebuild mode and not matching the talent of the Timberwolves on any level. It was a coasting game, by many standards, in a long 82 game season, yet here you have a family showing up in numbers to Tyus’s game. Sitting together on two rows of seats, Debbie, Sally, Darcy (Aunt), Gregg (Uncle), and Tre (Brother), and possibly more I didn’t know, cheering on the point guard. It was like a local contingency of family fans, which you may be more likely to find at a junior college game in Sioux Falls, is not something you see for every player lucky enough to be in the NBA.  This must be contributed to Tyus’s success so far, and moving forward in his career.

On that Sunday night game, the Timberwolves squeezed out a win, playing down to their competition, in a sense. Playing most of the game from behind and trailing in going into the 4th quarter. It was Tyus with back to back steals early in final quarter that catapulted the Wolves to take command and get out with a win, 110-106. In his postgame interview, Head Coach, Tom Thibodeau, credited Jones’s two steals, “it brought energy to the group, it was very important for us…just finding a way to win, that was the biggest thing.” 

Jamal Crawford, Timberwolves veteran sixth man said of those steals, “we need plays like that, plays like that are more than just a steal or a block, they get the crowd into it, they get the bench into it, they get the whole team into it.” 

Tyus, as a bench player, usually wouldn’t command such attention from the media postgame, but his unique circumstance of being a local hero makes him one of the most popular players from reporters in the locker room, embracing his role as a hometown favorite he politely answers questions from the media, unlike some of the other players on the team.

With Tyus developing into his role of starting point guard, and the Timberwolves’ young talent maturing, this team and its players are only going to get more fun to watch. And with Tre’s career just starting next year at Duke, and most likely leading to the NBA, these two brothers are poised to give us many moments to cheer for in the years, and decade ahead. 

In my experience through all of this it has showed me that these players with ties to Devils Lake deserve our support as a community. This is the NBA and this is North Dakota, this doesn’t happen everyday. With Tyus’s skills on the court and character off the court he is certainly a role model for kids to see what writing your own story and chasing their dreams is all about. Better jump on quick, the bandwagon is filling up fast.