Inside the Tyus Jones recruitment

The mother of the nation's top PG in 2014 sits down with TDD to discuss a number of topics including the recruiting process, the logistics of various visits, and more.

Throughout the early stages of her son, Tyus', recruitment, Debbie Jones has played many roles. She's not only helped the nation's top point guard deal with the gobs of attention thrown his way by the media, fans, and coaches, but also helped facilitate visits, contacts, and more. So where does she see her son's recruitment currently? And where is it going? Mrs. Jones spoke with TDD about those topics and more recently.

TDD: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Debbie Jones: Well, I've been a paralegal for more than 20 years now. I started my career as a court reporter and then went to work for a pretty big law firm. I work in the business litigation section, and we handle matters such as defending companies, personal injury, and any other corporate defense you can think of.

I'm also one of several of our family members who played basketball along with Tyus. In addition to myself, my sister and my father played quite a bit. I was a point guard during my playing days.

Does being a former player, and having access to so many former players, help you advise Tyus through this process?

Well, I never went through this process the he is, that's for sure. My oldest son, however, did go through the recruiting process…though not to this degree. Still, we do have some experience in dealing with colleges from that, and it helps tremendously with Tyus' recruitment.

Ultimately, what are you hoping Tyus finds at the end of this process?

I want him to find and attend a school where he fits in. Where he can have success, and just a place where he'll get a good education. I also think it's important that he be around great people. Overall, it's not one particular thing, and the colleges he's looking at don't really have a bad option. Now it's just a matter of finding the best place for him.

How would you characterize the recruiting process for him to date?

I definitely think it's going well. The people we are dealing with are great, and they've been very respectful of our family in that they have said they don't want to call or text every day. They've been very good in working with us because they don't need to call every single day. That part of it has been really nice, and we can call them when we want to. So, as a whole, it's been really good and a lot of fun. We've been able to meet so many grey people, and the coaches and their staffs have been so great to work with. We've enjoyed working with them and learning about the different schools and programs from them.

It seems as though you don't want a ton of attention or spotlight when going through this process. Is that correct?

I think the attention is there, but it's being handled in a very respectful way. It's not about spending all the time in the world on the phone or responding with text messages or emails. Everything has been done in a way where you know the interest is there for your son, but it's not being over-done. I don't think attention needs to be in too great a volume for you to know they are interested.

Was that approach yours, or did you lay down ground rules from the start?

It was right from the beginning, especially when the coaches started calling. Tyus was getting ready to leave for Team USA to prepare for the World Championships, so they knew he wouldn't be taking phone calls, and they were made aware of how we wanted to things. They've all been very respectful of that, and have continued to be.

Speaking of Team USA, several of his teammates have talked about your role there. Several players have indicated how you were a 'second mom' to them when they were on the road. You seemed to almost be a point person for several of those players.

I have to say, that's really nice to hear. A lot of that goes back to the beginning of all of this. I was coaching my kids when they started, and I was always president of the Booster Club. It's just what I do. With Team USA, I was fortunate enough to be participate at the tryouts and practices with all the kids, who are really great. Everyone was really very nice, and very respectful. They were the kind of kinds you want your child to be around. Even my little one had a chance to go with us on the trips, and the players were so accepting of him - almost like he was their little brother. It was a whole lot of fun. As far as the organization thing goes…it comes from my nature I think. Still, it's nice to hear they appreciated that, because it may have been something as small as ordering food at the hotel or whatever.

Both Jahlil Okafor and Theo Pinson have talked about playing with Tyus in college. Jahlil, especially. Given the relationships, are you in touch with their camps as much as Tyus is?

I have actually had good conversations with their parents and that has come up. We've all discussed it, and it would be great because the kids have the same goals and dreams, so of course the parents do as well. If there's a way to make it work, then we will find a way to make it happen. That's the discussion we're having.

As parents, how do you look at things differently from your sons when they talks about schools?

I think we're similar. As parents you say you want them around good people. Is the school a good environment, and is it fit for learning life lessons beyond basketball? I don't think kids think about that as much as parents do, and we also talk about the academics a great deal as well.

Do you think you will travel to see Tyus play on a regular basis when he goes to school?

Most definitely. I'm not sure if I've ever missed a game of his, which can be hard sometimes. My older son played at South Carolina, so I couldn't make it to every game. Now, with Tyus, I might have some more flexibility if he goes far away and hopefully I'll be able to see more of his games.

It doesn't sound like distance is a huge factor when it comes to the decision making process then, correct?

You can get anywhere via plane, so whether it's a one hour plane ride or a three hour plane ride, I don't think that's as big a concern as long as transportation is available wherever he goes. That's always a consideration, but I don't think that'll be part of his decision which makes him not go somewhere.

Going back to your role as an organizer, it seems as though you helped facilitate the unofficial visit to Duke for Tyus, Jahlil, and Theo. How tough was that process to plan?

Not hard at all actually. We had been planning it for quite a while, and we just communicated it to everyone involved. That weekend was the best to make it happen. It was easy with Theo since he was so close, and with Jahlil, it was just communicated with him and his dad. Once it was decided on, we worked to make it happen.

Was there anything specific that made you all want to visit Duke together?

It wasn't the first visit we had done by ourselves. We had previously visited Ohio State, Michigan State, and Baylor. I think Jahlil had already been to a couple of those places before as well. It was just one of those things where we could visit Duke and North Carolina at the same time, and it was a good time to get everyone together.

Was it Tyus' idea to do the joint visit, or was that more a circumstantial thing?

It was just more the discussion we were having at the time. It was more 'this is what we're going to do, and when we're going to go, so let's see if it works for everyone else'.

What were your thoughts on the visit to Durham?

Oh, it was amazing, and very beautiful. The history of the school and program, and everything we got to see, and the people we were about to be around was almost overwhelming. The people there were some accommodating, so friendly, and so down to earth at the same time. We were excited to do it, and it was much more than we even thought of or imagined.

Who was it that you got to interact with?

Everyone on the staff, and the different families. We got to meet siblings, wives, and kids from everyone. It was just everyone you could possibly think of…that's who we got to meet. We had no idea it was going to be like that, but it was really a family environment. I don't know if that was something specifically planned, but it much more than we even expected or thought.

Where did all this happen?

At his office and elsewhere. We were there for Midnight Madnes, and the coaches and their families, especially Coach K's wife, were all involved in a lot of what they were doing anyway, so we got to be around them on campus, at the office, at the gym, and throughout the program.

What were your main takeaways from that experience?

Just the fact that we got to sit down with Coach K and listen to him share his experiences was great. With the things he's done, it's almost unbelievable. He's done almost everything you can imagine, and just getting to sit down with him and listen to him…it's amazing.

Since the visit, have they communicated with you as much?

Oh yes. We talk with the coaches routinely.

It appears as though Duke has refrained from offering any other point guards aside from Tyus. Is that something that's discussed?

That is accurate, yes. We also talk about how things are going, and they've come up for a game so far. They want to know how his season is going, and how he's feeling about things. It's just really normal conversations.

Do you have more visits in the works at this time?

We have a visit to Kentucky coming up in January.

It appears, from published reports, that Coach Calapari is increasing his interest in Tyus of late. What are your impressions of the program as you prepare for this visit?

Coach Calapari is a really great guy, and he does a great job. He's in a bit of a different situation since he has kids coming and going very frequently though. He does an amazing job with that position, and he embraces it. It's amazing to see the results he has year after year considering that situation. He does an amazing job with what he does.

What has UK done to let you know the interest is ramping up with Tyus?

It is definitely different. The kids he recruits…they develop and move on rather quickly. It's definitely different and is something you have to consider when you are making your decision. He definitely gets the players who can come in and go on through his system. He has no problem move them on whatever the timeframe. That's something you have to take into consideration, if that's along the lines you want to go. He recruits the kids that are going to fit into the system he has established.

What kind of things do you evaluate with that approach and system when looking at how Tyus fits in at Kentucky?

I think you just take it as a consideration just like all the other schools. It's a great university with great academics and they have great people in their system. You just have to take everything into consideration and evaluate them as a potential fit. As we go there and see what the situation is at the university, I think we'll know as we visit and see each system and school I think we'll know what's right and what the best fit is.

At some point it'll be decision time. For some players it's earlier, whereas some wait until the proverbial last minute. Do you have any idea where Tyus fits in that spectrum?

I think it's really hard to say right now. I don't know when it's going to be. Right now there are just too many schools to visit and too much to take into consideration to say when he'll feel he's ready.

Have you thought of any other visits you'd like to take before starting to allocate the five official visits?

We will be getting to Kansas, although he has already been there before with his travel team. Right now, however, we don't have anything planned, and I don't ever know right now if there's anything else to plan before he decides on his officials.

Have you talked about the criteria used to narrow the list to the five schools who will get official visits?

No, not particularly. The criteria is all the same from what he's already looking for. It's a matter of him deciding on which five he wants to visit officially. That's really all there is to it.

It sounds like he's got a lot of room with the decision. Have you made a conscious decision to approach this in that way?

Yes, I think that's right. But, also, we have a lot of discussions about the places he's considering. Ultimately the decision is his, but it's not like everything won't be weighed and discussed as a family. But, ultimately, he's got to make his decision. I'm going to give my opinion, and we'll talk about what goes into this decision. When it comes down to making the choice, however, it'll be done with a lot of thought and going back and forth with one another. Everything will be out in the open amongst us, and then it ail be his decision to make, but not without a lot of discussion.

Who will be involved in that discussion?

My sister and brother in law have been the other two who have accompanied us on the unofficial visits, so they are in on the discussions as well. Other family will be involved as well. There's a group of us, but it'll be our family.

Anyone else going to have input?

For us, it's mainly just family. His high school coach and AAU coach are around to help him, but when it comes to the decision making process and the underlying discussions, it's mainly just the family.


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