Tyus Jones, with a fresh Timberwolves cap on his head, hugged friends and family members at his draft party Thursday night in the downstairs of the 508 Bar and Restaurant, just a block from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
There would have been smiles no matter what, but lyrics from the Diddy/Skylar Grey song in the background explained why they were so much wider.
“I’m coming home.”
Indeed, the former Apple Valley prep star and one of the top recruits in the nation before leading Duke to a national championship in his only college season, didn’t stay away from Minnesota long. The Timberwolves made a last-minute trade with Cleveland, dealing the 31st and 36th picks in the second round and a future second-round pick for the rights to the prodigal point guard.
“I had a weird feeling in my stomach that I was going to be a Timberwolf,” Jones told a massive group of fans at his draft party, a group that chanted his name and swelled in number after Minnesota nabbed him.
Later, Jones said on a conference call: “I always wanted to play for the Timberwolves, to be a Timberwolf. Growing up in Minnesota, it’s the dream of every kid. To be able to call myself one, knowing I’ll put a Timberwolves jersey on, it’s really a blessing.”
News of the Wolves acquiring Jones broke just as No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns began a conference call with Minnesota media, leading to some amusing moments in which reporters tried to tell Towns that Jones — a pal from AAU basketball — was coming to the Wolves, too. Towns said it would be “awesome to play with Minnesota’s own” when asked about Jones.
Shortly after the deal was reported, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and head coach/President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders joined the frenzied scene at Jones’ draft party.
Inside the party, Saunders told Jones of all the work the team did to get him — he would say later that the Wolves started working at pick 14 to get Jones and that the deal didn’t emerge until the final two minutes the Cavaliers were on the clock at No. 24 — and told his new point guard that he’d better work his butt off.
That shouldn’t be a problem, as Jones has never been afraid to put in the time to build on what many consider natural point guard instincts.
“He’ll get you into an offense, and he’s a natural leader. Some guys have the ability to know how the game is played and the tempo of the game. And he never seems to get rattled,” Saunders said. “The bigger the stage, the better he plays.”
Jones, the Final Four MVP after scoring 23 points for Duke in their NCAA title game victory over Wisconsin, averaged 11.8 ppg in his freshman season.
“The energy was through the roof. This is why I decided to come home for the draft. Family and friends mean everything to me. I wanted to experience this with them,” Jones said. “To have it be the Timberwolves is the icing on top.”