Tre Jones arrived at Duke with solid second-hand knowledge on how to lead a national championship team.
The incoming freshman point guard’s older brother, Tyus, played the same position at Duke during the 2014-15 season when the Blue Devils went 35-4 to win the school’s fifth NCAA tournament title.
That knowledge, along with talent that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said has Tre more developed than Tyus at the same age, gives Duke a chance to again compete for a national championship next season.
“From just watching him so much and seeing the things he went through before,” Tre Jones said about his brother Wednesday, “some things I’m able to get a jump-start on so I won’t have to go through some of the same things that he did.”
Like Tyus four years ago, Tre Jones arrives as part of a top-ranked recruiting class with the highest of expectations.
Tyus came to campus with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen, Tre’s group of incoming freshmen includes five-star players R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson along with four-star forward Joey Baker.
“They’ve got a great, great group coming in, as obviously everybody knows,” Tyus Jones said Wednesday. “But I think what people don’t know is their chemistry already off the court. I think that’s something that helped my freshman class out. Me, Grayson, Jah and Justise were extremely close coming in off the court. That makes it that much easier once the season gets started when you get out there on the court and you start playing together.”
Tyus Jones was more than just a part of that championship team. He was renowned for his clutch play when he was named Most Outstanding Player at the 2015 Final Four.
The difference for Tre Jones will be the absence of veteran players. Tyus started in the backcourt alongside senior Quinn Cook, who had been a starter the two previous seasons.
The players with the most experience for this upcoming season are junior forwards Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden, who had just combined starts last season.
When asked who the team leader would be, Krzyzewski identified himself.
“Me,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday. “I’m looking for me to be the leader. And my staff.”
That said, good teams frequently have strong point guards that become leaders through their play. Krzyzewski did say Tre Jones has the skills to help Duke win big. But he also said this group of freshmen’s versatility is a major plus.
“They are more positionless players,” Krzyzewski said. “Even Tre is not just a point guard. He’s a guy the ball doesn’t stick in his hands much. Wherever it goes after he has it, it’s almost always good. He doesn’t pound the ball so that gives an opportunity for R.J., Cam and Zion. Those kids are good basketball players, and they can play all over the court.”
Duke is taking a foreign tour to Canada in August to play three exhibition games, which should be especially beneficial to this young team. The NCAA allows teams to take foreign tours once during a four-year period. Teams are also allowed 10 full practices in connection with their trip.
Tre Jones’ availability for the trip, though, isn’t certain. Krzyzewski said Jones is on campus “doing some rehab.” Jones said he “tweaked his hip” a little bit but that he’d be fine.
When asked whether he’d be good to go for the Canada trip, Jones said, “I think so. Maybe. I’m not sure about that. We’ll figure that out.”
Reddish is also on campus dealing with a health issue. He was wearing a walking boot on his right foot on Wednesday as he deals with a stress reaction that he said will sideline him for two or three weeks.
“Nothing serious,” Reddish said. “Just being preventative. I’ll be all right.”
Reddish said he is confident he’ll be healthy to play in Canada.
When the freshmen join the rest of the Blue Devils on the court, Tre Jones said, he’s ready to give the team the leadership it needs.
“I’m just going to try to be the greatest leader I can,” Jones said. “I’m going to try to set the tone on defense every single day that I come in here. Just doing whatever I can, doing whatever the coaches ask me to do to help the team win.”