BROOKLYN — If you take any four high school basketball recruits in America and put them in the same room, and one of those recruits happened to be Tre Jones, it would be really, really hard to have the three other dudes who are considered to be better than him. Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils managed to do this in the class of 2018, as Jones (the nation’s No. 9 prospect, according to his 247Sports Composite rating) is joined in the class by the top three players in the country: R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, and Zion Williamson.
When you’re just looking at the number next to a player’s name, it can be easy to skim past Jones and just acknowledge his three future teammates, even though he’s the top point guard prospect in the class.
But don’t tell that to the rest of Duke’s incoming class. While some may see Jones as Duke’s other, other, other five-star recruit, Reddish told Dime during media day for the 2018 Jordan Brand Classic that he sees a future leader for the Blue Devils, saying that the team is “gonna follow Tre.”
Williamson repeated this sentiment, saying that while the team’s top-3 incoming recruits get the most attention, “At the end of the day, Tre is our point guard.”
Jones isn’t just Duke’s point guard, he’s the nation’s top point guard recruit and boasts a last name familiar to Blue Devil fans. His older brother, Tyus, manned the point for the team back in 2015, when Duke took home a national title. Having an older brother who also just happened to be a five-star point guard recruit who went to school in Durham is, understandably, a thing that impacted the way Jones plays.
“He thinks of the game at such a high level as well, being around that definitely helped make me who I am today,” Jones says.
Jones concedes that his older brother is a better offensive player, but he believes he has the upper hand on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ guard on the defensive end of the floor. Jones considers himself a “downhill player” and a leader who relishes having the opportunity to get after dudes on defense. On the other end of the floor, he’s a pass-first point guard who jokes that he might have to start working on bad passes to give Williamson the opportunity to make the highlight plays that he’s become famous for.
Williamson, who was unable to play in the Jordan Brand Classic due to a hand injury, sees Jones as a player who can impact the game in a number of ways, calling him “a walking triple-double” who “knows how to facilitate the offense.”
Reddish, meanwhile, sees a player who is going to go onto the court and fight every single night.
“He’s so competitive,” Reddish says. “He’s never gonna stop, he’s a dog on the defensive end, dog on the offensive end. I can’t wait to get there, take that from his game.”
Reddish was going to get the opportunity to take things from Jones’ game no matter where he went to school. That’s because Jones says the pair wanted to play together, and while they entertained offers at a number of schools, they eventually settled on the one that had been with Jones since the beginning.
Jones received a scholarship offer from Duke during his freshman year of high school. Krzyzewski traveled to watch an open gym in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Jones was there, as was then-teammate Gary Trent Jr., who averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a wing for the Blue Devils this year before declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft.
Up to that point, Duke had done its due diligence on the younger brother of their incoming five-star point guard, but hadn’t gotten to the point where it was ready to extend a scholarship. But upon watching Jones ball at an open gym, Krzyzewski knew he had to extend him an offer.
To Jones, knowing Duke was on him so early and the fact that his brother (and, eventually, his backcourt mate for several years in Trent) weren’t trump cards, even if Tyus being in Durham meant he was afforded the opportunity go have a little more insight on the school. He knew at the end of the day he had to make the right decision for himself, but in retrospect, Jones was impressed by Krzyzewski’s foresight.
“The things he was telling me he saw in the future for myself were spot on and they’ve all played out,” Jones says.
Reddish committed to Duke on Sept. 1, 2017. Jones committed a little more than month later on Oct. 13. Barrett came on board on Nov. 10, and Williamson stunned the college basketball world when he rounded out the class on Jan. 20, 2018.
Jones says he and Reddish had a group text to get the ball rolling on putting together one of the best classes in college hoops history before Barrett committed. Reddish lovingly says that in the confines of their group text, Jones is “a clown.”
Once he steps on the floor, though, Duke’s soon-to-be floor general is all business. He’s going to be surrounded by the three-best recruits in the country, sure, but Reddish has a message for the rest of the country: Do not sleep on our point guard.
“He’s a lead guard,” Reddish says. “It’s not hard to do that when he’s such a phenomenal leader. He talks offensively and defensively, tells you where to be, what you’ve got to do on and off the court. He’s great.”
By the time the four horsemen of the Dukepacolypse (the nickname admittedly needs some work) step onto the floor for the first time, the Blue Devils will already have the weight of the world on their shoulders. It would be extremely surprising if Duke isn’t a top-3 team heading into the 2018-19 campaign, and you can make a strong case that they’ll deserve to enter next year as the top team in America.
Since it’s Duke, though, success will be determined by the team’s ability to win the program’s first national title since 2015. Of course, that team’s point guard and the eventual Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four was Tyus Jones, so if any true freshman would understand what they’re getting into and what the expectations are of them, it’s his little brother.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a national championship,” Tre Jones says with a smile on his face. “Obviously you don’t wanna drop any games throughout the year, we’re all competitive, we want to win every game. Winning every single game, but at the end of the year, ultimately, just being national champions.”