MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Tyus Jones is no longer just a famous Minnesotan. He’s now a famous American.

The 18-year-old basketball player from Burnsville is the most valuable player from Monday’s NCAA championship game.

He was a standout in the cities, playing varsity ball at Apple Valley High School as an eighth grader.

Coach Rene Pulley, of the very elite Nike high school league, EYBL traveled around the country with Jones and was beaming with pride Tuesday.

He said quite simply Jones did Monday night what he did in Minnesota for years — set the table for his team and then, in an unselfish way, leaned in to finish the drill.

One year ago, he was a high school student living south of Minneapolis. Now he’s a college student in North Carolina, with a title few will ever bear.

“No one would have thought at 18 years old he could lead Duke to a national championship,” Pulley said.

And there are few that know Jones better than  Pulley. The EYBL coach got a call from Jones about five years ago to come watch him play, but there was a blizzard and he hesitated to drive across town.

“I thought of nine million reasons how I could not go and cancel this and he would understand, but I kept telling myself, ‘No, you told him you’d be there, you’ve got to go.”

Pulley said he watched three minutes of the then eighth grader playing varsity ball for Apple Valley and he knew.

“I said, ‘My god, he’s something special,’ and I knew we had to try to guide his career, get him a career path and get him going,” Pulley said.

So he did, traveling around the country with Jones, watching as Duke chose him and he chose Duke.

“I think Duke is a perfect fir for his personality and for him to continue to grow as a person and player,” Pulley said.

About the big game, Pulley said: “Tyus just kind of finished it off. I was so proud. It was hard not to tear up.”

Pulley shed tears for a kid he saw something special in, something the world can now see too.

Pulley said something else is coming from this: Jones is letting the world know that it’s not just hockey players that come from Minnesota.

And he does think Jones is ready for the NBA.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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