The decision to return to school became clear in the first moments Tre Jones truly had to himself after the end of his freshman season. On a flight back home to Minnesota, shortly after Michigan State ended Duke’s run at a national title, Jones was alone with his thoughts.
He was headed toward a city where the Final Four would be held that weekend, just half an hour from where Jones grew up, but without his team in the mix. That same weekend, the Timberwolves would recognize his mother, Debbie, in her ongoing battle with breast cancer.
Jones is playing a second season under head coach Mike Krzyzewski to win an NCAA championship. Tre’s decision is unlike that of his older brother, Tyus, who played for the Timberwolves before signing with the Grizzlies this offseason. It is also different from those of lottery-pick classmates Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. It is uncommon for players with pedigrees similar to Jones’.
“Trying to bring a national championship back here, I want to be one of those guys that kind of changes the way of how things are going – not going to the NBA if it’s not the perfect fit right away,” Jones said. “Everyone just wants to go straight to the NBA no matter what, they don’t think about the long-term decision or what’s really best for themselves.”
The underclassman and team tri-captain was Duke’s “heart and soul last year,” according to associate head coach Jon Scheyer.