When Tyus Jones decided to play college basketball at Duke, his family decided to attend as many of his games as possible.
Family members weren’t disappointed. Ultimately, they saw Jones lead Duke to the NCAA title Monday night when the Blue Devils rallied to beat Wisconsin on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Jones’ mother, Debbie (Deutsch), is from Devils Lake. His aunt, Darcy (Deutsch) Cascaes, starred for the UND women’s basketball program and later served as an assistant coach for Gene Roebuck, who led the program to three NCAA Division II national titles.
Experiencing the Duke ride, however, was something special, said Cascaes, who, along with her husband, Gregg, arrived back at their Twin Cities home Tuesday night after an exhilarating Final Four weekend in Indianapolis.
“When Tyus decided to go to Duke, we decided to take advantage of every opportunity we got,” said Cascaes, now the athletic director at De La Salle High School. “If we had a chance to go to his games we were going to do it because things like this do not happen very often.
“We wanted to experience it with him. It was an unbelievable year.”
Jones helped rally Duke from a nine-point second-half deficit to a 68-63 win over the Badgers. He also was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four championship game. He scored 23 points in the win, 19 coming in the second half.
Cascaes said her nephew is a quiet kid. “He’s extremely humble,” said said. “And he’s one of those kids who does not get too high or too low when he’s playing. He’s pretty even-keeled.”
Cascaes was involved in number of big games during her playing and coaching career at UND. The pressure of watching her nephew, however, is on a different level.
“It’s a different kind of nervousness,” she said. “Obviously, you want Tyus to do well.”
She said Jones’ year at Duke has been a great experience for the former Apple Valley, Minn., standout, who was one of the most heavily recruited high school players in the country.
“It was a hard decision for him,” said Cascaes of the recruiting process. “But we learned a lot. We wanted to take as much time and get as much information as possible. It was hard but in the end, Duke was where he felt the most comfortable.
“And his teammates and coaches are amazing people. Debbie feels so blessed he’s at Duke. Every time you talk to Tyus, you can tell he’s very happy there.”
Debbie Jones and Darcy Cascaes both have attended a number of Duke games this season, and oftentimes could be seen on TV seated behind the Blue Devils bench.
One of the games Jones’ immediate family attended this season was the Duke win over St. John’s in Madison Square Garden. The win was the 1,000th victory of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career.
Basketball success runs in the family. Debbie and Darcy both had standout careers at Devils Lake High School. Debbie, a 1982 Devils Lake graduate and all-state selection, helped her high school team to a North Dakota Class A state championship as a senior before going on to play at Lake Region State College. Darcy helped Devils Lake to Class A championships in 1984 and 1987 before playing at Lake Region and UND. She also was an all-state selection
Other family members to make the trip to Indianapolis included Scott Deutsch, Jones’ uncle, and Sally Deutsch, Jones’ grandmother.
The play of Jones down the stretch in the title game didn’t surprise his uncle.
“You could sort of tell he was going to start taking over,” said Deutsch, who is the director of events at Scheels Arena in Fargo. “Tyus had a great game. Once the stage gets a little bigger he always seems to play better. That is the way it has always been for him. He is a very confident player and a humble kid.”
It’s been a hectic basketball season for the Jones family. Last month, Tre Jones -- Tyus’ younger brother -- helped lead Apple Valley to the Minnesota state Class AAAA championship.
Duke won the national title behind the play of several freshman. Now, the talk is whether the freshmen on the team -- including Jones -- will turn pro before next season.
That remains to be seen. For now, the Jones family wants to soak in what happened.
“When you watch games on TV, it’s so different than when you’re there and a part of it,” said Cascaes. “The experience is completely different. Now, we’ll take some time and watch the game again on TV. At that point, it will all probably sink in what happened.”