Tyus Jones and the Faulty Measuring Stick for Undersized Guards

Mike Krzyzewski’s 2014-15 Duke Blue Devils have a peculiar dynamic that defines them.

Senior Quinn Cook is the unquestioned leader; freshman Jahlil Okafor, who is a finalist for the James Naismith Trophy, is the dominant force the offense revolves around; and freshman Justise Winslow is the one-man wrecking crew in transition, capable of earning and-ones against any defender who stands in his path. 

They are standout performers, the individuals everyone raves about, or hates (because, well, they are Blue Devils). 

The latter two names will most likely be top-10 selections in the 2015 NBA draft, if the freshmen choose to declare, that is, with Okafor sitting atop nearly every analyst’s mock draft. 

And then there is Tyus Jones, the anomaly. 

He possesses def touch from mid-range and beyond the three-point line. 

He can spot up and pull up off the dribble from virtually anywhere.

He beats defenders with a quick first step, preferably from the wing areas, which enables him to bait big men into stepping in his path, to which he responds by either dishing the ball to an open man or taking on the over-ambitious defender at the rim. 

He is the clutch performer for Duke, having closed numerous games with emotionally piercing plays. 

Recall the three-point dagger he twisted in the Virginia Cavaliers to give Duke a six-point lead in Charlottesville. 

Though Jones’s averages of 11.6 points on 42 percent shooting could lead some to scoff and claim that such statistics are decent but not overly impressive, the first-year guard has proven to be an all-around asset of immense value in Duke’s multi-faceted team.  

However, not all are convinced, as draft experts rank the Minnesota native considerably below his fellow first-year colleagues. 

Draftexpress.com, one of the leaders in prospect scouting services, projects Jones as a late first-round pick and ranks him as the twenty-seventh best player among those included in its 100-player big board. 

Basketball Insiders also ranks Jones at No. 27 in its top-100 players list.

The common late-round projection has been plastered on Jones because of his slightly below average size at the point guard position. 

According to measurements that were taken by USA Basketball in 2014, via Draftexpress.com, Jones measured in at 6 foot 0. 

He has grown since then, currently listed at 6 foot 1, 184 pounds.

Yes, height matters. 

And yes, strength aids in equipping one with the ability to ward off defenders when driving and the endurance needed to jostle for position with an opposing team’s best option on offense. 

But the areas in question cannot be used as the foremost determinants in assessing players, for there have been countless examples of valiant, tough guards who, not possessing intimidating girth, Herculean definition and redwood-like height, were feared because of their unmatchable prowesses in many areas. 

Muggsy Bogues, who was the smallest person on the court in every NBA game he played, listed at an astounding 5 foot 3.

He tormented defenses with smooth, seamless ball handling and creative genius exhibited while having the ball in hand wherever he was on the court. 

Bogues averaged 10-plus assists twice in his NBA career, including 10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 10.1 assists on 47 percent shooting during his 1993-94 campaign with the Charlotte Hornets. 

Plus, as a Wake Forest Demon Deacon, Bogues, like Jones, had to endure the taxing nature of play that ACC basketball has long been known for. 

To up the ante, think about future NBA Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson. 

No, he did not play in the ACC, but Iverson’s days of schooling overzealous Big East defenders who were foolish enough to try their hand at guarding him were nothing short of spectacular. 

During his sophomore season under the tutelage of John Thompson Jr. at Georgetown, the  6-foot-1 guard poured in 25 points per game on an ultra-efficient 48 percent from the field. 

And once he stepped foot in the NBA? 

Not much needs to be said, for his courageous persona and dissonant grace were simply game changing.

Still, career averages of 26.7 points and 6.2 assists aid nicely in conveying how great he was.

Numbers aside, Iverson continually laid his diminutive body on the line, as he would drive into the paint, where watchmen would await, and sacrifice his own wellbeing for the betterment of the team. 

Jones, time and again, has exhibited much of the same. 

Both Bogues and Iverson defied stereotypes that surround undersized guards. 

Sunday afternoon, when the Blue Devils take on the 8-seeded San Diego State Aztecs, Jones, just like his predecessors, will work to convey that size is nothing but a number. 


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