Duke Basketball: Tre Jones’ season of giving spurs title dreams

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

If not for the play of a beyond-his-years freshman point guard, the Duke basketball team would still probably have a nice season, but it wouldn’t have as strong of a chance to end in a win.

The past provides proof: A prerequisite for any Duke basketball team to stand on a stage in April is the existence of either a pleasing-to-the-eye true point guard or a couple of savvy veteran combo guards.

  • Bobby Hurley, the all-time NCAA leader in assists (1,079), single-handedly fulfilled the requirement in 1991 and 1992.
  • Jason Williams and Chris Duhon, a pair of professional thieves on the hardwood, were more than enough to hang a third banner in Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2001.
  • Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, who both excelled at shooting and limiting mistakes, delivered the goods as upperclassmen in 2010.
  • Tyus Jones, who was Mr. Clutch and an ideal all-around floor general, was one piece the Blue Devils absolutely had to have in order to dance under falling confetti in Indianapolis in 2015.

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And that brings us to Jones’ younger brother, Tre, who is making a strong case for his inclusion on any list of best-ever Blue Devil guards while giving Duke basketball fans plenty of reasons to become giddy when dreaming of what lies ahead for the 2018-19 squad (the team sports an 11-1 record and No. 1 ranking entering the new year).

ALSO READ: Tre Jones earns his first ACC Freshman of the Week honor

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman out of Apple Valley, Minn., is — as the supremely creative official Twitter account of the Duke basketball program showed — the Blue Devils’ Santa Claus; in case you haven’t seen this video, and even if you have, enjoy:


Whether it be his thread-the-needle transition passes, his on-the-money lobs to Zion Williamson and Co. that result in momentum-changing dunks, his non-stop harassment of opposing point guards that consistently leads to fastbreak opportunities, his nearly turnover-free style of play, or his confident and competitive spirit, Jones has what it takes to guide the Blue Devils to the promised land: Minneapolis in April.

Here’s some of what Jones has already given the Blue Devils:

  • His assist and turnover totals through 12 games are slightly better, yet eerily similar, to those amounts through the first 12 games of his older brother — 67 and 13 for Tre and 66 and 18 for Tyus.
  • He ranks fifth in the nation and first in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.15). If that ratio holds up, it would blow away the previous program record of 3.03, set by Steve Wojciechowski in the 1997 season.
  • His 5.6 assists per game, if the season ended today, would be good enough for third-best amongst all previous Duke freshmen, trailing only Hurley’s 7.6 average and Williams’ 6.5 average.
  • His 13-point, five-rebound, five-assist, six-steal performance during Duke’s 69-58 win against Texas Tech in Madison Square Garden on Thursday marked only the 15th time — fifth for a freshman — in program history that a player has had at least 10 points, five rebounds, five assists, and five steals in a game.
  • His six steals against the Red Raiders trail only Shane Battier’s seven for most in a game by a Duke freshman.
  • His 2.0 steals per game, if not for averages of 2.2 and 2.1 from fellow freshmen Cam Reddish and Williamson, respectively, would be the second-highest mark of any freshman in program history — Williams’ 2.4 clip is the best — if the season ended today.

Now, it is true that his shooting could still use a little work — 46 percent from the field, 32 percent from beyond the arc, and 62 percent from the charity stripe — which would help boost his current 8.7 scoring average.

However, as Duke basketball fans have learned over the years, as long as a point guard excels in the categories listed above and is not selfish — Jones is anything but — a less-than-perfect stroke won’t keep the team from cutting down nets.

Simply put, so far this season, Jones is the gift that keeps on giving his teammates a strong chance to reach their ultimate goal.

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The Blue Devils next play on Jan. 5 at home against Clemson. The game will be on ESPN, but the time of the game is not yet known.