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Timberwolves’ Tyus Jones wins award honoring Flip Saunders’ legacy

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) and Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders confer during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on March 23. Justin Ford / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Flip Saunders Legacy Award is given each year to a Timberwolves player who has demonstrated excellence in community service.

As Wolves interim coach Ryan Saunders, Flip’s son, noted Sunday, April 7, the Wolves have “a number of worthy recipients,” but a vote conducted by the players determined that Tyus Jones stands above the rest.

Before Sunday’s game against Oklahoma City, Jones was named the award’s 2019 winner.

“It means a lot to me. I’m very appreciative of it,” Jones said. “Appreciative of everyone voting me the winner. It’s a very selfless award.”

Jones has a number of community initiatives, most of which center on giving back to the area youth, from donating Write Your Own Story learning labs to area schools to creating, and sometimes coaching, local AAU teams.

“I’m just trying to give back as much as I can,” Jones said. “I know a number of guys in this locker room could’ve won it. Just because we’ve got a lot of guys in here who give and who try to do really well and do a lot for the community. I’m just one of those guys, as well. Just trying to give back to make an impact on the youth as much as I can, and trying to do that in honor of Flip. I’m very thankful for this and just honoring his name.”

That Jones was honored with the award Sunday was fitting. That’s the same day the Wolves wore pregame warm-up shirts and pink shoes that were later auctioned off, with proceeds going toward breast health awareness. This all came in the wake of the Jones’ family announcement that Tyus’ mom, Debbie, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Obviously this is a special day for him,” Saunders said.

It’s one for the Saunders family, too. Ryan understands the value of being able to do something to keep the legacy and remembrance of a loved one alive and is appreciative that he has a platform to do so for his father.

“This is just a nice way to really, one, honor one of our players in terms of things they’ve done in the local community,” Saunders said. “A community that my dad loves so much and a community that my family loves so much, so it does mean a lot.”

In a statement, Debbie Saunders — Ryan’s mom and Flip’s wife — noted the Saunders family has gotten to know Jones well.

“We are so proud of Tyus and what he has done for local areas and communities across the region,” she said. “We have been impressed with his desire to give back to communities in our shared home state. I’m very happy the Timberwolves team have chosen him for this award.”

For the Wolves, Jones’ impact goes beyond what he does in the community. It extends to his presence every day in their locker room.

“He’s just a great guy,’ Andrew Wiggins said. “He’s a guy on the team that everyone loves and respects. And he looks out for everybody. He doesn’t treat no one better than the other person. He treats everyone the same. His character is out of this world.”