It was the final game ever for Mike Krzyzewski at Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Duke Blue Devils men's basketball coach last month. There in the first row, directly behind Coach K's family, who occupied the folding chairs on the court, were the Joneses.
Every time the camera panned in the direction of the Krzyzewski family during the emotional pregame and postgame ceremonies that dominated this memorable event, the Joneses were right there. They were there because Bates Jones is a reserve on the Duke team that is set for a rematch with the rival North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday at the Final Four in New Orleans (8:49 p.m. ET, TBS).
"You watch everyone start coming out and Coach K's family sat right in front of us and we were like, 'We could be part of the shot here for sure,'" Daniel Jones told ESPN recently in a phone interview. "That was a cool deal and a cool ceremony."
Once a family that leaned more Carolina than Duke because of their roots, there is no doubt where their loyalty lies now. Bates is a graduate transfer from the Davidson Wildcats -- he took advantage of the extra fifth year of COVID-19 eligibility to be a part of this special season for the Blue Devils. Ruthie is the starting goalie on the women's soccer team and an All-ACC first-team selection. Daniel was the starting quarterback at Duke from 2015 to 2018 before being the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft by the Giants.
ℝ𝕦𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕖 𝕁𝕠𝕟𝕖𝕤 𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕣𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕥 pic.twitter.com/bQ27djhh5W— Duke Women's Soccer (@DukeWSOC) January 27, 2022
"We're completely converted here," Steve said. "We're all-in Duke."
It's not hard to see why. The Jones children, from Charlotte, North Carolina, are building quite the legacy as Duke student-athletes. Ruthie has one more season as the starting goalie, was a 2021 ACC All-Academic Team selection and made the ACC academic honor roll. Bates is a reserve for one of the best basketball teams in the country that is in the midst of a magical ride in Coach K's final season. Bates has appeared in 26 games, averaging 1.4 points and is a grad student in the Fuqua School of Business.
Daniel is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Duke's history in addition to being a three-time ACC All-Academic Team selection. His name is all over the Duke football record books, having finished his career averaging the most total offensive yards per game (264.6) of any player.
"I think it has been cool. We've been lucky in a lot of ways. Being in Charlotte, a couple hours away [from Duke's campus in Durham], you obviously follow Duke as a kid and know of Duke as a school," Daniel said. "You know a lot of people that went to Duke. So going there and Bates and Ruthie going there has been cool for our family. It has been easy to get up and back. ... We've been lucky to be a part of what Duke has going on."
But it's this season, with his brother on the roster, that Daniel has become more into the basketball program than ever.
"Anyone who goes to Duke follows it. It's such a big part of life on campus there," Daniel said. "So I would watch games and follow it, but this year has been very different in terms of how many games I've watched and how invested I've been in it. It has been fun to follow them ... Duke basketball, that tradition and what it means to the school, is pretty neat."
Bates had several options when deciding where he could play and study during his extra year of eligibility. He could have gone elsewhere and played a bigger role on a lesser team. But he chose his brother's alma mater and the school his sister is attending because of the academic and basketball opportunities.
And it was not lost on the Joneses that this was Coach K's final season.
"The fact that it has been Krzyzewski's last year, you knew ... it was going to be special somehow," Steve said. "And it is every bit what people believe it is. Duke basketball is the real deal. They do everything you think they do that's good in basketball, and it works. [Bates is] proud to be a part of it. We all feel like it has been a privilege to be a part of it."
Look behind the bench at the Final Four this week and it's possible you will see the Joneses. There is no way they are going to miss this one. And because Bates is considered a senior and family tickets usually are distributed based on seniority, you know they are likely to have pretty solid seats at the Caesar's Superdome.
If the Blue Devils win their semifinal matchup against North Carolina, Daniel will try to be at the start of the Giants' offseason program Monday morning in New Jersey and at the NCAA title game in New Orleans that evening. He's going to do his best not to miss what is perhaps the last game his brother will play and the final game of Krzyzewski's legendary career.
The Joneses are all-in on this ride.