HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (N.J.) - The Made Different Foundation Exposure Weekend Basketball Camp concluded with its high school session at Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy on Sunday afternoon. The event hosted by brothers Kyle J. Smith and Sean Smith featured rising talents from various counties in central and southern New Jersey. Here's a look at a handful of standouts from Sunday's camp finale:
Michael "Deuce" Jones (2024 | St. Thomas Aquinas, N.J.)
Jones was a standout at the Made Different Foundation Weekend Exposure Basketball Camp as a result of his ability to create separation off the dribble and shoot consistently from all spots on the floor. The 2024 guard exhibited a quick initial step that helped bait defenders in the opposite direction, opening lanes for him with his quickness.
He was also able to knock down multiple step back 3-pointers from the top of the key, forcing opponents to overcommit on his shot fakes and penetrate the interior, leading to open looks off the dribble and wider passing lanes when eyeing teammates on the wings.
His pace downhill is deceptive, which makes it difficult for defenders to decipher whether to close out on the perimeter or anticipate an upward gear shift and open their hips to defend the dribble and beat Jones to a spot.
After spending previous summers with Team Final, Jones spent the 2022 grassroots season voyaging the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit with New Jersey Scholars. He mentioned competing alongside players such as T.J. Robinson (Bishop Walsh, M.D.), Jaylan Hornsby (Camden, N.J.), Khaafiq Myers (Neumann-Goretti, P.A.) and Tristen Guillouette (St. Joseph's Prep, P.A.) , and labeled the experience as a rewarding one.
"Most of the kids on there I've been playing with since seventh grade," Jones said. "I'm real comfortable with everybody. They just made it feel like home. We probably had about 10 kids that could start. I was with the 16s (this year), but had to play 17s one time just to qualify for Peach Jam."
"We went to Boo Williams," Jones added. "Kansas City was probably the best (tournament) that we went to."
The NJ Scholars guard currently holds three NCAA Division I offers from Delaware, Robert Morris and Temple. He has garnered interest from George Washington, VCU, Seton Hall and Boston College.
"George Washington just text me," Jones said. "I'm supposed to be going on a visit there soon. VCU, Seton Hall texted. It's a couple other schools. Boston College (is one). That's really it."
Jones' is grateful for the opportunity to continue his family's basketball lineage. His father, Michael Jones, Sr., played at Rutgers and his uncle, Gary Jones, played at La Salle.
Deuce is excited to create his own personalized story.
"It's a great opportunity," Jones said. "It's letting me know that they're interested in me playing in their system. It's a great experience. Not a lot of kids can say that they have one or two D1 offers so I just never take it for granted."
Jones announced he plans to transfer from Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy to St. Thomas Aquinas in Edison, New Jersey. He helped the Iron Mikes post a 22-5 record and earn a spot in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state championship in 2022. Jones averaged a team-best 20.8 points per game and was named an All-Non Public Third Team selection by NJ Advance Media.
The Trojans went 27-2 last season and return a nucleus with championship aspirations in 2023.
"I made (the decision) about three weeks ago," Jones said. "Terrell (Pitts) and J.P. (Jalen Pichardo) and a couple other kids, they just make me feel comfortable transferring there than any other school. I'm really excited. Everybody takes workouts serious. It's no playing around. Everyone is focused because we all trying to get to one goal. And our goal is to win states."
Terrell Pitts (2023 | St. Thomas Aquinas, N.J.)
Pitts was named the Most Valuable Player at the Made Different Foundation Exposure Weekend Basketball Camp on Sunday. The 2023 combo guard thrived when attacking the baseline off the dribble and exploding towards the rim with authority. Pitts is most comfortable when utilizing the corner in the half court as a home base, allowing him to cash in on spot up, long range shot opportunities and/or lane creation that often leads to his verticality being showcased with highlight reel dunks.
"It's definitely good to come down here and just play with kids from the area," Pitts said. "I haven't been to a lot of events in Trenton because I have been busy with school in Philadelphia for the first two years and then up close to North Jersey."
The athletic guard can also shoot efficiently off the dribble and make wise decisions in the open court. Pitts' high IQ is on display in transition as he often knows when to deliver a timely lead pass to a teammate and when to maintain his dribble and attack the basket under control. Defensively, Pitts has shown his ability to utilize his length to disrupt passing lanes and strip the ball from opposing guards.
The incoming senior currently holds a pair of Division I offers from Nebraska and Saint Peter's.
"I got them my freshman year before COVID when I was at Bishop McDevitt in Philadelphia," Pitts said. "(Nebraska) got a new coaching staff. I haven't been in touch with Nebraska, but Saint Peter's I've been in touch with and we've been talking."
The Trenton, New Jersey native also stated that he has generated interest from NCAA Division I schools Saint Francis (P.A.) and Boston University, and Division II institutions East Stroudsburg and Chestnut Hill.
"The schools that reach out a lot are definitely Boston University and East Stroudsburg," Pitts said. "Them two reach out a lot."
Pitts played two seasons at Bishop McDevitt (P.A.) before the parochial school closed its doors. He transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas for his junior year and averaged 13.5 points per game in his first season with the Trojans (27-2 record).
"The intensity is still the same (as it was) from Bishop McDevitt," Pitts said. "Playing in the Philadelphia Catholic League, it's definitely a slower pace and like a half court game compared to Jersey. It's just up and down, up and down. It's faster in Jersey, so (it's been an adjustment) getting used to playing faster and going up and down the court more."
Pitts will team up with Michael "Deuce" Jones (see above) in the Trojans' backcourt in 2022-2023. Both guards are natives of New Jersey's capitol city and are looking forward to the opportunity of shining a positive light on Trenton. Pitts is determined to use basketball as a vehicle to transport him to future success.
"It's definitely exciting to be from Trenton," Pitts said. "Not a lot of people make it out of here so I'm just trying to make it out. With Deuce coming, it's going to be even better. We just plan on doing big things up there."
Nfii Bannavti (2024 | North Plainfield, N.J.)
Bannavti showcased a brand of aggressiveness and passion that coaches on all levels, from youth to the pros, desire. The bulky-framed, 6-foot-1 shooting guard fearlessly attacked the rim under control and absorbed contact well in the lane. The North Plainfield product was terrific landing on two feet and maintaining his balance when exploding vertically towards the rim. Bannavti also made defenders pay for leaving him unattended beyond the perimeter, particularly in transition from the top of the key. Although his long distance capabilities are most efficient from the wings, Bannavti showed levels of comfortability with the ball in his hands in the open court and the willingness to shoot off the dribble in transition. The 2024 guard plays with a purpose and meticulously finds ways to outsmart his opponent. The incoming junior averaged a team-best 10.2 points per game at North Plainfield last winter and scored a career-high 17 points on three separate occasions.
Jeton Brice (2023 | Burlington Township, N.J.)
Brice was at his best when incorporating an elongated crossover dribble to gain a lead step on a defender and create an open route towards the rim. Brice's quickness allows him to get to the rim and finish off the glass and/or initiate the space to land and spin off his pivot foot to score in the lane. He is a threat from beyond-the-arc and shoots with precision from the corner when the defense collapses on the interior. Brice's familiarity with the wings and corners in the half court also allow him to anticipate and find teammates dashing towards those spots for open looks. The 5-foot-9 guard charted significant minutes off the bench for Burlington Township last winter and should move into the starting lineup in 2022-23. The Falcons posted a 21-9 record, reaching the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 final and falling to eventual state champion Woodrow Wilson, 47-40.
John Paul Dickerson (2023 | Nottingham, N.J.)
Dickerson is at his best when near the basket. The 6-foot-3 guard is a high volume finisher at the rim that can utilize both hands to score. He possesses a sense of awareness on the court that allows him to dive behind the defense and score from precise angles. The Nottingham southpaw showcased his underrated passing ability in transition with a series of timely lead passes resulting in matchup advantages for his team in the open court. Dickerson has the confidence to zip an accurate, one-handed pass down the length of the floor as opponents have their backs to the ball, setting his teammates up for lay ups. He also showed he has the IQ to decipher when to take a chance and deliver a pass with accumulated distance, and when to keep the ball in his hands and attack downhill. The incoming senior uses his athleticism to slash from the wing and often caps possessions with a slam dunk when given an open lane. Dickerson averaged 12.9 points per game for the Northstars (19-8 record) last winter and exploded for a career-high 26 points in a 63-57 setback to Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.).
Hyshon Cannon (2024 | Hamilton West, N.J.)
The Ewing (N.J.) transfer impressed with his tendency to capitalize on defensive lapses. The 6-foot-4 point guard sees the floor with a keen eye and knows when to pull the trigger from beyond-the-arc or penetrate the lane, forcing the defense to collapse. Cannon's inept ability to create for himself and his teammates often leads to productive possessions because he has the ability to score from any spot on the floor, in addition to being able to switch hands at the rim or find an open teammate when a help defender commits to his drive. The 2024 guard showed his ability to pay attention to detail in drills, which enabled him to incorporate precise footwork in live action. He's capable of using his length and balance to initiate separation and sink turnaround jumpers over defenders in the lane. Cannon averaged 10.9 points per game last winter at Ewing and tallied a career-best 24 points in an 84-65 win over West Windsor-Plainsboro South (N.J.).
Mekhi Lott (2024 | Hamilton West, N.J.)
Lott exhibited his ability to shoot with precision. The 2024 guard has textbook form, keeping his elbow positioned symmetrically beneath the basketball and completing the process with a smooth, high-arching follow-through. He's comfortable shooting off the dribble, but is at his best getting to a spot and creating a catch-and-shoot opportunity. Defensively, the athletic guard plays with a willingness to defend his opponents' primary ball handler. His defensive hustle has led to erratic guard play, generating turnovers and transition opportunities for his teammates. Lott connected on 32 3-pointers for Hamilton West last season and tallied 6.1 points per game. The incoming junior is the Hornets' top returning scorer.
Jahan Scott (2024 | Princeton, N.J.)
Scott thrived playing alongside Michael "Deuce" Jones (see above) in five-on-five scrimmages at the Made Different Exposure Weekend Basketball Camp. The defense's constant focus on Jones opened up opportunities for Scott on the perimeter. More importantly, Scott consistently cashed in on those chances by making his shots. The 2024 guard was deceptive with his cuts and found effective ways to navigate the court without the ball in his hands. Scott's dives towards the basket led to easy lay ups, and he flashed his ability to finish with both hands. The 6-foot-1 incoming junior will be a key piece for Princeton (4-15 record last season) going forward.