MANALAPAN, N.J. — The MADE Hoops tour made its way to central Jersey this weekend with a mid-sized but high-level grassroots showcase held at several venues, though it was the Sportika sports complex’s seven-court facility that was home to all the top teams and games.
With sneaker-backed programs from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Jersey, New York and more in attendance, there was a ton of talent in the gym at the 15U, 16U and 17U levels, and though Division I coaches aren’t allowed out on the trail just yet, there was still plenty of buzz about some of the top prospects.
Here’s Part 2 of a notebook of recruiting (and more) info from Saturday’s action:
More weekend coverage:
Butts back and better than ever after health scare
It was shaping up to be a good freshman year for Manny Butts (2026 | Philly Pride 15U), the freshman forward at the Haverford School jumping right into a starting role and playing well, going through the usual growing pains of a 15-year-old at the varsity level but showing plenty of flashes of the player he could become.
Manny Butts (above) had his freshman season cut short by a potential heart issue. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
But midway through the season, a follow-up appointment to a health episode the year before gave his doctor some pause, so Butts had to shut it down for his freshman year and undergo a diagnostic procedure where cameras were inserted to check out his heart.
Thankfully, all was fine, and he was cleared to resume hoops activities in the spring.
“Definitely made me mad in a way,” he said, having to miss the final month of the season, “but I kept working out on my off time and now I’m back, I’m just happy to be here.”
Butts is a 6-7, 195-pound post, a promising young forward with some real upside, especially if he’s continuing to grow. He flashed his developing face-up game on Saturday in a loss to Team Melo’s 15s, hitting a pull-up 3-pointer when left alone from the wing, as well as a few tough buckets around the rim.
Not yet on college radars, Butts certainly will be before long; if he continues to grow and expand his game, he’s certainly on track to be a Division I player.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s been working with his grassroots coach from middle school, former NBA big man Marc Jackson, whose ‘Team Jacko’ squad was one of the tops in the area over those years. Jackson, whose son Shareef Jackson is a sophomore at Roman and one of the area’s top young forwards, has been working with Butts and other former Team Jacko players in his spare time, giving Butts a terrific mentor who knows exactly what it’s like to be a tall teenager with a ton of promise ahead of him.
“It’s great, he’s always honest with us, no matter what, he doesn’t sugarcoat everything,” Butts said. “He just wants us to be better, he doesn’t want anything from us but to be better, and to do the right thing, on and off the court.
“He always says ‘I wasn’t doing any of this stuff at your age,’ he just lets us know we’re ahead of where he was when he was [at] my age.”
That’s high praise from a guy who starred at Temple and then played seven years in the NBA as part of a 14-year professional career. Butts is trying to take it in stride.
“I try not to get way too far ahead of myself and be cocky, I try to stay humble and just keep the mindset that, okay, I’m a little bit ahead, let me keep working and see how much better I can get every day,” he said. “Just trying to stay humble with that mindset.” — Josh Verlin
Pa. product Palmer still on national stage
Harrisburg native Malachi Palmer (2024 | NY Rens 17U) has been one of the state’s big high school hoops names since before he attended Central Dauphin as a freshman three seasons ago. Palmer, a Class of 2024 guard, spent his sophomore year at Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.) but an ankle injury cost him most of his season.
Malachi Palmer (above) is playing with NY Renaissance this summer. (Photo:Owen McCue/CoBL)
Palmer got back to health for the grassroots season last year and played out of the state once again — though a little closer to home — as a junior powerhouse prep program Mt. Zion Prep (Md.). He showed off some of the advancements in his game on Saturday in a dominant outing against Philly Pride.
“I enjoyed the coaches, my teammates, just the environment,” Palmer said of his time at Mt. Zion. “I get to be in the gym a lot, so I feel like my game has developed.”
“I missed most of the season last year, so I was definitely glad to be back on the court and show what I can do.”
Palmer, a muscular 6-6 guard ranked nationally by most recruiting services, didn’t get into the specifics of his recruitment, but it's a long list of schools. He said he got a lot stronger and smarter over the course of the high school season. He’ll weigh the pros and cons of his options with his mom and dad later on this offseason with his top priority finding a place to get him to the pros.
“Whatever school’s going to help me develop my game on and off the court and being a better person and a better player, that’s the school I want to go to.”
Plenty of eyes will continue to be on Palmer, who is ranked No. 99 by 247Sports, this summer as he shares the floor with two of the Top 10 and three of the Top 25 players in his class with the Rens.
“I’m definitely super excited to play with other high-level guys like Dylan Harper, Naas Cunningham, Tyler Betsey,” Palmer said. “I’m glad to be playing with guys like that because we can all push each other and get each other better.” -- Owen McCue
Moussa Camara (above) is joining a brand-new college hoops program in South Carolina. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
— Moussa Camara (2023 | New Heights MHC) officially decided a few days ago to become part of a historic recruiting class for new Division II’s USC-Beaufort (S.C.), which will play its inaugural season in 2023-24 under former IUP associate head coach Ron Fudala. There’s good reason he’s still playing this spring as Camara, a 6-8 forward, has only been playing competitive basketball for two seasons.
After a growth spurt from 6-1 to 6-7 before his junior year of high school, Camara played hoops for the first time for Thomas Jefferson (N.Y.) in Brooklyn before playing at Eagle Academy (N.Y.) in the Bronx this past winter. While playing in an event down in South Carolina, Camara caught the attention of Beaufort, who was actually recruiting one of his teammates. Camara, who grew up in Manhattan and started as a soccer player, chose to join Fudala over several JUCO options.
“When I actually grew into my frame, that’s when I started taking stuff seriously,” Camara said. “I started working out more, started going to the park, working out with trainers and stuff.”
“Two years ago, if you told me I’d be here, it would be crazy. That’s why I’m just grateful.”
— It came as no surprise that Malik Washington has seven Division I offers; after all, the 6-5 guard from Archbishop Spalding (Md.) is a terrific athlete and all-around hooper, playing for a loaded 16U squad in the Nike-backed Team Melo program. But they’re not for hoops: Penn State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Arkansas, JMU and Duke’s football programs are all after him as a quarterback. The multi-sport athlete, who starts for both the football and basketball teams, has a busy summer ahead indeed, playing a mix of hoops and attending football workouts and doing 7-on-7 work. That being said, he’s not totally opposed to playing basketball at the next level, even though he said for now hoops programs have stayed away due to the football interest.
“It’s something I’d consider, never turn down an opportunity,” he said. “I’m out here for a reason — I’m also out here to have fun and stuff like that, but it would be nice.”
— Deywilk Tavarez (2023 | Philly Pride Select) is caught up in the fluidity that is spring recruiting as an unsigned senior. The talented 6-2 combo guard has had Division I offers over the course of the last couple years, though he spent much of 2021 and 2022 injured; he finally got back healthy this year and proved what he could do with a strong senior year for the Lions, but the transfer portal — and more importantly, an inflated number of college ballplayers due to COVID years — has him currently without one, and so he’ll be playing live period hoops with Philly Pride Select 17U over the final two weekends in April.
There was an offer from Hampton in January, but that’s no longer an option after portal moving and shaking; he did say he’s talking to Delaware State and has a visit there with head coach Stan Waterman on the 18th, and also mentioned he’s been talking to NAIA and JUCO types, calling them “an option.” Like others in his position, he’ll play the month out and see where things go from there.
— There’s so much talent in the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), it’s possible to be 6-6, athletic and talented and go under-the-radar. That seems to be the case with Davin Francis (2024 | Team CM3), who transferred from South Shore (N.Y.) to the MacDuffie School (Mass.) and repeated his junior year this season, playing under head coach Tyrone Boswell. Francis was strong for CM3 in an overtime loss to Pride Select’s 17s to close out the day, throwing down a big dunk and hitting a couple 3s, with a few good takes off the bounce and mid-range buckets, while playing strong defense all game long. He said he’s heard from LIU but that’s about it, and he’s hoping to show coaches this spring that he’s improved on his ball-handling and passing, to be able to play more of a ‘1’ and ‘2’ as opposed to the ‘3’.’