By Dylan Lutey (@dylan_lutey)
Michael ‘Deuce’ Jones grew up surrounded by Division I hoopers in his family.
His father, Michael Jones Sr., played for Rutgers and his uncle, Gary Jones, played at La Salle. His cousin, Torrian Jones, played for Notre Dame and worked as an assistant coach for seven years at Delaware. Another cousin, Cameron Jones, played at Saint Peter’s.
He aspired to be the next in line. His goal was to reach the DI level and his dream was to play at either his dad’s or uncle’s alma mater.
Although it wasn’t straightforward, Deuce did just that. The 6-foot-3 College Achieve Charter guard announced his commitment to the Explorers and head coach Fran Dunphy on Wednesday, putting an end to a long and strenuous process.
“It’s a lot of relief,” Jones said. “It’s a lot of stress off me since I’m already committed. I get to play more freely and not worry about what other coaches think.”
College Achieve Charter guard Deuce Jones committed to La Salle on Wednesday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
It was a special ending, but an unforeseen one.
This time last week Jones planned to announce his commitment on Saturday, Nov. 4. He was choosing from a shortened list of four schools, which included Temple, Duquesne, Florida International and Fairfield. Jones also held offers from Delaware, Robert Morris, and Milwaukee.
The Stags had been in the most contact with him. There was a strong mutual interest between the two parties. Former assistant and now interim head coach Chris Casey recruited Jones “heavy” and “begged” head coach at the time, Jay Young, to see the 6-3 guard. Young, who stepped down as the head coach a few weeks prior to the start of the season, was also impressed with Jones after seeing him. He really appreciated the clear interest the coaching staff was displaying and took an official visit to the school Oct.19-21.
The Explorers were also in contact with Jones, but had not offered him due to a shortage of scholarships to give out. They were planning on offering the three-star guard in the spring, but he didn’t want to wait that long. That left the Stags who offered him on Sept. 21 as the clear favorites.
“They were the main school that was contacting me and they were trying to make Fairfield my home,” Jones said.
His ultimate goal would be achieved but his dream would not be realized — at least he thought.
When the La Salle coaching staff was notified about his commitment date, they had a meeting to re-think it over. That’s when a last-minute eighth offer from the Explorers came on Nov. 1.
It wasn’t immediately a done deal. Jones pushed back his decision date to give himself some time to think it over because of his relationship that he had built with Fairfield.
“I had a conversation with my dad and mom since I only went on one official, and it was to Fairfield,” Jones said. “I really liked the campus and bonded well with the players. I was hanging out with them for all three days (I was there). It was really comfortable for me to go there at first.”
Ultimately Dunphy’s pedigree, which includes 17 seasons at Penn, 13 years at Temple and the most wins by a coach in Philadelphia Big 5 history, in addition to his connection with Jones and his family won out.
“I had to think about it and say Coach Dunphy is a hall of fame coach and the Fairfield coach is just becoming a head coach,” Jones said. “I chose Dunphy because my uncle is best friends with him, my dad knows him and my cousin knows him. It was really, really smart for me to go there.”
In the process, he fulfilled a life-long dream.
“That was the offer I was waiting for; it was (one) of those two (Rutgers or La Salle),” Jones said. “It was definitely a dream growing up to be offered by one of those schools and commit. It was either I was going to follow after my dad or follow after my uncle.”
He ultimately followed his uncle, but it was both men who helped him with his development as a player. Jones started out playing football, but made the transition to basketball around the age of 9 and 10. His mom, who played high school basketball, also played a role in his development and was the one who got him a court early on.
“Once I started taking it seriously, I started working out with my dad and we still haven’t missed a day, “ Deuce said.
Everything has taken off since.
He started his high school career off playing two years with Trenton Catholic (N.J.) before transferring to St. Thomas Aquinas (N.J.) last season where he surpassed the 1,000-point mark.
Jones’ scoring prowess has always jumped out, but during his one year with the Trojans and head coach Bob Turco, he made a deliberate effort with his coach to become a more well-rounded player, which is evident in his season to season averages. During his sophomore season with Trenton Catholic he averaged 22 points and 3 assists. The next season with St. Thomas Aquinas he sacrificed some of his scoring (16 PPG) for more playmaking (6 APG).
“It was definitely intentional because I had to change my role,” Jones said about his adjustment. “Sophomore year I was a combo guard and going into my junior year I talked to Coach Turco, and he told me he needed me to be the point guard. I couldn’t be a combo guard and not pass the ball. I had to really change my role, but I was fine with moving the ball around and getting others involved.”
He has full confidence in his abilities translating to the next level and defense is an area he thinks he can stand out in, on the next level.
“Not a lot of people take pride in playing defense, but I take a lot of pride in playing defense,” Jones said. “My dad always told me, it doesn’t matter how good you are, coaches look for people who play defense. You get your minutes playing defense and I can definitely earn my minutes playing defense.
“I also bring energy, get everybody involved before myself, and score on all 3 levels.”
Jones will join a La Salle backcourt next season that will have to replace senior guards Jhamir Brickus and Anwar Gill. Star junior guard Khalil Brantley and redshirt-sophomore guard Andres Marrero are the team’s other key backcourt pieces as of now.
His future head coach has expressed similar confidence in his first class of 2024 commit.
“I’m not really worried about anything else, but I know what you're capable of and I know that you can impact us and help us win,” Jones said of Dunphy’s vision for him.
With the decision out of the way, Jones’ mind is In the present moment and his focus is on solely one thing: a state championship. He has lost to Roselle catholic in back-to-back years and is ready for revenge.
“That’s the big thing, winning a state championship,” Jones said. “I definitely got to get one this year.”