Practice had ended at Chichester Middle School, but Derrick Jones' day was not yet finished.

He still needed to silence his two friends - who were also his biggest critics.

Each time the seventh grader tried to dunk, his fastbreak attempt clanged off the rim.

You'll never dunk, they said.

"And then I just did and everybody was happy," said Jones, who threw down a one-handed slam.

"I wasn't ready for the two-hand right then and there."

That practice, four years ago in a small Delaware County gym, was about the last time anyone questioned Jones' athletic ability.

Now a 6-foot-6 junior forward at Archbishop Carroll, Jones is one of the area's hottest basketball recruits thanks, in part, to his freakish athletic ability.

In an August dunk contest, Jones slammed over two 7-foot players. And he did it again two weeks later on national television.

He's the Catholic League's first five-star recruit on since Cardinal Dougherty's Kyle Lowry in 2004. ESPN ranks Jones as the nation's 18th-best junior and the best player in the state.

Jones' recruitment - which he labeled as "wide open" - includes scholarship offers from Connecticut, Cincinnati, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, St. Joseph's, Syracuse, Temple, and Villanova.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, Kansas assistant Norm Roberts, and a Maryland assistant have visited practices.

"I can see what colleges see in him: He's a kid that really has no ceiling," Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk said. "He can get stronger and bigger. His body can mature. He can improve to the point that the sky's the limit."

While Jones is credited for his flashy dunks, Romanczuk said the player often does not get the proper credit for his on-court knowledge. He knows how to play all five positions, Romanczuk said, and thinks like a point guard. "He's a savant on the basketball court," Romanczuk said.

Jones averaged 14 points last season as the Patriots advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state final.

Jones and Co. are the biggest threat to Neumann-Goretti, which is looking to become the first team since 1994 to win six straight Catholic League crowns.

"I think we have a great team," Jones said. "I'm looking forward a lot to just being on the court with a good team."

Along with Jones, the Patriots return four starters and have added senior point guard Austin Tilghman. The 6-1 Tilghman transferred from St. Andrew's (Del.) and plays on the same AAU team as Jones and 6-10 Patriots junior center Ernest Aflakpui. "I know how everybody plays," Jones said. "I can play with a point guard that I know how to play with."

Jones knows he needs to work on his jump shot, which Romanczuk said improved over the summer. Jones' ballhandling is so strong for a post player that Romanczuk allows him to push rebounds into fast breaks.

And his dunks add another facet, as he's able to attack the rim from almost anywhere on the floor and also put back rebounds with authority.

Jones said he doesn't work too much on his dunks.

"It just happens," he said.

After his seventh-grade season - the year he dunked for the first time - Jones said the "dunking just came."

"I didn't know I could get up that high," he said

At August's Big Strick Classic in New York, Jones said he was unsure if he could complete a dunk over two 7-footers. He knew he could clear the obstacle, but doubted his ability to send it through the hoop.

"When I got into the air, I just knew I was going to make the dunk," Jones said.

Jones did, in tomahawk style. And just as with his first one, he used just one hand.