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Prime Time Shootout

February 11, 2003 Columns No Comments


Prime Time Shootout Recap

by Phil Kasiecki

The 2003 Prime Time Shootout was held in Trenton, New Jersey on February 7-9, after games were played in Elizabeth, New Jersey on the first day. It featured some of the nation’s best players and teams, though the focus was clearly on Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St. Mary’s phenom LeBron James. Saturday’s games were sold out on account of James’ appearance, as the crowd was noticeably smaller in the game that immediately followed it and on other days.

Those who were around on Saturday just for the one game missed out on some other good games, as the tournament had plenty of good matchups and good talent.

Here is a recap of some of the best games this past weekend and some of the notable players.

Upset Denied

Philadelphia (PA) St. John Neumann had visions of pulling off a big upset of national power Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy on Friday night. Oak Hill started the season ranked number one by most publications, but lost to LeBron James and St. Vincent-St. Mary’s earlier this season.

St. John Neumann ran out to a 9-0 start, aided by Oak Hill missing several close shots. The Warriors would pick it up in the second quarter, led by Connecticut-bound point guard Marcus Williams (game-high 16 points). They scored the last 8 points of the half to go up 38-25 at the break.

But the Pirates weren’t done yet. Junior point guard Rich “Tabby” Cunningham led a late run that eventually brought them within 58-55, but the Warriors made plays down the stretch. Cunningham, who played well in spurts, had 15 points for St. John Neumann.

Mr. Clutch

One of the more interesting matchups on Saturday was that of a young Jackson (MS) Lanier High School team against the well-coached and well-balanced Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s. Syracuse-bound senior guard Louie McCroskey hit his second shot at the buzzer in the fourth quarter, making a 16-footer right as time expired to give St. Raymond’s a 71-69 win in a game that was tight throughout.

McCroskey, a 6’4″ shooter who made good plays off the dribble in this game, also beat the halftime buzzer to give the Ravens a 38-33 lead. St. Raymond’s asserted itself for most of the second half, but the young guys at Lanier hung tough and eventually used the press to force turnovers and run off 15 unanswered points to take a 65-61 lead in the latter part of the fourth quarter.

Monta Ellis, a 6’2″ sophomore point guard, led Lanier with 25 points before fouling out. He’s a speedy point guard who missed a few shots in close and was a little out of control at times, but he showed some good promise and will be worth watching.

Finishing Strong

Columbus (OH) Brookhaven led for a good portion of the first half, but never broke open their game with Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American. With 17.5 seconds left, a dunk by Oklahoma-bound forward Brandon Foust capped off a 21-point effort to give Brookhaven a 53-51 win.

Foust, a 6’6″ combo forward, is a great athlete who can play either forward spot. He got several dunks during the game and is very active at both ends of the floor, impressing with his ability to play both forward spots. Oklahoma fans will be pleased with him and current teammate Andrew Lavender, one of the better point guards in the class of 2003.

And Then The Game Was Played

The game everyone came to see was the Saturday night matchup between Los Angeles (CA) Westchester and Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St. Mary. While LeBron James was the primary attraction, Westchester had a senior star of their own in UCLA-bound combo forward Trevor Ariza.

In the early going, it looked like Ariza and friends might steal the show, as Westchester got hands on many passes at the defensive end and a couple of easy fast-break baskets to score the game’s first six points.

Then James awakened.

He would score the last 18 points of the first quarter for his team in between two air balls as they led 20-14 after one. In the second, Westchester struggled on offense and James continued to knock down three-pointers, outscoring the Comets for the half as he had 31 points and the Irish led 41-24 at the break.

In the third, James brought the sellout crowd (albeit with an appreciable number of apparent no-shows) to its feet with consecutive breakaway dunks, and continued to knock down long range shots. He wasn’t just hitting open shots, as a defender in his face didn’t bother him, and after three quarters he was right behind his previous career high of 50 points, as he had 47.

Just under two minutes into the fourth, he tied his career high on a free throw, then hit a baseline fade-away jumper from about 16 feet with under four minutes to play to pass it. With the game well in hand (the Irish led 78-45), James went out with 2:30 left to play, finishing with 52 points.

If not for a Westchester three-pointer just before time expired, James would have outscored the Comets all by himself. Instead, he settled for the tie as the Irish blew out Westchester by a score of 78-52.

Small Crowd, Good Game

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of seats in Sovereign Bank Arena were empty for the final game of the evening, which is unfortunate since the game was a good matchup between Winston-Salem (NC) R.J. Reynolds and a loaded Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s team that won the Slam Dunk to the Beach Tournament in December.

R.J. Reynolds had a 32-30 lead at the half, but Massachusetts signee Art Bowers helped the Graybees take control in the second half en route to a 69-55 win. Bowers was named the game’s outstanding player after scoring 20 points, and he continues to be one of the more fun players to watch in the class of 2003. Unfortunately, only a small crowd got to see him in another day at the office.

Watkins Quietly Impresses

The highlight reels had a few plays with Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy junior guard Isaiah Swann, but Paterson (NJ) Catholic senior center Darryl Watkins had a nice game of his own in his team’s 64-55 loss on Sunday.

Watkins has been an enigma, but it looks like he is rounding into form even if he isn’t quite the type of player one would like the 7-foot, 235-pound big man to be. He isn’t one to power his way to the basket on the post, instead being a very finesse player and using his very good mobility. He did that en route to 23 points, while hauling down 9 rebounds and blocking 4 shots. The unsigned big man runs the floor well and can hit shots from about 16 feet away with a good touch.

Swann, one of the top juniors in the nation, was named the game’s outstanding player with 16 points, a few coming on breakaway dunks that got the crowd going.

Down to the Wire

Blairstown (NJ) Blair Academy was originally supposed to play Houston (TX) Westbury Christian in a game featuring three of the nation’s consensus top ten seniors. Instead, Blair took on Durham (NC) Mt. Zion Christian Academy, and it made for an excellent game.

Mt. Zion jumped out early, but Blair came back in the second quarter to take a 36-28 halftime lead. The game was nip-and-tuck for most of the second half, but Duke-bound forward Luol Deng would not be denied in the final minutes. Deng led a late run of nine unanswered Blair points, then sealed it with two more free throws as they held on for a 67-64 win.

Deng finished with a game-high 28 points, including making all 13 free throw attempts. He isn’t flashy and always has the same game face on, but his talents and winning abilities are hard to miss. Junior shooting guard Albert Webber led Mt. Zion with 21 points in a terrific shooting effort, and Philadelphia native Tasheed Carr played well in scoring 19 points.

An Entertaining Blowout – Not an Oxymoron

Although the game between Middle Village (NY) Christ the King and Syracuse (NY) Christian Brothers Academy was never close in the second half, the game was well worth watching. Christ the King came away with a 76-51 victory behind 24 points from senior guard Mitch Beauford, but the score doesn’t give an appreciation for the game.

Beauford made a couple of acrobatic reverse layups and a dunk that got the crowd going, with help from fellow senior point guard Japhet McNeil. McNeil doesn’t have the long braids that used to get fans’ attention before he showed off his great passing ability, but he still knows how to run a team. He made several dazzling passes, whether on the go or in the halfcourt, and is very much a pass-first floor leader.

Besides that, CBA played a nice brand of fundamental basketball that on several occasions involved excellent ball movement and player movement without the ball. They also sport one of the nation’s top sophomores, 6’2″ point guard Greg Paulus. Paulus is an excellent passer, handles the ball well, and is deceptively quick. He struggled shooting in this game, but his stroke looks good. He finished with 17 points in the game.

Telfair Leads A Rare Win Over St. Anthony’s

It’s not often that Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s loses a game these days, as the Friars are a traditional national power. Even with the graduation of their entire starting backcourt, they are still one of the nation’s top teams this season.

Enter Sebastian Telfair and Brooklyn (NY) Abraham Lincoln High School. Telfair is the cousin of Stephon Marbury, and his name has been known since he appeared at the Adidas ABCD Camp before he played a minute of high school basketball. At times, many have thought he has been over-hyped, especially this past summer when the great talent and depth of the class of 2004 became apparent. Nonetheless, he belongs in anyone’s top five prospects in the class.

Telfair started out slowly, but got going in the second half after his team trailed 31-29 at the break. His long range jumper wasn’t falling, but he used his quickness to get to the basket and also made some short jumpers en route to a game-high 26 points as Lincoln came away with a 65-61 win.

Syracuse-bound forward Terrence Roberts capped off a good weekend with 17 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out. He made some highlight-film plays and was very active defensively and on the glass.

Before the game, a moment of silence was observed for the passing Saturday night of the mother of St. Anthony’s head coach Bob Hurley. Our condolences go out to Coach Hurley and his family.

Other Players To Watch

A few players that will be worth keeping an eye on this season and beyond were at the Prime Time Shootout. Those not mentioned earlier include:

Kimmani Barrett (6’4″ Fr. SF, Paterson (NJ) Catholic)
David Burton (6’5″ So. SF, Philadelphia (PA) St. John Neumann)
Marcus Johnson (6’2″ Fr. SG, Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St. Mary)
Marcus Johnson (6’6″ So. SF, Los Angeles (CA) Westchester)
Brian Laing (6’5″ Jr. SF, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s)
Chris Martin (6’0″ So. PG, Middle Village (NY) Christ The King)
Sean McCurdy (6’1″ So. SG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s)
Derrick Mercer (5’8″ So. PG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s)
Benedict Nwachakwu (6’8″ Jr. PF, Richland (NJ) St. Augustine Prep)
Marcus Williams (6’2″ Jr. PG-SG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s)

Shootout Notes

After his press conference on Saturday night, LeBron James walked back out in the open area and was rushed by young fans wanting autographs. He signed plenty, but eventually continued walking and left the arena with his team.

Among the notable faces in the crowd on Sunday were Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, North Carolina head coach Matt Doherty, Rutgers head coach Gary Waters, Pennsylvania head coach Fran Dunphy and Yale head coach James Jones.

     

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