SLAM 139: Graduation
After a host of memorable year-end events that took place literally around the globe, the high school class of 2010 is ready for the next level.
Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic
April 10, Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY
The state of Kentucky is one of the biggest planets in the hoop universe, so when future college stars aligned for the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, local hoop fans eagerly gazed on. Kentucky signee Stacey Poole garnered most of the pre-game hype, and showed promise, but it was Louisville loyalists who could be proudest as three outstanding Cardinal signees—Justin Coleman, Elisha Justice and Russ Smith—put on a show while leading the Black team to a win.
The White team controlled the first five minutes of the game until something happened. That something was Coleman, who aside from a game-high 24 points and Slam Dunk win brought an energy that Cardinal fans will soon get to admire regularly. At times, Coleman was reminiscent of former Louisville fan favorite Terrence Williams, with dominant athleticism and a persona that led him to sign his game-worn socks for a Louisville fan. “Wait, my socks? I just wore’em man.” Coleman said with a laugh. The fan, draped in red, only had socks as an option after Coleman gave away just about everything else to folks in the stands. With that personality, Coleman is the type of player who will fill up a stat sheet with style and impress just as much post-game. He’s also the type of player who can be molded by UL Coach Rick Pitino into an eventual dominant force in the Big East.
All this said, Coleman didn’t get quite as many cheers as future teammate Elisha Justice. Justice, Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball who committed to walk on at Louisville, showed a work ethic that would make Rudy Ruettiger jealous. How much work? He got a Spirit Award at halftime with a butterfly bandage under his eye from an injury received during the first half. Aside from sacrificing his body, Justice scored 12 points, most assisted by Smith—an athletic attacker with range in a PG’s body.
With these three on deck, the Louisville galaxy is sure to keep shining.—Sean Brown
Nike Hoop Summit
April 10, Rose Garden, Portland, OR
Minutes before the start of the Nike Hoop Summit, some NBA powerbrokers stood courtside at the Rose Garden schmoozing as layup lines stayed laced with highlight reel dunks. The likes of Steve Kerr, Kevin Pritchard, Geoff Petrie and a plethora of scouts had come to see the USA Junior National Select Team take on a World Select Team. They might have figured a record would be broken with the talent on hand, but it wasn’t by acclaimed preps Brandon Knight, Jared Sullinger or Kyrie Irving—it was Harrison Barnes and Enes Kanter who stole the show.
After opening the game with a deep three, Barnes showed why UNC coach Roy Williams fell in love with him, taking guys off the dribble with ease and dunking with emotion. And when the game was on the line, Barnes (27 points and 7 rebounds) delivered. With the USA trailing by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, Barnes’ late trey paved the way for a victory over the World Team, 101-97.
In a game with national pride at stake, the World Team’s Kanter was the story. A 6-10, 255-pound center from Simi Valley (CA) Stoneridge by way of Turkey, Kanter posted game-high totals of 34 points and 13 rebounds in 24 explosive minutes. Committed to play at Kentucky next season, Kanter broke the Nike Hoop Summit record of 33 points set by Dirk Nowitzki in ’98. “It’s probably one of the best I’ve seen in a long time,” World Team head coach Rob Beveridge said of Kanter’s performance.
As of last December, there were 53 former USA players and 15 former World Team members from the Hoop Summit who were active in the NBA. We’re guessing Barnes, Kanter and many more of this year’s players will be next.—Wendell Maxey
Jordan Brand Classic
April 17, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
The Class of 2010 culminated their high school careers with a bang, rattling the rims of the World’s Most Famous Arena. The night was full of highlights, some that had little to do with the game. Baltimore’s Josh Selby and NYC native Doron Lamb officially made their verbal commitments, to Kansas and Kentucky respectively, during the game.
Selby gave a preview of what we can expect from him in college with his flashy, high-flying guard play, finishing the night with 21 points. Another East Coast guard, Kyrie Irving, was definitely the crowd pleaser after putting on a show filled with lightning-quick crossovers, acrobatic finishes at the basket and dazzling passes. The Duke-bound NJ native was named co-MVP with 22 points and 7 assists.
Sharing MVP honors with Irving was his soon-to-be rival Harrison Barnes. The future Tar Heel demonstrated abundant skills, hitting a couple of three-pointers en route to 20 points and 15 rebounds. Barnes’ West teammate Tristan Thompson also had the paint on lock with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Our diarist throughout JBC Week, Terrence Jones, also held it down with a 17-point and 9-rebound performance. CJ Leslie apparently loved the feel of the rim as he went in for dunk after dunk, while Jared Sullinger played a big part in the East team’s attempted comeback with his dominant inside presence. Although the West held off the East 129-125, what will stay in everyone’s mind is how tomorrow’s stars shined under the Garden’s bright lights.—FC