Elite 24 Recap
Rain-delayed, but still a dope game.
by Franklyn Calle
As SLAM colleague Adam Fleischer and I were on the train headed towards the famed Rucker Park, the threatening clouds signaled a long night ahead. And indeed it was. As we arrived at the legendary park at around 5:45 p.m., news quickly broke to us that the slam dunk contest was cancelled. So I thought ‘Ok that’s not a bad idea on their part since it was raining earlier in the afternoon and the court was still a little wet, making it probable for one of the prospects to get hurt’. By 6 o’clock, the rain started coming down hard again and I started loosing faith that this game would be played, not in Harlem at least. But the fact that there was free food for VIP and media personnel kept me in good spirits. So about 20 minutes later the rain stops and staffers rush to the floor attempting to get it dry using different tactics, from using towels to electronic heat blowers, but the fact that the clouds were still looking dark gave me an impression that they were doing all of this to no avail. And correct I was. Once they were able to get most of the floor dry, players began taking the floor for warmups. But within 20 minutes, the rain started coming down again even harder. And this time around it didn’t show any signs of stopping anytime soon. So the decision that should have been made at about 4 o’clock when it first started raining in New York City, was finally made at about 7:30 p.m. It was announced that the game was moved to Gauchos Gymnasium in the Bronx.
As the rain continued to come down hard and many of the crowd seemed discouraged about going over to the Bronx to catch the game, I figured there would be less of a crowd at Gauchos (the Rucker seemed to have been filled to capacity.) But I was wrong. As Adam and I arrived to Gauchos, there were tons of people waiting at the door. So the first thing I thought was that maybe they hadn’t started to let people in yet. But as I got closer to the glass door, I realized that the gym was already packed. Since we had already received our media passes back in Harlem, we were allowed inside the gym. The first thing I took notice is that there weren’t any seats available in the floor level, so we had to sit up in the balcony (nice view of the game actually). Later on in the night I found out that the police had to come outside the gym and tell the crowd of approximately 200 people to go home as the building was full to capacity and it was a fire hazard if any more people were let in.
Gauchos Gym was definitely full to capacity as there was standing room only with close to 1,800 in attendance at the small Bronx gym. I must also note that there wasn’t any air conditioning in the building which definitely didn’t help to the already hot and muggy Friday night.
Somewhere around 9 o’clock staffers started handing out dunk contest judging cards (you know the 10s and 9s and etc.), so I along with most of the crowd started thinking that we might have a dunk contest after all. But a half-hour later, still no action on the floor. And then somewhere around that time they decided to call it off- again.
So 9:42 p.m. hits and it’s tip-off! Although the game started close to three hours later than scheduled, I must admit that I would not be disappointed over the next two hours as the game was full of action and highlight reels. Most all-star games have no defense involved. But anyone that was in the building yesterday will tell you that that was not the case at the fourth annual Elite 24. Dudes were definitely scrapping!
The first quarter began with a 9-1 run by The Goat squad, with 8 of those points being either lay-ups or dunks. The Goat team, coached by Brandon Jennings, Kevin Love and New York Post NBA Columnist Peter Vecsey, had a comfortable lead for much of the quarter until the last minute and twenty seconds of the period in which the Skip To My Lou squad finished on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to two, at 26-28 after one quarter of play. That run was sparked by North Carolina-commit Kendall Marshall and his pretty move to the basket in which he started off with a cross-over followed by a punk-fake and then finished it off with a spin move to the basket. Then on the next two possessions hometown favorite Doron Lamb started to warm up as he hit back-to-back three-pointers. Lamb’s Oak Hill teammate Roscoe Smith would then finish of the quarter with a dunk. The most intense match-up of that quarter seemed to be Lamb Vs. Austin Rivers as the defense looked to be getting a little serious and obviously hyped up by the crowd.
Skip To My Lou, coached by Tyreke Evans, Rajon Rondo and Lincoln High School coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, started the second quarter strong with a 14-6 run to take a 40-34 lead. SLAM diarist Harrison Barnes led the run with 10 of those 14 points. Then the most talked about minutes of the game came. And it all involves Baltimore’s Josh Selby (right). The 6-3 guard became a crowd favorite with in seconds.
While on a fast-break, Selby blew right by Marshall for a one-handed LeBron rim-rattling type jam. Now I’m not going to say he dunked on Marshall like others are because I don’t feel like he was playing up-tight close defense on him but then again Marshall was the closest to the scene. One thing I will say is that the play was so crazy that fans went on court and the game had to be stopped for a couple of minutes.
And that was just the start. A couple of possessions later he once again had the place going crazy this time off an alley-oop lob from St. Patrick’s Kyrie Irving in which Selby went up in the air and caught it with one hand and flushed it down. Then on the very next possession, Erving throws the ball of the glass and Selby comes and catches it with the left hand for the jam.
And just like that, Selby officially became a New York favorite.
At half, Skip was on top of The Goat, 59-58.
Lamb took over in the 3rd quarter as he knew it was now his time to shine. He was attacking the rim strong, drawing contact and getting to the free-throw line. He hit this pretty tear-drop and followed it with a 3-pointer. But no he wasn’t just scoring. He was making plays happen as well. On back-to-back possessions he threw an alley-oop to Barnes. Literally the same exact play twice.
At the end of three quarters, Skip led 94-93.
Skip started off the fourth on a 30-14 run to take a comfortable lead and sealed the deal as Portland’s Terrence Jones and New York’s Tobias Harris made their final marks. Skip To My Lou outscored The Goat 39-27 in the last period to come away with a 133-120 victory.
For Skip, the MVPs were Lamb (below) and Harris. As you may remember last year, Lamb scored 25 points and got snubbed from MVP honors. I also remember John Wall only having 10 points in that game while receiving the MVP. And I’m Wall fan by the way but something just didn’t add up to me that night.
After what happen last year, Lamb assured me he was going to get MVP this year and to his credit he lived up to his word. How could they play him again this year after what he did on the court on Friday night? The 6-4 guard, who was actually playing in his home floor as he is a member of the New York Gauchos AAU program, finished with a game-high 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists (I actually counted about seven but whatever). Oh yeah and did I mention that he didn’t even start the game?
“I just had to go out there and play hard for my fans and I was in my own gym so I just went out there and got MVP,” Lamb told me after the game.
“I had to. Last year they jerked me. So I had to come out here again and try to get it,” said Lamb when I asked him if he felt he had something to prove this second time.
As for Harris, he finished with 20 points and 5 rebounds.
The MVPs on The Goat squad were C.J. Leslie and Selby. Leslie finished with a double-double, putting up 15 points,11 rebounds and two blocks. Selby finished 18 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
“I feel like I did great. I put on for Baltimore very well and I made my mom proud as well. I earned a lot of respect from different fans so I’m happy,” Selby said to me after the game.
“It seemed like they like me. Everytime I got the ball they were like ‘Go shorty do your thing’. So that’s a good feeling,” Selby said of the crowd. “I was just trying to get the crowd into the game.”
“We put on a show for the crowd. We gave them what they wanted.”
Aside from the MVPs there were a few others that stood out.
For Skip, Roscoe Smith finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds while Barnes and Memphis-commit Will Barton added 18 points each. Marshall only had 2 points but proved to be a true point guard as he tallied 8 assists. The Tar Heels are getting a great playmaker and team leader in this kid.
For The Goat, Irving had a good performance finishing with 16 points, 3 steals and 3 assists. Canadian native and Texas-commit Myck Kabongo added 16 points while Syracuse-commit Dion Waiters chipped in 15.
The game will not be televised on tape delayed tonight on ESPNU as it was scheduled due to the rain delay and change of venue.
The fourth annual Elite 24 game will not only be remembered for being the first indoor game, people will look back on it and just talk about how many future pros were on the court together in this late humid night in the South Bronx.
Photo Credit: ESPN RISE/Kelly Klein