Powerade Jam Fest Recap
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By Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Much like All-Star Saturday Night that the NBA has during its All-Star weekend festivities, the Powerade Jam Fest functions much in the same way as it is a precursor to the McDonald’s All-American Game. With events like the skills competition, 3-point shootout and the dunk contest, the Jam Fest gives people an opportunity to see just how talented some of the elite HS basketball players in the country are.
This year the McDonald’s game comes to Chicago and the Jam Fest was held last night at the Jones Convocation Center on the campus of Chicago State University on the city’s south side. Unfortunately, earlier in the day at practice two of the Jam Fest participants suffered injuries, one serious enough to knock him out of the event.
Khem Birch, a 6-9 F who is originally from Canada but played his HS ball in Massachusetts and is committed to play at Pittsburgh next year, took an inadvertent shot to the eye which caused some bleeding and swelling. He was scheduled to be in the dunk contest and was thought to be a late scratch but still managed to gut it out with a bandage above his left eye.
Just prior to his injury, hometown kid and Louisville commit Wayne Blackshear suffered a separated shoulder on what appeared to be just an innocuous screen set by a defender. He immediately hit the floor but then got up rather quickly and managed to make it off the court and onto the sideline where he was tended to by trainers. He was later transported to Rush Medical Center and the confirmation of a separation was released hours later.
Said Blackshear, “I don’t even really remember what happened. I was coming off a screen and I got bumped the wrong way and felt a pop in my shoulder.
“I went to the hospital as soon as it happened. My sports doctor was there and he said it was a dislocated shoulder and that I should sit out… It’s very disappointing.”
Blackshear was scheduled to compete in both the dunk and 3-point contests, but due to his injury he was a scratch from those events but even worse, he won’t be able to play in the game on Wednesday either. Here’s wishing Wayne a speedy recovery.
As for the events, on the girls side the skills competition was won by Ariya Crook-Williams from LosAngeles, CA who is committed to play ball at USC next season. She finished with a time of 32.1 seconds. Said Crook-Williams on her victory, “The most important thing is having speed and everything else will come naturally if you concentrate.”
On the boys side the skills contest was won by Michael Carter-Williams from South Hamilton, MA who is committed to play college ball at Syracuse next season (represented by having a giant “S” shaved into the back of his head). He finished with a perfect round and a final time of 26.2 seconds in spite of a slight hiccup during prelims. After the last pass before the dribble weave into the layup to finish the run, there was no ball on the stand for him to grab. He was allowed to repeat it and his second time vaulted him into the finals.
Said Carter-Williams on the preliminary round snafu, “There was no ball there. I didn’t know what was happening and they had to throw me a ball so I could finish. I’m just glad they let me do it again.”
In the 3-point competition, on the girls side the event was won by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis from Anaheim, CA. She’s committed to UConn next season. During the prelims she shot lights out with 22 points and cleared both the third and fourth racks without a miss. She won the event in the final round with 17 points.
“Shooting is definitely my game,” said Mosqueda-Lewis. “That’s mostly what I’m known for.”
For the boys, Kyle Wiltjer, another Canadian who played his HS ball in Oregon and will suit up for Kentucky next season, won the 3-point competition. At 6-10 he’s a very skilled and versatile big and considering the field, some might be shocked that he actually won it. But Wiltjer thought otherwise and was extremely confident in himself.
“It makes me tougher to defend if I can shoot the ball because [defenders] have to guard me out there and they have to respect my shot. There’s a prejudice that big men can’t shoot, but I just like to prove them wrong.”
The highlight of the night was the dunk contest which was judged by local celebrities including the great Chicago Cubs short stop and first baseman, “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, Chicago Bears TE Greg Olsen and Head Coach Lovie Smith.
It started off great with Marshall Plumlee, a 6-10 big originally from Warsaw, IN but who plays his HS ball in North Carolina and who will follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, Miles and Mason, and play his college ball at Duke. His first two dunks were amazing and really got the crowd excited.
Chane Behanan, a 6-7 wing from Bowling Green, KY, committed to play at Louisville and PJ Hairston (Wayne Blackshear’s replacement), a 6-6 wing from Norfolk, VA who’s committed to play at North Carolina had nice showings as well.
The showmanship award of the night definitely went to Austin Rivers, a 6-3 guard from Winter Park, FL who’s also committed to Duke and is the son of Doc Rivers. He donned his dad’s Atlanta Hawks jersey and went out and completed two crowd pleasing dunks. One, a windmill off the toss coming from out of bounds on the left baseline, the other, originally supposed to be a toss from the stands by Myck Kabongo, a 6-1 guard who is also represents Canada and who played his HS ball just outside of Las Vegas at Findlay Prep, but they couldn’t get the timing right.
Instead, Rivers just finished with a windmill off the lob which still garnered a lot of cheers from the crowd.
Said Rivers at the practice earlier in the day on his participation in the dunk contest, “People don’t think I can jump that high, but I’ve got a 40-something inch vertical. I’m just going to go out there and show my jumping ability and do some cool dunks.”
LeBryan Nash, a 6-7 wing from Dallas, TX who will play his college ball at Oklahoma State next season, won the competition with some nice displays of power. He capped the event off by dunking in a huge orange foam Oklahoma State cowboy hat that brought a lot of smiles to those in attendance. Said Nash, “I tried to be creative and give the fans what they wanted which was a show.” And on wearing the foam cowboy hat in which he’d never practiced dunking in before Nash said, “My momma told me to get it; you gotta listen to your momma.”