All-American Championship Recap
The young guns show off their skills in NOLA.
by Dave Spahn / @davespahn
photos by Steve Puppe
In between all the insanity and craziness that goes on during the Final Four, especially a Final Four in one of America’s biggest party cities, the All-American Championship game proved to be a high-quality event. With four teams representing the east, west, north, and south regions of the country, the top ballers from across the nation gathered in the Big Easy to compete for bragging rights.
Leading things off for the day was the game between the East vs. West squads. Nerlens Noel, the nation’s top player in the class of 2012, created the pre-game buzz, but Omar Calhoun (a UCONN recruit, below right) stole the show for the East squad en route to an 84-72 win. Calhoun dropped 26 points for the East squad and knocked down buckets every time the West tried getting back into the game. The east big men had a hard time containing future Texas Longhorn Cameron Ridley, but the East squad had too many big time plays and never gave up the lead in the second half.
Chris Obekpa tallied four blocks for the East squad and protected the rim at a high level. Dajuan Coleman (a Syracuse commit) grabbed a game-high 12 boards, and future Providence Friar Ricardo Ledo finished second on his squad in scoring with 15 points. Omar Calhoun took home MVP honors for the East squad, proving to be the only kid at the event who scored over 20 points.
“This game had the best players in the country, so for me to get named MVP was definitely special,” Calhoun said. “It showed me that my hard work is paying off, but it also shows I need to stay humble and hungry.”
The second game ended up coming down to the wire and ultimately being taken by the South squad. A back and forth battle all night, the North squad surrendered an 85-81 lead with 50 seconds left in the game and fell 86-85. Braxton Ogbueze (Florida commit) sank two free throws with 9 seconds left to put the South up 1, and Mike Gesell’s mid range jumper hit every part of the rim before ultimately falling out.
Glen Robinson III (Michigan pledge, below left) led the North team with 16 points and put a stop to many South runs throughout the game. Future Wisconsin Badger Sam Dekker may have been the most impressive player on the North team, scoring his points in a versatile style and became a matchup problem offensively every time down the floor. Adam Woodbury (Iowa recruit) had the only double double for the North, grabbing 11 rebounds and scoring 11 points.
Local product and Baylor pledge Ricardo Gathers poured in a team-high 16 points for the south squad, but Joel James put together the best overall performance for the South. His double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds does not do justice to how much he took over the game during his time on the floor. He got his body in great shape and is an absolute terror for any big to guard down low. He threw the North team big men around like rag dolls and had a huge block against Marc Loving with 30 seconds left that kept the game alive. He walked away with MVP for the South and left his mark on all of the players at the event.
“I tried to use this weekend as a stepping stone to gauge myself against these great players going to these top schools,” explained James. “Winning MVP shows that good things happen when you hustle.”