March 28, 2007

The Stars Come Out At Night

What if we were to tell you that we witnessed the next generation of college basketball superstars playing a game of hoops tonight, is that something you might be interested in? We thought so.

Hoops Odyssey got a little preview of next year's crop of NCAA prime-time prodigies at the McDonald's All-American Game. And like most all-star games, regardless of age, location or sport, there was a lot of talent on display but not so much refined, well-executed ball.

Shattering the myth about Duke girls.

What I mean to say is, if you were looking for "team" basketball, you weren't going to find it at the McDonald's game in Freedom Hall. (The give and go was more of a give me the ball and I'll go.) But if you were looking for alley oops, behind the back passes, tomahawk dunks, long distance threes and full court no look passes, well you, my friend, were in business.

The Louisville arena had a circus-like feel right from the get go. The cheerleaders were local high school girls - talk about a disaster waiting to happen. Ronald McDonald kept massaging my shoulders. And the women's game, the first of the evening, started off with the East taking a 20-2 lead. It was not your typical night of basketball.


But, assuming you were able to ignore the puerile cheerleaders, a quick look around and you'd discover that you were in the presence of basketball greatness. Not only was the Wizard of Westwood present (check out our Wooden interview), but so was high school coaching guru, Morgan Wootten. There they sat at the scorer's table, the masters of the fundamentals of basketball, surrounded by the entertainment side of the sport.

It was amusing, to say the least. As the women's game wound down, the East still comfortably in control, the arena really started to fill up and get crazy. Matt spotted Bo Outlaw ten rows deep. Timbaland hung out in the tunnel to the locker rooms - he was on tap to do the half time show. And suddenly there were dozens of folks wearing green and yellow Huntington High School jerseys, where O.J. Mayo (USC) and Patrick Patterson (undecided) attend "classes."


It all felt very, um, well, professional...When the men's game was set to begin, I'd estimate half of those in attendance were on their cell phones, but as soon as the lights went out, the phones went off. Mayo and Patterson received the loudest ovations, followed closely by Eric Gordon, a future Hoosier. The Duke players were booed. Beautiful babies sat courtside, trying to catch the eye of the next great superstar.

Despite his reputation coming into the game and a large contingent of supporters, O.J. Mayo did not appear to be that superstar. He shot 4-17 from the floor and missed the game winning three with two second left. Instead, this contest was dominated by Michael Beasley (Kansas State), who had 23 points and 12 boards, and Nick Calathes (Florida) who dished out six assists and scored a timely 13 points.


Not that this event was about stats. It was more about style and showmanship. That's what brought the fans out. Every dunk - including one in particular by the tiny Johnny Flynn (Syracuse) where he posterized some West player who will go unnamed - brought Freedom Hall to its feet, while fast break lay ups drew boos.

When it was all over and the West had won 114-112, all the players were smiles and high-fives. Kids rushed the court seeking autographs and family members hugged their future basketball stars. After all, the score on the Jumbotron was history; everyone was looking to the future.

If there ever was a photo for a caption contest, this is it.

A Few Extra Nuggets

-The most meaningful part of the event was when Patrick Henry Hughes sung the Star Spangled Banner before the men's game. Hughes was born without eyes and also cannot straighten his arms or legs, but the boy can sing. Check out the Patrick Henry Hughes' story here.

-The most interesting match up of the night was Mayo vs. Gordon. The two guarded each other almost exclusively and they were both better on the defensive end. It seemed like Mayo could only get off fade-aways from behind the arc and Gordon couldn't hold onto the ball in the paint. It's a match up we'll hopefully see again at the next level.

Mayo and Gordon will both be top five picks in '08.

-Kosta Koufos (Ohio State) is listed as 7-1 and the program's not lying. This guy is huge. I heard a reporter talking courtside and he said that neither of Koufos' parents is taller than six feet. I wonder how tall the milkman is...

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Posted by Jacob Osterhout at 11:34 PM | Comment