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September 2, 2006

Stars come out at Rucker Park

If you were looking for the best high school basketball players in the country, you could have found almost two dozen of them at New York City's Rucker Park on Friday night.

More than 20 high school standouts took the court for the inaugural Boost Mobile Elite 24 Basketball Classic, a gathering organizers hope will become an annual event.

Cloudy weather and a few rain drops didn't prevent fans or NBA superstars from coming out to catch the action. Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin were a few of the professionals on hand at the park.

The Goat Squad, which consisted of Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy guard Brandon Jennings, Lake Oswego (Ore.) center Kevin Love, Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's Prep forward Samardo Samuels, Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's Prep forward Corey Stokes, Philadelphia Neumann-Goretti forward Rick Jackson, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Meadowcreek guard Chris Allen, Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler forward J.J. Hickson, Medford (Ore.) South Medford forward Kyle Singler, Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick guard Dexter Strickland and Baltimore Towson Catholic forward Donte Green, was coached by Dwayne "Tiny" Morton of Lincoln (N.Y.) High.

The Skip to my Lou squad featured Phoenix (Ariz.) St. Mary's guard Jerryd Bayless, Brooklyn Lincoln guardLance Stephenson, Aston (Pa.) American Christian School guard Tyreke Evans, Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy forward Michael Beasley, Houston Episcopal center Deandre Jordan, Oakdale (Conn.) St. Thomas More forward Devin Ebanks, Irwinton (Ga.) Wilkinson County guard Senario Hillman, Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy guard Nolan Smith, Houston Aldine forward Gary Johnson, Bloomington (Minn.) Jefferson center Cole Aldrich, Dallas Woodrow Wilson forward Anthony Randolph and Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha guard Austin Freeman. They were coached by Cardozo's (N.Y.) Ron Naclerio.

Big names O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, Renardo Sidney and Corey Fisher were scheduled to play, but were unable to attend.

The two offenses started off slowly, as is usually the case in all-star games, but the 6-foot-11 Jordan made his presence felt early. He blocked the first two shots of the game, sending an attempt by Stokes into press row.

After the early struggles, Jennings and Bayless did a nice job settling down their teammates.

Jennings glided through Skip to my Lou's defense and found Singler and Hickson for first quarter dunks. Jennings also converted a 3-on-1 break.

Not to be outdone, Bayless penetrated through the Goat squad and found Aldrich for some emphatic dunks that made the crowd jump up off the bleachers. At the end of the first quarter the Goat Squad had a 35-29 lead.

If guard play dictated the first quarter, the second quarter was all about the forwards.

Michael Beasley displayed an array of moves and showed his versatility. The No. 1 player in 2007 according to Rivals.com, showed off his jump shot and his smooth moves around the basket.

For the Goat team, a lot of the inside dirty work was done by Hickson. He cleared space inside the paint for a couple lay ins and threw down a few dunks that literally shook the rim and hoop support.

Samuels also converted four easy baskets inside following offensive rebounds.

Now what kind of all-star game would this be without some one-on-one battles?

The second quarter saw a mini head-to-head between Stephenson and Strickland.

After hitting a jumper, Strickland whispered something into Stephenson ear. Stephenson answered by coming down the court and hitting a jumper in front of the Goat bench.

In the third quarter, Beasley took over. The Kansas State commitment scored on anyone who was in front of him. He scored six consecutive points for the Skip to my Lou squad. Two of those points came on a baseline dunk against Love, a UCLA commit.

Late replacement Erving Walker, the shortest player in the game at 5 feet 6, knocked down a couple 3-pointers for the Goat squad to keep things close.

With the Goat team leading 107-104 going into the fourth quarter, both teams started to get serious about winning the game. Naclerio stuck with Bayless, Stephenson, Beasley, Smith and Ebanks. Morton went with Jennings, Stokes, Hickson, Love and Allen.

With Skip to my Lou trailing late, they fouled Stephenson - who missed the first free throw and nailed the second. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Stephenson made up for the first missed free throw by stealing the ball from Allen.

As a result of the steal, Allen was forced to foul. Beasley would go on to hit one of two to give Skip to my Lou a four point lead.

Though the game was already in hand, Jennings gave the crowd something to cheer for when took off on a break and threw down a windmill dunk as time expired. Skip to my Lou defeated the Goat squad, 141-139.

Beasley and Bayless picked up MVP honors for Skip to my Lou. Beasley finished with 26 points and nine rebounds, while Bayless finished with 15 points, two rebounds and three assists.

For the Goat squad, Jennings and Hickson shared up MVP honors. Jennings ended up with 12 points and 16 assists, while Hickson finished with a game-high 34 points.

Some of the other high scores for Skip to my Lou were Stephenson (15) and Aldrich (14). For the Goat squad, Singler finished with 16 points and Love added 13.

"Playing in this game was a lot of fun," said Evans, who finished with six points. "Playing with these guys always brings out the best in everyone.

"Everybody wants to come out and play their best, but you also want to have fun."


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