Underclassman James quickly becoming 'the man'
Updated: Sunday July 08, 2001 10:32 PM
By Albert Lin, CNNSI.com
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- LeBron James found himself in an unusual position Sunday night during the first day of competition at the adidas ABCD Camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The 16-year-old rising junior was having a problem with his shorts. The drawstring had snapped, leaving his pants sliding down his rear with every step. The first solution, wrapping duct tape around his waist, didn't work. Finally, a new pair arrived. Standing on the baseline, James shimmied out of his shorts without hesitation, revealing a pair of plaid boxers. He looked up at the crowd and called out, "Sorry," bringing a few chuckles. Then he quickly dressed and soon got back in the game.
James usually undresses his opponents on the court, not himself. The 6-6 1/2 wingman from Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary exploded onto the scene back in January when he poured in 33 points as his team nearly upset perennial power Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, falling 79-78 to USA Today's top-ranked team.
In the intervening six months James has played so well that many recruiting observers, including CNNSI.com analyst Brick Oettinger, rank him as the top player in the high school ranks, regardless of class.
In fact, James is so good that a rumor circulated a couple weeks ago that he might look into increasing his class load during the upcoming school year with an eye toward graduating next June and entering the NBA draft as a junior. James, however, says that while he is definitely considering the NBA as a post-high school option, it won't be until 2003.
James had a hit-and-miss day Sunday, performing well in his team's opening game but looking completely uninterested during the evening session. Still, his skills are readily apparent. James shoots the 3 with ease. He can beat anyone off the dribble and has the ability to hang, hold off a defender and score off-balance. He is strong and physical (he was an all-state wide receiver last fall but hasn't decided if he will play football this year) and deceptively quick.
And his strongest asset, people say, is his passing ability and general unselfishness. James can play the 1, 2 or 3 and is said to have the transcendent skill of making his teammates better. Sometimes, though, as in yesterday's second game, a little me-first thinking might actually benefit everyone. His club was blown out and James didn't get the ball as much as he should have.
As Lenny Cooke, one of the class of 2002's top players, told James afterward, "You gotta go get it. You're the man."
Sign of the times
Three members of the class of 2005 -- incoming freshman -- are in attendance: a pair of 5-11 guards, Eric Price from Washington, D.C., and Dwain Williams from Murietta, Calif., and 6-8 power forward Joey Cameron from Calere (Ala.) High.
Cameron looks his age -- he turns 15 on August 4 -- but he clearly has a bright future. He is slender but plays powerfully, can run the floor and is a good leaper. Plus, his father is 6-5 and his mother nearly 6-foot, so Cameron could very well be a 7-footer by the time he stops growing.
"I was surprised [to be invited]," Cameron said. "I've been working really hard to get here, but I didn't know if they knew about me.
"This will be a good experience. I know not many eighth graders get the opportunity."
Though he still has a long way to go, Cameron said his college wish list includes Duke, North Carolina and Memphis. However, he also declared with complete sincerity, "My goal is to go straight from high school to the NBA."
Speaking of one-time eighth-grade wonders, last year's precocious star, 5-10 point guard Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln, has filled out a little bit but, alas, hasn't gotten any taller. His game, though, has definitely improved. Telfair played with more poise and assertiveness and threw several electrifying passes, including one that's impossible to describe in mere words. His cousin and idol, Stephon Marbury, recently was dealt to the Phoenix Suns by the pseudo-hometown New Jersey Nets, but Telfair said the move was necessary. "It's a better team for him," he said. "He wanted to be home -- that's the only thing bad about it. Everything else is good." ... Duke University had practically its entire program in attendance. In addition to coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistant Steve Wojciechowski, guards Chris Duhon and Dahntay Jones were working the camp as counselors; center Carlos Boozer was just in town to hang out; recruits Lee Melchionni and Sean Dockery were playing; and erstwhile Dukie Jay Bilas, now a broadcaster for ESPN, was working the stands. ... Other head coaches spotted in the crowd: Bob Huggins of Cincinnati, Billy Donovan of Florida, Mike Jarvis of St. John's, Pete Gillen of Virginia, Mark Gottfried of Alabama, Dan Monson of Minnesota, Bobby Lutz of Charlotte, Jeff Ruland of Iona, Bruiser Flint of Drexel, Danny Nee of Duquesne, Jerry Wainwright of UNC Wilmington, and ousted Wisconsin interim coach Brad Soderberg, now an assistant at St. Louis. ... Famous second-generation ballplayers: 6-6 swingman Dan Grunfeld of Nicolet (Wis.) High, son of former Milwaukee Bucks player and New York Knicks general manager Ernie Grunfeld; 6-2 wing guard Coby Karl from Homestead (Wis.) High, son of current Bucks coach George Karl; and Omar Wilkes from Los Angeles Loyola, son of former Lakers star Jamaal Wilkes.