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Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
8/26/2007 10:21:00 PM

Takin' it to the Street

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
NEW YORK -- Games at Rucker Park tend to be as much about the emcee, who roams the court with a wireless mic, spewing non-stop commentary and verbal diarrhea, as they are about the basketball. In Friday night's Elite 24 Hoops Classic -- the entertaining streetball stepbrother of the McDonald's All-America game -- there was zero defense played, 333 total points scored, and tons of hot air added to the already sultry Harlem night. The emceeing is an integral part of the scene, and some of it is solid, like when Ohio State-bound center B.J. Mullens suddenly acquired the nickname That '70s Show because of a mild resemblance to Ashton Kutcher; or when Arizona-bound point guard Brandon Jennings, who dominated the evening with 23 assists and 19 points, graduated from his '06 Elite 24 nickname, "Do Be Doo," into "The Takeover."

At its low points, though, the micsmanship devolves into name-checking the roster of celebs in the park. It was nice to know the first time that "We got Fat Joe in the house," but less helpful the third and fourth and fifth times; it felt like listening to a street version of Dick Vitale without a street version of Dan Shulman to occasionally right the ship. We were also told thrice that "Georgetown guard Reggie Sapp" was courtside before the announcer was informed the name was incorrect; it then became, in an attempt to overcompensate for the mistake, "Georgetown sensation Jessie Sapp, who went to the Final Four." If Sapp is a Hoyas sensation, then what was Jeff Green?

I'll spare you a nuts-and-bolts report of the game, which Rise Mag aptly recapped. Basically, Jennings' team won 169-164, and he stole the show with an amazing array of open-floor passes, including an alley-oop to USC recruit DeMar Derozan right off the opening tip. Jennings originally committed to the Trojans before controversially switching to Arizona, and after the game told me that he has aims to woo Derozan to Tucson: "I talk to DeMar a lot about coming to Arizona, so we'll see what happens down the road," Jennings said. "I'm going to keep bugging him 24-7."

While USC fans digest that unsettling news, let's embark on a photo tour of the Elite 24 using shots from ace photog Geoff Leonard, who sweated through three hours of camera-work on Friday. His first shot, below, followed by my comments:

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
This was the "Skip To My Lou" squad, with (from left to right) 2009 top player Renardo Sidney, NYC stud Lance Stephenson, UCLA-bound Jrue Holiday, Mullens and Michigan State-bound Delvon Roe. The two things I was most interested about with this bunch: 1) Stephenson appears to be so in with Adidas, who sponsors his Lincoln High team, that he had custom blue-and-orange kicks for the game. 2) Mullens has a Gothic "B" tattooed on one forearm and a "J" on the other. Very un-Kutcher-like.

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
From the zero-gravity portion of the evening, we present Mr. Roe, a future Spartan, cruising past Mr. Jennings. Watching Drew Neitzel hit threes is OK and all, but this ... will be slightly more exciting.

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
Yes, the man next to the Gatorade is Tark, fulfilling his celebrity coaching duties in long sleeves on a humid evening by the end of which 90 percent of the spectators had sweat through their shirts. Sitting next to him is Stephenson, who scored 39 points and would have been prime UNLV material in the early '90s. For the talent and the baggage.

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
On the left: Williams, Jason (with Duke T-shirt). Center: Joe, Fat (with ice). Possible topic: How awesome everything was back in 2001.

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
Baron Davis went head-to-head with Tark in the celeb-coaching battle, and Davis' team won. Perhaps Baron's inspirational halftime message, which consisted of him standing around on the court, shooting threes righty, then lefty, was the difference. Nets point man Marcus Williams did not give any speeches either; he had just had his tonsils removed a few days earlier (seriously -- he hoarsely informed the blog of the operation).

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
There was a VIP tent where everyone mingled afterwards, eating catered fried chicken and posing for photos like this one, in which Mullens flashes an O-State sign and cleverly manages to keep his inner-forearm tats out of the frame. In an error more egregious than the Reggie/Jessie Sapp business, the emcee initially said Mullens was headed to Nevada. It was Luke Babbitt, who has committed to the Wolfpack. He looks nothing like Kutcher.

Rucker Park
Geoffrey Leonard
If you look back at the Baron Davis photo, you'll see a guy with incredibly long appendages reclining on The Goat Squad's bench. Same guy here, forced to sit at the front of the bus to stretch out after the game. His name is John Riek, a 7-foot-1 center who arrived in the U.S. from the Sudan in January as a complete unknown ... and is now being recruited intensely by UConn, Duke, Syracuse, Florida and Georgetown. Riek, the subject of a great Daily News article from earlier this month, does not speak English well but is a surprisingly polished center who could end up being a Lottery Pick. He's listed as a 17-year-old senior-to-be at Our Savior New American School in Long Island, but appears, a la Greg Oden, extremely "mature" for his age. One current college player who witnessed Riek during his summer explosion at the Amare Stoudemire Nike Skills Academy told me, "He looks like he's old enough to rent a car."

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posted by Luke Winn | View comments (1) |

1 Comments:

Posted: 12:24 PM   by Blogger frank m h
Well done article, like usual. So when should i come and interview for your assistant job. I need to get paid watching and writing about college basketball teams and recruits. Sounds like my kind of gig.
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