Boys of Summer
High schoolers wowed recruiters—and NBA scouts—at a pair of big-time camps
For elite high school players, July is the critical month for impressing college recruiters and, increasingly, a time to catch the eye of NBA scouts as well. No player made a bigger name for himself this month than LeBron James, a 6' 7" forward who will be a junior this fall at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron. In a matchup that was the stuff of summer legend, James got the better of Lenny Cooke, a 6'6" forward from Brooklyn, in a hotly contested game at last week's Adidas ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J. "It seemed as if all week people were hyping it up like it was the game of the century," James said. "I just wanted to give everyone a good show."
Cooke is widely regarded as one of the nation's top seniors, but James outscored him 24-9, capping off the showdown by making a running 25-foot trey at the buzzer to give his team an 85-83 win. "He's the best high school player I've ever seen," one NBA scout says. "He's so explosive and versatile, and he has a great feel for the game. The guy is just a freak."
James may have been the talk of the ABCD camp, but he's no overnight sensation. His coming-out party occurred last Jan. 13, when he scored 33 points in a one-point loss to Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., then ranked No. 1 in the country. In March, James became the first sophomore to be named Ohio's Mr. Basketball, and in June he was the leading scorer (with a 24.0 average) at USA Basketball's Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, where 40 of the nation's top high school players competed in a four-day tournament.
However, James's performance last week did touch off speculation that he might be the first player to try to enter the NBA draft as a junior, which would require a legal challenge to the league's rule prohibiting such a move. Goaded by reporters, James said that it was a possibility, but he backed away from that stance last Friday, after returning to Akron. "It's not going to happen," said James. "I'm not going to give it any thought. I have friends here, and I'm not going to leave them. I'm going to graduate with my class and then see what happens."
Pitched Battle For Randolph
Shavlik Randolph had a bigger reputation than LeBron James coming into last week's Nike All-American camp in Indianapolis. Now he's learning what it's like to be a marked man. Despite lingering tendinitis in his left foot, the 6'10" post player, who will be a senior this fall at Broughton High in Raleigh, more than held his own against the other leading big men at the Nike camp.
Yet plenty of people—from bruising opponents to nitpicking NBA scouts—have been trying to knock him off his perch recently. Last week Randolph's hometown newspaper ran a story reporting that one analyst had rated him as only the fourth-best player at the Nike camp. The headline read RANDOLPH'S STOCK DIPS. "These rankings are for the birds," says Randolph's father, Kenny. "What's the difference between the Number 1 player in the country and the Number 10 player, anyway?"
A highly skilled power forward who is more likely to pull off an artful ball fake than a thunderous dunk, Randolph did nothing in Indianapolis to diminish his stature as one of the most coveted players in the class of 2002. For more than a year he has been at the heart of an intense recruiting battle made all the more intriguing by his Tobacco Road bloodlines. His grandfather, Ronnie Shavlik, was an All-America center at North Carolina State in the '50s, and his parents graduated from North Carolina.
Both schools are on Randolph's short list, but he says Duke is also one of his top choices, along with Florida, whose coach, Billy Donovan, flew to Raleigh last year just so he could stand in a parking lot and wave at Shavlik as he walked out of the gym. Not to be outdone, Tar Heels coach Matt Doherty sent Randolph a picture of Michael Jordan wearing a T-shirt that read SHAV COUNTRY.