Aug 24th, 2007 by bobbyciafardini
By Bobby Ciafardini
NEW YORK – Rucker Park, the legendary real estate at 155th in Harlem, has been home to the game’s greatest streetballers, pros and college stars over the years, but Friday night the asphalt will belong to the nation’s top prep players when the second annual Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic tips off.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. and will feature 24 of the country’s top juniors, seniors and soon-to-be college freshman, regardless of grade or sneaker affiliation.
Last year’s game was the first of its kind and made history, bringing together the nation’s top seniors, including Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Kyle Singler. Top underclassmen included Tyreke Evans, Lance Stephenson and Brandon Jennings. Last year’s teams were named in honor of New York streetball legends Earl Manigault and Rafer Alston. NBA stars Jason Kidd and Ben Gordon participated as celebrity coaches for the game.
NBA ballers are expected again tonight at Rucker Park, both among the crowd and behind the benches. Organizers have celebrity coaches planned to man the prep squads.
Stephenson, already a crowd favorite at Rucker and on the New York City streetball circuit, earning the nickname “Sir Lance a Lot,” is one of the top city products returning to the roster this year. The junior guard led Lincoln High School to a state title last year and has been spoke about in the same breath as former Lincoln stars Sebastian Telfair and Stephon Marbury.
Rice product Kemba Walker, another hometown favorite, is fresh off his Entertainer’s Basketball Classic championship title last week as a member of Team RocStar. Walker, who’s known by the nickname “E-Z Pass” at Rucker, is a dynamic senior guard who can score and defend. He shows shades of a young Kenny Satterfield, a fellow Rice alum and former NBA player that he idolizes and teamed with at EBC in the title game.Nevada-bound senior Luke Babbitt, Norcross senior forward Al-Farouq Aminu and rising junior guard Kenny Boynton, Jr. also headline a terrific cast of prep standouts, several of which will likely star in the league someday.
Fans were also excited to hear Evans’ return to the lineup for 2007. One of the smoothest players in the country, Evans, an American Christian star, is one of the game’s top seniors. North Carolina-bound Ed Davis may have a big impact on the game as well, especially with his long arms and aggressive style at both ends of the floor.
Other notables include USC-bound senior Demar DeRozan, Indiana-bound Devin Ebanks and UCLA-bound Drew Gordon.
Oak Hill Academy’s Jennings, a flashy senior playmaker, will be looking to leave his stamp on the game as well. He wowed the Elite 24 crowd last year with his tremendous handle and Magic Johnson-esque no-look passes.
UCLA-bound combo guard Jrue Holiday, Putnam City standout guard Xavier Henry and Fayette County junior Noel Johnson are also capable of stealing the limelight Friday. Although Walker and Stephenson may have the biggest following in New York, Flushing product Sylven Landesberg from Holy Cross should be watched carefully — especially by the opposing defense. The sweet-shooting guard averaged 25.7 PPG last year as a junior.
One of the best big men in the game is Ohio State-bound center BJ Mullens from Canal Winchester in Ohio. His game is ever-improving. Mullens is talented, but not the tallest big man expected to suit up. That honor goes to John Riek, a 7-foot-1 native of Sudan. A defensive game-changer, Riek led Our Savior New American in Centereach, NY this past season.
The youngest player in the game is high school freshman LaQuinton Ross of Jackson, Miss. Despite his age, he’s shown flashes of brilliance and should be able to play with the big boys come tip off.
One of the most complete players on the roster might be Delvon Roe, the Michigan State-bound swingman who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds as a junior last year at St. Edward. Fellow junior Dexter Strickland of St. Patrick is a primetime scorer, too. He led his squad to state-title last year.
Louisville-bound Samardo Samuels, Georgia recruit Trey Thompkins, Oak Hill Academy senior Willie Warren and Artesia standout Renardo Sidney round out the field of 24.
InsideHoops.com will be on the scene. We’ll see which Elite star shows up big at Rucker.