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InsideHoops [HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL] Nov. 14, 2003

Sebastian Telfair has priorities in order




CONEY ISLAND- Sebastian Telfair had every reason to forego college and enter the NBA Draft. That's why he didn't; he's not like everyone else. He does things one way; his way.

About two weeks ago Telfair, the nation's most prized high school basketball recruit verbally agreed to attend the University of Louisville and play for coach Rick Pitino. While many experts figured the point guard would jump straight to the NBA, he didn't feel it was the right move.

Telfair makes sure each decision he makes is the correct one. His bloodline of basketball roots doesn't give him much of a choice. He is the cousin of NBA all-star Stephon Marbury and half-brother of Jamel Thomas, a former starting forward for Providence who now plays professionally in Europe.

This type of support around Telfair has put him a position to succeed. But that's something that was never in question.

After bursting on the scene as a freshman at the Adidas ABCD camp in 2000, Telfair became one of the most well known high school basketball players in the country. There was even talk that he might become the best point guard to ever come out of Brooklyn; a borough that produced Marbury, former North Carolina star Ed Cota, and Indiana Pacers' guard Jamaal Tinsley.

With these types of expectations, Telfair began his quest for glory and chased after it like the bulls in Pamplona.

For the past four years, Telfair arrived at Coney Island's Lincoln high school early in the morning and took part in a rigorous training program. Each morning he lifted weights, took approximately 1000 jump shots, and ran the stairs numerous times.

It's this type of work ethic that separates Telfair from the rest of the New York City legends. And while many have only dominated on the asphalt, Telfair has done it where it mattered most.

For the past two seasons, he has directed the Railsplitters to the New York City PSAL championship, leading them in both scoring and assists. But while he dazzled spectators at Madison Square Garden and elsewhere around the nation, Telfair's most memorable moment occurred in Glens Falls during the Federation Championship game last March.

And it came off the court.

The matchup with Christ the King was a supposed to be a showdown between two of New York top point guards, Telfair and Japhet McNeil (East Carolina). But while the game see sawed back and forth and into overtime, the Railsplitters found themselves in a battle, and Telfair found himself on the bench.

A questionable call forced the Lincoln star to the bench with his fifth personal foul in the biggest game of his life. However, the Railsplitters rallied and 6"7 forward Antonio Pena dominated the extra session, leading Lincoln to a narrow 75-73 victory and the Federation crown.

When the game's MVP award was given to Telfair, he couldn't accept the honor. He found Pena, raised his hand, and rested the plaque upon his teammate's chest.

Not many people would expect a teenager to show this type of maturity. But not many people are like Telfair.

He knows what lies ahead and what it takes to get him there. He simply focuses on the next task and puts everything he has into it.

After appearing on the cover of SLAM two summers ago with LeBron James, Telfair's million dollar smile became a regular sight in the media.

He recently appeared in article in ESPN the Magazine and has had feature stories written about him across the country.

His close relationship with James raised speculation that he may follow his predecessor and jump straight to the league. But he doesn't buy into the hype.

Even when the lure of becoming the first person 6-feet and under to jump right to the NBA entices him, he knows it's not the right move for him. He's not LeBron, he's himself, and that's the only way he wants it.

Now he's committed to a solid program in Louisville and a solid coach in Pitino. With the resurgence of Louisville basketball and a top-notch recruiting class, Telfair should be the missing piece to what drives Pitino back to the Final Four.

But that's a long way down the road and for Telfair, and there are many tasks to be completed before that.

It begins with defense of the city championship and a brutal regular season schedule that includes an appearance at the prestigious Slam Dunk at the Beach tournament in Delaware in December.

But it's the thought of becoming the first player to ever win three straight PSAL New York City championships that excites Telfair. That's the next task, so that's what he'll be concentrating on.

He'll do it one way, his way. That's the only way he wants.

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