2004 ABCD Camp Underclassmen All-Star Game
At first, some thought, "What is OJ doing?"
All week, OJ Mayo (Cincinnati, OH - '07) showed so much composure, discipline with the ball, and all the things that make a great point guard. Now he's walking the ball up the floor with 20 seconds left and his West squad down five, 135-130.
After a couple seconds in the backcourt, his teammates finally realize. This is the ABCD All Star game, not the state championship or AAU National finals. They clear out some, give him space and let him get busy.
A couple between the legs dribbles, an in-and-out, behind the back, slow motion cross left-to-right, back to the left, Ben Gordon-spin dribble and pull back, look away dish, game over. Nobody knows who caught the pass and finished.
With the same emotion that LeBron had when he yelled, "I'm a ****** All Star," following an and-one bucket the day after he was snubbed from the NBA All-Star game, OJ told the crowd on the media table's side of the court, "It's my time now," after his game-ending handling.
West loses 135-132. Moment indented in ABCD history. It's the All Star game, you tell me what will be remembered.
Mayo (19 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) and high school teammate Bill "Sky" Walker (22 pts.) were co-MVPs of the West team while Daequan Cook (21 pts.) received the award for the East in this year's ABCD All-Star Underclassmen game.
In an unfortunate sidelining that saw the East thanking God, 7'0 beast Greg Oden was unable to suit up for the West after injuring his ankle during the final set of the camp's games earlier in the morning. Aside from Derrick Caracter (Fanwood, NJ - '06), the Indianapolis, IN junior-to-be was no match for anyone all week. Rumor around the gym was that the Italian League may offer Oden a contract which would ask him to come overseas and skip his senior year of high school ball. Anything could happen these days, but the gentle giant who says Tim Duncan is his favorite player seems to have the personality of his Spurs resemblance. With that, Oden seems to be more apt to go to college for at the very least a year, nevermind leave school and the country during his high school years. Either way, he's basically an NBA top five pick.
Aside from the coaches' call period of the second half, where the coach decides who plays instead of having to send out the groups of five in intervals, the first half was plenty exciting and lived up to its early expectations.
The lack of Caracter-Oden II (their battle the night before drew the most interest of anything all week) benefited the game somewhat as it took out away any East worrying of Oden sending everything back that they brought into the lane.
The other anticipation that managed to go as planned was that four of the top players in the class of 2007 would be on the court in the opening session. The first units to take the floor had Mayo, Taylor King (Huntington Beach, CA) and Edwin Rios (Miami, FL) on the West with Cory Fisher (Bronx, NY) on the East.
Most of the alleys thrown in the game were either too high or too long, but the Damon Stoudamire-esque Rios had an off target toss that was actually on target. His lob in the opening minutes from just over half court to Damion James (Nacogdoches, TX - '06) didn't quite make it into the 6'8 forward's hands - it banked in.
Mayo and Fisher never really went at it during the opening session, but King and junior Lance Thomas (Scotch Plains, NJ) did exchange some. The left-handed King had the early advantage with a right-handed jump hook over Thomas. Thomas missed his first two shots prior to King's hook, but came back to draw a charge in the post on King and followed up with a dunk the next possession.
King, who originally committed to hometown UCLA right after eighth grade but is now listing others, countered with a slam off a lob. Thomas' East teammate Dwayne Collins (Miami, FL - '06) then got in on the act with back-to-back dunks, the first coming on a late arriving King. Thomas would finish off the first session with a mid-range jumper, another dunk in the open floor, and then got the crowd going with a steal followed up by a crossover on Perry Stevenson (Lafayette, LA - '06) in the backcourt.
Cook snuck in on the act for 11 early points en route to his MVP performance.
The West's Eugene Harvey's (Brooklyn, NY - '06) handle and getting to the cup provided about all the highlights from the second session.
This wasn't the type of game that the junior phenom Caracter, who is headed back to St. Patrick's in New Jersey to team with Fisher this winter, could showcase his dominance in. However, when the 6'9, 282 lb. "Baby Shaq" did get his touches in his second session run, the mobility and quickness that puts him on another level from any frontcourt player in the country was on display. Caracter finished with 11 points.
St. Thomas More prep's Rob Thomas (Brooklyn, NY - '06) came out swinging for the East just like he does in every game. The kid making moves at the Rucker went for ten of his 18 points in his minutes before the half.
Mayo's high school teammate back home Bill Walker had his share of dunks to serve as a nice preview of what was to come when he and OJ took the court together in the second half.
"Sky" Walker had the crowd so much with him after his first half showing that they booed his teammate Marques Johnson (Fort Wayne, IN - '06) when he took it himself on an open court breakaway with Walker.
Fisher had a couple dimes in the second half, one being a no-look lob to Lance Thomas. What was impressive about it was that it came in the middle of a pick and roll that Fisher was running with Cook on the opposite wing from where Thomas took off.
And before OJ went off, both teams were actually playing to win in the final five minutes.
Walker started to pull the West back in after catching back-to-back alleys from Mayo and Curtis Kelly (Bronx, NY - '06). Eric Wallace (Winston, NC - '07) answered though, catching a half-court lob from Fisher. Wallace, who finished with 15 points, got his name out when he went for 11 in a match-up with Caracter on the first day of camp.
Cook nailed a three to give the East a five-point lead again, but Mayo drove to the cup for another West bucket.
After both sides missed converting alley-oops between Fisher and Wallace and Mayo and Walker, the West was able to put something together with Mayo and Kelly connecting for two straight hoops.
Cook came back and made the difference in a key stretch again, though. His jumper with 20 seconds remaining made it a two-possession game and a wrap for the West, seeing how Mayo was ready to leave his mark on the camp rather than give the East another opportunity before game's end.
The beautiful thing about an ABCD camp underclassmen game that delivered like this one is that it all goes down again next year.
Patrick Stevens is a senior journalism major at the University of
Rhode Island and a frequent contributor to InsideHoops.com.