Kevin Durant of Forestville, Md.,
works Thaddeus Young of
Greg Oden of Indianapolis
(right) tangles with Robin Lopez of Fresno, Calif.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – If your first exposure to high-school basketball this season came in watching the broadcast of the McDonald's All-America Game Wednesday night, you're probably thinking "Hey, Kevin Durant, Spencer Hawes and Greg Oden are pretty good."
Gee, that wasn't too tough to figure out, was it?
To balance the talent on the 12-player rosters, game organizers placed Durant (from Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md.) on the West squad. It certainly wasn't their intent, but that bit of personnel manipulation played a big part in deciding the outcome of the 29th version of the most prestigious boys' hoops all-star game played.
The 6-foot-10 and oh-so-thin, oh-so-smooth and oh-so-offensively-gifted Durant, who signed a letter of intent with the University of Texas Longhorns in November, scored 18 of his game high 25 points after intermission to help the West to a 112-94 victory in front of an announced gathering of 11,900 in San Diego State's Cox Arena.
To absolutely no one's surprise, he was announced as the game's Most Valuable Player afterward.
And, probably to everyone's surprise (except to game organizers who apparently made the decision, based upon the suggestion of John Wooden and Morgan Wootten, the game chairman and the selection committee chairman), Durant's West teammate, Chase Budinger, was selected the Co-MVP.
The 6-7 Budinger, who is headed for the University of Arizona finished with 11 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals.
If you know where Budinger goes to school (La Costa Canyon High in nearby Carlsbad) and assume that it probably has something to do with the co-MVP decision that drew a loud roar from those who hung around for the announcement . . . well, your assumption is probably pretty right on.
Wednesday night, though, any "Most Impressive Player" hardware could have been split at least a half dozen ways.
There were at least 20 NBA talent evaluators on hand, including the L.A. Clippers' coach and general manager, Mike Dunleavy and Elgin Baylor. And nothing they saw in the limited minutes Oden played would have lulled them into thinking that the Indianapolis Lawrence North center would be anything but the No. 1 choice in the June 28 NBA Draft, if high school seniors were eligible and if he were inclined to bypass the opportunity to be an Ohio State freshman in the fall.
Spencer Hawes of Seattle,
Wash., starts a 360-spin move
Oden blocked four shots (by Robin Lopez, Sherron Collins, Hawes and Durant) to help the East break out to a 20-13 advantage.
He didn't block another shot (you don't think he got challenged too many other times inside, do you?) but finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes. The playing time was divided fairly evenly among the 12 players on each squad and Oden, bothered by a sore wrist suffered during a fall in the Indiana State Playoffs, probably didn't mind the limited minutes.
Hawes, the University of Washington-bound forward/center who is rated the top prospect in a very strong Western class of 2006, was just as impressive as he was to the NBA-types who caught his act last July in Las Vegas while he helped Friends of Hoop team win the Main Event title.
Hawes' first score came on a left-handed layup after a full-speed dribble and spin to the middle.
And his final two points (he finished with 11 points and five rebounds) came as the result of the most startling post move of the evening.
Overplayed toward the middle by North Carolina-bound Brandan Wright, Hawes turned to the baseline and banked in a left-handed hook from about 14 feet away. In case you're wondering, Hawes is right-handed. "Ambidextrous" is probably the better description.
The East used a 14-0 run to move out to a 44-24 lead (after a Wayne Ellington 3-pointer from the left corner with 6:53 to play) in the first half.
But the West scored the final five points of the half (the last of those coming on a layup and free throw by Darrell Arthur after a nice pass by D.J. Augustin) to cut its deficit to 55-48.
The lead changed hands five times in the second half, the last of those when Durant scored on a follow shot while being fouled and tacked on the free throw for a 77-76 advantage with 9:33 remaining.
Durant's 16-footer from the left corner capped a 17-0 run and that, pretty much, was that.
Among the others who impressed Wednesday night was the West's Daequan Cook (who will be a teammate of Oden's at Ohio State), who used five three-pointers to account for all but two of his 17 points.
Kansas signee Sherron Collins (with 11 points) was one of five West players to score in double figures.
Joining Oden in double-figuring scoring on the East were Gerald Henderson (16 points), Thaddeus Young (14) and Brandan Wright (12).
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a column for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com
Javaris Crittenton of Atlanta
D.J. Augustin of Fresno, Texas