Big Al now eyes Nike Hoop Summit

University of Arkansas signee has 16 points and 11 rebounds in his West team's 126-96 in the McDonald's All-American game and then turned his attention quickly to his next all-star event in San Antonio.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Moments after putting up a 16-point, 11-rebound performance for his winning West squad Wednesday night in the McDonald's All-American Game, University of Arkansas signee Al Jefferson's mind was already on San Antonio.

Not on the NCAA's Final Four, which will be there this weekend, but the Nike Hoop Summit game that the 6-10, 255-pound Jefferson and other USA stars will play against a team of international stars on Sunday in San Antonio.

"Tonight was just for play, Sunday is about business," Jefferson said. "That's the game where I feel like I have a chance to really show everybody what I can do and make a statement about how good I am."

That statement would be that he is better than the late first round pick that he is currently projected to be in the 2004 NBA Draft, something he plans to put his name into but not sign with an agent and thus retain his collegiate eligibility to play at Arkansas.

The Nike Hoop Summit will be Sunday at 1 p.m. (Fox Sports Net) on the campus of the University of Texas-San Antonio and feature a couple of foreign power forwards rated ahead of him.

Certainly he flourished offensively Wednesday night as his team rolled to a 126-96 win over the East at the Ford Center here in Oklahoma City before a crowd of over 14,000 that included some 75 NBA scouts, current Denver star Carmelo Anthony and former Duke star Jay Williams.

Jefferson, who averaged 42.6 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocks for Prentiss (Miss.) High last season, was 8-of-12 in the McDonald's game, which featured 24 of the nation's top prepsters.

Six of those baskets were dunks as he showed his power around the basket on numerous occasions while playing just 16 minutes.

"I was a little frustrated that I didn't get to play more, but you have to realize that there are so many good players here and they have to play as well," Jefferson said. "I was happy with how I played, but I could have done a lot more."

Robert Swift, a 7-1 center also expected to declare for the draft, banged with Jefferson early on and scored 10 points on him in the first half. It is his Jefferson's defensive footwork that has some NBA scouts pondering if he is ready for the league despite his high scoring ways.

"He is a tough player," Jefferson said of Swift. "But that's what you expect in these games. You are going to play against the best."

There were several Hog Calls and a couple of signs asking Jefferson to please come to Arkansas.

"That's my fans representing," Jefferson said. "That makes me feel good."

North Carolina signee J.R. Smith had 25 points to lead all scorers while West teammate Dwight Howard, the expected No. 1 pick in the June 24th NBA draft, had 19 and shared MVP honors with Smith.

Jefferson, the only one to have a double-double in the contest, was next with 16 points while point guard and Kentucky signee Rajon Rondo had 14 points.

North Carolina signee DeMarcus Nelson led the East with 22 points while future Kentucky Wildcat Joe Crawford chipped in 15, unsigned Malik Hairston 14 and Swift all 10 of his points in the opening half.

As reported on Hawgs Illustrated Tuesday night, Jefferson has decided to put his name into the draft pool to test the waters.

If he moves up into a lottery pick (the first 13 picks), he said there's no decision to make.

"I'm sure the good people of Arkansas would even want me to go," joked Jefferson, knowing that is not true.

Asked if he might go if NBA officials told him he would go somewhere between 15 and 20, Jefferson hedged.

"I really couldn't answer that question right now," said Jefferson, who did say that if he was told he might be a second round pick he would definitely be at Arkansas next season.

In addition to Sunday's game that will be televised by Fox Sports Net, Jefferson will also play in the Jordan Classic on April 17.

"The scouts have told me that they want to see me run the floor and just play my best," Jefferson said.

Asked about a timetable for his decision, Jefferson said the sooner the better. He has until June 17th to take his name out of the draft and until May 10th at 11:59 a.m. to officially put it in.

"I'm really ready for it to be over with," Jefferson said "…But no agents because if I did that then I couldn't be a Razorback."


Hawgs Daily Top Stories