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TEANECK, N.J. --- Don't be fooled. Never forget that Lebron James is very, very, very good -- better, perhaps, than any other high school basketball prospect in America. James, of course, is only a sophomore.

Yet he blended in a bit too much -- he looked, God forbid, his age -- in the early going here at ABCD. The 6-6 SG from Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St. Mary scored only eight points in his team's Sunday night game and followed that with a rather pedestrian 12-point performance Monday afternoon.

Then came Monday night's slow start. He looked disinterested. He looked … frighteningly normal. Fans started rumbling and grumbling around Court 1 at Fairleigh Dickinson's Rothman Center.

Overrated? Overhyped? Overblown?

Whatever. Tell that to Joshua Smith. The rising sophomore forward from Powder Springs, Ga., got a pair of quick Lebron thunder dunks dropped on his noggin. Then James hit a few threes, blocked a few shots and did just about everything else in leading his squad to a 68-66 win. He finished with 24 points, five rebounds, five steals and two assists.

"I knew what I had to do," James told BCH after the game. "I had to do something to help my team win."

Fans and coaches and recruiting analysts gathered here expect nothing less - and even Lebron The Great feels some pressure to live up to his advanced billing.

"Just a little," he admitted. "I've got to keep my status. But I don't really try to think about that."

Nor does he like to talk about his NBA prospects. At least not just yet.

"I'm always thinking about going to college," he explained. "Some article here said that I was looking at going to the NBA after my junior year. I never said that. At all. I don't know what that was all about. Right now I'm going to college."

That's not to say, however, James won't be able to make the preps-to-pros jump in 2003. And he will think about it. He has to.

"Of course," he said. "Wouldn't you? But I've got two more years in high school."


A Ray Of Light To Villanova: Allan Ray, the 6-0 SG/PG from Bronx (NY) St. Raymond's, committed to Villanova at a press conference in between sessions on Monday.

"I felt this was the right time," Ray told the gathered media horde. "I have a great relationship with Coach (Jay) Wright and the staff."

Ray, this summer's star of the New York Ravens after last year's Julius Hodge Show, had his best game of ABCD following his announcement, tallying 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting Monday evening. He's shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and almost 80 percent from the line in four contests so far here at FDU.

Perkins Power: Beaumont (TX) Ozen superstar C Kendrick Perkins continued his eye-opening play during Monday's action. The 6-11 manchild, for what it's worth, leads ABCD in an ambiguous stat that camp statisticians call "Player Rating."

Put in terms everybody can understand: Perkins is third overall here in scoring with a 17.8 clip, first (by far) in rebounding at 12 an outing and tops in blocks as well with 3.8 per. Even with guys like James, Lenny Cooke, Raymond Felton and Sani Ibrahim on hand, Perkins could be piecing together the finest all-around performance at ABCD.

Highlight Reel: Lebron's throwdowns were spectacular. Travis Outlaw did his typical slam-and-jam session. Lodrick Stewart converted a reverse alley-oop from Sebastian Telfair. And ultra-athletic Floridian Antonio Lawrence takes every possible chance to attack the rim.

But the most jaw-dropping dunk of the day belonged to Vincent Grier. The unheralded SF from Durham (NC) Bonner Academy drove down the lane in his team's afternoon game and cupped a vicious lefty windmill.

Best Athlete Here: Try Matt Trannon. The two-sport star from Michigan is just an athlete's athlete. He tried two alley-oops Monday afternoon that drew oohs and aahs. He missed them, of course, but major kudos for mere effort of that sort.

True Blue Chips: Daniel Horton and Chris Bosh, teammates on Mitch Malone's Texas Blue Chips AAU team, both have had outstanding ABCD performances to this point. Bosh, a lanky 6-11 C from Dallas (TX) Lincoln, has tremendous shot-blocking instincts to go with some nimble feet on the blocks and the baseline. Horton has picked up where he left off last weekend in Washington, D.C., at NBPA.

More Names And Faces: New Louisville head man Rick Pitino was in the stands Monday. So was Syracuse's Jim Boeheim.

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