Raleigh, N.C., has been the backdrop for its share of big time high school atmospheres this decade. Eight years ago, an estimated crowd of over 10,000 watched Broughton's Shavlik Randolph and Leesville Road's Anthony Richardson square off at Reynolds Coliseum.
On Wednesday night, the venue was Ravenscroft where the capacity of the gym is a mere 1,200. The reality was, the place needed at least a 1,000 more seats. This was the swan song for Word of God's John Wall (Scout.com No. 2) and Ravenscroft's Ryan Kelly (Scout.com No. 11)
"High school basketball should be played with crowds like this," Mike Galu, a local basketball aficionado said. Galu, like the other thousand plus people in attendance, certainly got their monies worth. The game won't be remembered as a classic, but individually it'll be tough to forget the combatants.
John Wall, the nation's best point guard, made sure his Word of God team enacted revenge on Ravenscroft as it won handily, 82-64. The Holy Rams had vindication on their mind as the Ravens took it took them on their home court earlier this season.
Whether it was your first time watching Wall or final time, his performance was vintage. Hard to guard? Yep. A series of lefty-dunks in transition juiced up the crowd. Improving? Sure is. When Wall's making jumpers as he did on Wednesday, he's operating at a level his peers cannot match.
Word of God handled the crowd much better and Wall's 20 points gave his team a comfortable halftime working margin that they would never relinquish. The undecided senior gave North Carolina State's Sidney Lowe and Kentucky assistant Glynn Cyprien something to think about as they left the gym. Wall's a weapon and along with Memphis, Duke, Kansas, Baylor and Miami, surely they'd love to have him.
Wall played the entire game in fifth gear, using the whole court as his personal autobahn, speeding end to end. With an arsenal of weapons at his disposal, Wall could not be denied.
C.J. Leslie, a junior power forward committed to the Pack, played with bounce and presence around the rim. The city of Raleigh had a chance to see first hand one of the best pure athletes in the Class of 2010 and a major prospect. Leslie dropped in 19 points. Leslie paid his dues as Wall's apprentice. The star in waiting gets his chance next season the Rams restructure around his game.
Sophomore guard Bishop Daniels got his stroke on track and turned in one of his most complete efforts of the year on the big stage. Daniels shot the ball with effectiveness both inside and behind the line. He's also not opposed to heading to the rim for a dunk. Daniels rolled up 20 points on the Ravens.
Ravenscroft didn't start nor end strong. Kelly wasn't dialed in with his jumper, missing his first five attempts. Without Kelly on track, the Ravens were nevermore. Dealing with Word of God's size and barrage of speed – Leslie and Wall scored 18 points in the second quarter – was too much.
As the game advanced, Kelly converted a series of crafty up and unders and a pair of powerful one-handed dunks. The future Duke Blue Devils scored 29 points.
Eight years ago, at Reynolds Coliseum, the crowd was larger and the game tighter. Three future ACC players (Clemson's Shawan Robinson played the point for Leesville) were on display and one, Randolph, draws and NBA paycheck.
Recruiting and talent in a town like Raleigh is cyclical. Randolph, Richardson, Robinson and P.J. Tucker all played against each other during a golden age of high school ball in the town. Eight years from now, what will Wall, Kelly, Leslie and Daniels legacy look like?
Who will take their places? How long will it take?