The Cape Henlopen gym likely committed a fire violation in overselling tickets, but no one wanted to be denied the opportunity to see James, a 6-7, 225-pound junior from St. Vincent-St. Mary's (Ohio).
The packed house watched James struggle in the first half, relatively speaking. He had two loud dunks, but caused four turnovers and SV-SM trailed St. Benedict's by six at halftime.
But in the second stanza, James showcased his all-around skills, as he made some stellar passes to go with his scoring.
He brought the crowd to its feet twice in the second half, first on an up-and-under two handed layup off the backboard (think Dr. J) and later when he zipped a spinning no-look pass to a teammate for an open layup. And, as an exclamation point, James threw down an emphatic slam in the final minutes of the 67-60 win. He finished with 18 points and seven assists.
And while he was impressive, he's capable of much more, as evidenced this summer by his dominant performances at the USA Festival and then against Lenny Cooke at ABCD a month later.
"Today was nothing," analyst Dave Telep said postgame. "At the Festival, I saw him bring his team back from 20 down in six minutes -- and win by five."
Fair enough, Dave, but he looked terrific out there on Friday.
While the amazing atmosphere was a clear sign of the magnitude of LeBron James, how about the fact that just about every NBA team sent a scout; or that Ohio radio stations were courtside broadcasting the event. And it was hard to miss James' mother in the stands, cheering on her son while wearing a t-shirt of LeBron's face set against the American flag. How patriotic.
James was deemed so important that his game warranted a postgame press conference. Seeing it as their only opportunity to talk to James, the media was shuffled in, listened to the brief words of the losing squad, then were told that James felt too sick to attend the press conference.
Telep immediately walked out of the room in disgust. Another media member muttered, "The fix was in."
So, while James didn't speak to the media on Friday, here are comments about him from the press conference.
St. Benedict's head coach Danny Hurley -- "We could hear the scouting services and read the scouting reports, but you just can't appreciate how much he does for his team, sharing the ball and making his teammates better … for a couple moments in the second half, I thought I was at a Knicks game the way he was plowing guys into the post."
SV-SM head coach Dru Joyce -- "First of all let me say, LeBron, I'm sure you guys really wanted to talk to him, but he's got the flu. When he got up this morning, he didn't look too good. He played through it this evening. He and another kid at halftime were throwing up. In respect to him and the effort that he put out, we decided that we're going to let him rest.
"Normally I have to take LeBron off the floor, he doesn't ask out, but two times in the first half, he asked to come out. He's a strong, resilient kid, I haven't seen anything keep him down for that long.
"Yes, the colleges are (still making an effort to recruit him). We made it clear to all the colleges that LeBron has not made a decision, we're going to take the ACT and SAT this spring and keep all doors open. That's what ‘Bron wants to do, so that's what we're going to do. You just don't know, if the situation is right, he may go to college. We don't want to turn anyone away. He's named the five schools (Ohio State, Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina and Florida) he's interested in and those coaches do keep in touch.
"He's handled the pressure extremely well -- I wouldn't want to be under the microscope that he's under. I don't think anyone's ever been under this kind of media scrutiny in their junior year. He does a great job of recognizing that this is what comes along with the territory, thankful that you guys think he's such a great player, but when he gets into the gym with us, it's about getting better. He works hard to get better every day. When he's with his friends, he's as silly as the next guy."