No, Frank Burlison hasn't taken to breaking down Big Macs or Fillet-o-Fish sandwiches, but the nation's elite high school all-star game, which took place on Thursday night. (<I>Photo</I>: N.J.'s Andrew Bynum on left</I>)
ST. LOUIS – From my rather distant perspective – my room in the Renaissance Grand Hotel; there is a thing called "The Final Four" going on in town this weekend – Wednesday night's McDonald's All-America game was the best played of the species in a long while.
There weren't the countless number of cherry-pick dunks or 4-on-1 fast-break situations, during which the "1" isn't exactly making the greatest of efforts to do anything to halt that break.
And there weren't the usual number egomaniacal two-crossover dribbles and launches from behind the three-point arc – while four teammates stand with their hands on hips - that we normally see in the All-America or Roundball Classic contests.
To this I say "Right on!" It's about time!
The East looked like it was going to thump the West silly, bursting out to a 22-point advantage at intermission, in large part because of the impressive offensive skills of Gerald Green and Josh McRoberts.
But the West, especially Mario Chalmers, played with great energy in the second half and made it a honest-to-goodness game before the East prevailed, 115-110.
Random thoughts on players:
Josh McRoberts: In my opinion, he's easily the best player and prospect in the prep Class of 2005. Despite heavy speculation from NBA sources that the draft isn't out of the question for him this June, he told several media outlets that he's "definitely" going to be at Duke next season. If that's the case, mark him as a heavy favorite to be the National Freshman of the Year. He had 17 points and 12 rebounds and was chosen MVP while leading the East.
Gerald Green: As multiple NBA talent evaluators noted after practices in South Bend and in Chicago for the Roundball Classic, he's a tremendous athlete – and spectacular leaper – with loads of range on his quickly released jump shot. But there doesn't appear to be a middle game, offensively, and he seemed to just float on the defensive end. It's a little tough to swallow that Tracy McGrady comparison – McGrady's feel for all aspects of the game were much more advanced than Green's at the same time. But he exudes innate abilty. Green, who scored 24 points for the East Wednesday night, is among at least five high school or preps schools considered virtual locks to bypass college.
Mario Chalmers: Played a dynamic offensive game in the final 20 minutes in helping the West fight its way back. Start the comparisons to Baron Davis – a point guard in name/and scorer in mentality who is going to put up a lot of points for Kansas.
Julian Wright: Per my evaluation of his play at the U.S. Youth Festival in Colorado Springs last June and the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis last July, he's among the most multiply skilled players in the class and could play four positions for Kansas as a freshman. One of the skills that he's least efficient at is jump shooting, something he'll have to correct before the NBA talk starts in earnest for him.
Monta Ellis and Louis Williams: The two most touted guards in the class and among the players who are expected not to honor letters of intent (Mississippi State and Georgia, respectively). Neither shot well and neither made solid decisions with the ball in their hands. The consensus of NBA scouts was that Ellis hadn't played particularly well during practices, but he is still rated ahead of Williams.
Andrew Bynum: He's tightened up his body and running a lot better than he did last July at the Nike Camp. He disappeared for large stretches of the game (even when he was on the floor). If desire and tenacity are constants, he should be an All-America and Top 10 draft selection by his junior season at Connecticut.
Martell Webster: Along with Josh McRoberts, he was one of two most polished offensive players in the game. He possesses excellent shooting, passing and handling skills and has remarkable body control/balance minus eye-popping quickness and vertical explosion. Some NBA sources believe he is bound for the draft with as little as a "first-round promise" in hand. He would be short-selling himself if that proves the case.
Greg Paulus: He was easily the best "true" point guard/floor leader in the game. He'll never be much of a scorer but he'll eventually have full command of Mike Krzyzewski's quarterbacking duties at Duke.
Tyler Hansbrough: Very steady, active and aggressive from 15-feet and in, the things he displayed while vaulting to Top 10 national status in July. Should be an immediate and significant freshman at North Carolina, especially if Marvin Williams turns pro.
Recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison's pieces at FrankHoops.com