Howard, J.R. Smith Earn Co-MVP at McDonald's
Several of the high school seniors projected to be selected in the first round of June's NBA Draft proved their worth Wednesday at the McDonald's All-American Game.
But St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) guard J.R. Smith, who has signed with North Carolina and doesn't seem likely to forego college, stole the show by earning co-MVP honors with Southwest Atlanta Christian (Ga.) center Dwight Howard.
Smith scored 25 points to lead the East team to a 126-96 blowout win over the West team at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. Smith nailed two 30-foot 3-pointers and pulled off a sick 360-degree dunk within the first five minutes of the game as East zoomed out to a 26-12 lead and never looked back.
Howard, who many project to be the top pick in June's draft, was equally as dominant for the East in the early going, scoring 10 points in the first 10 minutes and 19 overall. The East's two stars connected on an alley-oop late in the first half when Smith gave up a chance for a breakaway dunk and threw it up to Howard, who emphatically threw the rock down.
Using tenacious defense atypical of all-star games, Taft High (Calif.) point guard Jordan Farmar did his best to help the West creep back into striking distance late in the first half. The UCLA recruit had two steals in the last 15 seconds of the half that led to four points as the West closed the gap to 56-45 by halftime.
But a Howard 3-pointer and a trio of spectacular Smith dunks – two windmills and another 360 – helped the east team go on a 22-2 run to open the second half and take a 77-47 lead just minutes into the half.
Smith hit one more 3-pointer in the second half, this one from ten feet beyond the line, before cooling off in the waning minutes of the game. Howard then threw down two two-handed dunks on two consecutive plays to give the East a 100-71 lead.
Including Howard, the East team's lineup was chock full of big men with big game. Prentiss High (Miss.) power forward Al Jefferson recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The Arkansas recruit, who is also contemplating the NBA, showed the agility that is drawing comparisons to Phoenix Suns star Amare Stoudemire by going coast to coast on one dunk and connecting on a sick alley-oop dunk from Lincoln High (N.Y.) point guard Sebastian Telfair on another.
Telfair, who signed with Louisville but is expected to become the first true point guard to enter the draft out of high school, scored a quiet two points but managed to feed his teammates 11 assists in a foul-plagued 20 minutes of action.
Josh Smith, a product of basketball factory Oak Hill Academy (Va.) was unstoppable at times at both ends of the floor. The Indiana recruit, who will most likely be a top 10 pick in June, scored seven points and provided the most jaw-dropping highlight of the night when he came out of nowhere to swat a breakaway dunk attempt by Sheldon High (Calif.) point guard DeMarcus Nelson, who led the smaller, yet more athletic West team with 22 points.
Renaissance High (Mich.) shooting guard Joe Crawford scored 15 for West and University (La.) center Glen Davis led the West with nine rebounds.
Bakersfield High (Calif.) center Robert Swift's performance might have upped his professional stock more than any other prospect. The USC recruit scored all of his 10 points in the opening 10 minutes of the game with a series of tough post-up moves and sick dunks before seeing limited action in the second half.
Sixteen former McDonald's All-Americans have been selected No. 1 in the NBA Draft and 13 have won Rookie of the Year honors.