HACKENSACK, N.J. – Normally at the ABCD Camp, the senior all-star game is the showcase event.
But this year, during the camp's final day on Sunday, the underclassmen stole the show — even with the nation's best player, junior center Greg Oden, sidelined for the underclass all-star game with an injured right ankle he suffered in the morning session.
However, even without Oden in the game, the underclass contest provided plenty of excitement thanks to co-MVPs O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker and Daequan Cook — all Ohio natives.
Cook, a 6-foot-5 junior wing out of Dunbar High, led his East team's 135-132 win over the West with a team-high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists while making 9-of-11 shots from the field. Cook was stellar throughout the week, displaying a smooth shooting stroke and confident play.
But although his team won the game (as if that matters in all-star games like this), Cook was overshadowed on Sunday by North College Hill High teammates Mayo and Walker, who shared MVP honors for the West squad. Walker scored a game-high 22 points on mostly dunks, while Mayo showed his all-around game with 19 points, seven boards and five dimes.
Walker and Mayo were also the crowd favorites, thanks to their highlight plays — Walker with his vicious dunks and Mayo with his sweet ball-handling and passing skills. The best example of this came on the final play of the game as Mayo put on a dribbling display that had the crowd howling before whipping a no-look, one-handed pass to Walker for a slam.
"I just went out there to have fun," said Walker. "This is an all-star game. It's all about having fun."
"It's a truly great accomplishment," Mayo said of the MVP award. "But I have bigger goals. I want to go to the NBA, make it to the Hall of Fame and be remembered in this game. That's my ultimate goal."
Mayo, who has been hyped for more than a year now as one of the game's next great players, firmly established himself this week as one of the nation's top players regardless of class. At 6-foot-5, he can play the point, and his instincts and feel for the game are amazing. He also works hard and shows a true passion for playing.
Walker isn't as skilled as his high school teammate and good buddy, but he's actually more physically and athletically impressive. He's definitely one of the top players in the Class of 2007.
Other underclassmen who played well in the all-star game were Robert Thomas (18 points), Lance Thomas (17 points), Eric Wallace (15 points), Curtis Kelly (14 points) and Dwayne Collins (11 points), who earned the crowd's attention by sporting a Ben Wallace-like afro and throwing down some monster dunks.
Senior All-Star Game
Perhaps because it was at the end of four very long days of basketball or perhaps because it lacked the star power of past years, the senior all-star game didn't have its usual excitement on Sunday.
In fact, the crowd seemed so disinterested at times that one fan yelled "Put Mayo in the game" and another begged "This is garbage, man — play some defense." When fans at an all-star game are actually asking for defense, that's not a good sign.
As a result, the game turned mostly into a dunk fest with few players really standing out. The most excitement came late in the game when Jeremy Pargo — egged on by a large contingent from Chicago led by Antoine Walker (who was there to see his brother, Jarvis Walker) — got into a one-on-one battle with Texas point guard Byron Eaton.
Both players displayed some sick ball-handling skills and nice passes that helped them share co-MVP honors along with Brandon Rush and Gerald Green, two of the most gifted athletes in the Class of 2005. In the end, Green and Pargo led their West squad to a 178-167 win over Rush and Eaton's East team.
For the game, Green led all scorers with 27 points, while Pargo added 21 points and eight assists. On the other end, Rush scored 21 points and Eaton chipped in with 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Rush was previously named MVP of last year's underclass game.
"It feels good to know that my name is going to be up there on both banners," Rush said. "I didn't feel like I played all that well this week, but this is really great."
Other seniors who played well in the all-star game were Tasmin Mitchell (17 points), Shawn Taggart (16 points, 8 rebounds), Amir Johnson (17 points, 5 blocks), Bobby Frasor (14 points, 9 assists) and Jonathan Kale (15 points, 5 rebounds).
Overall Camp MVPs
With this being their first year in collaboration with Reebok (after being with adidas for more than a decade), the ABCD Camp folks were apparently in a giving mood on Sunday.
In addition to having seven all-star game MVPs between the senior and underclass games, they named four more MVPs for the entire week of the camp — two seniors and two underclassmen.
The two senior MVPs were Lanier High (Miss.) shooting guard Monta Ellis and St. Mary's High (N.Y.) shooting guard Danny Green. Ellis was the camp's second-leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game for the week. Green, an extremely underrated player, was ninth in scoring at 14.6 points per game and was the camp's top-rated player according to some fancy computer rating system.
The two underclass MVPs were St. Patrick's High (N.J.) junior power forward Derrick Caracter and Oden, a dominating 7-foot junior center from Lawrence North High (Ind.). While neither of their stats were overly impressive, both big men firmly established themselves as the top two players in the Class of 2006.