July 11, 2004

ABCD Camp: All-Stars make their mark


TEANECK --
A lot of people said prior to ABCD Camp that this was the year of the underclassmen -- not just in New Jersey, where non-seniors wreak havoc, but across the nation. That sentiment certainly rang true Sunday at the camp's closing All-Star games.

The opening game, featuring the camp's best underclassmen, got off to a dour note when it was announced 7-foot wunderkind Greg Oden wouldn't be playing because of a sprained ankle suffered during Sunday's morning session. Still, the game went on. There were plenty of long 3-pointers, easy buckets, electrifying slams and eye-popping passes. A look at some of the best events from the game:

-- Jimmy Graham, a 6-foot-8 junior-to-be from California aptly dubbed "Big Red" by fellow players and the crowd because of his very noticeable red afro, held a block party. In the 8 scrimmage games, Graham led the entire camp with an average of 2.6 blocks per game. And within a few minutes of the opening tip Sunday afternoon, Graham -- who often guarded another man-child, Derrick Caracter -- provided the most invigorating block of the game, nastily pinned a shot by Willie Kemp against the backboard. Kemp later exacted revenge, however, getting a loud howl out of the crowd after he nearly caused Graham to drop his shorts with a crossover from the foul line for an easy deuce. But Graham was the story, finishing with a game-high 4 blocks.

-- Dwayne Collins, a 6-foot-8 junior to be from Florida, won the Ben Wallace Lookalike Contest. He literally has the exact style of afro as the Detroit Pistons' star center. Collins' hair wasn't all that pleased the crowd, though. Possessing one of the best vertical leaps at the camp, Collins easily powered around defenders on the baseline for two rim-rocking dunks. He finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds in the game.

-- The best dunk of the game, however, came from 6-foot-5 sophomore-to-be Bill Walker from Cincinnati. Walker, the West team's co-MVP along with high school teammate OJ Mayo, took off from about 2 1/2 feet inside the foul line for a tomahawk slam that left most in attendance with their mouts wide open for a few moments. Walker finished with a game-high 22 points, while Mayo added 19 points, 7 boards and 5 assists.

-- Another powerful dunk came from an unlikely source: 6-foot-6 junior-to-be Chase Budinger of California. The lanky, reddish-blonde-haired forward took a pass from point guard Eugene Harvey and in mid-air did a 180 for a reverse throw-down. Many in the crowd could be heard saying, "A white boy can do that?" Maybe white men CAN jump.

-- Finally, there's Daequan Cook, the East's MVP. Cook, a 6-foot-5 junior-to-be from Dayton, Ohio, poured in 21 points, pulled down 9 rebounds and added 3 assists. He shot 9-of-11 from the field, including 2 very long 3-pointers.

The second game, featuring the camps best seniors, wasn't as enticing as the underclassmen game, but it had its moments -- especially in the dunk department. Here's a quick look at that game:

-- Gerald Green, a 6-foot-8 wing forward headed to Oklahoma State, went absolutely nuts, netting 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-4 from downtown. He added 4 rebounds and 3 assists for good measure and, along with Jeremy Pargo, was a co-MVP for the West team.

-- Speaking of Pargo, he elevated his game with the help of several friends and teammates from Illinois, who hollered from the crowd everytime he touched the ball. Pargo, who has NBA aspirations right out of high school, had 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and registered a team-high 8 assists -- many of which came on pretty alley-oops.

-- Speaking of alley-oops, Louisville-bound forward Amir Johnson had his share of them as part of a 17-point performance. Johnson was all over the floor, wreaking havoc with 6 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals in what might have been the most complete performance of any player. Unfortunately, his future college coach, Rick Pitino, didn't get to see him play, as the Cardinals' head man was gone after attending the camp Thursday and Friday.

-- Shawn Taggart, a 6-foot-11 center from Richmond, Va., had the second-most complete performance, checking in with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. He was a gazelle out there as well, constantly running to get himself into position for literally anything that came his way. "I always like to run the floor and get dunks," said Taggart, who is looking at a bevy of schools, most notably Missouri, DePaul, Cincinnati, Florida and Wisconsin. It's no wonder those schools are after him, too. He oozes confidence on and off the court. "I play like I always play. I play like Garnett," Taggart said afterward, referring to reigning NBA MVP Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves. A little cocky? Yes. But Taggart's got the game to back it up and after a year of prep school, he'll be more than ready to dominate the college ranks.

And what would a camp be without MVPs. We already told you the team MVPs, now how about the week's MVPs?

-- For the seniors, it was Mississippi-bound guard Monta Ellis, who averaged 17.5 points per game, and Long Island sharpshooter Danny Green, who lit up the nets for just about 15 points per game.

-- For the underclassmen, it was Derrick Caracter, who won the battle of the camp's best big men by outplaying the other MVP, Greg Oden, on Saturday night.

A few more comments ...

-- Most underrated player: Dior Lowhorn. The 6-foot-7 power forward from California finished the camp as the No. 3-rated player overall and had 10 points and 3 rebounds in the senior All-Star Game. He also averaged 2.0 blocks per game during the scrimmage sessions.

-- Most overrated player: Tasmin Mitchell, the No. 1-rated senior-to-be by Rivals.com, finished the camp rated No. 9 overall and had 17 points in the All-Star Game, but he just wasn't the dominating force everyone was expecting prior to camp.

-- Best pure scorer: Gerald Green is good, Greg Oden is unstoppable and Jeremy Pargo has all the moves, but Long Island's Danny Green often did whatever he wanted on the floor. He also finished as the camp's top-rated player, despite only having 10 points in the All-Star Game. He's a keeper, and he has yet to verbal, although St. John's is believed to be his most likely destination.


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