First off thanks to Reggie Dance, Vice President of Consumer and Entertainment for 5W Public Relations. They did a great job getting the word out and hosting this wonderful event. Reggie by the way is originally from Patterson NJ. Good to see a Jersey guy doing so well!
Talk about excitement and anticipation! That was how I felt all the way to this wonderful event. I arrived in New York City around 2:30 PM and went to my favorite fish and chips location on 145th street and St. Nicholas Avenue. Double parked and ran in for a quick order to go. Yes this would be a full and very enjoyable day. I knew things would go well when the person behind the counter said he had not seem me in a while and gave me the order on the house lol. Figured I would retreat to my NYC apartment, but later decided to arrive early and take pictures before the crowd arrived. Look for the pictures soon.
Well the crowd was already arriving when I entered the side park area to eat my food. Young men were playing basketball on the play bars because the real baskets were in use. What a wonderful day it was watching all the young future ballers playing ball on a make shift court prior to the real action that would take place in 5 hours. This was another example of kids loving to play basketball. I could not help but wonder who of the group would one day play in the big Boost Mobile Game?
After a while Jon Cano, who is now a editor and producer for the NBA, arrived and sat with me. Jon is a huge HS basketball fan and we often attend games together. He also posts on various Internet boards. He is quite insightful and knows what he is talking about.
As we went to get on line to enter the park a few St. Benedict's players including Aaron Brown got on line behind us. He told me he was considering a bunch of schools including the Ivy's. That was impressive to say the least. Did not know he lives in Hackensack NJ.
Before we could get in, Ron Neclerio, the dynamic Cardoza Coach came up and thanked me for the kind words I wrote concerning him. He also was coaching one of the teams along with Kenny Anderson. Ron took me to the media area (trust me I am not the media lol) and folks actually knew about my blog. Especially the post about top HS coaches and AAU programs. Even Hoops Weiss came up and said he enjoyed reading the blog. They actually gave me media credentials lol. I proceeded to the media area and had a few red bulls, and spoke with everyone in sight. Let me describe the area: Great catered food, bottled water, red bull, and great conversation all in one place. I loved talking to various families. Most interesting was Maalik Wayns family members. Two extremely classy ladies who were dressed like they were business executives out for a nice day in the park. Easy to talk to and just pleasant. By the way, Villanova has a potentially GREAT PLAYER in Maalik!
Spoke with a few folks about the new hires at St. Johns. Everyone was raving about the hires including Hoops. It seems the consensus is SJU will have a great recruiting year, and a better season. After mingling for a while, we went into the park for the slam dunk contest. Let me describe the park.
If you have never been to Rucker Park, and you love basketball, it is a must on your places to go in NYC. Stands on three sides at least, with a real score board donated by Gov. David Patterson when he was a State Senator. The crowd is like a basketball version of Ameture Night at The Apollo. If you have game and effort you will be appreciated. If you come in there coasting and not prove you are worthy the crowd will ride you all evening, and might even start a chant of "take him out." The crowd this night was fantastic! They were in to every play and every player. However the dunk contest left alot to be desired. I would love to see Boost Mobile make future dunk contests open to area representatives with true dunking skills. have final two compete against Boost Mobile Representatives in a dunk off. It would be exciting watching a local kid from 116th Street dunking with his jeans on in the park against highly rated HS players.
Well the crowd still got into it for the dunk contest but nowhere like the actual game. Dexter Strickland won the contest with a great windmill type dunk over two kids. By the way Dexter Strickland = CLASSY and future leader with or without basketball.
What a game it was. The one player who kind of stood out to me was Ryan Kelly, a 6 ft 9 210 pound forward from North Carolina. Oddly he stood out to me because though he is a high major player, he looked almost lost on the court with the other players who were super quick and/or athletic and skilled. Not a real knock on him because this type of game is hard for big guys from system programs. But I had heard so much about him I might have looked for too much.
The other players as is the case with Kelly, were all big time recruits. But a few were a notch over the others. The best player on the court to me was not Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson.
The best player was John Wall, from Raleigh NC. What potential! What quickness! What passing ability! What dunking ability on people! He should have been in the dunk contest but might have lost because there was no one guarding the contestants. Guy is so good, even I could get 8 points playing with him lol. He just looked like the number 1 player in America.
Now the best player that day? Lance Stephenson. Loved when announcer said Lance was born in a defensive stance. Guy has all the tools and I did not see one bit of attitude or selfishness. I saw a complete player who will be a definite program changer. If he decides to attend SJU..... It's on!
Loved Maalik Wayns. Talk about game! Villanova get ready to beam up the next Scotty with a bit of Carl Lowery in him as well. He was a road runner in the game and made everyone around him better.
Dominic Cheek, as great as he is and as high as he is rated, is underrated based on what he brings to the table. He might be a tad under Lance, but this guy is BETTER THAN advertised. He played an exceptional game and looked poised and confident as he stared on the court.
Brandon Knight looked like a slimmer version of Paul Harris with the long braids and Miami look. And he was just as tough and got to the rim every time he tried. This kid will be a huge recruit for some program. Will Donovan let him out of Florida. Will Luke get him for Miami?
Derrick Favors from Atlanta was a man on the court. What are they feeding those southern kids? Guy was moving folks around with a smile on his face. Tough kid with skills. Might be a one and done guy as will Lance and John Wall.
Kenny Boynton Jr. has been a known name for many years because of the way he has hit big shots in games and scored at will. He is a exceptional player and showed flashes of this in the Boost Mobile Game.
Dexter Strickland might win the award as most classy person playing HS ball this season. Plus he can flat out play the game. You blink and he has 8. You blink again he now has 17. You blink again he steals the ball and dunks on you. Yet another blink and he hits the open man. He is such an efficient player! He seems ready for North Carolina and life afterwards. Senator Strickland? By the way he played exceptional well in the game as he always does.
Josh Smith was another player who just moved folks out if the way. A huge body with great athletic ability. Again I ask what are they feeding these kids.
The other local players had very good games as well. Durand Scott had a great game and proved he was one of the better players nationally. Deron Lamb was a late addition but showed he should have been chosen all along.Tristian Thompson from St. Benedict's looked better than I remembered. Heard he had a great summer and his play on Friday especially defensively proves it.
I could go on and on but much of the actual game stuff has been printed and shared. I will provide some additional information. Torral Harris and his son Tobias, who everyone is recruiting came and sat with Jon Cano and I for the game. Great kid who should have been in the game. He is wide open and looking at all his options. His Dad did ask my opinion on some things and I was honest. I will continue to be honest with him and many others who reach out to me. By the way Tobias will attend Long Island Lutheran this season and they will step up their schedule playing some national games. For now they are off to visit some schools before heading to the Syracuse Elite Camp later in the week.
Well the game was over and as I headed out of the park and out of my old neighborhood, all I could do is think of the many legends who had played at this historic park and left us in recent years. All of them must have been smiling because those young men did a great job of representing the name Rucker Park. Look below in other blogs for some good pictures including 90 year old John Isaacs of the original Harlem Rens.