Terps-to-be flash skills in Classic

Difficult to showcase in sloppy all-star game

April 09, 1999|By Christian Ewell and Lem Satterfield | Christian Ewell and Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- In the days before last night's Capital Classic high school basketball all-star game, Steve Blake's wishes were simple. He just wanted to give a nice preview to the Maryland fans among the 9,122 in attendance at the MCI Center.

Blake made those wishes come true. The Miami native revealed some of everything, mostly in a three-minute span of the fourth quarter, as his Capital All-Stars defeated the U.S. All-Stars, 111-100.

First, he faked his man left before knocking down a three-pointer with 6: 40 to go, giving his team a 14-point lead. He then made a couple of steals. On the offensive end again, he showed a little bit of vulnerability by traveling, then showed a bit of an edge by uttering an obscenity, apparently equal parts disgusted with himself for the mistake and with the official for noticing.

Blake, expected to take over the point-guard position that Terrell Stokes held for three years, had five points, two steals and an assist during the win. The assist total could have been much higher; he constantly whipped passes to teammates in scoring position, only to see the passes dropped or the resulting shots blocked.

"It was a little frustrating that they weren't finishing, but what can you do?" Blake said. "I think as long as you have the ball, you can show what you can do. I think my role's just going to be to push the ball up the floor and give the guys the ball."

The others headed for College Park this fall -- Tahj Holden and Drew Nicholas -- and an other who might be -- Reece Gaines -- delivered performances that fit in with such an all-star game, one filled with flying bodies, missed dunks, errant passes and fadeaway-double-clutch-behind-the-head jumpers from three-point range.

Still, the four players of interest to Terrapins fans -- in addition to early-committing junior Tamir Goodman, who was sitting courtside -- offered signs encouraging enough. The evidence won't be found in the box score, but Blake made his share of good passes, Holden did well enough on defense, Nicholas showed his ability to shoot and a jittery Gaines was eventually able to penetrate.

Holden blocked one shot and scored two points while playing for the U.S. team, often avoiding the fray inside. He chucked up two three-point shots, both of which failed to connect with any part of the basket.

"I wanted to play a little stronger," Holden said. "Physically, I just need to get stronger. I just tried to hustle, and the result was blocked shots. Overall, I didn't play that well."

Gaines overcame a rough first half to score seven points in the second half. He started with a couple of traveling calls and missed two free throws, but hit a three-pointer in the third quarter.

"I just want to show that I had some skills, but I don't think I really played that well," Gaines said. "I couldn't get into a flow."

Gaines, who lives in Madison, Wis., but has roots in Maryland and has visited Baltimore often, said he hasn't decided on a school yet, though Maryland, Michigan and Louisville are his choices.

"I like Maryland, and my heart is with Maryland," Gaines said, "But I have to do what's best for my mind. It's a tough decision."

"I hope he comes to Maryland," Blake said. "He's a great player. He's very versatile. He can play the one and two, and he's tall enough to play the three. He's someone I'd like to play with for the next four years."

Gaines' complaint about the inability to get into a flow was echoed by Blake and Nicholas. Nicholas, a shooting guard from Hempstead, N.Y., had the highest scoring total of all the Maryland signees, with 13 points. But he also had four turnovers and no assists.

"I wasn't really impressed with my play," Nicholas said, "and in most of these all-star games, you don't really see the ball a lot."

The game's MVP was Chris Monroe of the Capital team, who had 22 points, nine assists and three rebounds. Monroe is headed to George Washington. Duke-bound Jason Williams was the game's high scorer with 27 points for the U.S. All-Stars.

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