Future Terps charm crowd in Challenge all-star game

MVP Brown leads Baltimore stars, 112-97

April 14, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Still about six months away from wearing Maryland basketball uniforms, Will Bowers, Hassan Fofana, Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry were welcomed with open arms.

A sellout crowd of more than 4,000, many wearing red, and a group of current Maryland players were on hand to greet the future Terps yesterday at the Towson Center in the Marines Charm City Challenge.

"It feels great to play here, and I wanted to get the fans something to get excited about," said Strawberry, who threw down a couple of dunks in the game. "I'm just ready to come here and play college basketball."

Added Ibekwe, a California native: "I could have stayed in California and played in one of these games, but I wanted to start making the transition."

In what seemed like an afterthought, the Baltimore team beat the U.S. All-Stars, 112-97, in a game played in a herky-jerky style, typical of all-star games.

Baltimore's Gerald Brown, who helped lead Douglass to a Class 3A state title in 2002 before transferring to Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) this season, earned game Most Valuable Player honors after scoring 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting.

Josh Boone, the former South Carroll forward who is headed to Connecticut, added 16 points, and The Sun's Player of the Year, Maurice Barksdale of Dunbar, contributed 15 for the winners.

"This was my last high school game, so I guess the best things come to those who wait," said Brown, bound for Providence.

Perhaps the most interesting subplot was the duel between the U.S. team's Fofana and Baltimore's Bowers.

On the first possession of the game, Fofana ran down the court and into the paint seeking position and collided with the 7-foot Bowers. The Archbishop Spalding senior, who weighs 250 pounds, clearly got the worst of the collision with the 270-pounder, getting rocked back about a foot and a half.

"I could tell from the first play how physical it was going to be down there," said Bowers, who had three points and five rebounds. "Every day in practice, it's going to be just like that. It's going to be fun."

Later in the first half, Bowers drove strongly to the basket only to be sent to the floor by a hard foul from Fofana.

Fofana (seven points) clearly enjoyed the give and take with his soon-to-be teammate. "I banged him around a little bit. I think he'll sleep well tonight," he said.

Strawberry, who got the loudest ovation during pre-game introductions, showed his athleticism by skying to slam down Mario Taybron's alley-oop pass in the second quarter, eliciting some oohs and aahs in the crowd.

The 6-4 guard out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., and the son of former major leaguer Darryl Strawberry, finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He will close his high school career on Thursday in the Capital Classic at MCI Center in Washington.

Ibekwe, a 6-9 forward, struggled early, badly missing two open jumpers in the first half. But he got going in the third quarter, showing the inside-outside game that made Kansas and Arizona among his suitors.

After a Fofana tip-in, Ibekwe (18 points) hit a three-pointer from just right of the top of the key to give U.S. team a 63-57 lead with just over three minutes to play in the third.

Then, after a free throw by Baltimore's Levi Stukes (Randallstown) evened the game at 65, Fofana scored from in close, followed by an athletic tip-in from Ibekwe. Ibekwe swooped in and got a left hand on his teammate's miss while falling under the basket.

Ibekwe scored his team's last six points in the third quarter as the U.S. team held a 73-71 lead entering the fourth.

Stukes and McDonogh's Mike Popoko, who is headed to Stony Brook, knocked down back-to-back threes to give Baltimore an 87-79 lead with 6:34 left, and it coasted from there.

The game's result certainly took a backseat to a new beginning for four soon-to-be Terps.

"I think the future is bright at Maryland," said Bowers, who also will play in the Capital Classic. "Everybody there saw what the Maryland players can do."

U.S. ALL-STARS-Clarke 12, Diaz 20, , Strawberry 12, Young 12, Taybron 2, Fofana 7, Ibekwe 18, Adkins 5, Sheridan 9. Totals 38 15-23 97. BALTIMORE ALL-STARS-Barksdale (Dunbar) 15, Draper (Walbrook/Trinity Pawling) 12, Owens (Annapolis) 2, Brown (Douglass/Hargrave Military) 25, Stevenson (Loch Raven) 6, Stukes (Randallstown) 13, Bowers (Spalding) 3, Joynes (Towson/Oak Hill) 10, Plack (St. Paul's) 2, Boone (South Carroll/West Nottingham) 16, Popoko (McDonogh) 8. Totals 26 10-23 112.

Half: U.S. All-Stars, 47-46.

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