COLLEGE PARK - The Jordan Capital Classic's national game has gone from being a "Who's Who" contest showcasing America's best college-bound senior high school basketball recruits to a star-studded affair of "Who's bypassing college to go straight to the NBA?"
Last night's 31st annual classic at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center featured 19 of the country's top prep basketball players performing before celebrities such as Red Auerbach, John Thompson, Michael Jordan, Morgan Wootten, LeBron James and Terrell Owens.
But the man of the evening clearly was Dwight Howard, a 6-foot-11 forward out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy who might be the No. 1 pick in the NBA's June 24 draft.
Howard decided last fall to turn pro before making it official last week. He ran the floor as well as most guards and played with finesse. He also swatted away shots with the authority and power of the big man he is when getting back on defense.
He did all this to finish as the night's Most Valuable Player, as his 18 points, 15 rebounds, six blocked shots and three assists led the Black team over the White team in the national game, 107-96.
"I just wanted to go out there and have fun. It was my last high school game. I just wanted to have fun tonight, and it feels great, because I ended up on top," said Howard, who joined Dorell Wright, a 6-8 forward out of South Kent Prep School who had signed with DePaul, as the two players who have chosen to become professional players.
Archbishop Spalding's Rudy Gay (14 points) also showed glimpses of the talents required to make the jump to the next level - all while playing on the floor of the program that lost a recruiting battle to the Huskies and while being booed and jeered from Terps fans each time he touched the ball.