Howard steals show in win

Atlanta player headed for NBA named MVP with 18 points, 15 boards

Jordan Capital Classic

High Schools

April 18, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

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 talents 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 is projected as the No. 1 pick in the NBA's June 24 draft.

Howard already had decided last fall to turn pro before making it official last week. He ran the floor as well as most guards and played with equal amounts of 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 with his 18 points , 15 rebounds, six blocked shots and three assists, which led the Black team over the White team in the national game, 107-96.

Howard 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.

Another, Archbishop Spalding's 6-8 forward Rudy Gay, The Sun's All-Metro Co-Player of the Year, hinted late last week at a growing desire to join them - meaning he would eschew his signed scholarship to NCAA champion Connecticut.

In a losing effort, Wright scored 24 points (5-for-6 from the line) and grabbed seven rebounds, and Gay scored 14 points, including two three-pointers, and blocked two shots. Their 6-9 teammate Al Jefferson, who is headed for Arkansas, scored 17 points.

But it was Howard who proved himself most worthy, establishing his dominance in the first half.

He drained a baseline jumper over 6-9 Arkansas-bound Jefferson, later blocked shots by both Jefferson and Wright, and also ran by Gay in the lane for a dunk.

Howard, who if picked first, would follow the path of James, who drew a crowd when he arrived late in the first half.

Gay also showed glimpses of the talents required to make the jump to the next level - all while playing on the floor of the program which lost a recruiting battle to the Huskies and while being booed and jeeredfrom Terps fans each time he touched the ball.

Gay once sailed a three-pointer over Howard's outstretched hands. He used his wingspan, defensively, to later block a shot by Howard. And there was his one-handed slam dunk after stealing a pass - after which he ripped off his head band and slung it into the stands.

Though foul trouble forced Gay to miss much of the early portion of the second half, by the end of the night, Gay had succeeded in turning much of the crowd's criticism into admiring "oohs" and "aahs."

In the regional game, the White team beat the Red, 121-96.

Abdulai Jalloh of National Christian Academy, a 6-1 guard who is headed for St. Joseph's University, scored 19 points, grabbed four rebounds and went 5-for-6 from the field to earn Most Valuable Player honors for the White team.

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