Today's Challenge may shed light on UM recruit Clark

On High Schools

High Schools

April 10, 2005|By MILTON KENT

IT'S A GOOD thing that Shane Clark likes being in the spotlight, because he's going to get plenty of attention at today's Charm City Challenge.

Oh, sure, plenty of fans will be on hand to watch some of the area's best boys high school basketball talent match up against some of the best players from around the country at Towson Center this afternoon, but many eyes will be on Clark.

The 6-foot-7 senior from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., may not be the flashiest player on the floor today, but he is the one player in the game who will be going to Maryland next season, which means Terps fans will want to get an early read on what they can expect next season.

"I love the pressure," Clark said. "I'm looking forward to going out there, having fun, meeting new people and enjoying the game."

For the kids, that's what these high school all-star games are about - coming into a new city, getting to meet and size up competition they'll be seeing in college or beyond, and showcasing their talents to a new audience.

"It just says that people appreciate your game enough that they select you to play in their all-star game," said Kevin Keatts, Clark's coach at Hargrave. "You never take it for granted, because a lot of guys who play basketball in high school don't have the opportunity to go on to shine enough to be offered a Division I scholarship or to play in a game like this. It's an honor for these kids."

The Charm City Challenge, in its fifth year, is just one of a number of high school all-star games, and while being selected to one is an honor, choosing between them is, well, a challenge.

Under NCAA rules, prospective recruits may play in no more than two all-star games without losing college eligibility, so it becomes obvious that kids who play in more than two have bigger targets in mind, namely the NBA.

"In my opinion, it's the right number, because you have to take a kid out of class for a few days," Keatts said. "The more games you participate in, the more days you end up missing. Those classes are important for a senior coming down the stretch."

Clark, for instance, passed up a late invitation to participate in the Capital Classic to be played April 22 at George Mason University's Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., to play in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.

"They [Derby Classic] asked me awhile ago, and I committed in February, and I wanted to keep my word," Clark said.

The Challenge doesn't have the history of the Capital Classic or the McDonald's High School All-America game, but it has delivered big-name talent. Players from each of the past four NCAA champions (Melvin Scott, North Carolina; Josh Boone, Connecticut; Craig Forth, Syracuse; Mike Grinnon, Maryland) have played in the Baltimore game.

Keatts, who will coach the U.S. team in today's second game, which follows a preliminary game between city and suburban seniors, has some familiarity with this type of event, in which kids who have been stars in their respective universes have to jockey with kids from other universes for time to shine.

"My philosophy is to let the kids have fun," Keatts said. "This should be an honor for every kid that is chosen to play in an all-star game, and I just want to put them in the best position to showcase their talent. Obviously, you don't get much defense, but I kind of want to get them to play a little bit, so that it won't get too sloppy."

Keatts, who is coaching in his third high school all-star game, said he won't be counting minutes for each player but will do his best to make sure that everyone gets a chance to shine.

That, of course, includes Clark, who averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and 6 1/2 assists last season at Hargrave, which has produced such notables as New Orleans Hornets forward David West; Josh Howard, who starred at Wake Forest before going on to the Dallas Mavericks; and former Maryland star Lonny Baxter.

In Keatts' mind, Clark, who likely will play on the wing at Maryland, is as good as any he has coached.

"He fits in well," Keatts said. "We've been very fortunate in that we've had a lot of very good players come through the program, and Shane is right up there with everybody that has come through. He's talented, and he has an opportunity to come in and help Maryland next year."

That's sweet music to Terps fans' ears.

Charm City Challenge

Where: Towson Center

When: Today

Games: City All-Stars vs. Suburban All-Stars, 3 p.m.; Baltimore All-Stars vs. U.S. All-Stars, 5 p.m.

Tickets for doubleheader: $10 students (at door, with school ID); $15 general admission; $25 reserved seating; $50 courtside, including food, drink, program.

Information: 410-605-9381

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