Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Bojangles Shootout

I just returned home from working at the 2007 Bojangles Shootout put on by Dell Curry's Athletes United For Youth foundation. The high school basketball tournament in Charlotte featured some of the best schools from around the country including St. Benedicts (New Jersey), Moeller (Cincinnati), South Atlanta, and Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn). The tournament also featured several regional teams including Charlotte Christian, Victory Christian, Charlotte Latin, Hopewell and West Charlotte.

Working as a statistician, I had the opportunity to see most of the tournament's games at midcourt alongside Davidson's assistant SID, Lauren Biggers. Here are some notes to supplement all that Langston Wertz and his crack Charlotte Observer staff have already put together.

-Like Wertz mentioned in today's blog, the tournament should be moved to the campus of UNC-Charlotte. After arriving at the Marvin Ridge site on Friday morning and witnessing the final two days of action, I was a little embarrassed that I hadn't heard of this tournament before. The main gym was absolutely packed for the afternoon and evening games, and many people weren't allowed in on Saturday night because of a fire marshal's warning.

-The stars were out and shining over the course of the entire weekend. Steve Smith and Dell Curry were very visible throughout most of the tournament as the headliners of the Athletes United for Youth foundation. But former Panther Brentson Buckner decided to stop by to take in some of the action so they made him a celebrity judge during Saturday's slam dunk competition (I assume they had worked that out beforehand, but Buckner was definitely just hanging out). Top media and scouts were also on hand including writers from Rivals and Dave Telep from, Billy Packer from CBS, Steve Wojo from Duke, and Bobby Lutz from UNC-Charlotte.

-The notables in the stands did not outshine the notables on the court, however. Samardo Samuels, the #7 recruit in the class of 2008 who has signed with Louisville, led the nation's best high school team, St. Benedict's, to the National Tournament championship. St. Benedicts also had strong play from Greg Echenique, a 6-8 junior getting looks from Duke and North Carolina. Derrick Favors, a 6-9 junior at South Atlanta, got the most individual pub throughout the entire tournament. While I admit that he was flanked by a team with relatively less talent, I was still somewhat unimpressed with his play in relation to the hype. Against St. Benedicts and Samuels, he didn't use the triple teams that he saw to get his teammates open looks, and he barely saw the floor due to foul trouble in the second half. Favors did play very well against Jeanette on Thursday sporting a line of 42 (points), 20 (rebounds), and 12 (blocks). But I also know that the stats guy working that game was giving out blocks on plays in which the defender was also charged with a foul. He will make a great college player in a few years, but he has some room for improvement.

-The best game of the tournament was definitely the Local championship game between Charlotte Christian and Victory Christian. Seth Curry led Charlotte with 15 points in the third quarter with a tear that most Davidson fans would have found very familiar. Wanting to pave his own path, Curry has signed a letter of intent to attend Liberty in the fall. Davidson also signed a contract with Liberty setting up a two-year series where the Curry brothers will be able to play against each other. Curry was helped by teammate Carson Sullivan who scored 18 points in the championship and was named Tournament MVP. As a junior with excellent grades, Sullivan is beginning to get looks from Liberty and Charleston Southern. If Davidson could up their emphasis on conservative Southern baptist religion, maybe they would be a potential.

-The Tournament was a fantastic display of the richness of the basketball tradition in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Everyone from the staff, volunteers, performers, refs, coaches and fans exuded an immense enthusiasm for the sport and the role it plays in the lives of kids and adults. I was really struck by how much play Davidson seemed to be getting throughout the entire tournament. Whether it was a fellow staffer asking about where I went to school, a kid in the stands wearing a Stephen Curry jersey, or yet another article talking about the Curry dynasty, Davidson and its incredible program was on everyone's lips throughout the tournament. That fact continues to show how Bob McKillop and Davidson have become a factor in Charlotte once again.

-During a break between games, Dell mentioned to those in the staff room that this tournament is always hard because many fans always seem to get on him about paying off the refs. During Stephen's senior year, he led Charlotte Christian to a title and was named Tourney MVP. This year, Victory Christian fans were frustrated with the physical game and the fact that their star point guard, Andre Cornelius, could not hit the broad side of a barn. Cornelius led his team to an early first half lead with some tremendous passes, but his jumpshot was off in the second half when Charlotte made their run. The most emotional point in the game came off an inbound when Victory Christian made a steal and hit a layup. The refs blew the whistle at the end of the play because the clock operator did not start the clock. The basket was not counted and VC fans lost it, shouting accusations that Curry had paid off the entire staff.

-A more serious fiasco almost transpired in the semifinal game between Moeller and Lincoln. Lincoln had the ball down by 4 with seven seconds remaining. They ran up the court and promptly hit a three-pointer. Except that the clock operator did not start the clock. In high school rules, the clock does not stop after a made basket under a minute so presumably, Moeller would have been able to run out the time without inbounding. Instead they had to throw in with three seconds and a 1-point lead. After a free throw made and missed, Lincoln had the ball back with two seconds down by two. A half-court rolled around the rim and came out. If that shot would have gone in, the intense Moeller fan base would have gone berserk (as it was, their obscenely uber-serious 8-man coaching staff let the press table hear it after the game).

***Photo by Charlotte Observer's Robert Lahser***

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