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Future ACC Stars Shine At Roundball Classic

The trip to the Roundball Classic didn't start as well as we would like: ESA
confusion on where to pick up a will-call ticket had us in lines for a half-hour
before we decided to bag the attempt and just buy a damned ticket.  The
ticket man was told, explicitly, half-court please, but the seat was in section
111, directly behind a basket, and in the ESA, like Reynolds and not at all like
Cameron, being behind the basket is not much different than being outside the
building.  The beer we bought ended up spilling, and going all over the
place.  On top of that, the rendering of the National Anthem was the worst
we have heard since Roseanne Barr, and possibly since Mrs. Sloan. Be glad you
never had to listen to that. For some godforsaken reason, she even did it
in Cameron on occasion.  Mrs. Sloan was a fine patriot, but she was not a
singer. We trudged to our seat, resigned to a poor view and an evening of
frustration.

Then we looked at the ticket again and realized it was actually a floor
ticket. Suddenly a sucky evening was looking up. 

We made our way down to under the basket and took a spot just behind the
cameraman. The other end of the floor may as well have been Texas, but our end
was pretty sweet.

We paid close attention to the players we wished most to see - Chris Duhon of
course, Andre Barrett, whom we admire extravagantly,  and who bears a
passing resemblance (no pun intended) to Smokey Robinson of Motown fame, Brian
Morrison, Jason Parker, Scooter Sherrill, and Raleigh's Twin Towers, Michael
Bell and Chris Wilcox.

As the angst ridden arrival receded, the game started with an ugly flourish:
DeShawn Stevenson ignoring his point guard and dribbling downcourt for a long
jumper. Thus was the theme set for the evening's contest. An all-star game is by
definition about showing off, and only a handful of players made an effort at
playing team ball. Happily for us ACC fans, among their number can be counted
Duhon and Morrison, and also Andre Barrett.

Of these three players, we can say the following: Duhon is pretty much ready
to play on a high level, though he got burned on defense a few times.
Nonetheless, he is a complete player and a mature talent, lacking only perhaps
some muscle. 

Andre Barrett is consistently set out in these games like a Stradivarius in a
pickup bluegrass band.  This kid has a very rare intelligence for the game
and is wise beyond his years.  Yet even in an All-Star game, where his
abilities are almost a detriment, as his height is (in the context of an
All-Star game that is), he periodically erupted and showed that he has a
brilliant grasp of the geometry of the game.  When he is paired with Tommy
Amaker, this kid's game is going to explode.  He made a few passes that
were on the level of Bird or Magic, not in the execution as much as the
perception.  Whatever "it" is, he's got it. In spades.  When
he has a chance to work with teammates for a few months, you'll understand how
remarkable this kid is.  But 5-10? If he's 5-10 we're 7 footers. There's no
way he's 5-10. Not that it matters. Basketball is an absolute meritocracy, and
if you can play you can play. Barrett is going to be huge.

Morrison, who won the MVP honors for his team, impressed us a lot with his
team-oriented play. Almost alone in this sort of behavior, he ran over to
someone who gave him a good pass and slapped him on the butt. He also played
pretty good defense.  His build is a little funny - he has almost no neck
and spider long arms and legs.  Nonetheless, he can run, he can absolutely
get off the ground, and he can apparently shoot. He's a player. He wants to play
point, and no matter where UNC turns next year, they have a bit of a logjam at
guard - Forte of course will start, backed up by Owens, and Curry will/should be
back and be one the better athletes on the team, and then there are the freshmen
Morrison and Adam Boone.  Whichever way you look at it, there are five
guards for two spots. From Gut's point of view, thank God, of course, but the
competition will be fierce. In this game, Morrison gets props for trying to go
under the basket, but he just isn't strong enough yet to do it.  With 20-25
pounds, he's an All-American candidate.

We had heard Parker had gotten into much better shape, and he is physically
more fit than he was last time we saw him.  But we still aren't very
impressed with him. We've been way wrong before, and he had one thunderous dunk
to make his point, but he appears to be, essentially, a 6-7 post player. He's
not as good an athlete as is Julius Peppers, but he'll contribute, particularly
if he pounds the boards.  He made a comment about getting to the NBA no
matter how long it takes - before he gets too gone on that notion, he better
learn to play away from the basket a bit.  At this point, he plays like
Haywood less six inches. The strength is there, the hands are there, but he has
a ways to go, in our opinion.

Bell and Wilcox both showed a great deal of athleticism, much more than we
expected, and Sherrill had his moments too, but wasn't overwhelming skill-wise,
though his talent is very obvious.

As we said, the three guards we mentioned first made a legitimate attempt to
play team ball.  This was shot down by their teammates, who relished the
gloryosky nature of the event and proceeded with all sorts of innovative ways to
make a simple game complex.  Taliek Brown, who in many respects had an
excellent game, spent way too much energy going by defenders and juking in the
lane: his efficiency level was about 30%. This was amply demonstrated by
Barrett, who made a number of smart plays which were fumbled by teammates, plays
which were obvious in hindsight but approached with a deceptive cool, and highly
efficient.

Gerald Wallace, Andre Brown, and especially DeShawn Stevenson and Jerome
Harper did some really dumb things. To be fair, they all did some really amazing
things, but if a man walks on his hands to the top of Mount Everest so that he
can ski down it, well, getting there on your hands isn't the point: the point is
the trip down, not up.  Someone needs to explain that to these guys.
Several of them are flirting with NBA dreams, to greater or lesser extents, but
the one whose game is probably the closest is Andre Barrett's, and size will be
an eternal question mark for him, though we think he'll shut people up in a
hurry.

As the game descended into childish antics and playground stunts, we were
impressed that Duhon, Barrett, and Morrison continued, for the most part, to
play discipined, smart basketball.  A lot of what happens in any All-Star
game is just junk, but seeing kids who are willing to play the right way when no
one else is is a very good sign, both for their futures and the future of the
game.

At halftime we walked over to visit with Ben Sherman from uncbasketball.com,.
who pointed out Bret Bearup, with whom we have had some engaging and provocative
e-mail exchanges, so we introduced ourselves and had a pleasant conversation.

When the half ended, Anthony Grundy was sitting in the seat we had vacated,
so a conversation rose up. He asked us who that #3 was, apparently impressed,
and we told him it was Brian Morrison, bound for UNC. We asked him about Cota,
and he had good words for Ed, and for Chris Carrawell as well, saying that he
was the toughest guy he had guarded all season.  Just down to our right was
Damien Wilkins, who mugged for our camera for a bit, and down the way was Joe
Forte, who was wearing a Cowboys jersey with Sanders across the back and
entertaining a steady stream of visitors.

Notes - some of the fans were hilarious....a group kept yelling at Duhon,
that he sucked and so forth, but of course he didn't acknowledge that....later
they yelled at Brian Boddicker, who will play for Rick Barnes next, that he
sucked and was pathetic...he glared up and couldn't find them...when he looked
away they yelled again...in this case, they spoke the truth - the guy looks to
be the next Tom Wideman....yes he scored 20 points, but he was whiny, complained instead of hustling, and looked intimidated too often...Quin & Roy better be ready because we're sure Barnes will make him play hard....Caron Butler
pounded the boards at one point most impressively....at one point, all the
players were waiting for tv to resume and were immensely bored...that was pretty
funny to see...also present - Carlos Boozer....Duhon will thrive in Duke's
system as Barrett will in Amaker's...Morrison will too once UNC figures out where he will play....