For the past four years, the Boost Mobile Elite 24 has been able to bring in two-dozen of the country’s best high school ballers – no matter the grade level – to its annual all-star event at Rucker Park in Harlem. But for its fifth installment this past August, the event’s promoters wanted to give it a little West Coast makeover; deciding instead to host the festivities at the legendary outdoor courts in Venice Beach, Calif.
Presented by ESPN RISE, the Elite 24 kicked off its four-day event with a midnight run between its 24 H.S. participants and some E24 NBA alumni at the Hanger Athletic Xchange (HAX) in L.A. Players from Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan to honorary game coaches John Wall and Brandon Jennings were all on hand for the late night burn. From there, the Elite 24ers were shuttled between a smattering of scrimmages, media appearances and practice sessions until the event really got rocking Friday night.
For the evening preceding the E24’s main event, the crowd on hand was treated with the Under Armour Slam Dunk and Skills Competitions. While eventual winner Bradley Beal and the guards selected started the night off with a full-court skills course, it was the dunk contest that had the place on its feet. In particular, the favorite to take the crown coming in, Quddus “Deuce” Bello, seemed unfazed by the cameras and any apparent pressure. Bello, who is also high school and AAU teammates with fellow E24er Quincy Miller, displayed three dunks on the night; each of which had the judges and crowd reeling. A between the legs slam, off the glass to himself between the legs and the fan-favorite, windmill over a sitting Miller, was more than enough to seal the win for Bello.
“Deuce did real well,” said DeRozan, who also helped judge the contest. “He got the crowd on their feet; made it real exciting. I [thought] it was real fun; he definitely did his thing.”
“He did some amazing dunks,” added Jennings. “The one between the legs was crazy; that one right there was bananas for a high school kid.”
“It feels good; I think I had something to prove,” said Bello immediately after winning. “Everybody had me coming into the dunk contest to win, so I had to prove myself.”
On Saturday’s game day, the players were able to enjoy some SoCal sunshine, as all 24 hoopers looked to prove something on the court. Right out of the gates, 6-7 forward LeBryan Nash out of Dallas, Texas started the game off with a breakaway cram. And from there, the game ran similar to that of the previous night: a lot of uncontested dunks and oohs from the crowd. As with most all-star games, one-on-one offensive possessions became the norm, but one player that did assert himself above the fray was Austin Rivers; which is something we’ve come to expect from Doc’s kid. Rivers, who looks about as polished an offensive player as you’re going to find at the high school level, had the defenders guessing all night. His jumper was on point, but what was equally as impressive, was his handle and ability to correctly evade a double-team and get to the rack.
When it was all said and done, the Raymond Lewis Guest squad, led by co-MVPs Kyle Wiltjer and Myck Kabongo, trumped the Marques Johnson Home squad by a final score of 131-to-128. Conversely, the co-MVPs for the Home team were James McAdoo (10 points, 11 boards) and Rivers, who finished with 15 points and four assists.
As the evening and event wrapped up – and fans looked to rush the court for their favorite player’s autograph – almost every Elite 24 participant could be seen rocking a grin as the media approached. The experience of flying out to an all-star event with guys who they’ll continue to battle against for years to come, certainly wasn’t lost on the young guns.
“It was amazing; I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” said Wiltjer, who dropped 20 points in the win and also made his commitment to Kentucky at the game’s halftime. “I got my college choice out of the way. I mean I’m just on cloud nine right now.”
“It was an amazing experience, you know to be a part of this. I was in it last year in New York and I never got to play outside yet on National TV,” said Kabongo, who finished with 13 points and 10 dimes on the night and has already committed to Texas. “So I’m grateful and thank God for it.”
“I mean, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity; you know I’m thankful,” said McAdoo. “Just to come out here and kick it with my 23 other best friends.”
Thanks to Boost Mobile, ESPN RISE, Under Armour and the rest of the sponsors and team that made Elite 24 happen this year.
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