Over the past decade, some of New York City’s best high school basketball prospects have fled the five boroughs to play college basketball on "greener pastures"outside the city. We've seen young stars leave New York for rivaling schools like Villanova, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
However,, on Saturday - at least for now - this wasn't the case as the country’s best high school basketball players flocked to Brooklyn to play in the Under Armour Elite 24 basketball event. In front of an exuberant outdoor Brooklyn crowd at Pier 2 under the scenic Brooklyn Bridge, some of the country’s best high school players put on a highlight-packed show to remember.
Since its inception in 2006, the event has featured countless McDonald’s All Americans and many future NBA first round draft picks. Saturday night’s game was no different.
The players were split up into two teams, Team Liberty featured top center Stephen Zimmerman (2015) and Team Freedom showcased Thon Maker (2016), arguably the best high school prospect in the nation. Like any all-star contest the game featured little defense, but did display impressive athleticism on the offensive side of the ball.
The game went off with a bang as the two teams exchanged dunks and alley oops to the delight of the Brooklyn crowd. Arguably the best dunk of night came in the first half when future Louisville Cardinal, Donovan Mitchell, threw down an awe-inspiring one-handed alley-oop jam for Team Liberty. However, Team Freedom, led by Malik Newman and Josh Jackson, controlled the first half and went into halftime with a 69-60 lead. Duke commit Chase Jeter kept Team Freedom close, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
Team Freedom might have controlled the first half, but the second half was all Team Liberty. Led by the hots hands of shooting guard Antonio Blakeney (2015) and small forward Jaylen Brown (2015), Team Liberty went on to outscore Team Freedom by twenty points in the second half (67-47) .
Thon Maker tried to keep Team Freedom within striking distance, but struggled from the field in the second to half due to an exceptional defensive performance from Stephen Zimmerman. Ultimately, Team Liberty’s attack was orchestrated by Jawun Evans, who had ten assists, and ended up being too much for Team Freedom.
With three minutes left in the second half, it began to drizzle and the game was called to prevent possible injuries. Team Liberty recorded the win, defeating Team Freedom by a score of 127-116. Jaylen Brown finished the night with 23 points, while Chase Jeter carded an impressive 17 points and 15 rebounds. The two rising stars shared MVP honors for Team Liberty.
Harry Giles, who returned this summer from a devastating knee injury, was the high scorer for Team Freedom, compiling 16 points and grabbing 11 boards. This performance proved to be a pleasant surprise for the 6-foot-10 forward from North Carolina as he finally appears to be returning to his pre-injury form.
St. John's targets Cheick Diallo and Isaiah Briscoe were selected for the game, but sat out due to injury. Diallo and Briscoe will visit St. John's in the all and make their decisions later on during the school year.
Rain may have cut the exhibition short, but the showcase provided an a nice sneak peek into the future of college and professional basketball.