UA Elite 24 History: Rucker Park (2006-2009)
The first nine years of the Under Armour Elite 24, four at Rucker Park three at Venice Beach, and two in Brooklyn, overflowed with NBA talent, Ballislife-worthy dunks and memorable one-on-one battles. The 10th anniversary game will be rocking this year and add to its legacy as summer’s premier high school basketball showcase.
The inaugural Boost Mobile Elite 24 set the tone, as Rucker Park was jam-packed and the court full of future NBA talent. J.J. Hickson of Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), now playing for the Denver Nuggets, led all scorers with 34 points in a losing effort, as his “Goat” squad fell to the “Skip To My Lou” squad, 141-139.
Current NBA forward Michael Beasley of Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.) led the victors with 26 points. Gardena, Calif., native and 2009 NBA Draft lottery pick Brandon Jennings handed out 15 assists for The Goat.
NBA players Ben Gordon and Jason Kidd served as honorary coaches for the two teams named after the most revered Rucker Park legends: the late Earl Manigault of Harlem and Rafer Alston of Queens.
The game was the plot for the documentary of Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, directed by Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys fame. The film centered on eight of the game’s players, all NBA draftees, and opened in theaters June 2008.
The “Goat” squad defeated the “Skip” squad, 169-164, but the final score was nothing compared to the individual battle between 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and Coney Island native Lance Stephenson. Playing for Skip, Stephenson led all scorers with 38 points, a Elite 24 record that still stands. “Reke Havoc”, the No. 4 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, finished with 26 points.
Meanwhile, The Goat’s Brandon Jennings outdid his 2006 assist total (15) by dropping 23 dimes, likely the most impressive individual performance in the game’s history. Rafer Alston and fellow NBA guard Baron Davis served as honorary coaches. Davis learned the game at South Park Elementary in Los Angeles before earning Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball honors at Crossroads (Santa Monica, Calif.), a school a stone’s throw from Venice Beach.
Before the “Skip” squad got back in the win column with a 135-121 triumph over “The Goat” squad, current North Carolina guard Dexter Strickland of St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) won the first Under Armour Slam Dunk Contest. Another Garden State playmaker, Dominic Cheek of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), shined during the game with 23 points and seven rebounds for Skip. Doron Lamb of Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.) led the winning club with 25 points.
Explosive guard John Wall from Word of God Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) scored 10 points for the Skip squad and threw down two highlight dunks. Lance Stephenson of Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) led all scorers with 29 points in a losing effort for the Goat squad.
Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, Stephenson’s coach at Lincoln, joined NBA star Chauncey Billups as coaches for the Skip squad. Rafer Alston’s high school coach, Ron Naclerio, and 1989 Mr. Basketball USA Kenny Anderson of Archbishop Malloy (Jamaica, N.Y.) coached the Goat squad.
Rain washed away the opportunity for 24 of the nation’s best players to play at the world-famous Rucker. The event was moved indoors to the Gauchos Gym in the Bronx. At first, the missed opportunity dampened the players’ spirits, but an overflow and late-night crowd reset the energy for everyone.
Offense came easily in Skip To My Lou’s 133-120 win over The Goat squad, thanks to MVP performances by New Yorkers Doron “Smooth Criminal” Lamb and Tobias “Nobody’s Smiling” Harris. Lamb, a 6-foot-4 wing from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), led all scorers with 23 points. Harris, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Half Hollow Hills West (Dix Hills, N.Y.), added 20 points.
The game’s highlight was an emphatic dunk by Lake Clifton (Baltimore, Md.) guard Josh Selby. He took two power dribbles down the right side, elevated over a startled Kendall Marshall of Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) and threw it down with authority. Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.) forward C.J. Leslie finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots to earn co-MVP honors for The Goat with Selby, who finished with 18 points.
Dwayne “Tiny” Morton once again coached Skip, this time with help from NBA guards Rajon Rondo and Tyreke Evans. Influential New York Post basketball writer and Rucker Park veteran Peter “The Viper” Vecsey coached The Goat with assistance from Kevin Love and Brandon Jennings.