by: Jim Hlavac
For 38 years Southern California basketball fans have seen future NBA stars in action at the Summer Pro League in Long Beach. Hall Of Famers Magic Johnson, Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas and Moses Malone all started their professional careers there; as did current stars Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Tracy McGrady.
This summer, the NBA teams left Long Beach for the Las Vegas Summer League, leaving the Say No Classic as the top showcase for young talent in the Los Angeles Area.
The Say No Classic is a summer league for local college players. It has been running strong for 35 years, and like the Summer Pro League, has a strong resume of former players including Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, Paul Pierce and Reggie Miller. The games were played at The Point in Hollywood and at Cal Poly Pomona. By this past weekend, the field of 16 teams had been reduced to the final four.
Friday night, the stars were out in Hollywood for the semifinal round of the Say No Summer Classic. NBA players Ben Gordon, Josh Childress, Cedric Bozeman and Nick Young were all part of a standing-room only crowd on hand to watch the games.
In the first game of the evening, Hank´s Franchise Boys used a big 3rd quarter to pull away with an 83-74 win. The Boys were lead by four players in double figures. Alex Stepheson (North Carolina) had 12 points and 9 rebounds with some big offensive rebounds leading to easy put-backs. Pepperdine´s Tyrone Shelly finished with 11 and hit a couple of long jump shots to help put the game away in the 4th quarter. Lorenzo Mata (UCLA) dropped in 10 points using both hands effectively, and fellow bruin Michael Roll had 11 points as well.
In the final game, UCLA´s Darren Collison drove to the basket and hit a lay up over three defenders with 2 seconds left to propel No Shnacks to an 86-84 victory over CABC. Collison is easily the quickest player in the league and finished with 20 points. He could get to the hole at will, but his outside shot wasn´t falling as he was 1-of-8 from 3-point distance.
Also starring on Collison´s team was T.J. Smith (Kentucky Wesleyan) with 18 points, Tony Dandridge (New Mexico) with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and Rene Rougeau (UNLV) with 15 points.
CABC was led by three players scoring 20 or more. Derrick O´Neil (Florida Community College) had 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 11 rebounds (6 offensive). Guard Josh Sanderson (Point Loma Nazarene) added 20 points and 6 assists. But the big star was Gonzaga-bound Austin Daye who scored 23 points (game-high), 16 rebounds (game high) and 3 blocks (game high).
Daye is a 6'10"? small forward who can score inside or outside and has good handles for a player his size. His intensity was also in full effect as he was injured during the middle of the 4th quarter, yet came back minutes later in obvious pain.
In the final game, No Shnacks jumped to an 8 point lead at the end of the first quarter, but it was all Hank´s Franchise Boys the rest of the way as they won 100-83. The Boys were led by Michael Roll´s 22 points and Tyrone Shelly´s 21 points. Pepperdine´s Rico Tucker chipped in with 15 points and 14 assists. Alex Stepheson and Lorenzo Mata each dropped 12 points.
Darren Collison again led No Shnacks with 26 points. He had a better long range day as he went 4-for-11 from behind the NBA arc. (The Say No Classic uses NBA rules.) T.J. Smith had 23 points and Tony Dandridge contributed 16 points in the losing effort.
- The Say No Classic runs for 6 weeks and admission is free.
- Other top players this year included Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona State), Jamal Boykin (Cal), James Harden (Arizona State) and Russell Westbrook (UCLA).
- The Point was built as a set for Nike?s Kobe Bryant commercials, which gives it a couple of unique features - the court is painted black with white lines to resemble an outdoor court, and the length of the court is probably 10-15 feet short of a full size court.