Nation’s best high school basketball players compete at Smith Center

Some of the best high school basketball players in the country played at the Smith Center Thursday when GW hosted the 33rd annual Capital Classic High School All-Star Game.

The tournament, which is considered one of the most prominent high school showcases in the nation, gave a preview of some of the members of college basketball’s incoming class.

Thursday’s game featured recruits from such perennial powerhouse programs as the universities of Connecticut, North Carolina and national champion Florida as well as successful local programs like University of Maryland, GW, Georgetown and George Mason universities.

Former participants in the prestigious event, which pitted high school basketball stars from the Washington metropolitan area against a team of national all-stars, include NBA greats Michael Jordan, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and LeBron James.

The tournament matched up District of Columbia All-Stars versus the Suburban All-Stars, and the U.S. All-Stars versus the Capital All-Stars. The U.S. All-Stars team, led by tournament MVP and University of Michigan commit DeShawn Sims, beat the Capital All-Stars 120-117.

The event started with a game between lesser-known Metropolitan-area high school stars, split up into Suburban All-Stars and District All-Stars. The District All-Stars won the game after being down 13 points at halftime. The Capital All-Stars team was also made up of local students.

The tournament was moved to the District after a year at George Mason’s Patriot Center. In past years, the event was held in D.C.’s Verizon Center. The event nearly sold out at the Smith Center, with most fans cheering for the Capital All-Stars team.

Damian Hollis, a 6-foot-7 forward from Sunrise, Fla., played the first of what will be many games at the Smith Center, as he has committed to GW. (See story “Hollis makes impression at GW”). Another tournament player, Jeremiah Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, will play at Georgetown next year.

Additionally, University of Connecticut commit Jerome Dyson, a resident of nearby Potomac, Md., returned to the Metropolitan-area amid loud applause after transferring to a New Hampshire private school three years ago.

“It’s nice,” Dyson said. “I don’t really get to play that much in front of my friends and family, so whenever I get the chance to, it feels great.”

On the Capital All-Star team, Louis Birdson, a 6-foot-5 forward, will play at George Mason next year. Six-foot-5 guard Greivis Vasquez impressed fans with both his scoring and passing abilities, skills that will likely endear him to Terrapin fans when he plays at Maryland.

Perhaps no player was better received than 6-foot-2 guard Michael Gruner, star of the nearby Walt Whitman high school basketball team that upset team after team en route to its first ever state championship. Gruner is being courted by the Naval Academy, and American and Columbia Universities.

“It’s definitely an honor to play in this kind of game with so many talented players,” said Gruner, who scored six points. “Personally, I enjoy playing the kind of basketball that we played all year (at Whitman). Out here, you’re not really seeing much team basketball; it’s more about playing for yourself. It’s fun every once and a while, but it’s not something that I really enjoy that much.”

Hollis enjoyed the game more, as he viewed it as an opportunity not only to play against competition that he will be up against next year, but to do so in an unfriendly environment.

Hollis said, “It’s a challenge for the U.S. (All-Stars) because, coming here, (the Capital All-Stars) have the refs and they have the fans (on their side), so it’s a nice challenge and I like it a lot.”

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