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Tuesday, July 8
Telfair, Livingston prepare for ABCD battle

By Michael Kruse
Special to

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Sebastian Telfair is Sebastian Telfair.

Now that LeBron James is no longer of this world -- that is, the strange mix of moxie that is grassroots basketball -- Telfair is the singular icon of this particular level of hoops.

He's the most visible, most recognized and most celebrated sub-college-or-pro player on the planet -- and that's not going to change.

S. Telfair

What has changed, though, is the once reflexive notion that the Coney Island kid better known as Bassy is clearly the best of the bunch in the Class of 2004.

The quiet revolution is over.

Telfair might still be the face. But the name is Shaun Livingston, a smooth, stringy 6-foot-6, 175-pound point guard prospect from Peoria, Ill.

And for the first time ever -- heading into this week's adidas ABCD All-America Camp -- the hyped 6-foot Brooklyn point is more hunter than hunted.

"Shaun, in my opinion, is THE guy," Michigan Hurricanes summer team coach Chris Grier said Monday evening during pre-camp practices. "All the other players want him."

They want to go at Livingston. They want to take a piece of the rep. That's Sebastian stuff -- or used to be.

But not everyone here thinks it's gone quite that far.

"Sebastian's always going to have the New York hype," said Curtis Malone, who runs the highly successful D.C.'s Assault program.

"I think they're both really good," added Darren "Mats" Matsubara, the boss of the Elite Basketball Organization out of Fresno, Calif.

Well, sure, the issue is open for discussion -- and that says something in and of itself.

"People are starting to wonder," talent evaluator Thom Jones said. "The perception is there that Shaun's gotten to where he's at least as good as Sebastian. But this is where the rubber meets the road."

This is ABCD -- where, as a 5-8, 135-pound rising freshman three long summers ago, Telfair first took his citywide rep and turned it into coast-to-coast cred.

This, of course, is also where he faltered so famously last year, raising questions from recruiting diehards, Internet analysts, college coaches and just about everyone in between.

And now?

"This is the time that separates the prospects from the suspects," Long Island Panthers honcho Gary Charles said. "It's time to step up."

For both Telfair and Livingston -- and others.

Their fellow floor generals want some respect, too, and a handful of them are good enough to get it.

Darius Washington, a fiery competitor from Orlando, Fla., who forged his national reputation with his spirited battles with Telfair here last year, certainly wants in again.

Expect Texas' Jason Horton, Kentucky's Rajon Rondo, Ohio's Jamar Butler and Upstate New York's Josh Write to stake their claims as well.

But Shaun versus Sebastian just packs such intrigue.

New versus old.

Tall versus quick.

Small city versus big city.

"Sebastian's a jet, and he's probably harder to guard in that respect," longtime Playaz coach Jimmy Salmon said. "But Shaun is so big that he's a mismatch for other point guards."

Added Malone: "Sebastian brings that New York toughness, but Shaun brings that size -- they'll go at it."

Folks will discuss it.

And questions are sure to continue.

Is Sebastian Telfair Sebastian Telfair? Still? Is he? And can he be again? Can he reclaim the crown he wore for so long?

Remains to be seen.

Right here.

Right now.

"This is the venue," Salmon said. "Let's settle the score."

Michael Kruse, who writes for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., is a frequent contributor to

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