Big men shine in Jordan Brand Classic

NEW YORK -- This time the big men spoke loudly and carried their teammates, befitting a true Jordan Brand All-American.

On Saturday night the atypical ruled. Translation: Guard play was trumped by a pair of ultra-talented post players with bright futures.

Derrick Favors of South Atlanta (Atlanta) and Renardo Sidney Jr. of Fairfax (Los Angeles) were the game's Most Valuable Players for the Black and White teams, respectively.

Favors' game-high 21 points were enough as the Black team prevailed 110-103 in the seventh Jordan Brand Classic before 8,348 at Madison Square Garden.

For Favors, a Georgia Tech-bound 6-foot-9 forward, it marked the cap to a wonderful senior season. Favors, the MVP of the McDonald's Game earlier this month, walked away with a pair of national player of the year honors and helped South Atlanta capture Georgia's Class 3A state championship in March.

"Tonight two big guys got it done," Favors said. "There's something to be said about defense and rebounding."

Favors displayed a golden touch, making 6 of 10 shots from the floor and 9 of 12 free throws, and grabbed five rebounds.

Sidney, a Southern California recruit, scored 13 of his 15 points after the break and added seven rebounds and two assists.

"These are usually guard-oriented games, but not tonight," Sidney said. "There were great players on both teams, but they had the better team tonight."

The game -- typical of all-star clashes -- featured shoddy team play and myriad transition baskets, capped by rim-rattling slam dunks.

Sharing the ball was not a priority as the 35-second shot clock rarely ticked below 25 seconds thanks to the up-tempo pace.

John Wall of Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.) had the prettiest throwdown late in the second half. Wall launched from the right wing, finishing with a left-handed, over-the-shoulder gem.

The game was also an event with celebrities such as hip-hop artist Akon (who performed at halftime), newest Yankee CC Sabathia, New York City rapper Fat Joe, film director Spike Lee, former Jordan Game participant Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks and rookie Chris Douglas-Roberts of the New Jersey Nets gathered courtside.

Akon thrilled the younger fans strolling around the court, high-fiving them while belting out his urban anthems.

Also causing a stir at halftime was local high school legend Lance Stephenson, a noticeable snub for the game, posing for photos with Fat Joe along the baseline as Akon crooned. Stephenson of nearby Lincoln (Brooklyn), New York State's all-time leading scorer, played in the McDonald's Game.

Avery Bradley, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, closed out his prep career with 14 points. Bradley, who attends Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), has signed with Texas.

"Playing here [at Madison Square Garden] fulfilled my expectations; it's an exciting place to play," he said of the World's Most Famous Arena.

The White team made a few runs in the second half but was countered with timely baskets. Xavier Henry's basket at the buzzer provided the final margin. Henry, an undecided guard from Oklahoma City, scored 10 points.

The White team was outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, trailing by as many as 15, but it made a late run to make it respectable (52-42) at the intermission.

"You could tell all week the bigs had big personalities; you knew they were capable of having big nights," said winning coach Dan Hurley of St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.). "Watching them play it's amazing how long they are and the skill level."

The Black team was the aggressor for the first 13 minutes, taking a 37-25 lead following a Villanova-bound Dominic Cheek slam dunk off a miss. DeMarcus Cousins (10 points) dominated the pivot and Favors (11) and Bradley (eight) worked their magic on the perimeter.

Even Central Florida-bound Marcus Jordan (yes, that's Michael's youngest son) entered the high-wire act, finishing an alley-oop slam for the White squad. He added a second-half breakaway dunk, totaling five points.

The lead swelled to 17 points (43-26) when Hamilton knocked down a 3 with six minutes left in the half.

Wally Judge, a forward from Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla., provided a spark off the bench for the White, scoring seven straight points during one stretch of the half, including a long 3-pointer. Judge, who signed with Kansas State, finished with a team-high 18 points and seven rebounds.

Also scoring in double figures for the White was Mason Plumlee (11 points) and Royce White (10).

Cousins had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Black and Kenny Boynton added 11 points.

"Just stepping on the court was a big deal," said Duke-bound Ryan Kelly of Ravenscroft School (Raleigh, N.C.), who had two points and seven boards for the winners. "Think of all the great players who have played here and all the great games; that's what made it so special."

The Jordan Brand Classic was the third of three games Saturday with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The Children's Aid Society.

In the regional game, Russell Smith of Archbishop Molloy (Briarwood) earned co-MVP honors with 27 points, making 10 of 17 shots as the City team outscored the Suburban, 129-120. With the score tied at 53 after the first half, the teams combined for 143 points in the second stanza.

Syracuse-bound Brandon Triche of Jamesville-Dewitt (Dewitt, N.Y.), a co-MVP, tossed in a game-high 33 points for Suburban.

In the opener, an International game, featuring 16 of the top 17-and-under players globally, Luka Rupnik (27 points) and Ismaila Douda (23 points) combined for 50 points helping the Black team defeat the White 88-84. Ojo Olaiya Adelou topped the White with 20 points and Martin Kriz had a double-double, with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.