Under Armour Showcase Prep Stars

Aaron Harrison, the No. 4 ranked high school basketball player in the country, according to ESPNU’s Top 100 player rankings, dunks at the 7th Annual Under Armour Elite 24 basketball game at Venice Beach. Photo/Dennis J. Freeman

Venice Beach, CA-The Under Armour Elite 24 weekend is fast turning into one of the premiere high school basketball events in the country as some of the nation’s best prep stars converge annually at Venice Beach to showcase their skills against one another and give fans and media pundits a look at potential NBA ballers.  And it’s getting bigger each year.

The Under Armour Elite 24, created to honor California’s playground basketball legends, has grown to the point that it is now being mentioned as being a chief rival to the McDonald’s All-American High School basketball game. This year’s class of invitees didn’t disappoint at the 7th Annual Under Armour Elite 24 basketball game, as hundreds of onlookers got a glimpse of the future.

With past Under Armour Elite 24 class members such as Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), John Wall (Washington Wizards), DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats) and Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks) lighting up the Venice Beach Boardwalk in the last few years, this year’s crop was excited to be part of the weekend’s festivities that included a dunk contest.

For Jennings, who grew up in nearby Compton, seeing this year’s group of players, reminded him of when he played basketball in high school. Coaching the Raymond Lewis team, which was named after playground basketball icon Raymond Lewis, Jennings said it was fun to come back home and participate.

“It was cool,” Jennings said. “I always come and support the (Under Armour) Elite 24. I was one of the first guys to play in the first game, so it feels good just to come back.”

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams helped Jennings coach the Raymond Lewis squad. Williams said he liked what he saw on the court.

“It was fun,” Williams said. I have never been a part of it, but just watching all of these guys out here…these are the next stars out here. It was good to see all of these guys out here.”

High-wire act: Jabari Bird, the No. 20 high school basketball prospect in the country, goes flush at the 7th Annual Under Armour Elite 24 basketball game at Venice Beach. Photo/Dennis J. Freeman

The Jennings-Williams coached team easily took out and defeated the Marques Johnson squad coached by Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.  As far as the contest went, the game turned into a virtual all-star dunkfest. Playing defense was a noticeable ingredient missing from the game that was televised by ESPN.

The players selected came from all over the country, flying in from Virginia, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee  and California. Isaac Hamilton of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California was the lone Los Angeles-area player invited. The game represented a “Who’s Who” among prep basketball stalwarts.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Travis High School, Richmond, TX), considered the second and fourth best players in the country, according to ESPNU’s 100 top high school player rankings, were on the court doing their thing for Jennings and the Raymond Lewis team.  Jennings also had the benefit of having Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano, TX), the third-ranked player in the nation, added to his squad as well. Rondae Jefferson (No. 14, Chester, PA) and Hamilton (No. 22) provided Jennings with depth.

On the other side, Walker could boast of having Jabari Bird (No. 20, Salesian High School, Richmond, CA), Aaron Gordon (No. 6, Archbishop Mitty High School, San Jose, CA) and Keith Frazier (No. 19, Kimball High School, Dallas, TX) playing for him.

In terms of talent, both sides were evenly matched. Randle said he enjoyed the competition and being part of the game.

“It’s a great honor,” Randle said. “It’s my second time here. I was comfortable and I had fun. Our class is real deep, so it was just fun competing with these guys-on top of that, having fun while doing it.”

 

Milwaukee Bucks star Brandon Jennings (right) takes in the sun as he coaches the Raymond Lewis team at the 7th Annual Under Armour Elite 24 basketball game. Photo/Dennis J. Freeman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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