LOS ANGELES-The Drew League has been around for 40 years. And like fine wine, it keeps getting better with time. The anticipation of NBA stars filing into the King/Drew Magnet School gymnasium in South Los Angeles, was high. Buzz and rumors about the possibility of Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose showing up ran rampant throughout the day.
Hordes of fans came early to get their seats in the packed gym.
Those who came late was out of luck. Security closed the doors to the gymnasium shortly after noon, turning away scores of people standing in a long line, hoping to catch a glimpse of the anticipated arrival of Rose and other NBA stars. With entrance to the weekend games free to the public, securing a seat has become a premium at the Drew League.
Come late and you miss out. If you arrive early, chances are you’ll be treating yourself to some fantastic basketball as played out Sunday when the likes of James Harden (Huston Rockets), Darren Collison (Los Angeles Clippers), JaVale McGee (Denver Nuggets) and Dorell Wright (Portland Trailblazers) showed up and did their thing.
The wait for Rose eventually fizzled. Rose was a no-show. But that didn’t mean fans did not get an opportunity to watch some fun- and-gun basketball that showcased the top-tier talent at the Drew League. With the popularity of the Drew League growing ever year, thanks to NBA megastars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James dropping by in years past, it has brought more attention to the level of talent playing at the summer basketball league.
That talent more than held their own against the NBA players this particular Sunday, even stealing the spotlight from them at times. But eventually you found why those NBA players are considered to be the best of the best in the world. Collison, playing for the Salvatori’s No Shnacks team, lit up Harden and The Game to send the Money Gang to its first defeat of the season with a 92-82 win.
Harden, who attended and played basketball locally at Artesia High School, enamored the crowd with his on-court wizardry and deft three-point shooting. But it was Collison, who came to the Clippers this offseason via free agency, who dazzled and caught the eye of observers.
Breaking more than a few ankles and swooping by defenders with his electric speed, Collison gave hope to Clipper Nation that he would help ease the loss of point guard Eric Bledsoe. The former UCLA guard wasn’t the only local product to put his talents on display.
Dorell Wright, who starred at Leuzinger High School in Hawthorne, put his stamp in the summer league game he played in. Wright and McGee played on opposite teams in a game played earlier before Harden and Collison collided against one another. Wright produced one highlight play after another against the McGee-led squad and gave the fans something to whoop and holler about.