National Capital Classic

Entertaining, If Not Quite Classic

William Graves, Michael Bruner
The U.S. All-Star team's William Graves, left, shoots against the Capital All-Star team's Michael Gruner of Walt Whitman. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

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By Angela Watts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006

There is no denying that the Capital Classic, once considered one of the country's premier high school all-star games, has lost some of its luster since Nike -- and Michael Jordan -- withdrew its sponsorship of the event in 2005.

In fact, through the first 20 minutes of last night's headline game of the 33rd Capital Classic, which pitted a U.S. All-Star team featuring several of the nation's top college prospects against a Capital All-Star team that included six first-team All-Met honorees, it seemed as though the game had lost nearly all of its appeal. The 3,174 fans at George Washington University's Smith Center were inspired to ooh and aah only twice during that opening stretch -- both times over missed alley-oop dunk attempts.

But then, finally, it got interesting. And it got good.

The U.S. All-Stars, who trailed by 13 points in the second quarter, rallied for a 120-117 victory that was secured only when All-Met Nigel Munson of DeMatha saw his three-point attempt fall just short at the buzzer.

Two-time All-Met Eric Hayes of Potomac, Va., who is headed to Maryland, hit two critical free throws and converted a layup in the game's final 15 seconds to prevent the U.S. team, which led by eight points with 2 minutes 8 seconds remaining, from pulling away.

"We definitely started a little show, but once we got the jitters out the pace picked up," said Michigan-bound DeShawn Sims of the U.S. All-Star team, who earned tournament MVP honors for his game-high, 23-point performance. "I feel honored just to be here, to be a part of the legacy and the history of this game."

The Capital Classic, whose alumni includes the likes of Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone, hit a high note in 2003, when more than 18,000 fans poured into MCI Center to watch NBA-bound LeBron James play on the national team. The event held its final game at MCI in 2004 before moving first to Comcast Center and then Patriot Center before landing back in the district this year.

Smith Center's intimate, 5,000-seat arena proved a fitting venue, and play began to pick up in the final four minutes of the opening half with a handful of showcase dunks. A much more entertaining second half was highlighted by the powerful play of Sims and the tantalizing play of All-Met Bobby Shannon of Potomac (Md.), who backed his multiple, high-flying dunks with beautiful pull-up jump shots and smooth layins.

"It meant the world to me to be out there going against some of the best players in the country," said Shannon, who led the Capital All-Stars with 20 points. "People always doubt my game, it seems. So I just wanted to do my thing against the best in the country. And I think you saw it."

U.S. All-Stars 120, Capital All-Stars 117 Following Suit: The U.S. All-Stars have won 21 of the 33 meetings in the event's history. Going Big: This game marked the 25th time the frenetic scoring pace typical of most all-star games led at least one team to surpass the 100-point mark.


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