As if the crowd-pleasing, run-and-dunk Capital Classic high school all-star game needed improving, tonight's 13th annual version at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House will employ a three-point field goal and a 45-second shot clock for the first time.
"I'm glad the shot has been added to the game," said Stu Vetter of Flint Hill, who will coach the local team, the Capital All-Stars. "When you think about it, that's not a bad shot. It sure will loosen up things inside because you have to play honest perimeter defense. And we do have some jump-shooters."
The game, which will tip off at 8 p.m. and will match the Capital All-Stars against the U.S. All-Stars, will use the same three-point range the NCAA will employ next season, 19 feet 9.
That's a distance at which a couple of otherwise obscure players -- 6-foot-4 Mike Sumner of Crossland and 6-0 Mark Jackson of Anacostia -- are comfortable. Sumner and Jackson, along with Coolidge's 5-9 Derrick Davis, Ireton's 6-9 Bob Pollard and Gonzaga's 6-2 Mark Tillmon are the only all-stars undecided about where they will attend college, so, for them, this game represents more than a run for fun.
"I guess you can say this is sort of like my scholarship game," said Sumner, who helped Crossland win the Maryland AA state championship. "A couple of schools have shown interest in me, but I'm still looking. I feel I had a good enough year to have been recruited, but maybe just enough people haven't seen me yet. I just plan to go out and play as hard as I can and see what happens."
Jackson, who averaged 22 points a game although his team had a losing record, said this game will be his biggest challenge of the year.
"I work every day against Mark Tillmon so I'm already seeing one of the best guards in the country," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to playing the U.S. guards. Since I don't have a scholarship, I feel I have to prove myself all over again. I won't do anything I didn't do all year. This is still a team effort."
Jackson, Tillmon, Davis, Sumner and Flint Hill's 6-0 Brian Domalik may be the key to the game. If, as expected, the inside players battle to a standoff, the quickness and long-range shooting ability of the other local players could be a major factor.
Stopping the U.S. guards won't easy. Phil Henderson and Ron Huery, both 6-5, and 6-4, Georgetown-bound Brian Oliver have a height advantage and 6-0 Fess Irvin and 6-1, Maryland-bound Teyon McCoy are exciting point guards.
But the player most fans are looking forward to seeing is J.R. Reid, the 6-9 power player who was high on every college's must-have list. Reid, from Kempsville in Virginia Beach and bound for North Carolina, will be the force in the middle for the local team.
Reid, Pollard and 6-10 Sam Jefferson surely will be tested inside when they go against 7-2 Thomas Greis, 6-11 James Munlyn, 6-10 Alaa Abdelnaby and Andre Reyes, 6-9 Mark Randall and 6-8 Peter Chilcutt.
While Sumner and the other unsigned local players are thinking about attracting scholarship interest, the 12 U.S. players, all of whom have selected a school, are mainly interested in entertaining the crowd for 48 minutes.
Abdelnaby, whose teammates call him "A" to avoid problems in pronouncing his name, is a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 29.9 points a game back in Bloomfield, N.J. He says he's in awe just watching his teammates practice.
"Watching everyone just makes you appreciate the game and the skills you have," Abdelnaby, who is committed to Duke, said. "Hey, and I love D.C. This is some place. Everyone knows where they will be next year, so there's nothing to prove. The game has to be fun."
Twenty-four of the area's top players will participate in a preliminary game at 6. The game will match the District All-Stars against the Suburban All-Stars. Top players for the District team include Gonzaga's Rod Holmes, McKinley's Carlos Thomas and Ireton's Sean Smith. Leading the Suburban team will be Crossland's Mike White, Walter Johnson's Bryan Hutchens and Jefferson's Kervin Dennis.