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BURLISON: East's best player will be just a junior

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 
He just turned 17 last month and is still two years away from graduating from Lincoln High in Brooklyn. But his identity has already been carved for him. He¿s Sebastian Telfair — the Sebastian Telfair — the latest New York high school basketball player to be anointed the best guard from a region that has cranked out some of the best to ever play the game. He¿s been called the best player in the national high school class of 2004, regardless of position, ever since bursting onto the national scene while playing at the Adidas Camp in Hackensack, N.J., two years ago — when he was still a couple of months away from attending his first class as a Lincoln freshman. Among basketball players still in high school, only LeBron James of , — the likely No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft — has received more national media exposure. Nearly everyone he crosses paths with wants a hunk of his time or to be his newest, best buddy. Yes, that¿s some very heady stuff for anyone, much less a young man just halfway through high school. How does he manage to keep his perspective — and his sanity, for that matter? Very well, apparently. ¿I¿m used to the attention, really,¿ he said, during a break between games during the June 27-30 USA Basketball Youth Festival in Springs. ¿I¿ve gotten the attention since I was a little kid, so it really doesn¿t get to me anymore.¿ It shouldn¿t be particularly surprising that Telfair seems so well grounded. He¿s been around high profile basketball players all of his life, with one cousin being Stephon Marbury of the Phoenix Suns and one of his brothers being Jamal Thomas, a former star at . That¿s one of the reasons he doesn¿t let his appearances on magazine covers, or reviews placing him smack dab in the middle of the Dwayne Washingtons, Mark Jacksons, Kenny Smiths, Kenny Andersons and Marburys of other generations of New York guards distort his sense of self. ¿I have a great answer for that,¿ he said, in response to the question as to how he manages to keep from getting giddy over the hype. ¿I have a cousin (Marbury) making millions in the NBA and a brother (Thomas) who is struggling just to try to get into the NBA. I don¿t put myself in my cousin¿s shoes; I put myself in my brother¿s shoes and keep working as hard as I can, like he is, just to get there (to the NBA).¿ Tom Konchalski, who runs the New York-based High School Basketball Illustrated — the most respected college recruiting service in the East — believes that one of Telfair¿s strengths is his ability to stay zeroed in on the task at hand. And that, obviously, is becoming the very best basketball player possible. ¿He¿s very focused and works ¿purposely¿ on his game,¿ Konchalski said. ¿He does have a lot of God-given gifts but he knows how hard he has to continue to work to be as good as he can be.¿ And, quite honestly, Telfair has known for a while that he has the ability to be just about as good as he wants to be. All one had to do was watch him during last July¿s Adidas Camp Underclass All-Star game at Fairleigh-Dickinson University in Hackensack, N.J., to realize how good Telfair can be. Playing with and against some of the best high school players in the country — LeBron James included — Telfair was definitely the star of stars that night, especially in a first quarter when he hit all seven of his shots, including four 3-pointers, and scored 20 points. ¿It was, I believe, the best performance of my life,¿ he said, smiling — something he is as adapt at as he is dazzling an opponent with a wicked crossover. ¿The whole scene (a gymnasium packed with fans, college coaches and media) ... it was almost set up like a movie.¿ Yeah — starring you-know-who.
Top 12 West seniors to watch
Rk Player Ht./Wt. School/City Camp
1. Luol Deng 6-8/205 Blair Academy, Blairstown, NJ Nike
The consensus of most observers as the No. 1 senior prospect in the region; some project him as a guard. Duke may lead.
2. Mustafa Shakur 6-3/170 Friends Central/Wynnewood, Penn. Adidas
He¿s just the latest in the very long line of outstanding point guards to come out of Philadelphia. , and Arizona are among those in pursuit.
3. Charles Villaneuva 6-8/215 Blair Academy/Blairstown, NJ Adidas
When it comes to handling, passing and shooting skills, he doesn¿t have many peers at his size in the class of 2003.
4. Sean Banks 6-7/210 Bergen Catholic/Oradell, NJ Adidas
He¿s the best player on one of the very best traveling team squads (Tim Thomas Playaz) anywhere this summer.
5. Mike Jones 6-4/190 Thayer Academy/Braintree, Mass. Adidas
This guy just might be the best of a bunch of solid backcourt prospects in . is among the schools he¿s definitely intrigued by.
6. Terrance Roberts 6-8/200 St. Anthony's/Jersey City, NJ Adidas
He reminds some of a bulkier , minus the deep, deep range that his fellow lefty from possesses.
7. Will Sheridan 6-8/235 Sanford/Hockessi, Del. Adidas
Here is a strong candidate to finish July rated as one of the top five rebounders in the class of 2003.
8. Shagari Alleyne 7-2/235 /New York City Nike
He¿s still oh-so-raw at both ends of the floor but, when the day is done, he¿ll still be at least four inches or so taller than anyone he faces this month.
9. Michael Nardi 6-1/165 St. Patrick/Elizabeth, NJ Nike
Despite missing all but two games of last season with a broken ankle, Nardi is still rated among the elite point guards in the national class.
10. Artie Bowers 6-3/185 St. Benedict's/Newark, NJ Adidas
By the end of the tournament/camp circuit this month, his status as one of the top combo guards in the class of 2003 should be secure.
11. Demetris Nichols 6-7/195 St. Andrew's/Barrington, RI Adidas
made a wise move in getting this resident of Boston wrapped up early in the recruiting process.
12. Darryl Watkins 6-10/230 Catholic/Patterson, NJ Adidas
He has so much ability and just about all of it remains untapped. He needs to play with more passion.
Top juniors to watch: Sebastian Telfair (5-11, Brooklyn Lincoln); (6-8, Arlington, Va., O¿Connell); Russell Robinson (6-2, New York City ).

Tagged: Arizona, Duke, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Villanova, Colorado, Southern University

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