BURLISON: Youngsters holding their own at Nike camp

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Frank Burlison



They aren¿t set to graduate from high school until 2006. Yet Demond Carter and Derrick Caracter haven¿t struggled at all after being tossed into the mix of some of the very best high school basketball players in the country at the Nike All-America Camp. Carter (5-foot-8 and 151 pounds) may look more the part of junior high student than does Caracter (6-9, 286) but there is no denying that his talents — like that of his much larger classmate — stacks up very favorably in comparison to the rest of the 190 or so players, most of them as much as three or four years older, in attendance. Carter (Reserve Christian School in Laplace, La.) held up very well Sunday night in a camp game while being matched up against Dwayne Polk of state champion Vashon of St. Louis, who is one of the quickest and most polished point guards in the national class of 2003. Caracter, who is set to enroll at St. Patrick High in Elizabeth, N.J., better get used to the ¿Baby Shaq¿ moniker. It¿s doubtful if Shaquille O¿Neal was any bigger or better at the same stage than the affable kid who had a dozen or so NBA scouts shaking their heads and highlighting his name on their camp rosters Sunday night. Even most of the other players in the camp do double-takes when they watch Caracter play and discover he¿s yet to attend his first high school class. ¿Some of them just kind of stare at me (in disbelief),¿ he said Sunday afternoon, seemingly unfazed about being interviewed by five or six equally disbelieving adults who were equal parts amazed by his physical stature and his remarkable calm with microphones and notepads thrust in front of him. Caracter — and he is quick to point out that it isn¿t spelled with an ¿H¿ — hasn¿t had the opportunity yet to met O¿Neal. ¿But I met his (step) father in a hotel in Newark,¿ he said. ¿He told me he would bring Shaq down so I could meet him, maybe at a barbeque.¿ Caracter doesn¿t see himself as being the heir apparent, though. Like most every other new generation ¿big man¿, he doesn¿t envision himself being anchored to the low post. ¿I don¿t want to grow too much more — I see myself as being more of a ¿3 (small forward)¿ or ¿4 (power forward)¿," he said, matter-of-factly, ¿like Chris Webber.¿ He does have one minor criticism about the Sacramento Kings forward, however. ¿I like his game,¿ he said. ¿But his hook shot is kind of ugly.¿ Yeah — he¿s just a typical soon-to-be ninth grader ...

Camp notes:

  • Luol Deng (6-7, 221; Blair Academy in Blairtown, N.J.) was much smoother and more efficient during a game Sunday night in which his team defeated the one led by Ndudi Ebi (6-7 1/2, 192, Westbury Christian in ). Both are considered among the top five prospects in the national class of 2003 and are believed to be the top remaining targets of Duke. Deng dropped in three mid-range jumpers and the nearly 30 pounds edge in bulk gave him an obvious edge in strength over Ebi, who had trouble finishing after sometimes spectacular drives to the basket.
  • Another player, Tack Minor (5-9, 180, High in ), played a near flawless game at point guard Sunday night and will continue to challenge fellow camper Andrew Lavender (5-7, 150, Brookhaven High in Columbus, Ohio) for the ¿best sub-six footer in the country¿ crown.
  • Orlando Magic center Patrick Ewing was on hand Sunday night to watch his son (Patrick Ewing, Jr.; he¿s a 6-8 senior to be at Marietta High in Georgia). I wonder if pops know that Junior, in his camp program biography, listed Kevin Garnett as his ¿favorite NBA player¿?
  • There were at least a dozen representatives of NBA teams on hand Sunday night — less than a day before college coaches could make their first appearance at the camp — and all of them watched the game involving Deng and Ebi. They then shifted courts and watched a team led by 7-3, 252 (that¿s what he was measured at, sans shoes) Shagari Alleyne of High in New York City. Alleyne may have the biggest wingspan (8-feet even!) in all of basketball. Envision this kind of reach: He can dunk while seemingly barely leaving the floor. But he wasn¿t the tallest person in the gym Sunday, not with former NBA center Manute Bol (7-6) watching fellow countryman (Sudan) Deng play.
  • The three best power forward prospects in the camp are probably juniors-to-be D.J. White (Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa, Ala.), Kaleen Grimes (Hazelwood High in Florissant, Mo.) and (O¿Connell High in Arlington, Va.). Johnson has a little more inside-outside versatility and polish to his offensive game right now. The other two just strong-arm people inside.
  • Brian Randle (Notre Dame High in Peoria, Ill.), one of the top five forwards in the Midwest Class of 2003, saw his Nike Camp experience end abruptly Saturday night when he suffered a severely sprained left ankle. He said that , Kansas, Illinois and Indiana remain his top college choices. Frank Burlison can be reached at his e-mail address: fburlison@foxsports.com.
  • Tagged: Houston, Washington, Indiana, Illinois, Notre Dame, Missouri, Southern University, Rice

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