BROOKLYN — Maybe the second-half appearance of South Florida rapper Rick Ross inspired him, or maybe not, but Miami signee Lonnie Walker Jr. stole the show to lead the West to a 124-116 come-from-behind win at Friday’s Jordan Brand Classic boys national game.
Walker, a shooting guard from Reading (Pa.) and his state’s 6A Player of the Year, scored seven consecutive points midway through the third quarter to turn the game around for the West during a 15-0 run. He finished with 19 points, scoring off three-pointers and fastbreak dunks and leading the crowd at the Barclays Center to chant his name, followed by shouts of “MVP.”
“I knew what I could do and I’m beyond ecstatic that I’m here,” Walker said. “Meeting Michael Jordan, being able to pick Ray Allen’s brain, so many things here contribute to my motivation and wanting to give my all to this game. Playing against all these top players and then winning this and I’m not even Top 10 or Top five means I’m continuing to progress in my game.”
It also didn’t hurt that Ross was courtside, either.
“I love his music, his lyrics, the way he talks and his speech,” Walker said. “He’s different and he’s unique.”
Arizona signee DeAndre Ayton from Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix) was also a key player for the West as he scored 19 points, including six points in a row down the stretch to help close out the win. He also had eight rebounds.
“The game finally got to me,” Ayton said. “Dudes started passing and we starting playing as a team in the second half. In the second half, we told the guards, if you want to show scouts you can play, this is what you’ve got to do, feed the bigs.”
La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) forward Brian Bowen, one of the five undecided players at the Jordan Brand Classic, might want to choose a school in New York because he has no problem playing well here.
Two weeks after helping La Lu win the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals, Bowen had 26 points to lead the East.
Walker and Bowen shared MVP honors.
“It was a great feeling, a great atmosphere,” Bowen said. “I think New York’s my spot. I just hit shots when I had to. I was open and tried to score in different ways. You don’t want to force a lot.”
He got help from Chalmette (La.) center Mitchell Robinson, a Western Kentucky signee, who had 15 points, including 13 in the first half and 11 points in his first four minutes. Robinson hit all six of his shots in the first half, with several of them coming on thundering dunks off feathery passes by Quade Green or Trevon Duval.
Green, a point guard and Kentucky signee from Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia), was especially lethal, finishing the game with 10 assists. including one sweet leave-behind pass that led to a dunk by Bowen to put the East up 80-73 midway through the second half.
The East led 63-56 at the half, behind Robinson and Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) center Brandon McCoy, who had 10 points and nine rebounds at the break. The West was led in the first half by Arizona-bound center Ayton with nine points and seven rebounds, and by Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.) center Mo Bamba, a Harlem native who had six points and eight rebounds.
Michael Porter Jr., the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year from Nathan Hale (Seattle), did not play because of tightness in his back.