- Christopher Lawlor, High School Basketball
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No. 10 Duncanville (Texas) vs. No. 6 Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Thursday, Dec. 11, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Overview: The Duncanville-Lincoln matchup is preceded by Oklahoma City schools Bishop McGuinness, the defending Oklahoma Class 4A champion, against Putnam City (ESPNU, 7:30 p.m. ET) from the Ellis Davis Fieldhouse at the Jesse Owens Sports Complex in Dallas.
Originally the doubleheader was scheduled to be played in Oklahoma City, with Lincoln and Putnam City playing, but when an injury sidelined Xavier Henry of Putnam City (the top-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100) until mid-January, event organizers flipped opponents. Both Oklahoma teams are ranked in the ESPN RISE Southwest Region Top 20. (Click here for the regional rankings.)
The games tip off the seventh year that ESPN will broadcast the Old Spice High School Showcase presented by Nike. Tonight's games are the first two of 15 games in the season-long series. The series previously has showcased future No. 1 NBA draft picks LeBron James, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. This year's marquee player is 6-foot-6 senior Lance Stephenson of Lincoln.
ESPNU 100 Player Watch: Lincoln boasts Stephenson (No. 7 overall) and 6-8 James Padgett (No. 66 power forward). Duncanville players to watch include 6-6 Shawn Williams (No. 72 overall), 6-5 Roger Franklin (No. 79 overall) and 6-0 Reger Dowell (No. 19 point guard).
Lincoln Log: The Railsplitters (3-0), coached by Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, have rolled to three victories and average 102.3 points per game. Stephenson averages 31 points, and Padgett contributes 17 points and 13 rebounds per game. Last year, the Railsplitters won their fifth overall and second straight New York State Federation Class AA championship as Stephenson pocketed the Most Valuable Player award. The Brooklyn team also won their third straight PSAL City Championship and sixth in seven years. Stephenson is unsigned, but has attracted the interest of several schools, including Memphis, Kentucky, USC, UCLA, Kansas, Texas, St. John's and Tennessee. Rumors persist that Stephenson is quietly eyeing a chance to play in Europe next year and is monitoring the progress of guard Brandon Jennings, who eschewed college and instead jumped to the Italian First Division and is expected to be a surefire lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Padgett has signed with Maryland.
Panther Pride: Duncanville (7-2), the preseason No. 1 team in the ESPN RISE FAB 50, hasn't clicked yet. Chemistry is the issue, as the Panthers have four newcomers in their top six players. After dropping an overtime decision to No. 9 Madison (San Antonio) in the McDonald's Texas Invitational final on Nov. 22, the Panthers lost to No. 3 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) last weekend at the Bill Keightley Marshall County HoopFest in Benton, Ky. Williams signed with Texas, and Franklin and Dowell are headed to Oklahoma State. Last season, Duncanville lost in the Class 5A regional tournament to eventual champion North Crowley (Fort Worth) but won the state title in 2007. juniors Perry Jones (6-9) and Jamison Sterns (6-0) have verbally committed to Baylor.
Analysis: Stephenson is clearly the best player on the floor and isn't afraid of hoisting shots. He can shoot the Railsplitters in or out the game but has the moxie of a player ticketed for the NBA in two years. "You need an army to stop him," Duncanville coach Phil McNeely said jokingly. "He has the build of a player way beyond his years. We have to be aware of him at all times on the floor." The Panthers will guard him with a variety of looks. McNeely feels that 6-8 junior Julian Washburn is a key player for the Panthers. He scored 20 points Saturday against Scott County (Georgetown, Ky.) and has "all the tools," he said.
Coincidentally, the teams could meet later this month at the Bank of America City of Palms Classic at Bishop Verot High in Ft. Myers, Fla. (The championship and third-place games will be televised Dec. 23 on ESPNU. For ESPN's full high school basketball TV schedule, click here.)
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA TODAY, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys and girls basketball. He also for worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, where he ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.
Thursday's doubleheader tips off ESPN's high school basketball coverage.