Will Barton is a wanted man.
Thursday the hollow feeling gave way to a sense of accomplishment when Barton was named to the Jordan Brand Classic during the game's selection show on ESPNU. A week ago, Barton began to feel that hollow feeling when he was excluded from the McDonald's All American High School Boys' Basketball Game. What a difference a week makes.
Wanted in this case means inclusion. In demand is good.
"What a great opportunity," said Barton, a slender, 6-foot-6 senior guard from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. "Anytime Michael Jordan puts his hands on something it's great. He's the best ever player. I went to the game last year with my AAU coach and a couple of my AAU teammates and you can tell it was a great event.
"It was a goal of mine to play in the [Jordan Brand] game because of the exposure and publicity. To me it's a reward for all the hard work you put in and is a great way to close out my senior year," he said.
Barton is in select company.
He's one of 20 elite seniors named Thursday to participate in the ninth Jordan Brand Classic. The last major high school All-American game will be contested April 17 (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Though crestfallen last week, Barton knew fifth-year players like himself are not eligible for the McDonald's Game. Barton, the No. 6-rated player in the nation, has bounced around, having attended four schools in five years. He initially attended City College High in Baltimore for two years, reclassified once he attended National Christian Academy in Maryland (repeating his sophomore year) then enrolled last year at Lake Clifton (Baltimore). This year he's playing at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
He's found a home at the rural New England prep school, where his academics and game have soared.
Brewster coach Jason Smith is thrilled Barton has become the school's first player selected to the prestigious senior all-star game.
"Will's as talented an offensive player as we've had at Brewster," he said. "He can score in so many ways; he can finish at the rim and possesses a great midrange game."
Even Josh Pastner, Barton's future coach at the University of Memphis, recognizes his prize recruit's strengths.
"One thing's for sure, Will has a high motor; he has a knack for being around the ball."
The All-American game isn't the only game on the bill at Madison Square Garden.
This year's event tripleheader tips at 3:30 p.m. with the regional game (featuring players from the New York metropolitan area), followed the international game at 5:30. The international and regional rosters will be announced at a later date.
Barton might be a feel-good story but the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic has other storylines.
• All 20 players are ranked in the ESPNU 100, including 15 of the top 20.
• A trio of players -- Barton, Josh Selby of Lake Clifton (Baltimore) and Roscoe Smith of Virginia's Oak Hill Academy -- are natives of Baltimore, having played at public league schools for a time during their high school careers.
• North Carolina supplies three recruits -- Kendall Marshall (Dumfries, Va./Bishop O'Connell), Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C.) and Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa) -- to lead the way. Memphis and Ohio State each have two in the game.
• Six players are still undecided, led by guard Brandon Knight of Pine Crest School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), No. 3 in the ESPNU 100.
• Notable players from the ESPNU 100 not selected include: No. 14 Patric Young (Jacksonville, Fla./The Providence School), No. 17 Joe Jackson (Memphis/White Station), No. 18 Josh Hairston (Spotsylvania, Va./Montrose Christian), No. 19 Tony Mitchell (Dallas/Pinkston) and No. 20 Fab Melo (Rio de Janeiro/The Sagemont School).
• Memphis-bound Jelan Kendrick of Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) is the lowest-ranked player (No. 43) from the ESPNU 100.
The Jordan Brand Classic has an impressive alumni list.
To wit recent selections include NBA stars Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose, as well as current NCAA standouts John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins (both of Kentucky), Xavier Henry and Sherron Collins (both of Kansas), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), Greg Monroe (Georgetown) and Kyle Singler (Duke).
"I remember going to the game when it was played in Washington, D.C.," said Kendall Marshall, a guard from Bishop O'Connell in nearby Arlington, Va. "It's an honor that I'm going to play in it."
Marshall, a North Carolina recruit, is anticipating playing in the World's Most Famous Arena.
"All the great players have performed there," he said. "It's a big-time gym with a great atmosphere. When I entered high school earning a scholarship was the most important goal; now to play in two of the biggest All-American games, it's a great way to end the year."
Here are the complete rosters, listed alphabetically.
East (with college choices): SG Reggie Bullock, Kinston (N.C.), North Carolina; PG Kyrie Irving, St. Patrick (Orange, N.J.), Duke; PF Perry Jones, Duncanville (Texas), Baylor; SG Jelan Kendrick, Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), Memphis; PG Brandon Knight, Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), undecided; PF C.J. Leslie, Word of God Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), undecided; SF Roscoe Smith, Oak Hill Academy (Baltimore), Connecticut; PF Jared Sullinger, Northland (Columbus, Ohio), Ohio State; SF Deshaun Thomas, Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Ohio State; and SG Dion Waiters, Life Center Academy (Philadelphia), Syracuse.
West: SF Harrison Barnes, Ames (Iowa), North Carolina; SG Will Barton, Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), Memphis; PF Tobias Harris, Half Hollow Hills West (Dix Hills, N.Y.), Tennessee; SF Terrence Jones, Jefferson (Portland, Ore.), undecided; PG Cory Joseph, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), undecided; SG Doron Lamb, Oak Hill Academy (New York), undecided; PG Kendall Marshall, Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.), North Carolina; PG Josh Selby, Lake Clifton (Baltimore), undecided; C Joshua Smith, Kentwood (Kent, Wash.), UCLA; and PF Tristan Thompson, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), Texas.
Both three-man coaching staffs will be announced at a later date.
Morgan ready for a fight
About three weeks ago, Rex Morgan, the famed coach at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla., confided: "I'm getting my tonsils out but doctors think they found a growth in throat; it might be cancer."
Well last week he confirmed the worst, it was cancer, but it was caught in time.
"It's treatable, the doctors are optimistic," he added.
That's good news for a successful coach who played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and Baltimore Bullets in the 1970s, but made his name as a sharpshooting wing on Jacksonville University's 1970 Final Four team, which fell in the championship game to UCLA.
Morgan, 61, will undergo radiation treatment twice daily for the next six weeks starting Tuesday (Feb. 23). His treatments might occasionally exclude him from ACD's postseason plans but Morgan is confident the Apaches won't blink.
"I told them about my situation Monday; the players were stunned but are behind me," he said.
Morgan will coach Thursday night in the quarterfinals of Florida's Class 1A Region 1 tournament. Three more wins and Morgan, 365-64 in 14 seasons, and the Apaches will go for history at the state tournament in Lakeland, starting March 3.
Should ACD win the 1A title, it would be the program's sixth straight, unprecedented by a Florida coach and basketball team. ACD captured the previous five in Class 2A but were dropped down a class when the state realigned classifications by enrollment.
ACD, a small private school, heads into Thursday's game against Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto) tied atop the 1A state poll with Orlando Christian Prep, a team it lost to earlier this season.
A rematch would only occur for all the marbles March 4 at high noon; fitting for a gunslinger like Morgan.
Understand this time of year, one loss and you're done. It's that simple.
Second City madness
Now that the nation, at least in some states, has started the postseason there are still a few more regular events that will give players a taste of the playoffs.
Saturday a pair of big-city events will take place in Chicago and New York. Both cities are basketball hotbeds with thriving prep teams and players.
City-Suburban Showdown, Chicago: The 15th annual day of basketball, presented by the Integrity Group, touches down for the first time at the UIC Pavilion with three games. The theme is captured in the name and the matchups are state-tournament worthy.
Traditionally the Showdown attracts big crowds (average of 6,500) and sells out venues. Five schools hail from the Second City. This year's lineup has all the markings of a winner.
Mount Carmel (Chicago)-St. Patrick (Chicago), 4:30 p.m. CT: Believe it or not, these two all-male Roman Catholic schools rarely meet. The Mount Carmel Caravan is 20-4 overall and 10-2 in Chicago Catholic League play following a 69-60 setback to De La Salle (Chicago) on Tuesday. The Caravan still have Fenwick (Oak Park, Ill.) on Friday and are led by 6-1 junior guard Tracy Abrams, an Illinois recruit. Junior Adonis Filer is a high-major guard.
St. Patrick, a member of the East Suburban Catholic League, is located in the Portage Park neighborhood in northwest Chicago. St. Pat's meets St. Viator (Arlington Heights, Ill.) on Friday before playing Mount Carmel. Jacob Williams, a 6-5 junior, tops the Shamrocks at 17 points per game. He's favoring Butler and Xavier, but programs such as Fairfield, Siena, Loyola (Ill.), Creighton, Illinois, DePaul, Miami, SMU, Southern Illinois and Bradley are involved.
De La Salle-Simeon (Chicago), 6:30: De La Salle is certainly battle-tested this year, having traveled to the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., and the Newark (N.J.) National Invitational last month where it fell to host St. Benedict's. Michael Shaw, a 6-8 junior post, has shown flashes of brilliance this season, most recently Tuesday in a win over Mount Carmel to virtually clinch the Catholic League title. Jaylon Tate and Alex Foster are two freshmen of influence in Illinois.
The Simeon Wolverines feature the senior leadership of 6-3 guard Brandon Spearman, who signed with Dayton. Sondale Connor, DeShawn Greer and Tywon Pinckney, a trio of juniors, are the future. The Wolverines were unexpectedly upset, like Whitney Young, in the Chicago Public Schools playoffs.
Waukegan (Ill.)-Whitney Young (Chicago), 8:30: What a way to the cap the tripleheader. This one is a rematch of the 2009 Class 4A state title game won by the Chicagoans. If the Dolphins repeat, expect the senior class of 5-8 Ahmad Starks (Oregon State), 6-4 Anthony Johnson (Purdue) and 6-5 J.R. Reynolds (Rice) to set the tone. Look for 6-6 sophomore Nate Brooks, an undersized power forward, to develop into an elite player. Sam Thompson, a 6-7 junior, is a high-major prospect.
Illinois-bound Jereme Richmond (No. 23 in ESPNU 100), a McDonald's All-American, looks to lift the Bulldogs back to the 4A state tournament. Putting away the Dolphins would send a bold message.
The Rucker Showcase Invitational, Harlem, N.Y.: The fifth annual event tips off Saturday at 11 a.m. ET, with the first of four star-studded contests at Wadleigh High. All but one school, Xaverian (Brooklyn), compete in the New York Public Schools Athletic League AA level. The event features three schools -- Boys and Girls (Brooklyn), Wings Academy (Bronx) and Cardozo (Queens) -- which won New York City Borough titles last weekend.
The games are: Wadleigh (Manhattan)-Forest Hills (Queens), 11; Cardozo-Transit Tech (Brooklyn); 1 p.m.; Xaverian-Kennedy (Bronx), 3; and Wings-Boys and Girls, 5.
Here are six talented players to recognize: 6-2 senior Justin Exum, Xaverian; 6-8 senior Ryan Rhoomes, Cardozo; 6-6 senior Rhamel Brown, Transit Tech; 6-4 Malik Thomas (signed with Boston University), Wadleigh; 6-7 junior Maurice Harkless (Connecticut verbal), Forest Hills; and 6-5 junior Mike Taylor, Boys and Girls.
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today.