- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

High school basketball player LeBron James also known as "King James" and the "Chosen One" spent yesterday getting a taste of Washington as he prepares for tomorrow's Capital Classic at MCI Center.
James is expected to be the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and is seen as the next prep-to-pros basketball prodigy in the fashion of Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady.
The arrival of the 6-foot-8, 240-pound James has created a buzz unlike any high school player in history. He has drawn national broadcasts of his high school games at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, graced the cover of publications like Sports Illustrated and sold out large arenas from coast-to-coast.
James said yesterday he hasn't decided whether he will jump to the NBA although his actions suggest otherwise. By participating in the Capital Classic, he will play in his third all-star game. NCAA rules state that high school seniors can play in two all-star games. If they exceed the limit, they are ineligible as freshmen.
"Right after this game, I am going to sit down with my family," James said during a brief and chaotic news conference yesterday. "Within two weeks, I will have a decision."
Not surprisingly, he has been mobbed since his arrival in the nation's capital, which will be the final stop of his prep career. James drew a swarm of some 100 onlookers including NBA scouts, media and curious spectators to an unpublicized practice at American University yesterday morning.
James wowed the gathering, which included former Georgetown coach John Thompson, with a small dose of the moves that have made him a household name. He dazzled with dunks with his elbow above the rim and displayed passing skills that suggest he may be ready for the NBA.
Every NBA team is expected to have a scout at the game. Some 250 media credentials have been issued, including reporters from London, Los Angeles and New York.
Yesterday afternoon brought even more pandemonium with a visit to the Children's National Medical Center. He was in the middle of a media and public frenzy, which amazed his fellow all-stars. Top college recruits, who will attend programs like Maryland, Duke and Kansas, became insignificant with King James in the room.
"It's nuts," said Chris Paul, a McDonald's All-American point guard on his way to Wake Forest. "Everywhere we go, people are always shouting, 'There's LeBron James. There's LeBron James.' It's unbelievable. There are a lot of great players here, and sometimes they get overlooked. But LeBron deserves all the attention."
James arrived in Washington on Monday, and he and teammates attended Michael Jordan's final home game with the Washington Wizards. The 18-year-old was cheered when he was pictured on the jumbo screen at MCI Center. The excitement continued when he met the children yesterday. He later discussed the life of LeBron in front of a packed news conference.
"I just play basketball," James said. "You all [in the media] come around. You tell me if I'm getting enough attention. I just go out and play games. I play basketball the game that I love. I think if I keep playing it the way I have been playing, you all are going to keep coming."
James said it was special to watch Jordan in person in one of the final games of his career and views the Wizards' 40-year-old as his role model on and off the court.
"Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever," said James, who will meet his idol at a pregame shootaround tomorrow. "He is like a dad in the family. If he says something that you need to do, you should do it. Because Michael Jordan is the father of basketball, I feel, besides Mr. [James] Naismith. And everyone knows if Michael Jordan is going to tell anybody anything players, the media, coaches they should do it. Simple as that."
And does he fathom himself as the next Jordan?
"All of us want to be NBA stars someday," James said. "You have no choice but to fantasize about your future. But you just have to sit back and look at it in perspective. You have to take everything day-by-day. Because what Michael did didn't just happen overnight."
Unlike Jordan's low-key prep career, James is a sensation even though he has never played a game above the high school level. He apparently won't learn his trade in college as Jordan did at North Carolina for three seasons. James doesn't have Michael's game, but he has a sense of the endless attention he attracts.
"He realizes that's how it's going to be," said forward Ekene Ibekwe, a Maryland recruit who is impressed by James' humility. "We just came back from a cafe, and he drew a whole crowd when we left. It's crazy. I have never seen a kid get so much publicity and hype."

Notes Oklahoma recruits Andrew Lavender and forward Brandon Foust missed yesterday's activities while attending the funeral of their high school coach in Columbus, Ohio. Brookhaven coach Bruce Howard, 43, died of liver failure Friday. Lavender and Foust are expected to play in the game tomorrow. …
Duke recruit Luol Deng, a 6-8, 220-pound McDonald's All-American forward, will miss the game with a broken foot. Michigan State signee Brandon Cotton has also been scratched for personal reasons.


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