- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

The LeBron James Show will make its final high school stop at MCI Center tonight.James’ actions indicate he will go professional, and the formality of announcing his intention should come in the next few weeks. Soon after, he is expected to be the first player chosen in June’s NBA Draft.”When you look into [the NBA] right now, out of the top four best players, three of them came straight out of high school,” said James, who played for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. “That’s Kobe [Bryant], Tracy [McGrady] and Kevin Garnett. And you still have Jermaine O’Neal in that pack that came straight out of high school.”James stubbed his toe in practice yesterday, but he will play tonight and be the focal point in the 30th Capital Classic.James is ineligible to play as a college freshman. NCAA rules allow high school seniors to play in only two all-star games or forfeit a season of college eligibility. James will participate in his third all-star contest tonight.Not surprisingly, he doesn’t like an NBA proposal that would place a minimum age on players entering the league.”If you have the opportunity to make the jump, don’t make the league make the decision for you,” said James, who is expected to follow last season’s Capital Classic star and NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Amare Stoudemire straight to the pros. “Ask your family if it’s the right decision.”While James will be the star tonight, the area will also get a glimpse of the future of local college basketball. Ekene Ibewke, a 6-foot-8 power forward from California, could start in Maryland’s frontcourt next season. Ibekwe is the only local recruit in the 8 p.m. national game.The earlier regional game will have strong local connections. The Terrapins will have two signees in 7-foot center Will Bowers and guard D.J. Strawberry, son of former major league baseball player Darryl Strawberry.Georgetown could see its point guard for next season in Matt Causey. The Hoyas will also be represented by Darian Townes, a 6-8 center. Another famous Georgetown name will be in the game, but Patrick Ewing Jr. has chosen Indiana over the Hoyas.George Washington fans will get a look at Ricky Lucas, a 6-5 guard. The only local high school player in the national game is Linas Kleiza, who played for coach Stu Vetter at Montrose Christian. The 6-8, 240-pound center is weighing offers from Missouri and Florida State.Maryland faithful will be especially interested in Ibekwe, who will be asked to immediately contribute next season and help fill the void left by the loss of four senior starters — including center Ryan Randle and power forward Tahj Holden. “I am always thinking about starting,” said Ibekwe, whose chose the Terps over Southern California and will fulfill a lifelong dream playing in the ACC. “I am just trying to make as much of an impact as I can coming in as a freshman.”Ibekwe could find himself starting at center next season alongside power forward Jamar Smith. Bowers, who attends Spalding High in Severn, Md., and Strawberry will compete for reserve spots. Strawberry is finishing his prep career at Mater Dei (Calif.) High in Orange County.Strawberry, a 6-4 guard, averaged 13.1 points and 4.3 rebounds while leading Mater Dei to a state title. His high school coach, Gary McKnight, is coaching tonight’s national game, and sees his star player’s versatility as a major asset for Maryland. “He’s a very good defender,” McKnight said. “He’s got real heart. He will be great for Gary Williams with his size and athleticism. I think he’ll wind up playing point guard there. He played two-man [off-guard] for us. He’s really a combo guard.” Georgetown may finally get the point guard it desperately lacked last season in Causey, a gritty 6-footer from Lilburn, Ga. The Hoyas could be an NCAA tournament threat if power forward Mike Sweetney withdraws from the NBA Draft, which seems unlikely.While Ibekwe, Strawberry and Causey may find themselves in the local spotlight soon, tonight the spotlight will be shining on James. The next time James visits MCI Center, he will almost assuredly be wearing an NBA uniform.”I just have to play my game,” James said. “If I just play my game, I guess I will put on a show for everybody.”

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