- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Before last night’s game against the Washington Wizards at MCI Center, Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony made a quick stop at ESPN Zone.

He wasn’t there to grab lunch or catch the latest “SportsCenter,” however. Instead, Anthony was on hand to announce the rosters for the 31st annual Jordan Capital Classic, the nation’s premier high school all-star game. Scheduled for Saturday, April17 at Maryland’s Comcast Center, the nationally televised contest will showcase the elite high school graduating seniors from around the nation as well as the Washington area.

The national squad features several of the top-ranked seniors in the country, including guard Sebastian Telford from Brooklyn, N.Y., who was featured on this week’s cover of Sports Illustrated, and 6-foot-11, 235-pound center Dwight Howard from Atlanta.

Anthony, the 19-year-old NBA Rookie of the Year candidate who scored 27 points in the 2002 Jordan Capital Classic, is one of many of the game’s former participants starring in college and the NBA. Last year’s game featured Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James and current college players Ebene Ibekwe of Maryland, Chris Paul of Wake Forest and Kris Humphries of Minnesota.

While rumors have circulated that Telfair, who has verbally committed to Louisville, will become the first point guard to jump directly from high school to the NBA ranks, recent trends suggest he will not be the only player featured on the Jordan Capital Classic teams to do so.

Since Kevin Garnett was picked fifth in the 1995 NBA Draft, 17 high school players have been drafted in the first round. That’s an average of just under two a year entering the NBA on potential alone.

Regardless of how many players whose names Anthony called make their case for the NBA, both physical and emotional commitment is essential for a high school phenom to be successful, Anthony said.

“He’s got to do what’s best for him — whatever he thinks he should do, going to the NBA or going to college,” Anthony said. “Any choice that he makes, his heart’s got to be really in it.”

Knowledge of the game and competing with more experienced veterans does not pose the greatest challenge to players who enter the NBA from high school or as college underclassmen, Anthony said. Rather, issues such as constant traveling, adjusting to the lifestyle of an NBA player and dealing with the media require the most drastic adjustments.

“It’s not so much being ready on the court, as there are a lot of things off the court they’ve got to be ready for,” Anthony said.

One of those things is wear and tear. After playing a high school or college schedule that barely exceeds 30 games, players often are unprepared for the NBA’s 82-game regular season.

“Traveling gets you ready for the NBA, but we didn’t travel [at Syracuse] as much as we do in the NBA,” Anthony said. “Some of the back-to-backs that we’re going through right now kind of wear you out a little. Sometimes, when you’re on the road for four out of five nights, or you play four out of five nights, that can be tiring.”

One year of adjustment in college was enough for Anthony, who has translated his splash of success at Syracuse into a team-high 20.3 point average for the Nuggets as they fight to secure a playoff berth.

Only two years ago, however, he was a name on the very list he read yesterday, one highly rated player trying to find his niche among many. In retrospect, would he have been ready to make the leap from high school to the professional ranks despite his overwhelming success in high school?

“No, believe it or not,” he said. “There was a lot of talk about me coming up. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about going to school. I don’t think I would have been ready [for the NBA].”

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