John "Big Strick" Strickland was one of the most legendary players in New York City street ball history. Organizer Don Sparks runs this event in John Strickland's honor. He said while the event is a lot of fun, they are still lacking funding. Despite that, Sparks managed to lure some of the top talent in the country to City College for a fantastic basketball game.
There was elite talent on both teams. What's even more impressive is when you consider that the group of players that couldn't make it is almost as good as the elite talent that participated. Jabari Bird, Dakari Johnson, Noah Vonleh, Andrew Wiggins, and Tyler Ennis all were on the original roster but could not make it for various reasons.
Team NYC seemed to have an edge with their starting group of Dayshon Smith, Isaiah Whitehead, Kuran Iverson, Chris McCullough, and Jermaine Lawrence. But when that group was not in the game, they really struggled, particularly on the glass and in half-court sets. They built a double-digit lead with the starters, and gave it all back with the reserves. This happened in both halves.
The USA squad fought back from a 13 point 3rd quarter deficit to defeat team NYC by a two-point margin. Some players on both squads stood out.
Class of 2013
Dayshon Smith - Going head to head with the top rated point-guard in his class was no small task for the underrated point-guard. Yet he acted and played as if he belonged in the same breath. He took Andrew Harrison off the dribble on a few occasions, hit open jumpers, and ran the break very effectively. He was the best at getting the NYC team into their half-court sets. While he struggled at times with Harrison's size defensively, he was tenacious as an on the ball defender. Smith moved his feet well and frustrated Harrison on several occasions. Smith was impressive. He also won the three-point contest.
Khadeem Lattin - Maybe the most impressive defender in the game, Lattin made a huge impact on team USA's win. Not only did he force several turnovers, block several shots, and rebound well, he also converted several "and one" plays. Lattin was great on the break, and his length caused a lot of problems for team NYC.
Andrew Harrison - What is there to say about either Harrison twin that hasn't already been said? Andrew was impressive despite being somewhat off his game. He missed some shots he normally makes, but still looked like the best player on the floor at times. Harrison has a huge frame for a point-guard and has incredible strength. Add to that a lightning quick first step and elite floor vision and it's easy to see why he's so highly touted.
Aaron Harrison - Built much like his twin brother, Aaron played a slightly different game. He did not control the ball most of the game, but was still there in key moments. Harrison hit a number of big shots down the stretch to help team USA pull out the win. He's a great shooter with elite athleticism and scoring ability. Defensively, he has the quickness to stay with smaller guards and the strength to handle bigger guards.
Jermaine Lawrence - Unfortunately, Lawrence had to be taken out of the game in the final minutes with a foot injury. The severity of the injury is not known as of yet. However, he was making a strong case for being the best player on the floor for long stretches in the contest. Lawrence was dominant on the glass, showed elite shot blocking ability, skills to finish above the rim, and a nice touch from the outside.
Class of 2014
Isaiah Whitehead - Confidence is not something Whitehead lacks. He attacks the rim with reckless abandon, and feels he can hit any jumper in the building. Whitehead took Harrison off the dribble on a number of occasions. Sometimes with success, other times without it. He and Aaron even got a little chippy in the third quarter, and one of the officials had to tell them to knock it off. Whitehead showed the ability to hit the open shot, and be a combo-guard as he ran the point on several possessions. Isaiah went into the game wanting to represent New York City hoops in a positive way. His play certainly did that.
Chris McCullough - As long as he looks on film, he's even more impressive in person. Chris' athleticism is elite as well. On several occasions, he made a great move to the hoop and rose up for what would've been a thunderous dunk. He missed each off the back rim, but he got the crowd buzzing with some of his moves. Underrated in McCullough's game is his physicality down low. He battled and out-muscled team USA bigs for stretches. His outside game makes him a complete, all-around player that is among the elite in 2014.
Dayshon Smith says he will be visiting Syracuse on August 28th. He lists Illinois among those coming at him the hardest. Smith says there is no time frame for a decision, but once he knows he will pull the trigger.