The 41st annual Roundball Classic, the nation's original and longest-running high school All-American basketball game, is set for March 22 at the United Center in Chicago. Event founder and director Sonny Vaccaro will have twenty-two of the elite players from the Class of 2005 matched against each other in the nation's best and most competitive high school all-star game.
"Chicago looks like it will be the permanent home for the Roundball Classic," said Sonny Vaccaro. "I think that we are now seeing Chicago kids who know the game, and really want to be in it. One father told me that they 'were praying' that their son would get selected," Vaccaro related to Steve Tucker, who wrote an excellent story about the game in today's issue of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Five outstanding Illinois seniors were selected to play in the 2005 Roundball Classic. They are: Kansas signee, 6-foot-8 forward Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.; North Carolina recruit, 6-foot-3 guard Bobby Frasor, Chicago Brother Rice H.S.; Iowa-bound, 6-foot-1 guard Tony Freeman, Westchester St. Joseph H.S.; future Marquette guard, 6-foot-3 Jerel McNeal, Country Club Hills Hillcrest H.S.; and unsigned 6-foot-7, 275-pound center/forward DeAndre Thomas, Chicago Westinghouse H.S.
"This city is one of the true hotbeds for high school basketball talent in America. I truly feel about Chicago the way I felt about Pittsburgh forty years ago," said Sonny Vaccaro.
"Top to bottom, this is a very strong Chicago group, including some highly gifted young men who weren't picked," Vaccaro said. "The Chicago area is one of the top three regions, nationally, for high school talent this year," Vaccaro told Steve Tucker.
Last year's Roundball Classic drew 15,000 fans to the United Center, and featured seven first-round NBA picks, including Dwight Howard, the No. 1 player taken the the 2004 Draft.
Vaccaro sees six of the players in this year's Roundball Classic having the potential to be NBA first-round selectees: unsigned 6-foot-11 center/forward Andray Blatche, South Kent, Conn., South Kent Prep; Louisville recruit, 6-foot-9 Amir Johnson, Los Angeles, Calif., Westchester H.S.; Duke signee, 6-foot-10 power forward Josh McRoberts, Carmel, Ind., Carmel H.S.; Memphis-bound, 6-foot-8 wing forward Shawne Williams, Laurinburg, N.C., Laurinburg Institute; Mississippi State signee, 6-foot-4 guard Monta Ellis, Jackson, Miss., Lanier H.S.; and, Oklahoma State recruit, 6-foot-8 wing forward Gerald Green, Houston, Texas, Gulf Shores Academy.
Rivals.com helped to make up the teams with an emphasis on having outstanding matchups of top players at each position between the two teams.
For example West forward Josh McRoberts, will go against East team's Julian Wright, rated No. 10 by Rivals.com. East forward Gerald Green, rated No. 1 in Rivals.com, will go against West forward, L.S.U. signee, 6-foot-7 forward Tasmin Mitchell, ranked No. 11 by Rivals.com.
At the wing guard position, the nation's best guard prospect, Monta Ellis, playing on the West team, could go head-to-head against the leading contender for "Mr. Basketball" in Illinois, East squad member Jerel McNeal, who sparkled when his Hillcrest H.S. team upset then No. 1 rated Harvey, Ill., Thornton H.S.
At the post positon the East squad will have Andray Blatche matched against Notre Dame-bound, 6-foot-11 Luke Zeller, or Amir Johnson.
In our years of experience player matchups and the daunting challenge of getting "all-stars" to play with a semblance of unselfishness, and within a team concept, are the keys to having competitive and entertaining all-star games.
2005 ROUNDBALL CLASSIC ROSTERS
WEST TEAM Wilson Chandler P/WF 6-8 Benton Harbor H.S. DePaul Brandon Costner P/WF 6-9 Seton Hall Prep N.C. State Eric Devendorf 1/2G 6-3 Oak Hill Academy Syracuse Byron Eaton PG 5-10 Lincoln H.S. Oklahoma St. Monta Ellis 2G 6-4 Lanier H.S. Mississippi St. Amir Johnson C/F 6-9 Westchester H.S. Louisville Marcus Johnson G/F 6-6 Westchester H.S. Connecticut Josh McRoberts PF 6-10 Carmel H.S. Duke Tasmin Mitchell WF 6-7 Denham Springs H.S. L.S.U. Shawne Willliams WF 6-8 Laurinburg Institute Memphis Luke Zeller C 6-11 Washington H.S. Notre Dame
EAST TEAM Korvotney Barber PF 6-7 Manchester H.S. Auburn Andray Blatche C/F 6-11 South Kent PrepUnsigned Bobby Frasor PG 6-3 Brother Rice U.N.C. Tony Freeman PG 6-1 Westchester Iowa Danny Green G/F 6-6 St. Mary's H.S. U.N.C. Gerald Green WF 6-8 Gulf Shores Acad. Oklahoma St. Davon Jefferson P/WF 6-8 Lynwood H.S. UNLV Jerel McNeal 2G 6-3 Hillcrest H.S. Marquette Brandon Rush WF 6-6 Mt. Zion Christian Unsigned DeAndre Thomas C/F 6-7 Westinghouse H.S. Unsigned Julian Wright P/WF 6-8 Homewood-Flossmoor Kansas
For complete game information, including rosters, player photographs, bios, and current statistics, schedule of events, and ticket information the event website is www.originalroundballclassic.com.
Tickets are on sale at the United Center and through Ticketmaster at 312/559-1212.