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December 24, 2001Pontiac (Mich.) Northern and its 6-6 senior star, Michigan signee Lester Abram, faced a pair of tough opponents in recent action. In the process, the No. 1-ranked Huskies picked up the first loss of their state title defense.
In the third game of its season, Northern visited Rochester High, led by the consensus No. 1 senior in the state, 6-10 Michigan State signee Paul Davis. As he had to do on four occasions as a junior, Abram (right), as the Huskies' tallest player, gave up several inches and defended Davis. The results were predictable: both Abram and Davis got theirs, to the tune of 29 and 24 points, respectively, and Northern came away with the victory, 69-57.
A trip to the gym of crosstown rival Pontiac Central would not be so kind to the Huskies. Facing a team that had captured Pontiac's affections with its Class A state championship in March, Central vowed to defend its home court.
The game featured 21 lead changes, and came down to a final Northern possession with five seconds remaining and Central leading 74-71. Predictably, Abram had the ball in his hands in the final seconds. The Oakland Press described the ending:
"Abram took the inbounds pass, raced upcourt and instead of taking a 3-point shot, penetrated into the lane and hit a 2-point jumper from the key. As the shot fell through the net, the final buzzer sounded with Northern a point short, much to the delight of Central fans and players."
"I didn't want to force a bad shot, so I took it in low, penetrated, and tried to draw a foul," Abram explained to the Press. "It was a foul, because he came down on me. I just threw it up and thought he'd call a foul, but he didn't. I'm kind of mad I didn't take a three."
With the loss, Northern fell to 3-1 on the year. Abram led the Huskies in scoring with 26.
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Abram's friend, future teammate and fellow signee, Daniel Horton (right) of Cedar Hill (Tex.) High School, has also helped his team to a record with only one blemish to date. In the Longhorns most recent game, Horton helped the team improve to 14-1 with a 64-46 win over Mansfield.
The 6-3 Horton, who will be a point guard at Michigan but plays two-guard while his brother runs the point for Cedar Hill, led all scorers with 28 points in the win. He hit 10-of-20 field goal attempts, including 4-of-11 from behind the three-point arc, and added three assists and nine rebounds for the Longhorns.
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It is a rare observer of prep hoops who has not yet declared that 6-6 junior LeBron James of Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary is either (1) the best high school player in the nation, regardless of class; (2) a possible No. 1 NBA draft pick after his senior -- if not his junior -- year of high school; or (3) the best non-big man prep prospect since at least Kobe Bryant.
Michigan prep authorities think their state has a pretty darned good junior, too, in 6-4 guard Dion Harris of Detroit Redford. The two young phenoms have one another's respect after their high schools went head-to-head a year ago, and on Sunday, they renewed their relationship on the court.
Harris' 31-point performance was impressive by any standard -- except, perhaps, James'. It was not enough to keep pace with the anointed one, who proved his mettle en route to a career-high 43 points, leading St. Vincent-St. Mary to an 81-78 victory.
"LeBron knows the game, and he's so tall and strong -- no high school player
can guard him," Harris, who knows from trying, told the Akron Beacon Journal. The loss dropped Redford to 5-1 on the year.
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Other high school hoops results:
After a rocky start to his junior year, 6-6 small forward Olu Famutimi of Flint (Mich.) Northwestern had his best performance of the season against Flint Northern. Famutimi hit 13 of 18 field goal attempts on his way to a game-high 35 points, but it was not enough to prevent the Wildcats from dropping to 0-5 on the year, as MSU football signee Matt Trannon's 28 led Northern to an 83-70 win.
Prep Spotlight recently gave an early look at the top 30 sophomores in the Midwest. Coming in at No. 8 on the list, tops among Michigan preps, was 6-6 Ronald Coleman of Romulus. Other Michiganders on the list include 6-3 Joe Crawford of Detroit Renaissance (No. 11), 6-0 Rico Harris of Detroit Denby (No. 13), 6-3 Darryl Garrett of Detroit Denby (No. 16), 6-4 Malik Hairston of Detroit Renaissance (No. 18), 5-11 Drew Neitzel of Wyoming Park (No. 20), 5-10 Mike Redell of Rockford (No. 22), 6-7 Jamaal Lock of Detroit Redford (No. 25) and 6-5 Isaac Knight of Detroit Crockett (No. 30).
Coleman recently came up big in leading Romulus to its first win of the season. He led all scorers with 25 points and grabbed 12 boards as Romulus topped Ypsilanti Willow Run 71-59.
Power forward Ije Nwankwo is enjoying a strong junior season for Detroit Country Day. He recently went for 24 and 11 as Country Day streaked past Orchard Lake St. Mary's, 56-43. Nwankwo has been receiving high-major attention, and with more performances like his efforts in the season's early going will only attract more of the same.