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Boogie-Down Brooklyn: 5 Things You Should Know About The Jordan Brand Classic

Allonzo Trier
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The Jordan Brand Classic has several factors that set it apart from the other All-American games: The gear is top notch, they have their own luxe practice court at Terminal 23, the postgame concert is relatively A-list — this year, it was Nicki Minaj — and best of all, there’s a good chance you’ll get to meet Michael Jordan.

But this week, its biggest advantage was its location, as the fans in Brooklyn were the perfect backdrop for Isaiah Briscoe carving his spot in Jordan Classic lore.

For the majority of Friday night’s game, things went pretty much true to form. Amid an NBA-style atmosphere that included fireworks, a legitimate celebrity row and M.J. lording over the proceedings from a skybox, the nation’s finest prep basketball players took turns launching three-pointers and breaking away for dunks. It was a fun game as always, but honestly nothing out of the ordinary.

As such, nobody in the relatively subdued Barclays Center had any clue about the magic that was yet to unfold — except, that is, for Briscoe.

“I knew once I turned it up,” the New Jersey point guard said after the game, “the crowd was going to go crazy. I just knew it.”

With about 5 1/2 minutes left, Briscoe — who had been pretty quiet to that point — completely changed the tenor of the entire evening. Channeling Magic Johnson in the 1992 All-Star Game, Briscoe called his own number again and again, going 1-on-1 against a rotating cast of peers. The crowd soon caught on that something special was happening, resulting in a huge ovation every time he started upcourt.

The action crescendoed when Briscoe used a slick spin move on defender Antonio Blakeney and twirled to the basket for a layup. The crowd went positively mental; one almost expected fans to run on the court and begin dancing, Rucker-style.

Amid such a wonderfully charged atmosphere, it was perfectly evident that the gutsy and talented Briscoe was fully in his element putting on a show for the fans in the Big Apple.

“Playing in New York, every game is like a playground,” Briscoe said. “Man, every game here is like that, besides like the Knicks of course. If a game like this is played somewhere else, it wouldn’t have gotten like that. You know, New York is the mecca of basketball. They love to see people compete.”

Games like the Classic are intended to offer up a glimpse of the future, and this past Friday was no different. Plenty of potential stars left lasting impressions, and Briscoe in particular looked like he’ll be a big factor on what will probably be another great Kentucky team. If his upward trajectory continues, he’ll likely have a good shot at the NBA.

But once in a while, it’s perfectly fine to take a moment to look back. And no matter where Boogie Briscoe’s journey takes him, he’ll always be able to reflect on the night he had an entire NBA arena, including arguably the greatest player of all time, hanging on his every move.

Here are four other things you should know about the Jordan Brand Classic:

Skal the Way

Speaking of Kentucky, coach John Calipari knows a versatile center when he sees one. Taking a cue from do-everything big man Karl-Anthony Towns, Skal Labissiere is likely to make a major impact next season, and he’ll do it in a variety of ways.

“I just try to be active and do my job out there!” Labissiere said. “If I have to switch off and guard the guards, I’m going to do that. I just go out there and play, just have fun with it. Basketball is supposed to be fun, so I just do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Built more like Anthony Davis than Towns, the 6-foot-11 Haitian refugee was everywhere on Friday night. Labissiere demonstrated both a pretty jump shot and a willingness to mix it up inside. He’s a fantastic shot blocker and has a feathery-soft touch on his outlet pass. Perhaps most indicative of his vast potential was a play in which he corralled a rebound, loped off on the fast break and hit future teammate Charles Matthews for an easy bucket.

Eligibility concerns have swirled around Skal for some time; for his part, he insists he’ll be cleared. But regardless of where he’s playing next season, his future is as bright as literally any young player in the country.

Motor Sports

Larry Miller, Cheick Diallo, Allonzo Trier, Carmelo Anthony
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In exhibition games like the Jordan Classic, you don’t always get maximum effort from everyone. But that certainly doesn’t apply to co-MVP’s Cheick Diallo and Allonzo Trier.

On the heels of winning MVP of the McDonald’s Game, Diallo went 12-for-16 at the Classic en route to 26 points and 11 rebounds. More impressive than his stat line, Diallo ran the floor like a madman and put constant pressure on the West team. He finished several flawless breaks with Briscoe and also scored on a host of putbacks. In a game that featured a good collection of impressive big men, Diallo stood out in front of his hometown fans through sheer force of will.

Meanwhile, Arizona-bound Trier – known for being intensely focused on his burgeoning basketball career – seems a perfectly worthy replacement for Stanley Johnson.

“Definitely, to be a special athlete, you need a certain kind of concentration level, and a laser focus on your goals, making it a priority to lock in on things you really want in life,” Trier said. “I think that’s really important, and something that I really look up to with a guy like (Michael Jordan), and that I praise about him.”

Nearly unstoppable going to the hoop, Trier shot 16 free throws en route to a game-high 28 points. Along the way, he made some fans — including his peers.

“He’s a dog!” Labissiere said with a laugh. “He kind of reminds me of Russell Westbrook because he’s always in attack mode; every time he got the ball down there, he’s so aggressive going to the rack. He doesn’t care how tall you are, he just has a big heart.”

Shades of Grayson

Duke’s Grayson Allen was a Top 25 recruit last season, but he was still overlooked a bit. That’s what happens when you’re the fourth recruit along with a package deal of three amazing players. Of course, by the end of the season, literally everyone knew who he was.

We asked ESPN’s Paul Biancardi about which players are similarly flying under the radar this year, but will end up being major factors when all is said and done. The first player he cited was Florida State recruit Malik Beasley, who’s less heralded than his future backcourt-mate, Dwayne Bacon.

“I really like his game,” Biancardi said. “He’s a great athlete, good scoring guard, guy who always tries to get better. People aren’t going to know him today, but they might know him a year from today.”

Biancardi also touted Michigan State recruit Deyonta Davis, one of the best shot blockers in the country, and someone who’s going to play for a coach in Tom Izzo that has experience grooming talented bigs into monsters. (See: Zach Randolph, Adreian Payne, Draymond Green)

For my part, I was a fan of Texas-bound guard Eric Davis. It wasn’t so much his game, though he played well. It was more his terrific attitude, his sworn dedication to defense and his willingness to push himself, a trait he picked up from his Uncle Tony, one of his mentors.

“People overlook (Jordan’s) mental approach, but I think that was the best part of his game, honestly,” Davis said. “He was just so tough; when he was fatigued, he just willed through it and carried his team. That’s just one of those things I’m just learning, and I’m striving to have a mental game as tough as his.”

Girls Rule

Inspired in large part by Jordan Brand ambassador Maya Moore, the Classic staged its first girls game this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The inaugural contest came down to the wire, with the East team prevailing by one point when UNC-bound Stephanie Watts canned a game-winning three, capping a furious comeback.

“It just felt like any other three, like the thousands of threes I take at practice,” Watts said. “So I didn’t hesitate, since shooting is what I do. My coach told me early in the game, you might be a little off right now, but you’re going to hit the big shot we need. We were laughing about that later!”

The McDonald’s Game has had a girl’s game since 2002; it’s about time the JBC got in on the action. And for the Class of 2015, helping to blaze that trail provided a lasting memory.

“It’s such an honor, because when you go to McDonald’s, you hear about all the girls who have gone before you,” said No. 1 women’s player and UConn recruit Katie Lou Samuelson, who sat out the game with a sore elbow as a precaution. “And now we’re going to be the first group. Years to come, people are always going to remember us as the first group, and that’s really an honor.”

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