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Brooklyn is perfect site for national hoops events

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Brooklyn was front and center in the national high-school hoops scene this offseason — and it delivered in a big way.

Kings County hosted the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclays Center in April, and this summer the Brooklyn Navy Yard was home to the Nike Tournament of Champions streetball event. It all culminated with the best returning high school boy’s basketball players in the country taking to a court built inside the Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo last Saturday.

It was the first time the prestigious Under Armour Elite 24 high-school all-American game was played in New York City since the inaugural contest eight years ago at Rucker Park.

Abraham Lincoln coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton believes Under Armour chose Brooklyn to host the game because the borough is growing in prominence in people’s eyes around the country. It’s become the place to be for sporting events, offering a certain hipness because of the development of the borough.

“You guys see what’s going on in terms of Brooklyn, the structures and the buildings and the businesses,” Morton said. “Brooklyn is big.”

The game, which was broadcast on ESPN U, was filled with hat-tips to Brooklyn hoops. The two squads, made up of the top 24 high-school prospects in the country were named Team Coney Island and Team Bedford-Stuyvesant and coached by Morton and Thomas Jefferson headman Lawrence “Bud” Pollard. There were signs near the court for Brooklyn neighborhoods including Canarsie, Flatbush and Brownsville. Brooklyn hoops legend Dwayne “Pearl” Washington was also on hand as an assistant coach for Bedford-Stuyvesant.

No one represented the borough better than Lincoln star Isaiah Whitehead, who is ranked No. 12 in the country by Scout.com. The lone true New York City player in the game poured in a game-high 26 points, including four 3-pointers to lead Team Coney Island to a 114–109 win.

Whitehead had eight straight points in the first half and provided one of the moves of the game after the break. He spun past Southern Methodist University commit Emmanuel Mudiay for a basket and the foul to bring the local crowd to its feet.

“I just wanted to show off,” he said. “This is my hometown. I just wanted to show them what Brooklyn basketball is all about.”

Whitehead showed he could compete with the best players in the country just as Brooklyn showed it is one the best places to host a big-time event.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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