The Carmelo Anthony Summer Pro-Am tour rolled through Baltimore on Monday night, attracting a packed house to St.Frances for what was billed as a heavyweight battle between NBA stars Kevin Durant and Brandon Jennings.
It turned out that a hometown hero stole the show, as former Lake Clifton star and recent Memphis Grizzlies draft pick Josh Selby dazzled the crowd with a bevy of 3-pointers and more than a few slick drives to the basket while leading his team to a 103-88 victory.
As the NBA lockout continues, Monday's exhibition was a reminder to Baltimoreans about the energy and excitement that comes with basketball at the highest level.
"It's always good to have pros come back play in an involvement like this," said Baltimore native and current San Antonio Spurs guard Gary Neal, who played in the "undercard" matchup Monday night. "Especially in the time during the lockout where the basketball season is in question, it was definitely a good thing for the community."
Selby's star-studded squad included Durant, Washington Wizards center Hamady N'Diaye and former Virginia Tech star Malcolm Delaney. After N'Diaye opened the game with a two-handed slam, Selby knocked down a 3-pointer in Jennings' face, drawing a roar from the crowd. Jennings quickly responded with a 3 in front of Selby, marking the beginning of a long battle between the guards.
While Jennings blazed past defenders with lighting speed, Selby did much of his work from behind the 3-point line. Selby finished with 38 points, the majority coming in the first half.
As evidenced by the mobs surrounding him and the autograph seekers hounding him, Durant was the night's main attraction. The Washington-area native has become one of the most talked-about stars of the offseason after scoring 66 points at New York City's famed Rucker Park last week. On Monday, when score took a backseat to style, Durant treated the crowd to several impressive slam-dunks. Durant started the game with an alley-oop from Selby, added a tomahawk jam in the second quarter and capped his night with an off-the-backboard dunk. Even with his numerous dunks, many fans came away disappointed that Durant didn't do more away from the rim.
"He didn't put on a Rucker Park performance," said 18-year old fan Reggie Short, who came to watch the night's action. "But he played."
Before Selby, Durant and Jennings took the court, Neal and Aberdeen native Jai Lewis (formerly of George Mason) led their squad to a 74-66 victory. Neal -- who played for Calvert Hall and Towson University -- ran the point for his team, settling into a role as the distributor through three quarters. The game was even until the final minutes, when Neal took over and tallied nine points in less than 60 seconds to pull his team ahead.
"The first three quarters, I did a little moving the ball and getting everybody involved," Neal said. "In the fourth quarter, I was a little more assertive and aggressive."
The gym was mostly full for the first game, but by the time Durant and Selby took the court, there were no empty seats, and some spectators were forced to watch from outside the glass entrance doors.
"It means a lot [to Baltimore]," 22-year-old fan Sheree Ledbetter said. "Everybody came out and showed up. This is the biggest game this summer."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun