After New Jersey Nets guard Sam Cassell was introduced before last night's David Brown Memorial Scholarship Classic, he was a bit reluctant to walk to center court to acknowledge the crowd as the public address announcer had requested. Not that he didn't want to -- Cassell was just hesitant to give up his spot on the floor.
No, Cassell was not on one of the team benches or in floor-level seating -- the two-time NBA champion was seated literally on the floor. The Community College of Baltimore gym was overflowing, and those lucky enough to get in witnessed a Who's Who of Baltimore's basketball talent that featured the likes of Keith Booth, Michael Lloyd, Donta Bright, Mark Karcher, Devin Gray and Ernest Hall.
All this was to increase the awareness of violence and honor the memory of Brown, a former Baltimore City Community College player who was killed in a 1995 drive-by shooting.
"Look at all the people here -- give the community credit for coming out and supporting a great cause," Cassell said. "I'm just sorry we have to do this in memory of David, who was a good friend of mine."
As all-star games go, this was pretty typical -- lots of flashiness and little defense. Cassell, a free agent, was scheduled to play but opted not to as he waits to sign a new contract -- likely with the Nets -- as soon as this week. He watched the first half, but then joined in with the coaching of the Red team in the second.
The crowd was not disappointed with the action, from the time Booth stripped Bright on the first play of the game and raced down court for a reverse dunk to the end, a 124-117 victory by the Karcher-led Red team over Booth's Black team.
The first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls, with Maryland coach Gary Williams looking on, received the biggest ovation during introductions.
"It feels good to hear that, and it feels good to be a part of this game the past three years," Booth said. "This is a good time to remember David Brown. I was fortunate to get to know him as a person, and he was a good friend of mine. So this is really special. This gets bigger and bigger each year. They need to move this to the Baltimore Arena."
Booth, the last pick of the first round of this year's NBA draft, is preparing to travel to Chicago in the next few weeks. A Chicago-based sports talk show reported this week that the Bulls had asked Booth to play in Europe next season, but the former Maryland and Dunbar star appeared perplexed when that was relayed to him.
"No, no, I haven't heard anything about that," Booth said. "I just talked to [Bulls vice president] Jerry Krause a couple of days ago, and never heard anything like that."
Despite all the talent on the floor last night, none of the participants are in the NBA. That more Baltimore players are not making it to the NBA bewilders Cassell.
"We have a lot of talent in this town that goes unnoticed and I think that some of the guys, given the right opportunity, would be great professional athletes," Cassell said. "Unfortunately some of our guys get the raw deal, like Mike Lloyd and Donta Bright. I just keep telling them to work hard, and their time will come."
Pub Date: 7/13/97