WASHINGTON - Rudy Gay admits the thought continues to tempt him. The idea of playing in his final high school all-star game, then proceeding directly to collect a fat paycheck in the NBA, is tantalizing.
But as he prepared to play in the 31st annual Jordan Capital Classic tomorrow at Comcast Center, Gay, the 6-foot-8 standout forward from Archbishop Spalding, sounded fairly set on reporting to the University of Connecticut late this summer to begin what could be a short-lived collegiate career.
"Is there a possibility [of turning pro]? I believe there is. But I believe I could be a better player and also [raise] my stock by going to college. I'll think I'll be there [at UConn]," said Gay, who will be on the Home Team in tomorrow's national game that will feature 21 of the nation's top high school talents.
Looking over at Capital Classic teammate A.J. Price, a 6-2 point guard from Amityville (N.Y.) High who also is headed to Connecticut and figures to end up as his roommate in Storrs, Gay added, "I think he knows I'm coming [to UConn]. But if you show up at the right time, anything can happen. If I go out and score 100 points [tomorrow], I'm going pro."
Should Gay, the subject of a heated recruiting war last fall between the Huskies and the Maryland Terrapins, decide to skip college, he would not be alone among his fellow Capital Classic participants.
Dwight Howard, a 6-11 center from Southwest Atlanta (Ga.) Christian Academy who is widely considered the nation's top high school basketball player and will suit up for the Away Team at Comcast Center, has announced his intentions to enter the June 24 NBA draft. He could be the No. 1 pick.
Others said to be seriously mulling over the same decision include 6-foot point guard Sebastian Telfair from Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y.; 6-8 forward Dorell Wright from South Kent (Conn.) Prep School; and 6-9 center Al Jefferson from Prentiss (Miss.) High. Each of them will play for the Home Team. Each is projected as a first-round draft choice.
To Stu Vetter, the Montrose Christian School coach in Rockville and the head coach of the Home Team, the star power spicing up this year's event is a sign of the times.
The atmosphere is nothing like, say, 1986, when a young sharpshooter from Flint Hill (Va.) named Dennis Scott, who was coached by Vetter and rated the top high school player in the nation, never thought twice about attending Georgia Tech. Scott left for the NBA after three seasons with the Yellow Jackets.
"Probably the best player I coached in high school was Dennis Scott. He was by far the best player in the country, and there wasn't even talk about [going straight to the pros]," Vetter said.
"Dennis could have done it. He's in the category of a Rudy Gay. It just shows how high school basketball has grown every year."
The Home Team and Away Team went through their only Capital Classic preparation yesterday with two practices on separate courts at Trinity College. Vetter said among the lessons he tried to impart to his players was the need to play within the team concept.
Isaiah Swann, a 6-1 shooting guard from Magruder High in Montgomery County who also attended Hargrave (Chatham, Va.) Military Academy and is headed to Florida State, said he intends to showcase his talent without forcing shots.
"Everybody knows a lot of scouts are going to be there. Everybody wants to prove something," Swann said.
"The fans want to see a show. We're going to work our hardest to bring it to them. I want to go out with a bang," added Gay, who said he wouldn't be surprised to hear a few boos, considering the Terps lost out on the local recruit.
"It was close, real close. Maryland is a great school. I don't think it suits me best, basketball-wise," he said.
NOTE: The regional game will precede the main event tomorrow night. Among the players on the Away Team are 6-8 forward James Gist, the Good Counsel product who has signed with Maryland, and 6-9 forward Jared Gaither from Eleanor Roosevelt High, who has signed to play football for the Terps.
Jordan Capital Classic
Where: Comcast Center
Times: 5:30 p.m. (Regional All-Star Game), 7:30 p.m. (National All-Star Game)
Admission: Students, $10; general admission, $30 and $17.50 (both games)