PHILADELPHIA, PA – The intrigue was there. So were the no-look passes, European game and a selfless approach that defines a true throwback point guard.
At first glance, Lucas Antunez is a tacit 17-year-old. When the basketball is on his fingertips there’s a transformation into an innate passer, ball-handler, who prefers to lasso his team into a bundle for that elusive, cohesive squad.
Antunez was a last-minute addition to the Reebok Breakout Challenge this week and by Friday he was the buzz around camp at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center. Antunez, a native of Madrid, Spain and recently the final cut of the Spanish 17U Team that competed earlier this month at the FIBA World Championships in Kaunas, Lithuania, found solace on the court and stream of followers here.
After watching the all-star game Friday night, he sighed, “No one likes to pass.”
And that’s exactly what the young, 6-foot-1 Spaniard does best.
“This kid is the real deal; he makes the extra pass and sees the whole floor. He has a very good grasp of the game and glad I had a chance to coach him,” said Gary DeCesare, who coached Antunez at camp.
DeCesare, the fast-talking, highly successful coach from The Bronx, knows talent. When he guided St. Raymond (Bronx, N.Y.) to national acclaim, he had several players reach Division I and NBA. After a stint in college, DeCesare landed at St. Rita in Chicago.
“Having never seen him play before today [Wednesday] I’m impressed; he could play for me any day,” DeCesare said.
When Antunez was not named to the camp all-star game, camp officials received several text messages, asking why not?
Antunez possesses an exceptional handle, can consistently break the press and hit the three-pointer and think three sequences in advance. Court vision is his forte.
Hard to believe, right?
Antunez has great bloodlines or lineas de sangre.
His father, Jose Miguel Antunez, played in the Spanish First Division for famed club Real Madrid Baloncesto. Real Madrid has produced five Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame members, including Drazen Petrovic and Arvydas Sabonis. Jose Miguel earned 45 caps playing for the Spanish National Team and lasted 17 years in the pro ranks for six teams.
Lucas Antunez, who attended Santa Helena High in Madrid, has two years of eligibility remaining at a traditional American high school. He currently is staying with his baptismal godfather, Jaime Ibanez, in Houston while looking to enroll in a school.
At the beginning of the week, Antunez was ticketed for New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Md.) but there’s a chance national powerhouse Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) could enter the picture. Both schools are situated a an NBA three from the Nation’s Capital.
Ibanez, who sat courtside for each of his godson’s games, was vigilant of the schools that followed: Baylor, LSU, Rice, UCLA, Texas A&M, Florida, Temple and Central Florida. Antunez speaks English and was an honor-roll student in Madrid.
His game resembles that of Argentinian Pepe Sanchez, who was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year following the 1999-2000 season.
“Lucas wants to attend high school and college in the United States but first we must find a high school with good academics. He’s a student first,” Ibanez said.
And a pass-first 1-guard.
Mother Knows Best
For those a part of the basketball inner sanction, Alice Knox is a familiar face. Of course, Knox, is the mother of Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Brandon Jennings and has always helped out several budding players over the years.
Knox is back on the elite loop this summer with her youngest son, Terrence Phillips, a 6-1 rising sophomore who is headed to Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in the fall. Last year Terrence attended Woodward Academy, a tony school in Atlanta, where Knox took up residency.
Phillips played football in 2011, starting at quarterback and running back as Woodward reached the state playoffs but his basketball plans hit a snag. When his grades slipped, Knox felt her son should concentrate on academics.
“Terrence was having a tough time academically; it was hard at time,” she explained.
When Jennings, his older brother, attended OHA (2006-08) for two years after excelling at Dominguez (Compton, Calif.), Terrence was often seen hanging around with the team and vowed one day to enroll at the boarding school located in the bucolic southwestern Virginia.
OHA is once again loaded and figures to be near or atop the Blue Star Media’s Go-To 25 national rankings for the 2012-13 season. Phillips will be surrounded by several high-major players including 6-6 rising senior Troy Williams, who will transfer from Hampton (Va.). (Williams will choose between North Carolina and Kentucky.)
“Terrence won’t have the pressure of being the star. He can settle into school and play against some the best players each day in practice. His day will come,” his mother said.
Phillips performed admirably at the Breakout Challenge, demonstrating a strong wing jump shot and aggressively attacked the rim. He should a contributor at OHA sooner than later.
The early buzz this week surrounded Aaron and Andrew Harrison, the 6-6 twins from Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas). The buzz only grew as the Reebok Breakout Challenge progressed.
Harrisons were dominant in every sense as their camp team peeled off seven victories in three days to remain undefeated.
Word is the twins have three schools on their final, with Kentucky leading the way. Texas A&M and Maryland are also in contention but in reality don’t surprised when they announce sometime this fall on ESPNU that will sign with Kentucky.
And, yes, said their father Aaron Sr., the twins will attend the same.
“I always thought it was a given they’d be going to the same school,” Aaron Sr. said.
Windy City Combo
It was a productive camp for brothers Charles and Dominique Matthews from St. Rita (Chicago). The brothers competed against some of the top players in the country and suited up for the Chicago Mustangs, their club team comprised of players from St. Rita at the Reebok Showdown Championship, which wrapped up Sunday afternoon with title games in three age groups (15U, 16U and 17U).
Matthews’ are interchangeable combo guards.
Charles, a 6-4 rising sophomore, has a chance to “become a special player,” said St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare, who was also a camp counselor for Reebok. So far all Big Ten schools, notably Illinois, and SMU have expressed the most interest early in the recruiting process.
Dominique, a 6-2 rising junior, is “one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever coached,” DeCesare said. Dominique is getting several Division I looks.
DeCesare warned: “They have to remain focused and continue to work hard.”
Galaxy of Prep Stars
The usual suspects were rounded up for the Reebok Breakout Challenge All-Star game Friday night.
After five days of nonstop games, drills and skill sessions at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center, two dozen of the top players were on display for a send off.
Most realize the summer only intensifies for the remainder of the month; amped up means the stakes are higher.
Paced by Roddy Peter’s 19 points and 16 from Austin Nichols, Team Question edged Team Answer, 100-95, before a packed house at Herb Magee Court.
Five players, led by 6-foot-11 Nebraskan Akoy Agou’s 13 points, were in double figures for Team Answer.
Here are the complete all-star rosters:
Rashawn Powell, Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.); Darin Johnson, Sheldon (Calif.); Allerik Freeman, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev., formerly from Olympic of Charlotte); Rysheed Jordan, Vaux (Philadelphia); Brandon Austin, Imhotep Prep (Philadelphia); Dwayne Morgan, St. Frances Academy (Baltimore); Robert Hubbs III, Dyer County (Tenn.); Roddy Peters Jr., Suitland (Md.); Tyler Roberson, Roselle (N.J.) Catholic; Austin Nichols, Briarcrest Christian (Memphis); Damonte Dodd, Queen Anne (Md.); Dylan Johns, Trent International (Houston).
Aquille Carr, Patterson (Baltimore); Alex Robinson, Kennedale (Texas); Zach LaVine, Bothell (Wash.); Rashad Vaughn, Robbinsdale Cooper (Minn.); Jared Terrell, New Hampton Prep (N.H.); Dakari Allen, Sheldon (Calif.); Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas); Keith Frazier, Kimball (Dallas); Jonathan Motley, North Shore (Galena Park, Texas); Akoy Agou, Omaha (Neb.) Central; Tony Trocha, St. Thomas School (Houston).
Several players were selected to participate in the game but some left early for club team commitments or in other cases were sidelined by knacks:
Zena Edosomwan, Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.); Demetrius Henry, Faith Baptist Christian (Brandon, Fla.); Ikenna Iroegbu, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.); Michael Kobani, Caldwell Academy (N.C.); Jermaine Lawrence, Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J.); Detrick Mostella, Decatur (Ala.); Malik Price-Martin, Northeast (Oakland Park, Fla.).
In 2007, the Reebok Breakout Challenge changed the course of history for NBA superstar John Wall of the Washington Wizards.
"I'm excited to team up with Reebok again to provide players a chance to get noticed,” Wall said. “Reebok Breakout was the first major step on my path, and I am humbled to be able to give back to players that deserve it and truly want to earn their way. I hope the event brings them as much success as it brought me."
Wall, who was an unknown, unranked high school basketball player, credits the Reebok Breakout Challenge as the turning point in his career.
In 2007, Wall drove 18 hours from Raleigh, N.C. to the tryout in Chicago, a trip that would forever change his life.
“John’s performance at the event put him on the basketball radar and launched his career that eventually led to him being the number one pick in the 2010 NBA Draft,” said Brian Lee, head of Reebok Basketball.
The Reebok Breakout Challenge was truly a unique event in the basketball landscape because the innovative Headliner tryout system opens the door to this elite event for any player to have earned their way in.
In 2012, there were seven Headliner tryouts in April and May. The top performers at each were extended invitations to be one of the 135 players at the Reebok Breakout Challenge.
Christopher Lawlor is a Senior Writer for Blue Media and compiles the Blue Star Go-To 25 national boys and girls high school basketball rankings during the season. Lawlor, an award-winning writer, is a voting committee member and advisor for several national high school events, including the McDonald’s All-American Games. He previously wrote for USA TODAY and ESPN.com, where he was the national preps writer, while compiling the national rankings in four sports. He also managed the Gatorade national high school player of the year award program for a decade at Scholastic, Inc.
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