BOSTON -- Last summer, strong performances at the Shaw's Pro Summer League in Boston helped turn previously unheralded players such as Austin Croshere (Indiana Pacers) and Adrian Griffin (Boston Celtics) into NBA starters.
This July, three former Penn basketball stars are looking to use this eight-day, 10-team tournament for free agents and recent draft picks to propel themselves to the big show in a similar fashion.
The second game of Tuesday night's double-header at UMass-Boston's Clark Center saw Jerome Allen donning the green and white of the hometown Boston Celtics, matched against Ira Bowman and Michael Jordan in the familiar uniforms of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Behind four points in the final minute from Bowman, the Sixers overcame 10 points from Allen to defeat the Celtics, 71-65. This was the Celtics' second-of-eight games and the Sixers' first-of-seven contests in this league, as Allen, Bowman and Jordan attempt to showcase their skills before a plethora of NBA and foreign scouts.
Shortly after tip-off in Tuesday's affair -- which was seen in person by a crowd of nearly 3,000 and was televised nationally on ESPN2 -- the game resembled more of a Quakers reunion than a showcase for high-ranked draft picks and prospects such as Jerome Moiso (No. 11 from UCLA to the Celtics), Jumaine Jones and Nazr Mohammed.
On the game's first possession, Allen -- the Celtics starting point guard -- brought the ball upcourt and found himself defended by none other than Bowman -- the Sixers' starting shooting guard.
"I'd played against him for two-and-a-half years in practice, so I kind of knew what to expect," Allen said. "And plus I'd been in camp with him in Indiana for one year."
Despite that inside information, Allen could not lead his Celtics to a score on their first possession, and the duo did not match up against each other much for the remainder of the evening. But as each former Quakers star and former Ivy Player of the Year quietly went about his business, one could easily see the similarities in their games.
With just over four minutes gone in the first frame (each quarter was 10 minutes instead of the NBA regulation 12 minutes) both Allen and Bowman had two assists and no turnovers. On the evening, the two Penn prodigies led their respective teams in assists (Allen with six, Bowman with five), and were close to reading their respective squads in minutes played -- no small feat considering that nearly all of the 10 teams in this League has 15 or more players on their bench.
After an anemic first quarter scoring-wise (16-8 in favor of Boston), Bowman and the Sixers took over in the second frame.
Behind two assists from Bowman, as well as strong play from recent Temple graduates Pepe Sanchez and Mark Karcher, the Sixers went up 34-29 heading into the break. Seven quick points in the second quarter from Jumaine Jones -- including an emphatic two-handed follow-up slam -- did more than offset the damage caused by the first three of Mohammed's six fouls on the evening.
The waning moments of the second marked one of two brief appearances by Jordan -- the 1999-2000 Ivy Player of the Year -- in the game.
Inserted specifically to match up on Allen with time winding down in both the second and third quarters, Jordan did not allow his Palestra predecessor to break him down for a last-second score.
"I've worked out with Ira and Jerome a lot before in the Palestra, so I'm familiar with them," Jordan said.
Small victories aside, Jordan's playing time in the Sixers win is a drastic drop from the minutes he saw with the Quakers, and even more recently when playing in the brand new National Rookie League for the Philadelphia Force.
"I prefer this top level of competition here," said Jordan when asked to compare his time in the Rookie League to his time in the Shaw's Tournament. "Just when I get the opportunity [in the game] I have to make the most of it."
While Jordan struggles to get his foot in the door in a veritable basketball meat market filled with former college stars, Bowman and Allen are significantly closer to reaching the ultimate NBA dream.
Bowman, who was signed to a series of 10-day contracts with the Sixers last spring before signing for the remainder of the year in the season's final month, played 27 out of a possible 40 minutes, and looked quite comfortable. After getting blocked hard on a drive with 57 seconds remaining, he took it to the hole again 10 seconds later, picked up the foul, and hit both free throws to extend the Sixers lead to five.
The 1996 Penn grad dished out five assists to go with six points, he also drew three offensive fouls, including two in the game's final five minutes.
Allen, who was a second-round draft pick by the Timberwolves in 1995, and who also has spent time with the Nuggets, the Pacers, the Bucks and several Turkish teams, has apparently piqued the interest of the Celtics. His performance on Tuesday -- along with 10 points and five assists in a 81-79 win over the Hawks on Monday -- shows that the ball-handling skills of the Quakers' all-time assists leader in remain intact.
And with six strong drives to the basket on the evening -- converting one and picking up fouls on three others -- it is clear that Allen is unafraid to challenge anyone.
"The Celtics told me they were very interested in me," Allen said. "They said they liked the way I pushed the ball up the court. So I'm just trying to go out there and display my skills.
"I struggled a little bit tonight," added Allen, who committed four turnovers and went only 2-7 from the field, "but there's always tomorrow."Comments powered by Disqus
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