As Brandon Rush exited a gym on the outskirts of Las Vegas last
Thursday, wearing a blue T-shirt and a white retro Dodgers hat
turned backward, a middle-aged man jumped in his path, pointed at
Rush and said, "You, son, have got game!"
That was a gross understatement, particularly after Rush's
28-point performance in his first game at the Big Time
Tournament, and the 6'6" swingman didn't know how to respond. He
just smiled and kept walking, and later laughed at the moment
with his teammates on his Kansas City, Mo.-based AAU team.
Last week in Las Vegas more than 700 teams competed in three
tournaments that were the culmination of the whirlwind summer
recruiting period, and Rush's stellar play has elevated him to
the top of the high school class of 2005. Many coaches and scouts
are saying, in fact, that he could be the best of the three Rush
brothers. (Kareem is a reserve guard for the Lakers, and JaRon
played at UCLA from 1999 to 2000.) In June, Brandon excelled at
the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado
Springs, and in early July he was named co-MVP of the seniors
all-star game at the ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., and last week he
averaged 21.2 points at the Big Time Tournament, leading many
observers to believe that he might go directly to the NBA.
"With that talent he has to be looking at the NBA," says one
college assistant who was recruiting Rush. "I don't know anyone
who thinks he is going to college."
Rush attended three Kansas City-area high schools before his
sophomore season. Last season, as a junior, he landed at Mount
Zion Academy in Durham, N.C., a 150-student school that clinched
its reputation as a basketball factory when Tracy McGrady
enrolled in 1996. Rush averaged 19.7 points per game at Mount
Zion last season.
"I needed to get away, to get some discipline," says Rush. Going
to church twice a week [at Mount Zion] has been good for me."
Rush's coaches and parents marvel at his newfound maturity, while
NBA scouts are excited about his game, which includes JaRon's
athleticism and Kareem's shooting touch (though NBA scouts would
like Brandon to improve his accuracy from long range).
"What I learned from my brothers is, you have to be careful who
you surround yourself with," says Brandon, referring to multigame
suspensions that JaRon and Kareem received from the NCAA after
taking money from their AAU coach. "I don't want to do anything
now that is going to stop me from my dreams."
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY Rush, who was a co-MVP at ABCD, may skip college and go straight to the NBA.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER
Brandon Rush isn't the only player who is making a name for
himself during this summer. Here are five other seniors on the
NAME, POS. HT., WT. HIGH SCHOOL
Monta Ellis, G 6'4" 175 Lanier (Miss.)
The slasher, who has committed to Mississippi State, is a natural
Tyler Hansbrough (right), F 6'9" 225 Poplar Bluff (Mo.)
A tenacious rebounder, he's coveted by Missouri, North Carolina
Richard Hendrix, F 6'8" 250 Athens (Ala.)
A bruiser inside, he's narrowed his choices to Alabama and North
Josh McRoberts, F 6'10" 235 Carmel (Ind.)
He's committed to Duke and his game is comparable to Christian
Louis Williams, G 6'1" 175 South Gwinnett (Ga.)
The Georgia-bound combo guard is the best penetrator in the class