NEW YORK -- Steaming Sunday morning, 20 miles off the Las Vegas strip at a high school close to dirt and not much more. That was the setting for the must-see event two summers ago, and roughly 3,000 people -- among them practically every major college coach in America -- packed a gym well before 10 a.m. and waited for tip-off.
The reason: Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo. The result: Nothing short of fabulous.
|O.J. Mayo ended up in L.A. thanks to his connection to Rodney Guillory. (Getty Images)|
Rose was great. Mayo was better.
The game ended with the latter hitting a 3-pointer while being fouled by the former, and when Mayo sank the subsequent free throw he had completed a four-point play to give his team an 83-82 victory that many (myself included) have deemed the best summer basketball game they've ever witnessed.
"You think he really fouled him?" Memphis coach John Calipari asked afterward, still standing in the bleachers, still shaking his head.
Meantime, Southern California's Tim Floyd just smiled. He and Calipari sat together during the game, and in between jumpers they held a private discussion that at least partly led to this Tuesday night showdown between Calipari's Tigers (featuring Rose) and Floyd's Trojans (featuring Mayo) at Madison Square Garden.
|Derrick Rose? Being in Memphis might have something to do with his brother. (Getty Images)|
But be sure to cover your ears to avoid the feel-good fiction.
That's my only advice heading in, my only objection to the whole thing. The announcers are going to focus on Rose and Mayo, highlight their stories and tell you all sorts of stuff about why they are playing at these two schools. They'll go over how Rose loved the atmosphere at Memphis and dreamed of the style of play.
They'll note how Mayo wanted to perform in the Los Angeles market and put USC on the proverbial map. And all those things are true to some extent, I guess.
But contrary to what you'll hear during the broadcast Calipari was not the key figure in Rose's recruitment nor was Floyd the key figure in Mayo's.
They were merely the beneficiaries. But that doesn't sound so pure, does it?