CHICAGO -- There was a strong sense of anticipation for Monday's POWERADE Jam Fest, as the curious crowd wondered how the three female contestants would fare in the slam dunk contest.
One of the female dunkers -- 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Breanna Stewart of Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) -- successfully threw it down. But in the end, it was her Wootten POY male counterpart -- Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) -- who ended up the winner.
The No. 2 recruit in the ESPNU 100 threw down four perfect dunks over two rounds of competition. In the championship round, he bested Archie Goodwin of Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) by two points (140-138).
Muhammad got assists from North Carolina-bound point guard Marcus Paige of Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) on both of his final round dunks. First, Paige threw the ball off the backboard and Muhammad flushed it with two hands before doing his best Cam Newton imitation with the Clark Kent jersey rip to ignite the crowd. Needing a 69 on his second attempt to win the contest, Muhammad got a perfect pass thrown off the side of the backboard by Paige and dunked it with power.
“Just to be mentioned with names like (2003 winner) LeBron James and guys like that is an honor,” Muhammad said. “I was going to do the behind-the-back dunk, but Archie (Goodwin) did a really good job with that. I’m glad that I was able to come away with the win.”
Of the three female contestants, Stewart was the only one to advance to the finals. Looking to become the first female winner since Candace Parker in 2004, Stewart advanced by throwing down a two-handed dunk off a pass from Shaq Goodwin of Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.) who was the designated passer for the female contestants. Stewart, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, received a perfect 70 for her first dunk. The crowd appreciated her second effort even more when she threw one down with her left hand and received another 70. She couldn't repeat those performances in the finals, however, leaving Muhammad to raise the trophy.
Although Muhammad defeated three female and four males contestants, he's only considered the second-best dunker on his high school team. That title goes to UNLV recruit Demetris Morant.
"Not bad for the second best dunker on the team," Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. "No matter what Shabazz does, he tries to go out and be the best and win. I think this is the first dunk contest he's ever been in and of course he won it."
Muhammad is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UCLA, USC and UNLV and is scheduled to make his college decision on April 11.
Strake Jesuit (Houston) shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon wouldn’t have had it any other way.
When he saw that he’d be facing Paige in the finals of the POWERADE Jam Fest 3-point contest he couldn’t help but think about the potential for early bragging rights.
Sulaimon, a Duke signee, and Paige, a North Carolina signee, will be arch enemies next season on Tobacco Road. For now, Sulaimon can say that his score of 18 was good enough to be crowned 3-point champ over Paige.
“That made it even better,” Sulaimon said. “The Duke-UNC rivalry is big so I liked getting the win over him.”
Sulaimon also knocked off Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) guard Morgan Tuck in the boys-vs-girls bonus round. Sulaimon scored 12, while Tuck scored 10.
No Place Like Home
Tyler Lewis may have won the Jam Fest Skills Competition, completing the course in just 31.2 seconds, but all he cared about was the fact that he was back in the United States.
Lewis and his Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) team played nine international games in China from March 7-19 and went 8-1. The Warriors finished their high school season No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 with an unblemished 44-0 record.
“We lost the first game that we played over there, but it had a lot to do with our travel schedule,” said Lewis, an NC State signee. “We ended up playing that team again and beating them, so we got even. We had a good time.”
Just not when it was time to eat.
“Food was horrible,” said Lewis. “Even the places that we have over here like McDonald’s were bad. ... I’m just glad to be back and eating good ol' American food.”
More Than A Game
Long after the 2012 McDonald's game is complete and the players have returned home, they'll have some great memories of their time in Chicago.
The highlight of the event for many so far was Sunday's visit to a regional Ronald McDonald House. Amile Jefferson of Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.) and a few other All-Americans were also able to visit the Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago across the street from the Ronald McDonald House and it's something he said he'll always remember.
At the hospital Jefferson met Jordan Chesney, an 18-year-old who has underdone multiple brain surgeries.
"They told us there was something wrong with his brain and we couldn't shake his hand too hard," Jefferson said. "I wanted to understand the issue and make him remember me because many of us were unprepared for that. The time I spent with him will always inspire me."
Jefferson, who competed in the 3-point contest and the skills competition at the Jam Fest, understands the unique opportunities his physical gifts have afforded him.
"It was a chance for us to give back," Jefferson said. "We come in and the kids light up and smile. To be able to give them that through the game of basketball is great."