Los Angeles Lakers: Casper Ware Jr.

Drew League finale provides high-flying ending

August, 14, 2011
Moura By Pedro Moura
LOS ANGELES -- When they talk about fitting endings, this is what they mean.

Only a championship game like Saturday’s could have capped off a revolutionary summer at the Drew League in South L.A., complete with appearances by some of the biggest and brightest stars in the NBA, breakout performances by low-key locals and up-comers and all kinds of crazy finishes, week in and week out.

Saturday’s 3 p.m. final at Colonel Leon H. Washington Park took it to a new, slightly unbelievable level. With the league charging an entry fee for the first time in its 38-year existence and limiting the number of fans allowed on the premises, there was a line forming outside the gymnasium two hours before tip-off. By the time they opened the doors, a half-hour before the start, roughly 400 people had snaked around the 800-capacity gym in anticipation of the final between defending champions L.A. Unified and Hank’s Blazers.

Then Unified, led by former NBA point guards Bobby Brown and Marcus Williams and Nuggets first-round pick Jordan Hamilton, took a double-digit lead a few minutes into the first quarter, stretched it out to a 23-point lead by the third and the buzz in the super-compact gym seemed to disappear.

Blazers forward Kenneth Faried, also a 2011 first-round selection of the Nuggets, changed that quickly, helping to start a run for his squad with an and-one off an offensive rebound that lowered Unified’s lead to 20 points with two minutes to go in the third. And, after Detroit Pistons forward Austin Daye, also a Blazer, poured in a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to make it a 89-78 game, Faried followed it up with another tip-in.

Then, during a timeout, Brown sprinted out the gym and into a car and headed 10 miles due west on Manchester Boulevard to Los Angeles International Airport, where he had a flight to catch to Germany, where he will play this season, taking off in less than 90 minutes. That gave the Blazers a big boost, and they rallied to get the game as close as 89-85 with a little more than two minutes left.

But Daye had a one-on-one opportunity to score from the top of the key with Hamilton guarding him but couldn’t convert, and Faried got called for a crucial offensive foul while attempting to grab the offensive rebound. By the time Daye did hit a big shot, it made it just 95-90 and there were only 31 seconds left. Unified held on for the dramatic 99-90 victory.

“I thought we were gonna come back and win the game, actually,” Daye said afterward. “But they got a good offensive rebound and we took a bad shot, and that was it right there.”

“But, hey, at least we put in a good effort and made it interesting.”

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Drew League has long history of showing its charm

July, 9, 2011
Moura By Pedro Moura

LOS ANGELES – A lightning-quick 5-9 college guard named Casper outplayed Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans' team lost handily to a team with no current NBA players.

But the highlight of Saturday’s Drew League play at Colonel Leon H. Washington Park in Florence was even more … righteous.

The man the locals call Jesus provided the most entertaining action of a thoroughly entertaining eight-hour Saturday at the Drew League, coming in from the free-throw line to pick up a teammate's errant shot attempt and tip-reverse-dunk it in for a miraculous, monstrous slam that had the crowd buzzing for a good 10 minutes.

It was emblematic of what people have come to expect from the Drew League, generally considered one of the top summer-league outfits around.

“You can't find this level of basketball anywhere in the U.S. besides here,” says Jesus, also known as David Patten, an Orange County native who played collegiately for Pepperdine and Weber State and now plays professionally in Mexico. “This is fantastic basketball.”

Your first question: How did he pick up the nickname?

Patten, a dunk contest competitor in college who has long surprised people with his dunking abilities, has played in the Drew League for three of the last four summers. His first year, a homeless woman walked into the gymnasium at Washington Park and was impressed by the high-flying acrobatics she saw from him.

“She didn’t know who I was, but I’m white and I had a beard and long hair,” Patten, 27, says now. “So she called me Jesus.”

Since its inception in 1973, stories like that one have always been part of the charm of the Drew League. And, while that's largely staying the same this summer, the talent level has taken a big jump as NBA players flock to a mostly-nondescript park in South L.A. to log some time on the basketball court.

“I mean, it's definitely like this because of the lockout,” says Bobby Brown, a former Cal State Fullerton guard who spent parts of two seasons in the NBA and now plays in Greece. “Everybody wants to come out here and play. We had a few NBA guys last year, but this year it's getting a lot better.”

Saturday was Evans' first go at it in the Drew, but he was joining his Kings teammate Pooh Jeter, who has played in it for most of the summer. The Lakers' Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Ron Artest have all played this summer, as has the Clippers' Craig Smith, and Ike Diogu plans to soon join him. Baron Davis has promised he'll make an appearance at some point. Kevin Durant caused a stir when he came last month and shut the gym down with a pass-to-himself dunk, but there a number of other NBA'ers of varying profile levels, usually with some sort of Los Angeles ties.

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0