Commentary

Barnes headlines Elite 24

Updated: August 19, 2009, 9:11 AM ET
By Ryan Canner-O'Mealy | ESPN RISE Magazine

For the fourth consecutive year, 24 of the nation's best players will converge at New York's historic Rucker Park to play in the Boost Mobile Elite 24. The game will be played Friday at 7 p.m. ET and broadcast on ESPNU on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

[+] EnlargeFat Joe and Lance Stephenson
John WalderA regular at Rucker, Fat Joe checked out Lance Stephenson's performance at the 2007 Elite 24.

The Boost Mobile Elite 24 is the nation's only basketball event that features the nation's 24 best ballers regardless of class year or shoe affiliation. Not only a breeding ground for future NBA talent -- Elite 24 alumni include 11 first-round pics and one second-rounder -- the event is also where the nation's best ballers make a name for themselves. Literally.

The highest honor you can cop at Rucker is getting a nickname. With the always-creative Bobbito and EJ Da Mayor on the mic, there's been no shortage of fantastic nicknames for Elite 24 ballers.

One of only two three-time Elite 24 participants, former Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) guard Lance Stephenson earned the nickname "Born Ready" at Rucker back in 2006. The name has stuck as he embarks on his college career at Cincinnati.

Only time will tell who will leave Rucker with a nickname this year.

Ames (Iowa) senior shooting guard Harrison Barnes, the No. 1 player in the ESPNU 150, leads this year's crop of young stars. Other players to watch include Winter Park (Fla.) junior guard Austin Rivers and St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) senior guard Kyrie Irving.

[+] EnlargeMichael Beasley
John WalderBefore starring for Kansas State and now the Miami Heat, Michael Beasley threw down some sick dunks at the inaugural Elite 24.

Several players will be making their second appearance at the Rucker, including senior big men Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio), Josh Smith of Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) and Tristan Thompson of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).

Half Hollow Hills West (Dix Hills, N.Y.) senior forward Tobias Harris adds some local flavor to the game. Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) senior guard Doron Lamb is also from New York.

The list of Elite 24 alumni in the NBA reached double digits following the 2009 NBA Draft. Former participants now in The League include Michael Beasley, Donte Greene, Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Jerryd Bayless, J.J. Hickson, DeAndre Jordan, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday and B.J. Mullens.

Last year's game also featured Jeremy Tyler, who has since made waves by dropping out of San Diego (Calif.) High midway through his junior year to play overseas for two years. He recently signed a contract with an Israeli pro team.

As important as the history of the Elite 24 is the history of the Rucker. The nation's most storied streetball court, it's hosted the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving and Kobe Bryant. It's also where streetball legends like Earl "The Goat" Manigault, Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland and Rafer "Skip To My Lou" Alston made their names.

Ryan Canner-O'Mealy covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.