The pro basketball debut of ACC player of the year T.J. Warren did not occur in an NBA arena.
It happened at Bassett High School.
Warren was part of the ACC squad that fended off a team of former Bassett players 106-102 on Wednesday in the opening game of the 36th annual ACC barnstorming tour.
The ACC team featured 12 players from the ACC’s four North Carolina schools who concluded their college basketball careers this season.
All the ACC team’s players were seniors this season except for Warren, who was named a second-team All-American as a North Carolina State sophomore this year. Warren declared himself eligible for the NBA draft Tuesday, the same day he was added to the tour roster.
Warren was part of a starting lineup Wednesday that also included Leslie McDonald (North Carolina), Andre Dawkins and Josh Hairston from Duke, and Travis McKie (Wake Forest).
"It was a lot of fun to be out there," Warren said during a postgame autograph session. "It was fun competing against these guys this past year, so it was good to get out there with them."
Warren led the ACC in scoring this year with an average of 24.9 points. But he did not score much Wednesday, usually preferring to pass.
"He didn’t want to shoot tonight for some reason. His arm’s probably tired from leading the conference in scoring," McKie cracked.
Warren was usually content to hang back on the perimeter Wednesday and watch his teammates score.
"I was trying to let everybody else go," Warren said.
"T.J. was kind of deferring to us a little bit because we were seniors," Hairston said. "But we told him, ‘We’ve got the ACC player of the year on our team, you’ve got to score.’ "
Warren has been rated the No. 28 prospect for the NBA draft by ESPN’s Chad Ford.
"I wish the draft was tomorrow," Warren said.
The reserves on the ACC team included Duke’s Tyler Thornton and State’s Jordan Vandenberg.
The last time Hairston, Dawkins and Thornton played in a game, Duke was upset by Mercer in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament. For a few days after that loss, Hairston did not want to see anybody because he felt "embarrassed."
Hairston was in a much better mood after Wednesday’s game, which featured as many grins as dunks, layups and 3-pointers.
"I had a lot of fun," Hairston said. "We’re not taking this too seriously. This is really for the fans."
Proceeds from the game went to Bassett High School’s athletic fund, Ronald McDonald House Charities and The Sumner Group, which runs the tour. The Sumner Group paid the ACC players.
McKie said he wanted to play for the ACC team because the tour is "part of ACC history."
Bassett was the first of eight stops on this month’s tour; the rest of the games will be held at seven high schools in North Carolina. Each high school assembles a team of its former players to serve as the opposition.
The starting lineup for the Bassett "all-stars" included former Virginia Tech receiver Brandon Dillard, who was once a member of the Bassett football, basketball and track and field teams.
"It was definitely a good time playing those guys," Dillard, 27, said. "I got tired quick, though — old legs."
The Bassett lineup also included Travis Koger, who was the lone senior on the Bassett boys basketball team this year. He said playing against the ACC team was a "dream come true."
"They’re great players and I just wanted to go out there and show them what I could do," Koger said.
About 800 fans attended the game, including Bassett ninth grader Bryce Varner.
"I’m a huge Carolina fan and a huge fan of the ACC, so I wanted to come," he said after collecting some autographs.
Written By: Mark Berman
The Roanoke Times