Playing the game with heart

        When a referee drills a trey mid-game, it’s safe to say the competiveness from said basketball contest probably never existed.

                How about the children occupying the baseline seats subbing in for free throw shooters, arunning clock or, most overtly, senior stars from the state’s Atlantic Coast Conferencebasketball     programs squaring up against high school seniors.

                Two Jones Senior guards were on the roster to compete against college players on the last stop of the 2014 ACC Barnstorming Tour, which was held at The Epiphany School in New Bern     Friday night. Fifteen high school seniors competed, and Earl Sadler of Pamlico coached the team.

                UNC legend Phil Fordmanned the sidelinefor the ACC guys who — easily — cruised to a 84-79 win.

                But it wasn’t about the competition for the group of young ballers hooping on the same court as some of their favorite players from the programs they’ve watched on television for years.

                Trojan seniors K.D. McCall and Marcus Staten found a unique treasure in the rare experience.

                Staten, a Duke University basketball fan, took light trash talk from two of his favorite players from the school: Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton.
       “They were like, ‘Shoot it, shoot, you got it,’ or ‘Don’t come in here,’ ” Staten said. “We were going back and forth and they can really shoot the ball. I was watching how they shoot the ball     and can take something from them. Andre was a real cool guy. He told me I was good, and he said I’ve got enough to play ball at D-II, D-I.

                “He said I just have to pursue myself.”

                Staten had eight points, four rebounds and an assist in the effort to display his skills before the ACC All-Stars.


                He entered the game guarding 6-foot-5 UNC guard Leslie McDonaldwith a smile on his face. While McDonald had 15 points and was three-of-seven from behind the arc, Staten pressured     the long ball as best he could: McDonald missed his first 3-pointer against Staten.

                “It felt good going up against him,” Staten said of his UNC matchup, “But he worked me, I’m tired.”
       While Pamlico and Havelock names dominated the high school All-Star roster, Staten did have a familiar face on the court with him. He competed alongside teammate K.D. McCall, an All-    Free Press First Team selection.

                McCall had eight points and tied with Pamlico’s David Resto for the game-high seven rebounds, working for each and every one. Duke’s Josh Hairston grabbed a team-high six boards.

                With the ACC All-Stars leading the entire way, the younger seniors did cut it close. They were down by as few as four in the second half, getting Ford into in the game as he asked, “Is that     score right?”

                McCall trimmed the deficit to six with 6:02 left in the game after dribbling behind the back on a breakaway, finishing the drive with a finger roll to the basket.

                He also had his piece of McDonald, having what looked to be an earnest exchange after the UNC star put his arm around McCall during a free throw.

                “I asked him was he going to the NBA,” McCall said. “He said he was, he gotta talk to his agent and see what he has to do. Oh yeah, and I asked him for his socks he had on, too.”

                McCall said the experience helped build his own game and prepared him for the possibility of college basketball.


                McDonald said the ACC stars were no doubt going to win on the scoreboard, but the group of college basketball seniors gave the youth behind them invaluable memories.

                “(It) just gives them the opportunity to meet some of the primary players, being able to see them face up and the experience them up close,” McDonald said of the All-Star event. “I think it’s     a big deal. It’s a good atmosphere. Of course, we knew we were going to win regardless, but it’s just a good atmosphere to play in.”

                The playful air showed as the ACC seniors wrapped up the Barnstorming Tour on Friday.

                “The ACC All-Stars could have scored a lot more than 84 points if they wanted to,” Sadler said. “I think part of it is just being a part of something for the community and understanding it’s     not about winning or losing. I think the guys realized that tonight, and they were playing for the right reasons: to give the kids a good time."

Written By: Jessika Morgan

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