November 20, 2010
New Haven, Connecticut
Bringing together some of the top prep hoopsters in the country, the annual National Prep Showcase offers an excellent opportunity to see (and graph) future college and pro stars. My buddy Garett and I made the trek down to Albertus Magnus College in New Haven for Day 2 of the three-day invitational. With seven games ahead of us, the day would be a marathon. In all, we would spend over 11 hours watching basketball and graphing.
Unlike the Hoop Hall Classic—a similar (though more talent-rich) event hosted by the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.—the National Prep Showcase is extremely autograph-friendly. All the players we encountered were happy to accommodate our requests for signatures and pictures. All except one.
The big man blocks our shot
Andre Drummond tops ESPN’s 2012 College Basketball Recruiting Rankings and is widely regarded as one of the elite young big men in the country. I have no evidence that would lead me to believe he isn’t as good a young man as he is a ballplayer. But as a signer, he’s already rough.
At last year’s Showcase, he promised to sign after his game then, after making eye contact with us, left through a different exit. We did meet up with him outside and he was great about signing and taking pictures with us so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. This year, he flat out denied Garett, “No thanks, pal.”
I caught up to Drummond outside the gym, showing him the 11×14 I had printed of our picture together. He shrugged. Fortunately, his mother appeared (her face can be seen clearly in his) and I immediately engaged her, showing her the pictures I had of her son. Needless to say, she loved them. “Oh, look how handsome you are in your USA shirt,” she said, looking at his official headshot from the USA Basketball Development National Team. He signed everything we had.
I made a point to ask him to personalize. Especially in this case, it was important for me to make a connection and be clear that I’m not going to sell the items. He’s going to sign a lot of autographs in his career and I think these are formative years in his attitude toward collectors.
After signing my pictures he took Garett’s and proceeded to sign the first “To Matt”. Drummond was apologetic and more than happy to sign an extra 8×10 I had. I thought it was hilarious. Garett did not.
Stars of the past show up to watch the stars of tomorrow
Former NBA player Donyell Marshall attended the Showcase and I had the opportunity to ask him several autograph-related questions. Check out the full interview here.
Another NBA veteran made a surprise appearance at the event. Danny Manning watched Kansas recruit (and a native of my hometown, Worcester, Mass.) Naadir Tharpe from the front row of the bleachers. Later in the day, Manning relocated to the gym’s concourse, away from the crowd but still offering a view of the action. Without any items for Manning and hearing he wasn’t the most affable person, I decided I would request a picture. After a timeout, I approached cautiously and made the request (which he accommodated).
I’d like to thank the following players for signing for us and wish them well in their endeavors on and off the court:
- Khem Birch (ESPN rank #9, Class of 2011)
- Andre Drummond (ESPN rank #1, Class of 2012)
- P.J. Hairston (ESPN rank #13, Class of 2011)
- Alex Murphy (ESPN rank #6, Class of 2012)
- Hanner Perea (ESPN rank #42, Class of 2012)
- Kaleb Tarczewski (ESPN rank #24, Class of 2012)
- Dezmine Wells (ESPN rank #35, Class of 2011)