by: The Sports Fan Network   4/3/2005
It’s no secret that our Nation’s Capitol and the surrounding areas are a hotbed for basketball talent. What many DC Sports Fans don’t know about are the numerous basketball stars from all around the country have been passing through D.C. once a year without anyone really knowing.

Every December for the past 15 years local basketball powerhouse, Gonzaga College High School, hosts the D.C. Classic. Not only does this highly competitive tournament play host to several local programs like nationally known Dematha Catholic and Dunbar, but it also invites teams from all across the country to participate. The tournament takes place at American University and only lasts 3 days. It gets its due publicity, but very few people realize that some of the best basketball talent in the country has passed through the D.C. Classic.

If you where at the D.C. Classic in 1994, you would have shown up to see a young kid named Ron Artest from La Salle Academy in NYC run the floor with a passion. Yeah- the same Ron Artest. There weren’t any brawls. There weren’t any R&B singles, just Artest honing his skills on the court.

Two years later the Classic was the battleground for two kids who would later re-unite to take The University of Maryland to Championship glory. An even skinnier Juan Dixon and a young Lonnie Baxter played against each other that year. In fact, Dixon pretty much owns every scoring record the tournament has to this day. The list doesn’t end there.

Next time you are watching a Minnesota Timberwolves game check out the 6’11” kid bombing threes with Kevin Garnett. His name is Eddie Griffin and he, too, played here at the DC Classic. KG and Eddie’s teammate, Ndubi Ebi played one of his first amateur games at The Classic before getting drafted out of high school in the 1st round in 2003.

Keith Bogans is a Dematha grad and a starter for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Bogans logged in 2 D.C. Classic appearances. Those are just the current NBA players.

The Classic is also a huge stepping-stone for some of the best college players in the game right now. Maybe the best college player in the entire country, Chris Paul, seasoned his game at the D.C. Classic before heading off to Wake Forrest. The University of Virginia has one of the most explosive backcourts in the ACC in freshman Xavier Singletary and sophomore J.R. Reynolds. Both of them earned their stripes at the D.C. Classic. Mr. Everything over at Villanova, Curtis Sumpter, is a ’99 Classic alum and so is Von Wafer down at Florida State. Wafer came to town for the Classic back in 2002 and lit it up. It was early in these guys’ career when they attended, but it’s a testament to how tough the Classic has been over the years. Those names are probably a bit fresher in you mind than the next list.

These players came through a while ago and have since retired the sneakers, but have made the mark at some level in the basketball world. Here’s a little flashback of some of our old school D.C. Classic alumni:

Keith Booth
Currently an assistant coach at his alma mater, Maryland, Booth was an undersized force in college and even made it to the pros. Hell- he won an NBA title alongside Michael Jordan.

Johnny Rhodes
The ACC’s all time leader in steals and a Maryland Terp favorite. Rhodes was part of that 1st great recruiting class Gary Williams brought in. Maybe Gary saw him in the classic?

Duane Simpkins
He was the southpaw floor general feeding the ball to Walt Williams all those years at College park. He was also a Dematha legend.

Rodney Elliot
A big kid who was a rebounding machine and the consummate role player for Gary Williams and the Terps.

Donta Bright
He played along side of the College Player of the Year, Marcus Camby, but Bright was had as much star power while leading Umass to a number one ranking.

Danny Hurley
Not the one from Duke. Danny went on to a solid career at Seton Hall after he came to The Classic with his father, the legendary head coach of St.Anthony’s in New Jersey.

God Shammgod
He was actually named Shamgod Wells when he played in The Classic, but after a phenomenal year at Providence College he left and was drafted by the Wizards. He was as quick a guard to ever play in the Classic, but he never lived up to his new name.

Lawrence Moten
Or “Poetry in Moten,” as everybody referred to him when he starred at Carroll High School in Northwest, D.C. Moten only went on to set all of Syracuse’s scoring records as well as having a solid NBA career.

All of these guys were the best players on their high school teams when the came to The D.C. Classic. And these are only some of the names you might recognize. Hundreds of others went on to good collegiate careers all across the country. But one thing remains in DC and that’s The Classic. Where it all begins.