Set in DUMBO’s abandoned Tobacco Warehouse in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, the eighth annual version of the Elite 24, a national high school basketball all-star game, was in Brooklyn for the first time. It was only a coincidence that a kid from Brooklyn was even playing in the game.
However, Isaiah Whitehead wasn’t just some kid asked to play because the game was in his hometown. Instead he showed that he belonged there as he won the MVP and led Team Coney Island to a 114-109 victory against Team Bed-Stuy with a game high 26 points, five rebounds and two assists.
“Oh definitely,” Whitehead said when asked if this game meant a lot to him. “There was pressure, but like I’ve said, I’ve dealt with pressure my entire life. This is nothing new to me. Growing up in New York City, the only kid who is nationally ranked, it really meant a lot to me.”
Whitehead came on strong for this game as he hit a pair of three’s early on that announced that not only was he there, but he was a force to be reckoned with. With his contributions, Team Coney Island jumped out to a big lead early and led 66-42 at the half. His team had a 30-point lead, and he had 20 points, when announcer Bobbito Garcia declared that he was already the game’s MVP.
That 30-point lead happened early in the second half though and things got a lot more interesting after that as Team Bed-Stuy began to employ a full court press and turned the momentum of the game around. With six minutes to go they cut the lead down to six points and it was still 108-104 with 1:07 left on the clock.
That’s when Whitehead came up big again by hitting a clutch and-one layup and added three more points in the final seconds as Team Coney Island held on in the final minutes for the victory.
It was an iconic moment in the high school basketball star’s life, but even though it was a huge performance on a big stage in Brooklyn Whitehead’s high school coach Tiny Morton said that he had nothing to prove on the national level. Instead, this game might have been bigger for the home crowd to see.
“More people question him here than out of town,” Morton said. “He gets more respect from his peers on the AAU level than he does in his own town. It’s not bad though, it’s good for him to play a little harder in his hometown. He showed up in his town today, but he’s always had the respect nationally.”
He certainly does have the national respect. He’s a five-star recruit who is No. 12 in the country, according to Scout.com, and he has offers from so many schools he has lost track. Nicknamed IBM, or “I’m a bad man” by announcer Joe Pope, Whitehead is currently being heavily recruited by Indiana, Minnesota, Syracuse, UCLA and Arizona.
• There were actually four MVPs, two from each team, selected from this game. Along with Whitehead there was Tyus Jones, 10 points, for Team Coney Island and Stanley Johnson, 23 points, and Emmanuel Mudiay, 20 points, for Team Bed-Stuy.
• Other New Yorkers at the game were Chris McCullough a Syracuse commit from the Bronx, who goes to Brewster Academy, and Cheick Diallo from Centereach, who goes to Our Savior New American. Both players were on Team Bed-Stuy.
• The skills competition was held on Friday night. Devin Booker won the three-point competition and Theo Pinson won the dunk competition. For Pinson’s winning dunk, he dunked over his own mother (check out this video).