Prep talent impressive at 21st annual Shootout

Friday, December 7, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- An Oklahoma schoolboy scored 32 points, on an off-game, in the 21st annual Shootout Thursday night at the Savvis Center.

Kelenna Azubuike, who averaged 37.8 points last season for Victory Christian High School of Tulsa, Okla., is one of the latest players to contemplate jumping straight to the NBA. Playing for the first time since he sprained an ankle on Nov. 24, the 6-6 Azubuike had 32 points in a 68-52 victory over Marquette of suburban St. Louis.

"We waited until right before game-time to see if he was going to be able to go," coach Joe Mercier said. "He probably was at three-quarters speed."

Azubuike was 14-for-33 overall, including 4-for-9 from 3-point range, and had a handful of dunks. Mercier doesn't mind the high shot volume.

Nearly 30 NBA teams were represented at the event, mostly to see Azubuike and 6-10 Amare Stoudemire of Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Fla., rated the nation's top senior.

"I think they see the potential he has," Mercier said of Azubuike. "He's really worked hard on his game, especially his outside shooting."

Azubuike has given an oral commitment to Oklahoma, just in case, but he wants to go pro.

Cypress Creek played Columbia, Mo., Hickman in the final game of the night.

Before the Victory Christian game, close finishes were the rule with the first four games decided by a total of 17 points. Freeburg, Ill., won by seven points against Whitfield of suburban St. Louis, but in overtime.

In the second game of the day, Parkway West edged Parkway Central 43-42 in a battle of suburban St. Louis. Tim Geurin hitting the game-winner with six seconds to go.

Freeburg, Ill., topped that in the next game, rallying from a 10-point deficit in the final six minutes and forcing overtime on an 18-footer by Jake Bayers at the buzzer.

"It was an NCAA highlight-type shot, and you saw it right here," Freeburg coach Norm Toenjes said.

Freeburg ended up winning 69-62 despite a combined 54 points by Dan and Mike Oppland, brothers who have signed letters of intent to attend Valparaiso.

Maywood Proviso East, the No. 1-ranked large school in Illinois, built a 13-point third-quarter lead against Gary West Side, Ind. But Proviso East, which is 5-0, ended up hanging on for a 64-61 victory.

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