Big crowd welcomes ACC All-Star game
A large, enthusiastic crowd greeted the ACC Barnstorming Tour's stop at Lee County High School Monday night.
Duke's Mason Plumlee, North Carolina's Dexter Strickland, North Carolina State's Scott Wood and Wake Forest's C.J. Harris gave their avid fans lots of chances to ooh, aah and snap photos during the all-star game as the ACC All-Stars beat the Lee County All-Stars, which largely turned out to be a 10-year reunion of the Yellow Jacket team which reached the 2003 state championship game.
Even while in street clothes, yet making the trip to Sanford, Duke's Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry, and N.C. State's Richard Howell, received great receptions. Following the ACC's 131-83 win, the ACC stars signed autographs, posed for photos and thanked fans, even fans wearing opposing colors, at the center of huddles spaced around the court.
Many, generally the more-veteran spectators flocked to shake hands with and chat with Phil Ford, Tar Heel legend and assistant coach who had the tough task of head coach for the All-Stars.
Ford, a Rocky Mount native, is the second-best scorer, 2,290 points - behind Tyler Hansbrough, in Tar Heel history. He was a three-time All-American and 1976 Olympics gold medalist.
Proceeds from the tour, with Sanford being one of seven games played around the state, went to the Ronald McDonald House and, in the case of Monday's game, Lee County's athletic department.
Kelly was in a walking boot from the injury which kept him out for most of Duke's season. Adding to the charitable aspect of the night, Kelly was raffling off his jersey from his outstanding, 36-point game against Miami in early March, his first game back from injury in which, and for the remainder of Duke's season, he apparently was far from 100 percent.
It was a night to shine for former Yellow Jacket standouts as well. While playing the role of Washington Generals on a few occasions, the Lee County All-Stars showed their game in front of fans, many of whom go back with them to their glory days as Jackets.
"It was fun going back to our high school days, our college days," said R.J. Peace, current teacher and coach at SanLee Middle School, class of '04 Yellow Jacket who was on the '03 state runner-up team, and son of Lee County head coach Reggie Peace.
All but about five or so of the Lee County All-Stars were on the 2002-03 team R.J. Peace said. Peace went on to play at Lenoir-Rhyne and North Carolina Central collegiately.
"We had a great time, and it's especially good to raise some money for Lee County and the Ronald McDonald House," said Matt Brown, Lee County class of '01, who's closest level of competition other than trying to drive to the basket past Strickland and over Plumlee is playing on an industrial league team.
"The industrial league is about two months, then there's nothing for the other 10 months," said Brown.
"It's fun getting out here with the guys from back in high school and just having a good time," he said.
Putting on an exciting display with dunks and three-pointers, yet making sure nothing went wrong on the floor ahead of June's NBA Draft, the ACC All-Stars scored 73 points during the second half's 20-minute running clock.
Plumlee scored 40 points, as the Lee County All-Stars had a slight match-up problem with the mobile, 6-foot-11 All-American.
Elizabeth City State's Angelo Sharpless, the NCAA Div. II and CIAA Player of the Year, became a definite fan favorite.
Sharpless won the dunk contest at halftime, throwing a football pass bounding off the back wall of the gym, then back out into the lane for him to time and throw down with a high two-handed jam, then hurdling Plumlee for another soaring dunk in round two.
Sharpless teamed with virtually everyone on the ACC squad for alley-oops, some of which were more impressive than his contest dunks, repeatedly in the second half.
Union Pines senior, and All-Cape Fear Valley Conference guard, Matthew Maness lobbed two oops for Sharpless jams and knocked down two three-pointers as he was the high school invitee to join the ACC All-Stars for the night, as is custom at each Barnstorming stop.
Officially, fans recorded three points in the ACC box score on the night. Wood had two youngsters, including a boy in appropriate State colors, drain two foul shots for him. Plumlee brought a young Duke fan down for a free throw as well, when his shot came up a little short, Plumlee rebounded the miss, then hoisted the kid up for a free throw/dunk.
R.J. Peace said it had been at least 20-25 years, if ever, that the ACC Barnstorming Tour, in its 35th season, made its way through Sanford. For all the local Heel, Pack, Devil and Deac fans, and even for having another Yellow Jacket reunion, he wasn't the only basketball fan hoping it's not that long before another All-Star night.
"It was great to get out there and show we can still play a little bit. We're a little bit older now," Peace said, "but everyone had fun and Sanford needed this."