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April 3, 2011

Basketball in Virginia as strong as ever

Virginia is for lovers. Basketball lovers, that is. Last Wednesday night, two of Virginia's most decorated basketball players in recent memory took their talents to Chicago, Illinois and the United Center to participate in the McDonald's All-American game. Both Norfolk Christian 6-foot-8 forward James McAdoo (North Carolina) and Princess Anne 6-foot-3 center Elizabeth Williams (Duke) shined as McAdoo displayed an array of skills in being named co-MVP in the Boys game, while Williams dominated to earn MVP honors for the Girls game.

Known as a hotbed for football recruiting, the Tidewater area in Virginia has lately produced its share of top-notch basketball prospects with this Class of 2011 featuring three headline players about as good as it gets.

"It's obviously a special time and an exciting time here in the Hampton Roads area to have two of the best, well actually, three of the best players in the nation with Elizabeth Williams as well as James McAdoo and Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech)," said Norfolk Christian Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coach Michael Allen, who has coached McAdoo in High School. "We're extremely excited for James and it's been wonderful for both him and our program. It's been great for the Hampton Roads area to have these three phenomenal athletes that we've had the privilege in seeing over the last few years."

The Hampton Roads area of Virginia has produced some NBA players in past McDonald's All-American selections Alonzo Mourning and J.R. Reid as well as Joe Smith and Allen Iverson. With this latest wave of stars, it's an indicator that the Commonwealth state just might stack up with some of the better basketball states around the country.

"I grew up in Indiana, which is a big basketball state," noted Allen. "You look at the tradition and history there that I was used to seeing, and then you get out here, you start doing some research and you think of all the good quality athletes and players that have come through this area and in the state of Virginia. It's been known for football for quite a few years, but when you look back through there's definitely more of a basketball history here than a lot of people would give it credit for, and being a basketball guy I can definitely appreciate it, no question."

Williams, who set a McDonald's single-game scoring record with 23 points, was named the Morgan Wootten National Girls Basketball Player of the Year in March. She led Princess Anne to their second State Championship in three years, rejecting shot after shot on the defensive end of the floor, gobbling up rebounds and has been a consistent offensive threat.

Unlike Williams, McAdoo comes from a basketball family where his sister Kelsey played at UNC-Charlotte, mom Janet and dad Ronnie starred at Old Dominion, and uncle Bob became a Hall-of-Famer that played in the NBA. James was a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year selection who helped guide his team to a second straight VISAA Division II State Championship this year.

But Allen says with McAdoo and Williams it goes deeper than their abilities on the floor. They're just as outstanding off the court.

"It's a testament not only to the kids, but also their families and the upbringing that they've had. I had an opportunity to spend a little bit of time with Elizabeth's mom and dad Tuesday night at the Players Awards banquet and they just seem like an awesome family. I definitely can speak for James, his parents and his sister. They're a wonderful family, too, and it's been awesome the support that not only they've given James, but given to our school and community. I know the Williams' have done the same at Princess Anne," stated Allen.

"These kids are what I consider ambassadors for the game. They're in it for the love of the game, it's not about them, they're honored for these awards and you can tell in their interviews. They just want to play, contribute, try to get better and the accolades don't go to their heads. They're very appreciative of them, and probably like it is with Elizabeth, I know that with James he's the type of kid that if he gets an award he's going to take it home and it's going to sit in his closet. It's not about what I've done, but rather what can I do next? That's a testament to his mom and dad, the work ethic they've instilled in him and we're proud of him."

Just within the past month with VCU's improbable run to the Final Four, Norcom behind Finney-Smith repeating as State Champions and placing as high as #3 in the national rankings, and Williams and McAdoo winning MVP awards in the prestigious McDonald's game, the state of Virginia has definitely been put on the map for its hoops.



Matthew Hatfield has covered High School Football & Basketball as well as recruiting since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com - the #1 High School Sports Site on the Rivals Network. Check out Hatfield's website - www.matthewhatfield.com - for more on the pro and college sports scene. To contact Matthew, please e-mail hatfieldsports2k4@yahoo.com, and listen to him with Rod Johnson on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1.



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