Dru Joyce II knew what was in store as soon as LeBron James spoke up.
As of February 2002, the name Carmelo Anthony existed primarily in the “magic of the unknown,” as James’ former teammate Romeo Travis put it, for most of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High in Akron. But James, who had played US basketball with the mysterious 6-foot-8 kid of Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy over the summer, knew.
The night before the much-hyped James-Anthony duel that helped change modern high school basketball, the two played in the same hotel room, Oak Hill coach Steve Smith recalled. And the next night they were at each other’s throats.
“Hey, Coach Dru”, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s coach Joyce recalled James telling him, “He’s really good.”
That was the moment 20 years ago when Joyce knew he had something to worry about when James and Anthony traded dunks and 30-point games on a special February night.
And 20 years later, a 38-year-old James ducked through the side door of Chatsworth’s gym in Sierra Canyon Monday night to watch the next generation of James take on Anthony’s son Kiyan and New York’s Christ the King High.
But the reunion, which ended in a 62-51 victory in Sierra Canyon, wasn’t like the original.
This February 2002 game aired on a now defunct network that used to air in some eastern states. This game aired on ESPN2, Kim Kardashian sat on the sidelines in a camouflage suit dancing during a time-out, a bevy of cameras followed Kiyan Anthony and Bronny James’ every move while their dads sat on the sidelines.
“It just speaks volumes about the game of high school basketball and how it’s matured and grown into something that can have a national presence,” Joyce said.
Twenty years after playing him, a still-awesome Travis spoke of then-18-year-old Carmelo Anthony like an ethereal basketball deity, calling him the most talented high school player he’d ever seen.
But there was no magic of the unknown that was suddenly unveiled in Sierra Canyon on Monday night. That Was Destiny, Bronny and Kiyan’s highlight movies have been spreading across the internet since they were in middle school. No sense of mystery regarding Bronny’s leap out of the gym and Kiyan’s silky goal-scoring ability.
And through the eyes of a standing room gym and myriad media outlets, the pressure they’re under is also a generation different.
“I feel for Kiyan and Bronny…they’re not playing well, people are going to be like, ‘Ahhh, they’re not very good,'” said Steve Smith, Carmelo’s former coach at Oak Hill Academy, who was sitting on the sidelines.
And in the first half it seemed the naysayers were coming back, Bronny missing a couple of shots and Kiyan looking a year too young at 15, scoring just eight points off the bench against a strong Trailblazers defence.
After a monstrous tomahawk from Bronny, an 18-year-old senior, in the first quarter, which saw his father roar happily, No. 0 went quiet for much of the first half. The Trailblazers held Christ the King to 17 points and had a 10-point lead at halftime.
But after all the hype surrounding a Bronny and Kiyan matchup, Trailblazers junior Isaiah Elohim seized the night and didn’t look back.
Early in the third quarter, Christ the King’s Brandon Williams raised for a slam that could have been an earth-shattering slam — except Elohim hit him at the top, reversing his attempt. A few games later, he walked to his bread-and-butter mid-range jumper, clapping his hands loudly on the way down.
It’s been a quiet first couple of games for Elohim, one of the country’s most talented players who is bouncing back from a knee injury late last season. There were dark moments, he said. But he’s almost 100% now – and with 17 points on Monday night, he’s cementing himself as the best option for Sierra Canyon.
“I always felt like I was the best player in everything I do,” Elohim said, asking how it felt to hold his own with James-Anthony in the featured duel. “Every game I go to.”
However, Bronny has had a flair for the moment all season. And even in a relatively quiet game, he performed magic in the third quarter: ridiculous layup, alley-oop slam, corner three. Elohim added a few buckets in the fourth, 7-foot Majok Chuol chipped in some hard layups, and the Trailblazers closed the door.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-12-12/sierra-canyon-christ-the-king-basketball-bronny-james-kiyan-anthony Bronny James and Sierra Canyon beat Kiyan Anthony’s team