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The shootout heard around the world

Bijan C. Bayne | 1/31/2012, 6:52 p.m.
Memories of America’s top high school basketball tournament Bijan C. Bayne ...

Memories of America’s top high school basketball tournament

Adrian Dantley, Bo Ellis, Norm Nixon, Doc Rivers, Albert and Bernard King, Pat Ewing, Pearl Washington, Adrian Branch, Earl Jones, Chris Mullin, Walter Berry and Antoine Walker.

These are among the many talented schoolboy basketball players who have participated in The Boston Shootout.

From 1972-1999, The Shootout was one of America’s most prominent gatherings of high school talent, and a showcase for all-star basketball. Before the births of the Capital Classic and McDonald’s All-American games, The Boston Shootout brought together elite teams of teenagers who represented cities across the country to play against other all-star teams in a single elimination tournament. No other national tournament featured this format. The brainchild of Boston community leader Ken Hudson, the NBA’s first African American official, the weekend tournament grew from a local institution and gained a national reputation. Its player rosters read like a Who’s Who of blue chip basketball recruits.

A former college baseball player, Hudson originally came to Massachusetts to the city of Fitchburg, to work for Gulf Oil. Gulf transferred him to Boston, where he got involved with the Boys and Girls Club, and met community leaders such as (former Delaware State three sport star) Roscoe Baker, Alfreda Harris and a 5’6” former Winston Salem State point guard, Deputy Mayor.In the early years, The Shootout was played in Boston University’s Sargent Gym between Commonwealth Avenue and Storrow Drive. Forty years ago, Boston boasted of a hometown roster that included a bumper schoolboy crop known locally as The Boston Six: Bobby Carrington of Archbishop Williams, Billy Collins of Don Bosco, King Gaskins of Catholic Memorial, Ronnie Lee of Lexington High School, Wilfred Morrison from Boston Tech, and Carlton Smith of Boston English.

“The Boston Six,” says Hudson “was the best group they’d had in a while. I wanted to see how good they were. Jeep Jones, Alfreda Harris, Roscoe Baker and I sat down one day and talked about the idea. I told them, ‘I’ll reach out to different people in different cities.’ I contacted people I knew in Washington, New York and Connecticut to see if they would be interested in bringing a team. It turned out to be a history- making event.”

In the first tournament, Connecticut, featuring 39 point a game scorer Walter Luckett of Bridgeport’s Kolbe Cathedral H.S., upset a New York team that starred future Rutgers All-American Phil Sellers. In another upset, Boston defeated a D.C. squad led by Adrian Dantley.     The crowd also went wild when the announcer, a DJ from Boston’s soul music station WILD, told them activist Angela Davis had been acquitted by a California jury.

UMass-Boston Coach Charlie Titus, at the time a Boys (and Girls) Club director recalls, “The duel between Phil Sellers of New York and Adrian Dantley of D.C. was action packed and suspense filled.”

In the consolation game, Sellers became so frustrated with the efficient, burly Dantley, he took a swing at him. Washington won that game by four points. In a dramatic final, Boston edged Connecticut 72-71, and a tradition was established.