STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
SAN DIEGO - It can't be the water at The Episcopal Academy because, well, Gerald Henderson doesn't really drink it.
"Our gym water doesn't taste too good," said the 6-foot-5 Duke signee after winning the McDonald's All-American Game Slam-Dunk
Something's got to be happening out in Merion, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, because Henderson's title was preceded earlier on Monday evening by Wayne Ellington's victory
in the boy's Three-Point Shootout. Ellington, a 6-4 shooting guard who is headed to North Carolina, also goes to ... you guessed
it, The Episcopal Academy, a place now famous for its dunkers, shooters and, er, poor-tasting gym water.
The dual Episcopal victories highlighted the Jam Fest activities at San Diego State University's Petersen Gym that included a victory by LSU-bound Allison Hightower of Seguin, Texas, in the girl's Three-Point Shootout and a Pac-10 win by Stanford-bound Michelle Harrison of Orem, Utah, and UCLA-bound James Keefe of Rancho Santa
Margarita, Calif., in the Team-Ball Competition.
Henderson's easily was the most electrifying and executed with the highest degree of difficulty. That's because he and the two other finalists, Chase Budinger of nearby
Encinitas, Calif., and Darrell Arthur of Dallas, waited several minutes while repairs were made to a rim damaged by an Arthur dunk attempt. The hiatus almost certainly quelled
the energy and momentum generated by Budinger, the volleyball-star-turned-Arizona-Wildcat-baller, who brought the hometown house down with two high-flying slams that
each earned perfect scores in the first round.
After none of the three could make a dunk in the initial championship round, the 6-9 Arthur earned a 48 (out of 60) on a fairly pedestrian dunk, Henderson earned a perfect
score on a bounce-and-windmill jam and Budinger earned a 58 on his third try of between-the-legs, reverse capper. Budinger went third of the three and could have claimed
the victory in the first running of the championship round with a simple dunk, but said he didn't want to win in front of a hometown crowd with a "cheap" dunk. Henderson, a
five-star prospect and No. 18 in the nation by Scout.com, said the delay hurt all three of the competitors and an adjustment on his dunk-preceding bounce helped.
Michelle Harrison of Orem, Utah
"Most of the guys lead with their left feet," Henderson said, "but I went with my right."
His Episcopal teammate, Ellington, the fourth-best prospect in the country, according to Scout.com, simply went with a shot he could get off. It just happened to be his last in
the championship round, and the money ball. Unbeknownst to him, he needed that last shot to beat Demond Carter, the Baylor-bound
shooting guard out of Laplace, La.
"I had no idea," Ellington said. "Actually I shot that last shot kind of funny, just to get it off as fast as possible."
Hightower, the No. 15 prospect in the country, according to Full Court Press and HoopGurlz.com for Scout, also had to sink her last moneyball to defeat Dymond Simon, the Arizona State signee out of Avondale, Ariz. Harrison and Keefe had a close, but not-as razor-thin victory over Kailli McLaren of
Washington, D.C., who is headed to Connecticut, and Brandan Wright of Nashville, Tenn., who is headed to North Carolina.
Ronald M., an unrated prospect
Henderson watched all the shooting and hoped some would rub off. He plays hard like his father, also Gerald, who is etched in Celtic lore for a steal that helped Boston win the
1984 NBA championship. While his father didn't quite have his ups, the younger Henderson also doesn't have his namesake's silky jumper, either.
"I know he played hard because that's what he preaches to me," Henderson said of his father. "He could jump, but he wasn't dunking on people. That wasn't his game. He
could shoot the ball. He's been trying to teach me to shoot better. I need the help."
On Monday night, dunking and a little patience was enough.