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GUND ARENA James takes on talented all stars



Published: Sat, March 29, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



His opponents in the McDonald's game offer size.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James has long been a man playing among boys.

In the McDonald's All-American High School Basketball Game tonight, James will face some boys who are more his own size.

James doesn't stick out in the crowd of All-Americans like he did while leading Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to three state titles in four years. There are now plenty of players that match up to his 6-foot-8 frame.

But James still stands out in other ways.

"He's amazing," said fellow All-American J.R. Giddens of Oklahoma City. "This kid, he's really the real deal."

Giddens went up against James in Monday's slam dunk contest, which James won with dunks in which he soared well over the rim. Giddens, who is headed to Kansas, said he wants another shot at James in the McDonald's game.

"Maybe I can guard him and he can guard me a possession," he said. "Everybody's got to go after the top dog to try to take him down."

Record crowd expected

James, the nation's best prep player, is the heavy crowd favorite, playing in the 20,562-seat Gund Arena about 40 miles from his hometown. He could help break the record attendance for the McDonald's game, which was set last year with 16,505 at Madison Square Garden.

With the expected top pick in this summer's NBA draft playing for the East team, coach Gary Ernst is preparing his West team like they're the visitors.

Ernst, of Mesa, Ariz., said some of his players are eager to match up with James.

"There's three or four kids who've already come up and said, 'Coach, I want to work against him,' " Ernst said. "They want the chance to see how they stack up against him. That's pretty impressive to accept that kind of challenge."

East coach Ron Hecklinski of Anderson, Ind., said he doesn't have any special plays set up for James after only two days of practice.

"He has a tendency to take over the game naturally," he said. "I don't think you have to run a lot of sets for him."

James, who has been named the McDonald's National Player of the Year, said he doesn't feel any pressure to impress.

"I'm just going to go out there and play my game," he said. "I think I'll put on a good enough show for the people that have paid their money to come and watch us play."

The McDonald's All-American staff limited reporters to questions about the game during a 10-minute news conference Tuesday with James. The request was made by James' family.

A McDonald's staff member wouldn't let James answer a reporter's question of whether he felt a need to impress NBA scouts in the game.




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