Before he was rated the No. 1 point guard in the nation in the same 2003 recruiting class with Chris Paul, Mustafa Shakur’s journey toward national prominence may have started at the All-City Classic against Gerry McNamara, a highly-touted point guard headed to Syracuse.
Before Hakim Warrick hoisted the NCAA championship trophy as a sophomore at Syracuse alongside freshman standouts McNamara and Carmelo Anthony, Warrick was a rising senior with little recruiting clout when he played in the 2000 All-City Classic.
With the 2019 Rasual Butler All-City Classic set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday night at School of the Future, Shakur and Warrick, both of whom had long professional careers, shared messages for the current crop of participants, who were chosen by respected basketball scouts in the Philadelphia area and beyond.
Friday marks the 25th time the event, which began in 1995, has been held. Last year the event was named after Butler, the late former Roman Catholic standout who went on to the NBA and died in a car accident last year.
Roman Catholic freshman Jalen Duren, a 6-foot-10 freshman is expected to play, as are rising seniors Jahmir Brickus (Coatesville), Deuce Turner (Malvern Prep), Lynn Greer III (Roman Catholic) and Derrius Ward (Sankofa).
“You never know who is watching,” said Warrick, 36, in a phone interview Wednesday. “It only takes one top coach, one assistant to like you and you never know what that could turn into.”
“No. 1 just know that you’re a big part of history in an event that’s changed a lot of lives for young men,” said Shakur, 34, also in a Wednesday phone interview. “There’s a lot of guys who have gone on from that game and used it as a springboard for more opportunities.”
Warrick sprung forth in dramatic fashion as a rising senior after he was added as an alternate to the 2000 All-City Classic at La Salle University.
“He was dunking on people like the Doc (Julius Irving), said Charles “Shoob” Monroe, who founded the event in 1995.
Warrick’s performance led to an invite to Nike’s prestigious summer camp, which led to phone calls from Syracuse, a national championship and a 13-year career in professional basketball, including 8 in the NBA.
Shakur’s ascent came after respected basketball talent evaluators such as Littel Vauhn, Amauro Austin and others, Monroe said, suggested an invitation be extended to McNamara, who had gained national recognition for his exploits in Scranton, Pa. at Bishop Hannan High School (Now Holy Cross High School).
Shakur, a 6-foot-3 point guard, won MVP of the 2001 event at La Salle University, scoring 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting with 9 of 11 points coming at the foul line, according to TedSilary.com.
McNamara, now an assistant coach at Syracuse, finished with 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Shakur said he knew little of McNamara at the time. Social media had yet to spawn easily-findable highlight videos as it has today.
It was more important to Shakur, who had grown up attending the All-City Classic as a spectator, to get invited.
He had starred at William Penn high before transferring to Friends Central and repeating his junior year.
“The previous year I didn’t get invited and it pushed me to work even harder,” said Shakur. “And once I got it, it meant a lot and I tried to take advantage of it.”
An invitation to the famous ABCD basketball camp followed, as did the national No. 1 point guard ranking from most recruiting service’s at the time.
An opportunity to play at the University of Arizona, regarded by some as “Point Guard U,” also followed, as did a 12-year career in professional basketball, including stints with the NBA’s Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder.
“The All-City Classic, for me, was major,” said Shakur, who didn’t play basketball last season for the first time since becoming a pro. “Even before I played in the game, my AAU coach (Greg Wright) would take me and I’d see these trophies like full-body size.”
Size and spring, Warrick had in spades as a rising junior in 2000. In terms of recruiting clout, however, he had very little.
Warrick had been mostly a reserve at University City in the Public League before he transferred to Friends Central (Warrick and Shakur didn’t play together) after the 1998-99 season and repeated his junior season.
A nearly 5-inch growth spurt, Monroe said, also helped Warrick.
Perhaps what helped even more was Warrick’s dynamic performance in the 2000 All-City Classic.
Littel Vaughn, who started the Brotherly Love Roundball Report, helped Warrick get invited to Nike’s All-American camp that same summer.
Other prominent scouts from around the country also helped his star rise.
“For me,” said Warrick, who spent last season in the NBA’s G League, “I was not ranked at all nationally and I think playing well in that game and having the scouts to get that buzz out there helped.”
“It was really important,” Warrick added. “That was kinda like my coming out party. Not just on the Philadelphia local scene, but on the national scene.”
Warrick said he had gotten some interest from Xavier and La Salle before the All-City Classic.
After he played well at Nike’s camp, which also featured Dajuan Wagner and David Lee, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, Warrick said, started calling.
He went on to be named the Big East’s Most Improved Player in his sophomore, NCAA title season. He was also a third and first-team All-American selection as a junior and senior, respectively, by the Associated Press.
He left Syracuse as its No. 4 all-time scorer and rebounder and was drafted No. 19 overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2005 NBA Draft.
His 8-year NBA career had stops with the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats (2012-2013)
He also played professionally in China, Turkey, Greece, Australia and Israel.
Warrick said he spent the 2018 season in the NBA’s G League with the Iowa Wolves, an affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves, in part, because he hopes to join an NBA front office some day.
Helping change the lives of young men in and around the city, Monroe said, is exactly why he started the event.
“When I started,” said Monroe, who will turn 50 in November, “I couldn’t imagine it would be here 24 years later, because so many people in the city will start something for a year or two and then fall off. But more importantly it’s been 24 years of setting a platform of exposure for the kids.”
Monroe said he has no idea what the next 24 years might look like, but added he may also soon host an All-City Classic alumni game.
No matter what the future looks like, Monroe said he’s committed to continuing forward.