LeBron, LBSU duo entertain Drew League crowd
Miami Heat superstar makes surprise appearance alongside 49ers seniors Casper Ware, Edis Dervisevic.
LOS ANGELES — Long Beach State seniors Casper Ware and Edis Dervisevic had no idea when they woke up Saturday morning that they would be rubbing elbows hours later with a two-time NBA most valuable player.
Ware, Dervisevic and surprise teammate LeBron James of the Miami Heat helped Hank’s Cheaters II secure a 96-90 victory over DA FAM in a Drew League summer exhibition game at Washington Park gym.
Ware said he was sure his Hank’s Cheaters II team would win when he found out who would be joining the squad for the day.
“I had no doubt with a guy named LeBron on my team,” Ware said with a smile. “I never thought I’d get to see the day I’d play with him. It feels great right now.”
The excitement in the high school-sized gym erupted with cheers from the capacity crowd when James slammed down a windmill dunk after flying unobstructed through the middle of the lane in the fourth quarter.
James was well received by the crowd of just over 500 people, who roared every time he left his feet.
“The best thing about the Drew League is it’s benefiting these inner-city kids,” James said in an interview with league commissioner Dino Smiley. “Any time you get the opportunity to shed light on situations that may not be that great … it’s a blessing.”
An appropriate name for a team suiting up with the two-time NBA MVP, Hank’s Cheaters II pulled away in the third quarter with both Ware and Dervisevic converting off passes from James.
Dervisevic said he got his haircut just prior to the game in between laughs, and was glad he could look good for his high-profile teammate.
James, who interacted with the crowd throughout the game, didn’t disappoint as he put up a game-high 30 points in just over 27 minutes.
Meanwhile, Ware scored 22 to go with six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Dervisevic collected four points and four rebounds in just over 16 minutes.
Ware, who is the reigning Big West Conference Player of the Year, has participated in the Drew League throughout the summer, as well as in years past, and earned player of the week honors last month when he poured in 43 points, four assists and three steals in a victory against Go HAM, which features Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan.
Ware recently dropped 40 points against Oklahoma City Thunder forward James Harden, who plays for the Kings of L.A. squad.
Ware is also friends with Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Baron Davis, who was supposed to play, but instead, decided to surprise the team with James and showed up for support.
Ware thanked James for attending and Davis for the surprise via Twitter. LBSU head coach Dan Monson also sent out a tweet about his players competing alongside James.
DA FAM’s roster for the game included D.J. Strawberry, a former University of Maryland star who signed a one-year contract with professional Lithuanian club Lietuvos Rytas in January.
Strawberry said he was happy with his team’s performance despite being outgunned, and seemed more focused on his own game rather than who was playing for the other team.
“It’s all basketball,” said Strawberry, the son of former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Darryl Strawberry. “We just wanted to play hard, do what we do out there, and have fun.”
James exited the gym following the game, but not before stopping to sign a few autographs for fans prior to leaving in a black Cadillac Escalade.
Some people were turned away as the gym filled up, with several police officers blocking the doors to comply with fire safety regulations.
South Central’s Drew League, which is a summer basketball pro-am circuit with 24 teams, is split up between two divisions, the Ray Lew Division and the John Williams Division. Rosters tend to change throughout the summer with players coming and going.
While NBA teams are handcuffed during free agency by the lockout, many of the league’s stars have opted to keep their skills sharp by playing in the Drew League, including Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest.
Hank’s Cheaters II’s next game is scheduled for July 30 at 4 p.m. at the Washington Park gym located at 8908 Maie Ave.