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Babbitt named Parade All-American

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer

Two days after playing in the ESPN-televised McDonald’s High School All-American Game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., Galena High School’s Luke Babbitt returned home Friday to learn from a reporter that he had received yet another award.

Babbitt, who was presented the Naismith Sportsmanship Award during halftime of Wednesday’s game, was named an All-American by Parade. The magazine will publish its selection of the nation’s top 40 high school basketball players in its April 6 issue.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound power forward, who averaged 31points, 13 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.4 blocks for the 18-13 Grizzlies this season, also picked up the Naismith Award – he was voted for the honor by the players and coaches throughout the week – in Milwaukee.

In addition, Babbitt, who helped guide Galena to the 2007 state championship, was named the Rise Magazine/Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Nevada the last two years.

“It’s nice. I’ve got to thank the voters,” Babbitt said of his selection by Parade. “I put it behind all team accomplishments. Winning state was the best thing. I try not to think about awards. I try to think about getting better. It’s nice, but I want to keep getting better and not get satisfied.”

It’s this mindset that helped Babbitt, who will play for the Nevada Wolf Pack next season, to pass Western’s Prince Fowler (1994) and Hug’s Armon Johnson (2007), who previously held the shared mark of 2,616 career points.

Babbitt finished his high school career with 2,941 points.

As a member of the West team – which lost to the East 107-102 – Babbitt finished with four points, two rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot in 15 minutes of play. He also finished second to Larry Drew II, a North Carolina signee, in Monday’s 3-point shooting contest.

“It was a lot of fun. It was a great week,” Babbitt said of his trip to Milwaukee. “There was no pressure. I was trying to go out there and play well and have a good time as well. I still wanted to go out and win the game. We practiced three or four times during the week to get the win. My main focus was trying to do the little things to help the team win.

“I missed some follows on the basket that I should’ve made. I’m going to get back in the gym and keep working.”

Bill Ballinger was one of about 20 people – including Galena coach Tom Maurer – who made the trip to watch Babbitt play. Ballinger, the Manogue girls basketball coach, has been working with Babbitt since the fourth grade when he played for the Reno Ballers.

“He did some good things,” Ballinger said. “He was playing regular basketball with a bunch of guys playing Showtime. It doesn’t mix very well. He was on a lot of fast breaks. I’m a little bit biased – I thought the ball should have got back to him.”

Maurer, who is on his way to San Antonio for the NCAA Final Four, was also a little slanted in favor of Babbitt, who said he’d been dreaming of playing in the game since “the sixth or seventh grade.”

“He played well,” Maurer said. “I though he should’ve finished with his shots (Babbitt was 1-for-5). I was upset with the coaching. You have the two best 3-point shooters (Babbitt and Drew) sitting on the bench.”

Babbitt will waste no time resting on his laurels. He said he would be training with player development specialist Aubrey McCreary over the next couple of months before taking two classes at Nevada beginning June 9 and beginning his college career under coach Mark Fox, whose Wolf Pack finished 21-12 this season before bowing out to Houston in the first round of the inaugural College Basketball Invitational.

“I went (to Lawlor Events Center) five or six times this year,” Babbitt said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it. I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time for it.”

McCreary, formerly a head coach at Hug, Reno and Douglas, has worked with Babbitt since his freshman year. He also trains Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz and Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and said Babbitt has a a high upside.

“He has a great touch and a great release. He gets the ball off quick,” McCreary said. “We’re going to continue working on things off the bounce, ball skills and his lateral movement defensively. He has such great skills off the catch. He wants to improve off the bounce to improve his potential. When you have a direct line to the basket, you want to cover as much space as you can with as few dribbles as possible.

“As he moves to each new level, it helps to get (to the basket) a lot faster. He does that more effectively with dribbling the ball.”

Babbitt said he will mainly play pickup ball until June, but he has at least one more game in front of him before he plays in the silver and blue of the Wolf Pack. He will play in the Adidas Derby Festival Basketball Classic April 19 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.

Who knows, there may be yet another award waiting for him to win along the way.