Flashback: DC Magazine Honors Basketball Star Johnny Dawkins

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All-star Johnny Dawkins and Jack Limpert.

Watching college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins being interviewed on CBS today after his Stanford Cardinals upset second-seeded Kansas in the NCAA tournament brought back memories of Dawkins starring for DC’s Mackin High School.

Back in the 1980s The Washingtonian honored the DC area’s top high school basketball player with a “Mr. Basketball” trophy. This picture of Dawkins with the magazine’s editor (then still playing basketball two or three times a week) was taken at the Capital Centre, Washington’s major sports arena, before the Capital Classic all-star game that had the top local high school players going up against a team of national all-stars.

After that final high school game, Dawkins went on to star for Duke, and in 1986 he led the Blue Devils to the national championship game, losing 72-69 to Louisville. In that game, Dawkins played all 40 minutes and scored 24 points—his teammates included Tommy Amaker, Danny Ferry, Mark Alarie, and Jay Bilas. Dawkins went on to play 10 years in the NBA, then was an assistant to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for 10 years, and in 2008 took over at Stanford.

Who won that 1982 all-star game? The local all-stars beat the national all-stars 82-79, with Dawkins the top scorer with 19 points. But most memorable about that game was seeing another local high school player for the first time: Len Bias scored 18 and wowed the crowd—when he went up for a shot it looked like he went higher and stayed up there longer than any of us had ever seen.

Bias went on to star at the University of Maryland, in 1986 being named ACC player of the year. Against top-ranked North Carolina that year, Bias scored 35 points. Three months later, after being selected by the Boston Celtics in the NBA draft, Bias died of a cocaine overdose in his University of Maryland dorm room.
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If you like college basketball, here’s some wonderful video of the game on February 20, 1986, between Maryland and North Carolina. Dean Smith was coaching North Carolina, they were 25-1 and ranked number one in the country, they had never lost in their new Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center. Carolina was led by Brad Daugherty and Kenny Smith. Maryland’s coach was Lefty Dreisell, and his star was Len Bias. It was a memorable game with a great finish, and basketball fans can only watch Len Bias, appreciate his gifts, and wonder what might have been.

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