Blair gives back to city that gave him everything

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Start spreading the news: The DeJuan Blair and LaMarr Woodley Independents Day Celebrity Basketball Extravaganza was a big success. The Hill District native and San Antonio Spurs star stunned the city when he defied conventional wisdom by hosting and coaching in four highly competitive celebrity games at the Petersen Events Center July 3.

Blair, an All-American at Pitt, just completed his rookie season in the NBA. He scored a season-high 28 points and had 21 rebounds in a game against Oklahoma City in January and became the first rookie not selected in the first round of the draft to post a 20-20 game in 29 years.

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ALL SMILES—DeJuan Blair has a good laugh as he watches his team play in the final game of the day.

“The Basketball Gods” were shining on the “Big Fella” in the final contest of the regular season against the in-state rival Dallas Mavericks. He scored 27 points and grabbed 23 rebounds. Blair played mostly backup center to Spurs superstar Tim Duncan. Will he play behind Duncan again next season?

“No I’m going to be a starter next season,” Blair said. “I’m going to move to power forward. I will be leaving next week to play in the NBA summer league.”

Blair treated the Pittsburgh crowd to one of the most stacked lineups you would ever hope to see and the fireworks began early. In the first game coaches Marvin Wright and Mitch Adams led the WPIAL Standouts over coach Rob Cash and the City League Stars. Mike Lamberti of South Fayette and 6-10 Barnett Harris of Gateway were co-MVPs for the WPIAL and Ishmael Swain of Allderdice was MVP for the City Stars.

Coach Chuck Sanders led the Media team over the Pittsburgh Legends and coach James Larkin. J. Kruz, formerly of WAMO and Tony Houghton were the MVPs for the Media team while Efrem Whitehead and Shon Crosby were the MVPs for the Legends.

Coach Carl Valenti led the Pitt Legends to a 137-132 overtime victory over coach Barnett Harris and the Pittsburgh Stars. Jamaal “Onion” Bryant was the game’s MVP.

Bryant, a 2007 graduate of Schenley High School, concluded a four-year career with a 103-16 overall record, including a 57-0 career record vs. Pittsburgh City League teams and led Schenley to a PIAA state championship. Schenley became the first City League team to win the state title since 1978 and was ranked No. 11 nationally by USA Today. Greg McGhee, of Perry and Sofion Moore, of Oliver were co-MVPs of the Pittsburgh stars.

Coach DeJuan Blair led the DeJuan All-Stars over coach Chuck Sanders and Woodley’s All-Stars. “Onion” Bryant, arguably the greatest playmaker in western Pennsylvania history, was again the game’s MVP. Shawn Hawkins, who is related to NBA Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins, and 15-year NBA star Armon Gilliam were the co-MVPs for Woodley’s All-Stars.

In the wake of the Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger scandals, some sponsors are shying away from celebrity events. Woodley was a “no show” at his own event. This lack of accountability is one of the reasons the Steelers failed to reach the playoffs in ’09. Big Ben, Santonio Holmes and now Woodley are breaking the hearts of the Steeler Nation.

“A lot of kids came here to see LaMarr Woodley and the Steelers,” said model and actress Bella’lisa Smith. “Today was a great event. I just feel bad for all the children who showed up in their black and gold hoping to get some autographs.”

“I want to thank B. Marshall Productions, Community Empowerment Association, Sanders Charities and Valenti Capital Management,” said Blair. “I would also like to thank Ace Pippens, Armon Gilliam, Mitch Adams, Terry Jones, Arieene Wrigley, Jason Hood, Chuck Sanders, Mike Reed, all the interns that assisted, and the many players and coaches involved for making this event truly special.”

Proceeds from the event benefit the DeJuan Blair Foundation, and this is Blair’s way of giving back and improving the lives of children in Pittsburgh. Blair was born and raised in the Hill District and he’s good for his word.

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