DURHAM — Jerry Stackhouse still loves playing basketball, and it shows on the court, but to him the game is much bigger than that.
Austin Rivers loves playing basketball, too, and showed some of the magic he could bring to Cameron Indoor Stadium this fall at the Greater NC Pro-Am basketball summer league at N.C. Central on Thursday evening.
The summer league was the idea of Donyell Bryant, one of Stackhouse's junior high friends in Kinston. Bryant, Stackhouse, and Chuck Jones got the league going, and Stackhouse enjoys the opportunities it give younger players to improve their games.
"Basketball is a year round thing, and this keeps me in shape," said Stackhouse, after his team, Triangle G, took an 82-68 win over Next Level Customs on Thursday night. "It's good to test myself against the kids, and they want to test themselves against the older players. I'm just disappointed the high school kids can't play this year. Hopefully the NCAA can do something with that rule."
Stackhouse, 36, played with the Miami Heat last year and is currently coaching a team of 14- and 15-year-olds.
"It's important to give back to the game," Stackhouse said. "When I was coming along I played with (former N.C. State stars Tom) Gugliotta and (Chris) Corchiani. They were there for the younger players, and that's how I want to be."
Triangle G has a strong North Carolina influence. Harrison Barnes scored 19 points, John Henson added 18, Stackhouse scored 12, and incoming UNC freshman P.J. Hairston notched 10 in a game that filled the gym early.
"I like the way he lets the game come to him," Stackhouse said of Hairston. "He can score, but he doesn't hunt the ball. He passes the ball well, and all of those guys have a great feel for the game. I'm glad to see us (UNC) bringing in players like that."
That's how Stackhouse plays, too, and his competitive streak is still there. He passes the ball a lot and picks his scoring chances.
"I've been able to enjoy all facets of the game," Stackhouse said.
"It's good to get everyone involved, but you've got to respect me, now, too," he adds with a smile.
Jones, who grew up in Kinston and played at East Carolina, still enjoys watching his friend play.
"Jerry was always the best," Jones said. "And he could do it all. I've got a paper at home from a game against Rocky Mount when he had 42 points, 24 rebounds, and blocked six shots. These younger players just don't know good he was."
And he's still doing all he can for the sport he loves.
Duke fans will have a lot to love about Rivers after his performance. Duke lost guards Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith to the NBA this spring, but the heralded incoming freshman showed a packed house and some of his future teammates that he's ready to step right in and help the Blue Devils.
Playing for Team Hendrick with Smith and future teammates Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, Rivers drew the largest roars of the night on a pair of dunks and afterward drew the largest crowd of autograph seekers, too.
He scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Curry hit five 3-pointers and scored 17, while Smith, the ACC's most outstanding player last year, led the team with 29.
Sheraton Imperial, however, won the game 93-83, behind the scoring of Leslie McDonald (30), Dexter Strickland (24) and Andre Dawkins (16).
"He's a tremendous talent," Kelly said of Rivers. "That's the great thing at Duke. They bring in talent every year. Like every other freshman he's going to have to get used to the defensive part of the game. But with that talent he'll be ready to play from the start."
Irving, who was at the gym but did not play, said before the game, "He's going to help, not doubt. I've seen him in some pickup games, and he's really good."
Austin, who has been in Durham for a week, has the least to say about himself. But he does like what he sees about this summer league.
"There's some great competition here," Rivers said, while surrounded by fans. "I'm looking to be a creator and scorer, but I know that I have to work on everything. I can always improve."