SHARONVILLE, Ohio — With the game hanging in the balance Friday night, Vontaze Burfict wanted to switch basketball teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals linebacker had playfully argued calls and antagonized opposing players through almost two halves of basketball, but he saw an opportunity to be on the winning side or at least gather info on the opposing team during a timeout.
Just 16.7 seconds remained in the first Dre Kirkpatrick Celebrity All-Star Basketball Game at Princeton High School. The game was tied at 58.
Kirkpatrick, the Bengals cornerback entering his seventh pro season, was at the line for two free throws for the Black Team when his former Bengals teammate Adam Jones called a timeout for the White Team.
As Jones and two-time NBA All-Star Zach Randolph huddled their team together, Burfict, a leading forward for the Black Team, walked over and flipped his jersey as if to join Kirkpatrick’s squad. Burfict smiled when the fans and players caught wind of it.
Thankfully for his sake, the Burfict didn’t jump ship in the final moments. Kirkpatrick made the second throw to give the White Team a one-point lead momentarily.
The Black Team tied it on a free throw and then won it 62-59 on a game-winning 3-pointer by Princeton alum Stefan Johnson at the buzzer.
The score didn’t matter, really. The game was all about having fun in front of family, friends and supporters of the Bengals and Princeton High School Friday night.
A part of the tickets sales went to Kirkpatrick’s 21 Kids Foundation and some of it went to Princeton athletics. Kirkpatrick’s girlfriend, Alexus Hight, a Princeton High School alum, helped to organize the event.
“We are hoping to try to do this game every year,” Kirkpatrick said. “I am having a great time especially seeing the competitive nature of my teammates. We finally get to see some of guys who talk a lot of trash to each other finally get out there and play each other.”
The celebrity game kicked off a special weekend for Kirkpatrick and Princeton. Kirkpatrick is scheduled to host a youth football and cheer camp from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
“Dre is extremely great at just poring into kids and giving back,” Princeton football coach Mike Daniels said. “This is what it’s about.”
Bengals linebacker Preston Brown, who signed with Cincinnati this offseason, was happy to oblige when Kirkpatrick asked him to play. Brown, a former Northwest High School football standout, remembers playing high school basketball in the Fort Ancient Valley Conference. He showed his basketball skills in the first half and made a nice reverse layup to put the White Team up by 10.
“Anything I could do to help back I want to give it back,” Brown said.
Randolph, the Sacramento Kings power forward and longtime NBA player, was glad to fly in from the West Coast to connect with his friend, Kirkpatrick, and show some love to Cincinnati.
Randolph, a 6-foot-9 player entering his 18th year in the NBA, didn’t play but acted like a coach on the bench. Randolph and Kirkpatrick have known each other since Kirkpatrick entered the NFL in 2012.
“Dre is a good guy,” Randolph said. “Like you said his character and giving back. He has some much to give. He is a good person. I am happy with the things he is doing.”
The game also featured other Bengals players along with former Xavier basketball player and Winton Woods standout Semaj Christon among other former college and high school athletes.
“It’s an important event,” Daniels said. “It’s a very exciting event. There is obviously a lot of work to put on these type of events. We do appreciate Dre Kirkpatrick and his foundation for allowing us to do this event. We appreciate the administration at Princeton for accepting this event. It’s exciting.”
By: Mike Dyer
Posted: May 18, 2018, 11:39 pm
Updated: May 19, 2018, 10:14 am