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As a high school senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2002, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James made a trip to Philadelphia to play Strawberry Mansion at the Palestra.

— AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File

LeBron James played a lot of basketball in Philadelphia long before he became an NBA superstar with the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a McDonald’s All-American, James played for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School from Akron, Ohio.

And they made a trip to Philly to play Strawberry Mansion at the Palestra in 2002, which St. Vincent-St. Mary won 85-47. This matchup had James against high-scoring guard Maureece Rice from Strawberry Mansion. Both were high school seniors. James reflected on this game during the team’s shootaround prior to the Sixers-Cavaliers contest Monday.

“He’s [Maureece Rice] the all-time leading scorer in Philadelphia history past Wilt Chamberlain,” James said. “We knew we had our hands full trying to shut him down. We didn’t want to lose. We knew all about him.”

James, a 6-foot-8 forward, had 26 points that night. Rice finished with 13 points. James was the No. 1 player in the nation. In 2003, he was the No. 1 pick overall by the Cavaliers in the NBA Draft. Of course, a lot of fans will remember some of the one-on-one battles from that game between James and Rice. Actually, Rice, a 6-foot guard, had a terrific crossover move to start the game against James to shake loose for a jumpshot, but the shot didn’t fall. He scored an amazing 2,681 points in his high school career. Chamberlain had 2,206 career points. Rice led Strawberry Mansion to two Public League championships. He played his college basketball at George Washington University. Rice had a brief stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. He also played professional basketball overseas.

When it comes to Philadelphia basketball, James has a strong connection. He played with former Camden High star Dajuan Wagner and Strawberry Mansion product Ronald “Flip” Murray with the Cavaliers.

James also participated in a I-95 Series All-Star Game during the 2011 NBA lockout at the Palestra. He played on Team Melo, which featured Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. They played against Team Philly that included a number of Philadelphia area players like Kyle Lowry, Tyreke Evans, Mardy Collins, Hakim Warrick and Ronald “Flip” Murray. Lowry (34 points) and Lou Williams (31 points) who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers led Team Philly to 131-122 victory. James had a game-high 43 points.

dhunt@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5719

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