Branden Dawson has never been in a dunk contest, but he already knows the key to winning.
He's keeping his dunks a secret.
The Lew Wallace senior wouldn't give away what's in store tonight at Chicago State University when he participates in the Powerade Jam Fest, the first on-court festivities for the McDonald's All-Americans.
All the McDonald's All-American would say is there might be a little throw-the-ball-up-two-handed-windmill action.
From there, it's wait and see.
"I'm just going to go out there and have fun," Dawson said Sunday night.
Dawson has been practicing only a few days for his first dunk contest, but the best piece of advice he received was as simple as it gets in basketball.
Just make sure the ball goes in.
It doesn't matter how pretty or how breathtaking the dunk is, Lew Wallace coach Ronaldo Thomas told the Michigan State recruit. If it doesn't go in, it doesn't count.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Dawson compares himself as a dunker to Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin.
"Just that power he has," Dawson said. "If he sees anybody in his way, he'll dunk right over him and through them. He'll try to go right through you.
"I would say I'm an aggressive dunker. I dunk the ball really hard. That's how I see it."
Besides Griffin, who won this event in 2007 before heading to the University of Oklahoma, Dawson looks up to Vince Carter, the 1995 champion, who now plays for the Phoenix Suns, and DeMar DeRozan, the high-flying guard for the Toronto Raptors who won the 2008 high school title. Both Carter and DeRozan have also won NBA dunk titles.
Last year, Kansas freshman Josh Selby won the dunk contest.
Other past winners include Gerald Henderson Jr. in 2006, LeBron James in 2003 and Carmelo Anthony in 2002. In 2004 former Tennessee star Candace Parker won the event.
This year the dunk contest will be judged by former Cub Ernie Banks, Bears coach Lovie Smith, ABC-7 sports anchor Jim Rose, Bears tight end Greg Olsen, WCIU/ME sports anchor Kenny McReynolds and V103 radio host Ramonski Luv.
Dunking in a contest is one thing. Dunking in a game is another. Dawson's favorite dunk came this past season against one of the Chicago schools on Wallace's schedule. He came down the court on a fast break and rose up for a two-handed windmill.
"When you're dunking in a contest you have people watching you, all eyes on you," Dawson said. "In a game, you're just out there. You just dunk it. It's really different."