Jordan Brand Classic 2013: Biggest Stars to Watch in Saturday's All-Star Game
Coming firmly on the heels of a fantastic McDonald's All-American Game, this year's Jordan Brand Classic will coincide with the height of fervor surrounding the Class of 2013.
A yearly congregation of the 22 best senior prospects in the nation, the JBC may be embarking on its most anticipated iteration since 2003—also known as LeBron James' graduating year.
Andrew Wiggins, possibly the best prospect since James, will be attending as everyone awaits his impending decision on where to commit. As was the case at the McDonald's All-American Game, Wiggins will lead the East side against a Jabari Parker-spurred West. The two have been compared consistently throughout their adolescence, and these games are an initial look at what could be an epic rivalry long into the future.
Other top recruits in attendance for Saturday night's festivities include Arizona commit Aaron Gordon, who won the McDonald's game MVP, and Julius Randle, one of six players heading to Kentucky out of this field.
As is the case with just almost every other major event in 2013, the Jordan Brand Classic will be held in Brooklyn's new Barclays Center on Saturday. ESPN2 will have the broadcast of the event, which will also be streamed on the channel's online service starting at 8 p.m. ET.
With just hours remaining before tip off, here is a last-minute look at a few prospects worth watching in Saturday night's contest.
Andrew Wiggins (F, East, College Undecided)
As is the case in every All-Star format for the Class of 2013, the Jordan Brand Classic will be the Andrew Wiggins show—everyone else is just a secondary character. The consensus top player in the nation looked fantastic in the McDonald's All-American Game earlier this month, knocking down 6-of-10 shots en route to scoring a team-high 19 points for the East.
From the moment the ball tipped, it was apparent why many view Wiggins as the best prospect since LeBron James. A combination of jaw-dropping athleticism, strong off-the-dribble shot creation and an underrated outside stroke, Wiggins looked like the complete package.
The most impressive aspect of Wiggins' performance is how he outclassed the opposition with his athleticism. In a contest where defense is shrugged at and personal fouls are mostly kept to a minimum (mostly due to an unspoken bond in these games designed to avoid anyone being injured), Wiggins somehow made his way to the free-throw line eight times (making seven).
The Class of 2013 is among the best in recent memory, but there was never any question who the best player on the floor was—even as Aaron Gordon put up a very impressive 24 points. If the NBA abolished the one-and-done rule, Wiggins would be top pick and there wouldn't be any consideration otherwise.
But, alas, one-and-done hasn't changed, meaning each Wiggins appearance comes with rampant speculation about the place he'll be calling home for 2013-14. ESPN's Keith Jenkins reported on Friday that a source told him the senior star will attend Florida State:
Mum has been the word since that story broke, but expect Wiggins to hear plenty of questions about his status in the coming days.
Jabari Parker (F, West, Committed to Duke)
There isn't any question about where Parker will be playing next season—Duke has been the choice since back in December—but his status as second in command to Wiggins looks to be in jeopardy. The folks at 247 Sports have dropped Parker all the way to No. 6 in their rankings
Remember, it was Parker—not Wiggins—who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last year that dubbed him "the best high school basketball prospect since LeBron James." In 2013, Parker isn't even considered the best high school basketball prospect since Andrew Harrison.
The future Blue Devil did himself no favors in the McDonald's game, either. He scored just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds. Remember those rare free-throws Wiggins shot against his overmatched competition? Many of them came as a result of Parker, who finished with a game-high five personal fouls.
It's dangerous to have broad takeaways about a one-game sample size, but Parker looked like the lesser talent earlier this month. Rankings like No. 6 are ultimately meaningless when you prove yourself on the court and perform well; they are endemic of a "slippage" when a player disappoints.
We're many months away from Parker stepping on a floor when the games matter, but seeing how he responds on Saturday should be captivating. A player with his versatility on the offensive end and consistently running motor should excel in All-Star game settings. He just needs to stop being passive, take advantage of his athletic ability and show that he can be a true rival to Wiggins.
Julius Randle (F, East, Committed to Kentucky)
The player who has arguably supplanted Parker as the second-best recruit in the nation is Randle, who will be one of what looks like an unlimited stable of athletes heading to Lexington next season.
A product Prestonwood Christian Academy in Texas, Randle's senior year was marred by a foot injury but he ascended on recruiting boards anyway. Randle is a left-handed power forward with a sweet stroke from mid-range who also possesses elite athleticism in the open court.
Pegging whether Randle is a true power forward or will eventually transition to the small forward spot is tricky. He's a high school 4 and will probably stay there for John Calipari next season, but there is some credence to the criticism about his bulk inside. That won't be a problem next season at Kentucky, just one to keep an eye on during his development for the NBA.
With a little time in the weight room he could develop into a Josh Smith-style 4, an athletic marvel who excels defensively due to his underrated smarts on that end. But his outside shooting ability and underrated quickness on the outside, coaches could be tempted to make Randle a bigger small forward in the pros.
That being said, in today's NBA culture the difference between a 3 and 4 has become infinitesimal. The phrase "tweener" doesn't really exist at that position when guys like Smith, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony can all play the 4 without seeing any problem.
Randle is a stud and will be the best player on the national championship favorite unless Wiggins comes to Lexington.
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