In 2013, it was Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker in a battle of two of the best wing prospects in recent memory. In 2014, Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander will try to do the same for big men when they go against one another at this year's McDonald's All-American Game.
Rosters for the 37th annual showcase for the best prep players in the nation were announced Wednesday, Jan. 29 in a televised special on ESPNU, per CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello. The 24 players were selected by a special committee comprised of reporters, coaches, analysts and scouts.
Pared down from a list that includes players from all levels of high school basketball, the committee attempts to find the best players in the country rather than overly adhering to regions. The game is technically between the East and West, but the rosters each year highlight inconsistencies—ones mostly meant to create competitive balance.
Okafor and Alexander, for instance, both attend high school in Chicago, but Okafor is listed on the West team while Alexander leads the East. Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas-Prime Prep Academy) and Tyus Jones (Apple Valley [Minn.]) are both from schools typically associated with the West Coast, but were separated by the selection committee Same goes for Myles Turner, the nation's second-best center who is on the East squad despite being from Texas.
All of this is meant to create the most exciting game possible—something that seems self-evident considering the level of talent.
|D'Angelo Russell||SG||Ohio State|
|Justin Jackson||SF||North Carolina|
|Isaiah Whitehead||SG||Seton Hall|
|Theo Pinson||SF||North Carolina|
Okafor, a Duke commit, is a 6'11" and 270-pound center who is widely considered the best player in the nation. He leads 247 Sports' composite rankings and his polish down low rivals that of Kentucky's Julius Randle. A bully with a wide body, Okafor is a traditional big with a ready-made body and a series of post moves that have made him a star at Whitney Young.
After hearing of his selection, Okafor reached out on his Twitter account to thank the committee for the honor:
Humbled to be a Mcdonald All-American! Can't wait to represent my city in my city! #Chicago— Jahlil Okafor (@BigJah22) January 30, 2014
Combined with Mudiay, the nation's second-ranked recruit, the West is already looking like a formidable inside-out threat.
Mudiay shocked the world by announcing his commitment to Larry Brown and SMU, and he can fill the basket in a hurry. More of a combo guard than a traditional point at the moment, he'll have to harness in his aggression a bit to excel at the next level. But he is made in the Russell Westbrook-Derrick Rose mode of attack-first point guards and is a major get for the Hall of Fame coach.
Still, the East triad of Alexander, Jones and Turner isn't exactly shabby.
|Joel Berry||PG||North Carolina|
Alexander will follow in the Wiggins-Joel Embiid footsteps by heading to Lawrence next season, but he's his own player. Standing at 6'9" and 240 pounds, Alexander might have the highest ceiling of any prospect. He's an absolute menace on both ends of the floor, more athletic than nearly anyone in the nation and plays with an energizing aggression.
Turner's ceiling is equally unlimited. He's a 6'11" center with a wire-thin frame reminiscent of a young Kevin Durant, but his ultimate collegiate position will be center. He's also the highest-rated undecided player in the nation, making his next few months awfully interesting.
Among collegiate teams feeling better about their class, Kentucky and Duke lead the way with four commits. North Carolina, despite a down season, sits in third place at the moment with three.
The 2014 McDonald's All-American Game will be played on April 2 in Chicago.
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