There's no higher honor for high school basketball players than being named to the McDonald's All-American Game. It's the pinnacle of high school hoops.
The game gives fans of basketball the chance to watch the next generation of college and NBA stars while under the national spotlight. For many players, it will be their first experience on the national stage. It might also be their first time playing against equal competition to their own talents.
That's what makes the game so exciting.
You're not going to want to miss any of the action. To make sure you don't, here's a complete schedule of the festivities along with a full roster breakdown and some analysis of the game's top stars and stories.
|POWERADE Jam Fest||March 31, 2014||9 p.m ET||ESPNU|
|2014 McDonald's All-American Game||April 2, 2014||9:30 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Justin Jackson||SF||96||North Carolina|
|Isaiah Whitehead||SG||95||Seton Hall|
|D'Angelo Russell||SG||95||Ohio State|
|Theo Pinson||SF||96||North Carolina|
|Joel Berry||PG||94||North Carolina|
*All Player grades courtesy of ESPN.com.
This exciting event features future NBA prospects, and as such, there will be plenty to pay attention to. According to the United Center's official website, Douglas Freeland, director of the McDonald’s All-American Games, had this to say about the players:
The very best high school basketball talent will play at Chicago’s United Center on April 2. The McDonald’s All American Games are a great opportunity for fans and families to see basketball’s future stars compete at the highest level on a national stage.
Aside from the game's top stars, however, there are also a few storylines to consider. Here's everything you need to know.
The Future of Kentucky and Duke
If you want to see strong recruiting classes, just take a look at the participants in this contest that have committed to Kentucky and Duke. As you can see from the rosters above, their potential is sky-high.
Kentucky will have Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis competing in the game. All four have a grade of at least 89 (Ulis), while the other three boast grades of at least 93.
Duke, on the other hand, boasts four prospects with at least a 91 grade. Grayson Allen is the owner of that mark, though his three future teammates all boast a grade of at least 95.
Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor all have the chops to be future stars in college under Mike Krzyzewski.
Jahlil Okafor is really, really good.
The center has a big frame (6'10", 256 lbs) and is a force in the low post. His length really gives him anadvantage above the rim and his surprising athleticism for a big man gives him an edge when backing down defenders.
Terrance Noland of ChicagoMag.com breaks down what me might see from Okafor in the future:
There are two Jahlil Okafors. There is the one you see on the court: all power dunks (he once broke a rim during a game), spin moves, stare downs, and various other displays of domination
Keep an eye on him in this one.
Center Myles Turner will be Okafor's direct competition for most of the contest.
While he has yet to pick a school, Turner's future is ridiculously bright. So bright, in fact, that USA Basketball indicates he's already being recognized amongst the best names in the sport:
Turner has progressed as a basketball player over the years, and he did so consciously. Here's what he told USA Basketball's official site:
When I was a freshman, I was about 6-foot-4, probably about 175 or 180 pounds, so I wasn’t’ fully developed yet. I had somewhat of a postgame and I had the opportunity to go play varsity basketball, but I opted out to try and get my game a little bit tighter and be able to play with the bigger guys and to try an win a district championship in middle school, and I was successful at that. Coming forward to where I am now, the plan definitely worked.
Now standing 6'11", Turner has progressed into a beast under the basket. He has a little more length than Okafor, and that will result in some good-spirited fights for rebounds.
As one of the best players featured in the game, Turner will certainly turn some heads with his play.
Battle of Hometown Players
Three local players were selected to play in the event—Okafor, Ulis and Cliff Alexander.
Okafor and Alexander will likely battle each other as big men on opposing teams, and Ulis will look to set up Okafor underneath as his point guard.
Tyler Ulis and Jahlil Okafor just worked a beautiful pick and roll that ended w/ an Okafor dunk over a defender.— Camron Smith (@camronsmith) March 31, 2014
Alexander was named the Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year, and he is dynamic. He has ridiculous length and is extraordinarily athletic for a power forward. This athleticism makes him a threat above the rim whenever he touches the ball or goes up for a rebound.
He could easily steal the show away from his local rivals.