Rest easy: The McDonald's All-American Slam Dunk Contest is nothing like the NBA's version.
While the professional variant of the once-scintillating event has only seemed to become more watered down in recent years, the high school rendition seemingly gets better with each subsequent installment.
Proof: Last year's contest, in which Florida's Chris Walker beat out Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon—all three of whom could very well be in next year's NBA dunk contest—was silly good:
Need more proof? Past winners include ridiculous leapers such as Vince Carter, Baron Davis, LeBron James, Gerald Green and Blake Griffin.
These kids may be just as close to 13 as they are to the legal drinking age in the United States, but they are among the best athletes in the world. And best of all, they will go about putting on a show without all the props and lame pageantry.
Let's take a look at the schedule and meet each dunker.
Date: Monday, March 31, 2014
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Where: United Center, Chicago
Live Stream: WatchESPN
A'Ja Wilson (Uncommitted)
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Candace Parker, who beat out players like J.R. Smith, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay to be crowned champion in 2004, A'Ja Wilson is the only female participant in this year's competition.
Still undecided about where she's going to attend college, Wilson is 6'5", super athletic and a sneaky pick, as the females tend to be judged well in this contest.
Justise Winslow (Duke)
Known perhaps more for his ability on the defensive side of the ball, Mike Krzyzewski's future small forward is 6'6", 220 pounds and still has plenty of athleticism to wow the crowd on offense.
Exhibit A through Z:
Extra points if he salutes, obviously.
Kelly Oubre (Kansas)
Kelly Oubre is listed by 247 Sports as just 6'7" and 190 pounds, which paints the picture of a skinny kid, but you don't really get that impression with the way he attacks the rim.
The future Kansas standout is super athletic, and many of his dunks tend to be of the powerful, aggressive, I-want-to-murder-the-rim nature:
Seriously, what did the rim ever do to this kid?
Grayson Allen (Duke)
Another Duke commit whose dunking ability probably isn't the first thing people talk about, Grayson Allen is a dangerous shooter with supreme confidence from beyond the arc.
But don't be mistaken. This isn't Greg Paulus we're dealing with here.
The 6'4" shooting guard, who will also compete in the three-point contest, is tantalizingly explosive, plays way above the rim and has already proven capable of putting on a show during a dunk contest:
Karl Towns Jr. (Kentucky)
Every dunk contest needs a big guy.
At 7'1" and 250 pounds, Karl Towns looks like a legitimate inside force at the next level. But he has impressive agility and versatility, evidenced by the fact that he'll be doing his best Damian Lillard impression, via the Lexington Herald-Leader's Ben Roberts:
You aren't just going to be seeing two-handed throw downs from the big man ("I Will" shirt):
Stanley Johnson (Arizona)
If Arizona fans are worried about losing Aaron Gordon to the NBA, they can rest assured that shooting guard Stanley Johnson will help keep the dunk quotient at a high level.
The 6'7" shooting guard is a physical specimen who already has the look of an NBA wing. He is strong, explosive, has unbelievable athleticism and is a highlight reel waiting to happen:
If you're looking for someone in this year's class who physically matches Andrew Wiggins, it would probably be Johnson.
Theo Pinson (North Carolina)
No one is safe when Theo Pinson is dunking—not even his mom:
At 6'6" and 180 pounds, Pinson is an electric athlete with very long arms, but he also has the personality and creativity that could make him a sneaky threat for this competition.
Cliff Alexander (Kansas)
The highest-ranked player in the competition, per 247 Sports' composite rankings, Alexander has size (6'9"), a ridiculous wingspan (7'3", per draftexpress.com) and an impressive amalgam of explosiveness, athleticism and agility for a player his size.
Oh yeah, he's kind of strong too:
There is some confusion, however, about whether or not he'll be participating. ESPN lists him as a participant, but the Chicago Sun-Times' Michael O'Brien states otherwise:
It will be disappointing if Alexander isn't there, but considering the stacked field, the contest shouldn't suffer too much if he isn't out on the court.
Are you kidding me? I'm supposed to accurately pick someone from this group?
It's a total crapshoot, and there aren't really any participants who would serve as surprise winners, but I'm going to go with Kelly Oubre.
There's no real rhyme or reason, but it's hard not to be captivated with his passion and propensity to attack the rim with impressive power.
If you're looking for an underdog, pay attention to Grayson Allen.
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