2021 McDonald's All-American Game Stars Who Will Make an Instant Impact in CBB

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2021

2021 McDonald's All-American Game Stars Who Will Make an Instant Impact in CBB

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    Azzi Fudd is the top prospect in her class.
    Azzi Fudd is the top prospect in her class.E and P Photography / Contributor (Getty Images)

    Since the inaugural boys' game tipped off in 1978, the McDonald's All-American Game has become one of the most important accolades high-school boys and girls basketball players can earn.

    McDonald's All-Americans have frequently gone on to become some of the most successful NBA players of all time, including Magic Johnson (1977), Michael Jordan (1981), Shaquille O'Neal (1989) and LeBron James (2003).

    Since the girls' game was added in 2002, it has featured multiple future WNBA stars, including Candace Parker, who won the slam dunk contest in 2004, Elena Delle Donne (2008) and Sabrina Ionescu (2016).

    However, for the second year in a row, the game had to be canceled due to COVID-19. 

    Still, the official rosters for the 2021 McDonald's All-American Boys' and Girls' Games were released on Feb. 23, and even though they won't get to show off their skills in their respective East-West Games, there's no question this year's honorees are going to make a splash in the NCAA. 

    Duke and Kentucky had two signees each on the boys' roster, while Michigan had a whopping three. The girls' roster was headlined by 2021 recruit and UConn commit Azzi Fudd and contained four commits overall to the University of South Carolina.

    Even in the absence of this year's McDonald's All-American Games, let's break down some of the most exciting young players on the boys' and girls' rosters whose names you will surely be hearing throughout college basketball in the years to come.

C Chet Holmgren: Minnehaha Academy (Minn.)

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    Chet Holmgren is the consensus top prospect in his class.
    Chet Holmgren is the consensus top prospect in his class.Icon Sportswire / Contributor (Getty Images)

    Recruiting ranking: No. 1 

    Status: Undeclared 

    Projected role

    It should tell you something about top 2021 recruit Chet Holmgren that he wants to downplay a 2019 viral video of him dunking over Steph Curry.

    The 7-footer told ESPN's Myron Medcalf the video was "overplayed," showing off his humility while also making you wonder what else he can do.

    Holmgren, who is the first Minnesota player to be ranked No. 1 on ESPN's top 100 recruiting list, got offers from Georgetown, Gonzaga, Memphis, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State but has yet to announce where he plans to sign. Right now he's busy trying to lead the Minnehaha Academy Redhawks to the state title. But "multiple recruiting services" tab Gonzaga as the favorite, per Marcus Fuller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

    In his junior season, the 7'1" center averaged 14.3 points per game for Minnehaha Academy and has put Minnesota high school basketball on the map.

    Whichever program lands Holmgren will get a versatile five-star center whom 247Sports recruiting analyst Brandon Jenkins called "the best shot-blocker in the country."

G Azzi Fudd: St. John's College High School (D.C.)

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    Azzi Fudd will bring more star power to UConn.
    Azzi Fudd will bring more star power to UConn.Icon Sportswire / Contributor (Getty Images)

    Recruiting ranking: No. 1 

    Status: Signed with UConn

    Projected role 

    UConn advanced to its 13th consecutive Final Four this week after defeating Baylor, and it's no wonder; four No. 1 prospects in the past five years have committed to the program, with Azzi Fudd being the most recent.

    Steph Curry said it all when he delivered this praise on Fudd's jumper, per ESPN's Katie Barnes: "I think she has more of a textbook jumper than anyone I've seen. … You go Ray Allen, Klay Thompson, and Azzi Fudd, textbook."

    Fudd was the the first sophomore ever to win the Gatorade National Girls' Basketball Player of the Year award. She was also named USA Today National Player of the Year in 2019. Her ESPN recruiting evaluation praises her "smooth floor game," unselfish play and distribution to teammates, and basketball IQ.

    At UConn, Fudd will join a backcourt that already includes 2018 No. 1 prospect Christyn Williams and 2020 top recruit Paige Bueckers—Fudd's best friend, per Barnes.

SG Jaden Hardy: Coronado High School (Nev.)

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    Jaden Hardy is the top high school guard in the country.
    Jaden Hardy is the top high school guard in the country.Icon Sportswire / Contributor (Getty Images)

    Recruiting ranking: No. 2

    Status: Undeclared 

    Projected role 

    There is a stable of programs hoping shooting guard Jaden Hardy will choose to play for them, and, according to 247Sports, his level of interest is currently "warm" with regard to Kentucky, UCLA, and Oregon.

    His older brother, Amauri Hardy, played at Oregon this season as a graduate transfer; however, the Ducks have four combo guards on the roster. It's worth noting that UCLA has zero, and Hardy could be "the guy" right away.

    Jenkins calls Hardy the "best offensive player in the senior class," praising his ability to "get buckets from four different ranges on the floor," elite ability to "create his own shot on demand" and penchant to hit high-difficulty jumpers, comparing him to the NBA's Bradley Beal.

    The 6-4, 185-pound shooting guard was named the Nevada Gatorade Boys' Basketball Player of the Year as a junior and averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game.

    Whichever program Hardy selects will no doubt get a game-changer who we'll surely be watching in awe during March Madness.

PG Raven Johnson: Westlake High School (Ga.)

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    Raven Johnson will play for Dawn Staley (pictured above).
    Raven Johnson will play for Dawn Staley (pictured above).Associated Press

    Recruiting ranking: No. 2

    Status: Signed with South Carolina 

    Projected role 

    Raven Johnson is one of four prospects in this recruiting class to commit to South Carolina, and the Gamecocks, who face No. 1 Stanford in the Final Four on Friday, will continue to be dominant as a result.

    Joining Johnson in Columbia are No. 3 prospect Saniya Rivers (G), No. 4 Sania Feagin (F) and No. 14 Aubryanna Hall. The No. 2 prospect in the class of 2021 and the top point guard, ESPN's scouting evaluation calls Johnson "a coveted playmaker" who is "elusive to the rim" and creates one-on-ones.

    Johnson led Westlake High School to three consecutive state championships, leading her team last season with 15.0 points, 3.9 assists and 4.3 steals per game.

    South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is clearly thrilled to run her plays through Johnson; in a school press release, she praised Johnson as "a two-way player in her presence on both sides of the floor as the lead guard, understanding where everybody needs to be and unafraid and unapologetic about telling people where they need to be."

C Paolo Banchero: O’Dea High School (Wash.)

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    Paolo Banchero will look to help Duke rebound next season.
    Paolo Banchero will look to help Duke rebound next season.Icon Sportswire / Contributor (Getty Images)

    Recruiting ranking: No. 3

    Status: Signed with Duke

    Projected role

    247Sports national recruiting analyst Josh Gershon lauds 2021 No. 3 prospect Paolo Banchero as a "terrific rebounder" who "uses his size and basketball IQ to protect rim."

    The 6'9", 235-pound power forward still has room to grow into his strength, Gershon notes. In his junior season at O'Dea High School, Banchero averaged 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.

    Banchero will make his debut with Duke next season along with fellow McDonald's All-American A.J. Griffin, the No. 14 prospect in the class.

    Coach Mike Krzyzewski will certainly have a lot of options in his playbook between the two. In a Duke press release, he called Banchero "a position-less player" and "the ultimate team player."