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McDonald’s All-Americans

February 28, 2003 Columns No Comments

Presenting the McDonald’s All-Americans

by Jed Tai


The national press is at it again.

The McDonald’s All-American team has been announced, as 24 of the nation’s top high school basketball players receive what is considered the top honor today in prep basketball – to be named a Mickey-D All-American.

So, in the news release, we should be treated to the entire list of this elite group of hoopsters, should we not?

Instead, we are given the following headline off the AP wire, an article that only mentions one current member of this year’s team in its entire length:

“LeBron James accepts invite to play in McDonald’s game”

Lest I sound like a broken record, but it’s not all about LeBron James.

In fact, I’m going to make a stand. That’s the last time I will evoke the name that’s being treated these days like the second coming of Christ (so, I’ll instead call him The Chosen One). Last time I checked, there will be 23 other players who will be on the same court in Cleveland at Gund Arena, on national television, each one of whom are every bit as important as the guy who wouldn’t be there if the Ohio High School Athletics Association had any guts.

So, instead of talking any more about the kid who will get more than enough coverage during the game, let’s breakdown who else was selected for the East and West squads for the 26th annual event. First, let’s look at the individuals by position (listed with height, high school, and college committed to):

Point Guards (5)
Aaron Brooks, 6-0, Franklin HS (Seattle, WA), Oregon
Shannon Brown, 6-3, Proviso East HS (Maywood, IL), Michigan State
Brandon Cotton, 6-0, St. Martin DePorres HS (Detroit, MI), Michigan State
Andrew Lavender, 5-7, Brookhaven HS, (Columbus, OH), Oklahoma
Chris Paul, 6-1, West Forsyth HS (Clemmons, NC), Wake Forest

Shooting Guards (4)
Olu Famutimi, 6-5, Northwestern Edison HS (Flint, MI), Arkansas
J.R. Giddens, 6-6, John Marshall HS (Oklahoma City, OK), Kansas
Michael Jones, 6-5, Thayer Academy (Braintree, MA), Maryland
Mustafa Shakur, 6-3, Friends Central HS (Philadelphia, PA), Arizona

Small Forwards (5)
Brandon Bass, 6-8, Capitol HS (Baton Rouge, LA), Louisiana State
Luol Deng, 6-8, Blair Academy (Blairstown, NJ), Duke
Leon Powe, 6-8, Oakland Tech HS (Oakland, CA), California
Vakeaton Wafer, 6-6, Heritage Christian (Cleveland, TX), Florida State
… and The Chosen One

Power Forwards (5)
Ndudi Ebi, 6-9, Westbury Christian HS (Houston, TX), Arizona
Ivan Harris, 6-7, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA), Ohio State
Kris Humphries, 6-9, Hopkins HS (Minnetonka, MN), Duke
Travis Outlaw, 6-9, Starkville HS (Starkville, MS), Mississippi State
Charlie Villanueva, 6-10, Blair Academy (Blairstown, NJ), Illinois

Centers (5)
Brian Butch, 6-11, Appleton West HS (Appleton, WI), Wisconsin
Jackie Butler, 6-10, McComb HS (McComb, MS), Mississippi State
James Lang, 6-10, Central Park Christian HS (Birmingham, AL), Undecided
David Padgett, 6-11, Reno HS (Reno, NV), Kansas
Kendrick Perkins, 6-10, Clifton J. Ozen HS (Beaumont, TX), Memphis

There’s a great group of talent in this year’s game, which is balanced at all five positions. In some years, there is a dearth of big men available. But that’s not the case this season. All five centers on this year’s squad were highly regarded nationally, and were highly pursued by all the top programs. In fact, two of the big guys – Lang and Perkins – may very well make the jump to the NBA (to join The Chosen One).

In terms of versatile players, this group also has ’em. Leading the way are high school teammates Charlie Villanueva and Luol Deng from Blair Academy, who will be playing in their last official game together on the same team. Deng, who committed to Duke, is a silky smooth, multi-purpose player who may be able to play all five positions on the court. Hopefully a bum heel won’t keep him out of action. Villanueva, who verbally committed to Illinois and is still considering a jump to the NBA, is an explosive offensive player who has been compared to Kevin Garnett. A third athletic forward is Westbury Christian’s Ndudi Ebi. Ebi has the ability to do just about anything on the court that he wants to, and his battles with Deng and Villanueva on the court should be fun to watch.

At guard, there are players who will be difference makers at the next level. Andrew Lavender may be only 5-7, but he is a one-of-a-kind point guard who plays at a breakneck pace. Shannon Brown is a great shooter and scorer who simply has a great feel for the game. Olu Famutimi, a native of Canada, is an explosive athlete and leaper who is worth the price of admission. And Brandon Cotton is a proven winner who just led his high school team to an undefeated record and a league championship.

Along with talent, there are also some great stories with many of these kids. Leon Powe (as profiled by Hoopville’s Nicholas Lozito) has triumphed over tragedy to become not only one of the nation’s top players, but a standout student as well. Vakeaton Wafer’s rise from total obscurity in tiny Lisbon, LA into one of the top scorers and shooters in the country is also a great tale. And the story of Chris Paul’s 61-point scoring tribute to his late grandfather should bring a tear to anyone’s eye.

Hopefully these stories aren’t lost with all the hype given to The Chosen One.

The 26th Annual McDonald’s All-American Game will be played on March 26.

Conference Distribution

How well did the conferences do in recruiting the top players in America? Here is a breakdown of the number of McDonald’s All-Americans by conference (for those who have decided):

ACC (5): Deng, Humphries, Jones, Paul, Wafer
Big 10 (5): Brown, Butch, Cotton, Harris, Villanueva
Big 12 (3): Giddens, Lavender, Padgett
C-USA (1): Perkins
Pac-10 (4): Brooks, Ebi, Powe, Shakur
SEC (4): Bass, Butler, Famutimi, Outlaw

Overall, a balanced distribution across the country, albeit all to the major conferences in the land.

One thing to note – there’s not a single North Carolina or Kentucky recruit in this year’s game. That’s the first time in the game’s history that no future Tar Heel or Wildcat will be playing.

Great Job

A round of applause should go to the committee as they did a tremendous job in selecting this year’s squad, as all those who made the team were well-deserving. As always, there were some players left out who could have been on the team (for example, Trevor Ariza and Thomas Gardner could both have a case), but it’s always a tough task to select a group of finalists. But the committee did their best – a job well done.


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