Seven Sweet Scoops: A Viewer’s Guide to the McDonald’s All-American GamePosted by Sean Moran on April 2nd, 2014
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tonight the top high school players in the country gather to participate in the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American game held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Twenty-four of the top ranked high school seniors will provide the college basketball world with a glimpse of what can be expected from the next touted class of youngsters on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET. The high school class of 2014 might not have the star power similar to last year in a game that featured the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, but there are still several good storylines and match-ups to keep an eye on during tonight’s contest.
1. Chicago Natives At Home
There are three McDonald’s All-Americans from Chicago this year, including two of the top five players in the country. Five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star power forward Cliff Alexander will suit up for the East and West squads, respectively. The two played together on the AAU circuit this past summer and faced off in high school action several times over the last three years. Okafor is considered the No. 1 player in the country and is headed to Duke next year, while Alexander is ranked No. 5 and has committed to Kansas. Alexander put together a monster senior campaign, but it was Okafor who won the Illinois state title. Okafor and Alexander excel with different styles although they are both low post scorers. The 6’11” Okafor has the more refined post game and is almost impossible to stop in a one-on-one situation while Alexander is a DeAndre Jordan clone who looks to dunk and block everything in sight. While these two might not match up in tonight’s game, you can be certain that they will both have the hometown crowd on their feet. To go along with the Windy City twin towers, there is also diminutive 5’9” point guard Tyler Ulis (#29). The four-star prospect is headed to Kentucky and will be the quickest player on the court. The floor general is great at beating his man off the dribble and creating easy shots for his teammates. Ulis will suit up on the East squad along with Okafor, while Alexander will play for the West.
2. Where Will Myles Turner Go?
There is only one prospect in the game that remains uncommitted and he is 7’0” center Myles Turner, who is also the No. 2 ranked recruit in the country. This time last year the Texas native wasn’t even considered a top 100 player, but after a meteoric rise last summer he is now the hottest commodity in high school. Turner just recently took an official visit to Texas after previously visiting Ohio State, Duke, Oklahoma State and Kansas. He has also taken unofficial visits to SMU and Texas A&M, and is also reportedly considering Arizona and Kentucky. It’s been a whirlwind journey for Turner, who plans to sit down with his advisers and family after the Jordan Brand Classic to discuss his choice of suitors.
3. Top Recruiting Classes
Four of the top five recruiting classes in 2014 have multiple representatives in the McDonald’s All-American game. For the first time in John Calipari’s Kentucky career, he does not have the top-ranked incoming recruiting class. That honor belongs to Duke, which brings in Okafor and his best friend and five-star point guard Tyus Jones (#4 overall), five-star small forward Justise Winslow (#10 overall), and PowerAde Slam Dunk Champion Grayson Allen (#36 overall). While Kentucky does not have the best class this year, the Wildcats are only one notch below at No. 2. Calipari reeled in two five-star big men in Karl Towns Jr. (#11 overall) and Trey Lyles (#8 overall), in addition to Ulis and four-star shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 overall). UNC brings in a three-man recruiting class ranked No. 4 in the country led by five-star small forward Justin Jackson (#9 overall), four-star small forward Theo Pinson (#27 overall), and four-star point guard Joel Berry (#21 overall). Kansas rounds out the top five with Alexander and five-star wing Kelly Oubre while Arizona is the only school in the top five with just one recruit (Stanley Johnson) in the game.
4. Point Guard Match-Up
Tyus Jones (East) vs. Joel Berry (West)
With Jones headed to Duke and Berry headed to UNC, this point guard match-up will be seen several times in the near future. Jones is the more heralded player, but Berry got the better of him in an AAU game last spring. The future Blue Devil is a superb ball-handler who can score from almost anywhere on the court, as evidenced by the 2,909 points he scored in his high school career. Meanwhile, Berry is coming off his second straight state championship in Florida and will look to team with Marcus Paige in the UNC backcourt next season.
5. Shooting Guard Match-Up
Isaiah Whitehead (East) vs. Rashad Vaughn (West)
Whitehead and Vaughn are the top two shooting guards in the country. Whitehead is a 6’4” guard from Brooklyn who is headed to Seton Hall, while the 6’5” Vaughn is going to UNLV after spending a year at Findlay Prep in Nevada. Whitehead was named New York’s Mr. Basketball this past season while sporting the finest stroke in the prep basketball land. While Whitehead will be lighting up the Big East next year, he was fairly quiet in the practice sessions the past two days. Meanwhile, Vaughn was on fire from three in the practices and is fully healthy after an injury-plagued senior season. Both players have the ability to put up points in a hurry, especially when defense is at a premium like it usually is in an all-star game.
6. Small Forwards to Watch
Kelly Oubre (West) and Stanley Johnson (West)
The top two small forwards in the country both play on the West team in five-stars Kelly Oubre and Stanley Johnson. The 6’6” Oubre is headed to Kansas while the 6’6” Johnson is off to Arizona. Oubre is a smooth wing from the Houston area who has evolved from a deadly three-point shooter into an overall offensive threat. With long arms and good athletic ability, Oubre oozes grace on the court and should step into the empty spot left by Andrew Wiggins in Bill Self’s lineup. In contrast, Johnson is one of the most physical players in high school and excels at getting to the rim. He can also play point forward and came into the McDonald’s practices just days after winning his fourth California state title.
7. Power Forward Match-Up
Cliff Alexander (East) vs. Trey Lyles (West)
The 6’8” Alexander missed Tuesday’s practice with a wrist contusion suffered during the dunk contest, but he is expected to be ready for the game. If he does play he will most likely match-up with future Kentucky player Trey Lyles. While Alexander’s game is based on raw power, Lyle is more refined with a variety of post moves and range on his jump shot. Alexander likes to go for the highlight block, while Lyle is effective utilizing a pump fake before a fundamental up-and-under move.
Bonus 1: Center Match-Up
Jahlil Okafor (East) vs. Karl Towns Jr. (West)
Okafor and Turner are the top two centers, but Okafor and Towns Jr. might be the most intriguing match-up down low. Okafor punished his more slender East teammate in Thomas Welsh (#45 overall) during practices, but he will get to go against someone his size in Towns Jr. In the West practices, Towns Jr. went up against Turner and Alexander, both of whom he was able to overpower at times due to his weight advantage. When these two big men meet in the post, there will be over 500 pounds colliding on the interior.
Bonus 2: Emmanuel Mudiay
The 6’5” Mudiay is ranked as the top point guard in the country and is a tantalizing NBA prospect given his height and athletic ability. You can expect to see the future SMU freshman at both the point and shooting guard positions tonight. He was fairly quiet in the two practice sessions, but in an uptempo game, Mudiay will have the chance to flourish.