by Troy Sparks
Chicago‑If there was any indication of seeing future pro talent on display at the United Center, April 3, I wondered where it was hiding. One of the girl’s teams didn’t show up to play in the 12th annual McDonald’s All-American Games at the United Center.
When 24 of the best girls’ basketball players were selected to show the country why they deserved to play for some of the top Division 1 colleges and some of them played like middle- school kids, then it was enough to demand a refund
The East team played less than inspiring ball and fell behind all night. I know that it was an all-star game, but at least that team could’ve shown some more effort. They knocked an 18-point lead in the first half down to 10 and then fell behind in the second half, losing by 28.
Was it that the West had too much talent in their 92-64 win? Maybe so. That was the worst beating that a McDonald’s All-American team took since the East won the sixth annual game, 105-76 (29 point margin) in 2007 in Louisville.
You know how all-star games are played. They’re usually sloppy with some razzle-dazzle mixed up in it along with some fancy passes to excite the crowd and very little defense played. If the defense will open the lane and let the offense drive down the middle, the other team would be a fool not to take it.
The girls’ game was fun for at least 23 of the 24 participants. One of them was injured when she was fouled going to the basket after stealing the ball. West’s Rebecca Greenwell re-injured her MCL. She had a brace on the right knee and limped to the bench. Greenwell was instrumental in getting the West off to a good start and finished with eight points before the injury forced her to leave.
“(Greenwell) hit her first two threes and we started to motivate her,” West teammate and Chicago Whitney Young player Linnae Harper said. “Even when she got hurt, we cheered her up. She helped a lot.”
Greenwell, from Owensboro, KY, is headed to Duke along with two of her West teammates in Oderah Chidom (Oakland, CA) and Kendall Cooper (Carson, CA). The coaching staff had better hope that Greenwell can recover in time for the upcoming season. Last season, Greenwell averaged 25 points per game and Duke will need every bit of her offensive firepower.
Mercedes Russell, from Springfield, OR, put on a show and earned MVP honors. She finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three block shots. The Tennessee-bound player was disappointed about her future school’s loss in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
“That (game) was very interesting,” Russell said, “because (Tennessee and Louisville) were my last two schools (to select). (Tennessee) didn’t come out to win. I thought it was a pretty good game the first half.” The Volunteers lost to the Cardinals in the regional finals with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
As I looked at the roster from the Boys East and West teams for the 36th annual contest, I wondered what was on the minds of six of those young men who decided to go to Kentucky. We all know that Coach John Calipari runs something like an NBA minor-league factory down there in Lexington. It must have been some impressive presentation that convinced all six of them to sign their names on the dotted line.
It’s funny how manipulation and a little pressure can stress young minds to hurry up and pick a school like Kentucky that doesn’t guarantee them any real playing time as freshmen next season. Only one of the two McDonald’s All-Americans from last year left the Kentucky program for the NBA, and Archie Goodwin is projected to be drafted near the bottom of the first round.
I saw two of the Kentucky commits from this year play in last summer’s NY2LA Summer Jam AAU tournament. I thought at the time that either one or both of the Harrison twins would become McDonald’s All-Americans. Andrew and Aaron started in the game for the West team and should be immediate contributors for the Wildcats when they arrive on campus.
When it was time for the brothers to narrow their choices, they decided that it would be both of them or none of them, so whoever was lucky enough to get them would have to take them as a package deal. They probably will be highly upset if Calipari refuses to let them room together.
Aaron Gordon, from San Jose, CA, had enough influence to make some schools wait until he was ready to announce his college choice. It came down to Washington, Kentucky, Oregon and Arizona. He chose to play for Arizona. The Wildcats will get a 6-foot-8 player who averaged 23.6 points per game and likes to dunk a lot. He was the MVP of the boys’ game with 24 points in 24 minutes for the West team in their 110-99 win over the East.
Gordon took in all the surroundings of the United Center and will never forget it. “I like to think of myself as a humble person,” he said. “So, just lining up while they’re singing the National Anthem, I was just looking around at all the people. It kind of felt like that I made it at this point and time and that I made it to the highest level that I can possibly do right now.”