37th Annual McDonald’s All American Game rosters announced

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On Wednesday the rosters for the 37th annual McDonald’s All American Game were announced, with the game scheduled to be played on April 2 at the United Center in Chicago. Two of the players showcased call the Windy City home, with Cliff Alexander (East) and Jahlil Okafor (West) both being named McDonald’s All Americans. Of the 24 players selected 22 have picked the college they’ll attend next year, with East center Myles Turner and West shooting guard Rashad Vaughn being the exceptions.

Duke and Kentucky lead the way from a college representation standpoint, with each school claiming for players in this year’s game. Duke will have two commitments on each team, with point guard Tyus Jones and small forward Justise Winslow playing for the East and Okafor being joined by shooting guard Grayson Allen on the West roster. As for Kentucky three of their commits are on the West roster (Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis) with center Karl Towns Jr. playing for the East.

North Carolina is next in line with three McDonald’s All Americans, with Kansas and UCLA having two apiece. In total 11 colleges are represented including SMU, which has a McDonald’s All American for the second consecutive year with Emmanuel Mudiay following in the footsteps of Keith Frazier. Given where the program was prior to Larry Brown’s arrival, that’s a notable achievement.

Below are the rosters for the two teams, listing schools, the player’s hometown and the college they’ll be attending.

EAST ROSTER

PF Cliff Alexander (Curie HS, Chicago, Ill.) Kansas
SG James Blackmon Jr. (Marion HS, Marion, Ind.) Indiana
SF Justin Jackson (Homeschool Christian, Tomball, Texas) North Carolina
PG Tyus Jones (Apple Valley HS, Apple Valley, Minn.) Duke
PF Kevon Looney (Hamilton HS, Milwaukee, Wis.) UCLA
SF Theo Pinson (Wesleyan Christian, Greensboro, N.C.) North Carolina
SG D’Angelo Russell (Montverde Academy, Louisville, Ky.) Ohio State
C Karl Towns Jr. (St. Joseph HS, Metuchen, N.J.) Kentucky
PG Romelo Trimble (Bishop O’Connell HS, Upper Marlboro, Md.) Maryland
C Myles Turner (Trinity HS, Bedford, Texas) Undecided
SG Isaiah Whitehead (Abraham Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, N.Y.) Seton Hall
SF Justise Winslow (Saint John’s HS, Houston, Texas) Duke

WEST ROSTER 

SG Grayson Allen (Providence HS, Jacksonville, Fla.) Duke
PG Joel Berry (Lake Highland Prep, Apopka, Fla.) North Carolina
SG Devin Booker (Moss Point HS, Moss Point, Miss.) Kentucky
SF Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei HS, Fullerton, Calif.) Arizona
PF Trey Lyles (Arsenal Tech, Indianapolis, Ind.) Kentucky
PG Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep Academy, Dallas, Texas) SMU
C Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young HS, Chicago, Ill.) Duke
SF Kelly Oubre (Findlay Prep, Richmond, Texas) Kansas
PF Reid Travis (De La Salle HS, Minneapolis, Minn.) Stanford
PG Tyler Ulis (Marian Catholic, Matteson, Ill.) Kentucky
SG Rashad Vaughn (Findlay Prep, Golden Valley, Minn.) Undecided
C Thomas Welsh (Loyola HS, Los Angeles, Calif.) UCLA

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.