Tag: 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game

Justin Jackson (left) and Jahlil Okafor (right) at the McDonald's All-American Game

Five thoughts and observations from the McDonald’s All-American week

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(McDonald’s All-American Game)

CHICAGO — The 2014 McDonald’s All-American game was played last night and the same saw a showcase of the future stars of college basketball. Having McDonald’s All-Americans on your roster is usually a pre-requisite to winning a national championship.

Since 1979, only Maryland in 2002 won a national title without a McDonald’s All-American on its roster. Wisconsin and UConn (Rodney Purvis is sitting out the year) could threaten that status in this year’s Final Four.

The game is a fun showcase that saw the West beat the East, 105-102, in the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, but the week’s worth of practices and scrimmages are where the action takes place. NBA GMs and scouts will take in McDonald’s All-American practices and all of the top national talent evaluators are in the building as well.

Here are five thoughts from the week of practices and the game that saw a talented — but not star-laden — 2014 class compete.

1. I’m not sure who the No. 1 player in this 2014 class is yet, but I’m not sold on it being Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 player for ESPN, Scout and Rivals. Although Okafor is a no-brainer contributor on the offensive end for Duke next season — and Jahlil won co-MVP honors for the West team on Wednesday — there are still some concerns in his game going into the collegiate level. Outside of three feet Okafor often puts the ball on the floor and attempts to spin and use his hips to create space instead of going up strong or quick, which will aid collapsing double teams at the college level. Okafor is also an average positional defender who is just okay at hedging ball screens. He’s a great area rebounder but average out-of-area rebounder at times. That being said, Okafor isn’t falling out of the top three, but there are some concerns about all of the bigs in this class.

2. To go along with the other bigs, Texas-native and unsigned center 7-foot center Myles Turner has a lot of potential with his ability to block shots and hit perimeter jumpers. Turner has added strength and still has good end-to-end speed. But he isn’t very laterally quick and at times struggles with footwork. 6-foot-8 Chicago-native and Kansas commit Cliff Alexander is aggressive, powerful and raw, but he still needs skill development and at times struggles against length. Kentucky commit and Indiana-native Trey Lyles is talented at 6-foot-9 but has slowdowns in effort and isn’t as tough on the interior as he needs to be at times. Similar things can be said of fellow Kentucky commit Karl Towns, a skilled 7-foot center with great skill but a power game that lacks at times.

3. So if Okafor isn’t the clear-cut No. 1 player, who is? Texas guard Emmanuel Mudiay will try to put SMU into the NCAA Tournament next season and he should pair nicely with current sophomore guard Nic Moore. The two can score or handle and Mudiay told NBCSports.com that they plan on playing both guard spots. Mudiay is a tremendous athlete at 6-foot-4, a lockdown defender, fierce competitor, and fantastic passer. He is at his best scoring off the dribble where he is nearly uncontainable because of his first step, size and athleticism. His jumper still needs some work, but he’s tough going to the rim. Findlay Prep guard Rashad Vaughn should be exactly the go-to perimeter scorer that UNLV needs next season as he’s a complete guard that can do a number of things well. At 6-foot-5, Vaughn has an advanced array of moves off-the-dribble, can go left or right with ease, he passes well with both hands and has improved cross-court vision. Vaughn is also a reliable jump shooter that has improved tremendously in consistency since last summer. He’s clearly put in a ton of work in his senior season. Arizona commit Stanley Johnson, a 6-foot-7 skilled and strong force on the perimeter also could stake his claim at being one of the best players during the week.

4. Multiple schools have multiple All-Americans. Kentucky and Duke each have four, North Carolina has three and UCLA and Kansas each has two. The rich get richer. The Wildcats add Lyles, Towns, point guard Tyler Ulis and shooting guard Devin Booker. Ulis is small at 5-foot-9 but incredible at running pick-and-rolls and running high ball screens while Booker is skilled and shows a great ability to score in multiple ways, although he’ll need to get more physical. Duke has Okafor, point guard Tyus Jones, shooting guard Grayson Allen and wing Justise Winslow. Jones is fantastic offensively and the most complete offensive package of any point guard, but he’s had a so-so defensive week as an on-the-ball defender. Allen has shown a pretty well-rounded guard package with great athleticism and bounciness. Winslow is the son of former McDonald’s All-American Ricky Winslow (’83, Houston) and is a really tough two-way wing that does anything to win. The Carolina trio of point guard Joel Berry II (6-foot-1), wing Theo Pinson (6-foot-5) and wing Justin Jackson (6-foot-8) are all skilled and should play well together. UCLA’s interior duo of Thomas Welsh (7-foot) and Kevon Looney (6-foot-9) played well at times this week and should help the Bruins interior depth. Kansas commits Alexander and 6-foot-8 wing Kelly Oubre both had great days and off days during the week.

5. Some good scoring guards headed to some unique schools in this game. Seton Hall is getting a competitive 6-foot-4 guard in Brooklyn native Isaiah Whitehead. Whitehead can really defend and loves hitting tough shots. Indiana is getting a tremendous scorer in James Blackmon Jr., who is definitely more of a scoring guard. On high screens, he’s devastating, but he’s not strong enough as a passer to be a primary handler. Maryland commit Melo Trimble is 6-foot-3 and can really get hot shooting the ball with his great-looking jumper. He has a tough time defending at times, but should get points off the bench at a minimum. Ohio State should get some scoring help from D’Angelo Russell, who’s sweet lefty jumper can go down from nearly anywhere on some tough looks. The only player I didn’t mention is Stanford commit Reid Travis, who is a tough 6-foot-7 forward that is athletic and plays with power moves but is a tad undersized. He’ll figure things out eventually.

Jahlil Okafor, West team outlast East in McDonald’s All-America Game

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Wednesday night in Chicago many of the nation’s best incoming freshmen were on display, playing in the 37th edition of the McDonald’s All-American Game. The East and West teams put forth a tight affair throughout the night, with a Jahlil Okafor dunk late giving the West team the lead for good in its 105-102 victory.

Okafor, who’s headed to Duke next season, finished the game with 17 points and seven rebounds and earned West MVP honors in the process. The East MVP was North Carolina signee Justin Jackson, with the slender wing accounting for 23 points and five rebounds.

Assisting Okafor leading the West were SMU signee Emmanuel Mudiay, who finished the game with 15 points and six assists, and UNLV verbal commitment Rashad Vaughn (14 points, five rebounds). Mudiay, given his skill level and versatility, could very well be the difference-maker for a program that just missed out on its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993. Kelly Oubre, who’s headed to Kansas, added 11 points for the West.

Joining Jackson in double figures for the East team were Indiana signee James Blackmon Jr. (13 points) and Ohio State signee D’Angelo Russell (11). Kansas signee Cliff Alexander finished with nine points and ten rebounds, and Duke signee Tyus Jones added seven points and ten assists.

Emmanuel Mudiay hopes to push SMU into next year’s NCAA Tournament

(Photo credit: McDonald's All-American Game)
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(Photo credit: McDonald’s All-American Game)

CHICAGO — The 2014 McDonald’s All-American roster is littered with great players going to the usual blueblood programs of college basketball.

Kentucky and Duke are adding four McDonald’s All-Americans each while traditional basketball powerhouses like North Carolina (3), UCLA (2), Kansas (2) all add multiple players as well in the 2014 edition of high school basketball’s elite all-star game.

But very quietly in Dallas, Larry Brown is getting blue-chip players at a yearly rate. After adding current freshman wing Keith Frazier last year coming off of a McDonald’s All-American Game appearance, the Mustangs will welcome 6-foot-4 guard Emmauel Mudiay into the fold next season.

The current McDonald’s All-American — and native of Dallas — attends Prime Prep in Texas and opted to stay home and play for Brown, even though nearly every school in the country desired his services. As the No. 2 player in Rivals.com’s 2014 rankings, Mudiay is a major impact get for a team that is right on the cusp of a NCAA Tournament appearance.

In the end, the experience of Brown and his championship pedigree won out for Mudiay.

“Larry Brown, he’s the only coach ever to win an NCAA Championship and NBA championship, so why not get coached by one of the greatest coaches that’s ever coached this game,” Mudiay said to NBCSports.com.

SMU hasn’t been a traditional basketball power, but Mudiay is up to the task of being the local superstar that helps build the Mustangs up. SMU was ranked in the top 25 the final week leading up to the 2014 NCAA Tournament but missed the Field of 68 after a first-round AAC Tournament loss to Houston as one of the last bubble teams left out of the field.

Currently, SMU is making a run in the NIT and they’ll face Minnesota for the NIT title at Madison Square Garden.

“I know it’s going to take a lot of work. I love challenges, that’s part of the reason I picked there,” Mudiay said of SMU. “I’m not the type of person that just picks a school for the name. I feel like some people do that. It’s fine with me. I feel like once you bring Larry Brown’s name into it, it shuts everybody up. This year they had one of the best years they’ve ever had, they didn’t make the tournament, but they’re doing their thing in the NIT.”

With the addition of a player like Mudiay, it could really push SMU over the top in the American Athletic Conference next season. The Mustangs are going to have high hopes next season as Mudiay joins talented sophomore guard Nic Moore in the backcourt. Mudiay said he and Moore talk regularly about playing with each other next season.

“I feel like we can both alternate (guard spots) because he can score the ball too,” Mudiay said. “I’m going to play on-the-ball some, I’m going to play off-the-ball some, so it’s going to be fun. We talk all the time, every time I go watch them play. He tells me all the time, and I tell him, that we can’t wait to play with each other. Just how Shabazz (Napier) and (Ryan) Boatright play, something like that. We can be a two-guard front.”

While the Mustangs have changed from pretender to contender under Larry Brown, Mudiay has also noticed a revitalized fan base down in Dallas since last season. The guard broke down the difference between SMU’s old building and the newly renovated Moody Coliseum.

“The fan base there is crazy now. It’s really fun to go to the games and how loud it is. It’s going to be really fun,” Mudiay said. “I remember last year I went to a game against Memphis on one of my visits and you could literally change seats every two minutes because it was so empty. But this year it was standing room only. The Moody Coliseum is definitely crazy.”

The new atmosphere in Moody Coliseum and the push to be a good basketball program has also had a noticeable affect on recruiting, according to Mudiay.

“I think a lot of people are surprised by how (SMU) is now and they have to take (SMU) into consideration,” Mudiay said. “I know Sedrick (Barefield) committed in 2015, so he sees what I see (in SMU). I’m definitely happy it’s starting to get people’s attention.”