The McDonald’s All-American game wrapped up with the East defeating the West, 111-91, on Wednesday night as Cheick Diallo was the MVP of the contest.
While the game itself — and televised scrimmage — were both blowouts, the practices and game are still a great chance to get a final glimpse of some of these guys as they enter college next season.
Here are some thoughts to tie up the week in Chicago. You can also get recruiting updates of the eight unsigned McDonald’s All-American here.
1. We shouldn’t hear talk of “one-and-done” with this class very often
If you understand the landscape of current college basketball, you’ll realize that we’re in the heart of the one-and-done era. Just this week, talented college freshmen like UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn and Kansas’ Kelly Oubre Jr. declared for the NBA Draft. Kids at the highest level of their high school class — like McDonald’s All-Americans — want to be professional basketball players as soon as possible. That being said, this 2015 class is significantly weaker with potential one-and-done prospects than the past few classes. While LSU commit Ben Simmons and undecided small forward Jaylen Brown are probably the most capable one-and-done prospects in the class, they both still have glaring deficiencies to address before reaching the next level. We’re still a year away from knowing which of these McDonald’s All-Americans are ready for the NBA Draft, but the NBA buzz among this group is way down compared to the last few years.
2. The lack of true, elite point guards in this class is glaring
The knock on the 2015 class has always been the lack of elite lead guards. In the McDonald’s game, you could make the argument that Oklahoma State commit Jawun Evans was the only “true” point guard in the game, and it showed with some of the sloppy play we saw in the first half. Selfless distributors are necessary in all-star settings because they give up shots that others demand in the setting. Evans might have been the most selfless distributor, but Malik Newman, Isaiah Briscoe and Jalen Brunson all showed flashes as passers this week. Those three are still more accustomed to naturally hunting their own offense at this point. It’ll be interesting to see how Newman, Briscoe and Brunson, in particular, are used next season. I could see all three splitting time at multiple guard spots because of their scoring acumen.
3. Brandon Ingram will shoot up the rankings
Brandon Ingram had McDonald’s viewers buzzing with his strong play this week. The North Carolina native is pushing 6-foot-9 at the small forward and his complete scoring arsenal is the real deal. With a very skinny frame, Ingram will draw inevitable comparisons in body structure to Kevin Durant and North Carolina freshman Justin Jackson. But it would be a shock not to see Ingram end up in the top 10 of the 2015 class after a strong week at McDonald’s. He wasn’t missing very often in practices and Ingram did a great job of hunting offense at all three levels. Once Ingram adds strength, he’ll become even more confident playing inside and using his size as a mismatch against smaller players.
4. Cheick Diallo will be fun to watch develop
Unsigned big man Cheick Diallo had a bit of an up-and-down week at McDonald’s practices before a tremendous 18-point, 10-rebound effort to secure MVP honors in the actual game. Diallo’s motor and athleticism really showed through on the bigger NBA floor and he’s still learning a lot about contributing on the offensive end of things. Defensively, Diallo is a terror because his lateral quickness and speed makes him great on defending high ball screens when he’s in proper position. And as one scout pointed out to me: how does Diallo improving with speaking English further enhance his game? Right now, Diallo, a native of Mali, is just beginning to comfortably speak English to media members and teammates. On the floor, he’s more of the “quiet warrior” type who just plays his tail off and doesn’t talk that much. When he’s further able to communicate with teammates on the fly while playing, it should only help his tremendous ability that much more.
5. Elite players are getting more savvy about recruiting
With eight uncommitted players in the 2015 McDonald’s All-American game, we’re seeing more elite five-star prospects waiting on NBA Draft decisions, coaching changes and transfers before making their college decisions. They’re getting smarter about not being stuck in undesirable positions by signing a letter of intent in November since they can keep their options open. A lot of these elite guys also want to talk among themselves at all-star events to see who might play for which program. You’ll hear a lot of talk of potential “package deals” coming from events like this with many of these players looking at common schools.
But good luck getting them to talk in-depth about recruiting.
More than ever before, players just seem completely burned out talking about the recruiting process. And can you really blame them? With the explosion of recruiting coverage and the continued increase in team-based recruiting sites, these kids are getting bombarded with recruiting questions — from more people — now more than ever. I’m not sure what changes to give these elite high school kids a little more space when talking about recruiting, but many of them were clearly sick of it by the time McDonald’s week was here. It’s only going to keep going for many of these same players as they compete in more all-star settings in the next few weeks.