Aaron Gordon dominates McDonald’s All-American Game, showcase of the NCAA’s next season
You have to know that every fan of college basketball has contrasting emotions when April comes. He is enthusiastic because of the Final Four, but at the same time he feels sad because he knows that after these last three game, the season will be over. For this reason, every NCAA basketball fan looks forward to the McDonald’s All-American Game, the match between the best players in the American high school, so that he can think about the most interesting teams to see in the next season. The game itself has developed to be a kind of All-Star Game. The Celtics’ coach, Doc Rivers (who took part in this event in 1980), explained indeed how, in the past, high school players did not know each other and used to play at their best in this game in order to win the MVP trophy and be considered the best high school player in the USA. Nowadays, Rivers noticed (even seeing his son playing two years ago) that the players perfectly know each other because of other tournaments and competitions, so they do not need to prove anything, but how much show they can make.
Talking about the game, which took place yesterday night, ended with the victory of Team West over Team East 110-99, thanks to the 24 points, 8 rebounds performance by Aaron Gordon, who was named MVP of the competition. Gordon itself was one of the players about which people talked a lot in the last week, because of his decision to commit to Arizona.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (9 points in the All-American), his opponent in last night’s game, will go to Arizona, too, so that the Wildcats will be one of the most interesting team to watch in the next season. Hollis-Jefferson is the traditional player gifted with athleticism: he can run and jump, he doesn’t have a good shooting technique, but he has a great ball handling and he is an excellent passer. On the other hand, Aaron Gordon is, in the writer’s opinion (Claudio Pavesi), the best player of his class. He is very physical and recalls a bit Blake Griffin because of his dunks, of his jumps and of his blocks, but he is also a decent long range shooter and he is an outstanding ball handler for his size. Arizona is already a competitive team, with Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and a Gabe York finally ready to play constantly, so the Wildcats will be as good as a team can be next year.
Another impressive performance in the All-American was the one by Andrew Wiggins (19 points), considered by a lot of people the best player of this class and the best high school talent since LeBron James. He is still uncertain about next season, though. The Canadian has proved one more time to be able to do everything on the floor: he can jump, he can play defense, he can bring the ball up the floor, he can shoot, he can drive to the basket or any other thing you can do on a basketball court. In other words, he is a perfect small forward and, because of this, his decision could change college basketball’s next season a lot. He could commit to Florida State, to Kansas, to North Carolina or to Kentucky.
Coach Calipari’s team looks like the one to beat in the next year. In the last few days, Wiltjer, Poythress and Cauley-Stein have said that they will come back for one more season. You have to add to these three players six players who played in the All-American last night. It is an impressive number. Dakari Johnson (12 points in the game), considered to be the best center of his class, or the Harrison brothers, Aaron (6 points and 5 assists) and Andrew (10 points and 4 assists), Marcus Lee (2 points and 2 rebounds), James Young (6 points and 4 rebounds) and Julius Randle (11 points and 7 assists) will all play for the Wildcats in the next season.
The Harrison brother are two guards who can bring the ball up the floor, play defense and score from everywhere. Moreover, they have always played together, so they perfectly know each other’s style of playing. Marcus Lee is a power forward who can bring a lot of energy on the floor, while James Young is a small forward who is able to score in a lot of different ways. Julius Randle, finally, is the real star of this group. He is a power forward and he is ready to dominate in and outside the paint thanks to his strong body and to his outstanding skills.
Randle, Wiggins and Gordon were not the only player which people were eager to see during McDonald’s All-American Game. People wanted to see Jabari Parker, too (10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists), not only because he is from Chicago – and the game was played in Chicago – but because of his extraordinary talent. He is a small forward who can play both in and outside the paint. He can play in the low post against the small forwards or he can drive to the basket or shoot against power forwards. The Duke Blue Devils will not only have in its roster Parker, Illinois State Champion for four consecutive years with Simeon, but the guard Matt Jones (4 points). Coach K will try to make those two players one of the best college basketball duos in the next year(s).
Obvioulsy, if Duke wants to create a powerful duo, also North Carolina will do it. The Tar Heels decided to sign two McDonald’s All-American, two big men from North Carolina. One is Isaiah Hicks (4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks), a power forward who is great both on the defensive and on the offensive end, and Kennedy Meeks, a center who is one of the favourite players of the writer. How can you imagine a tall and chubby center (about 135kg) who shoots from mid range and from downtown as a guard?
Among other players, we have to talk without doubt about Wayne Selden Jr., one of the best Team East players with his 13 points and 5 rebounds. Bill Self and Kansas will be happy to see him play with the Jayhawks’ jersey in the next season. He will play small forward or guard and he will perfectly fit in the team, considering his skills, which are very similar to McLemore’s ones, even if Selden Jr. is more physical. Always talking about “the best of the rest”, we must mention two very interesting guards: Jabari Bird and Nigel Williams-Goss. The first had a performance of 9 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds, whereas Williams-Goss recorded 10 points and 6 assists. Bird will play for California, which will be very dangerous with his guards, considering that Crabbe is playing for this college, too. On the other hand, Williams-Goss, after attending Findley Prep, will play in Washington and will continue the great point guard tradition of the college. Findley Prep players as Anthony Bennet, Brandon Ashley and Dominic Artis proved to be immediately effective in their freshman season.
There are some curiosities about this game, too. The great shooter of Team West, Isaac Hamilton (who recorded 7 points and 4 assists and is committed to UTEP) is the younger brother of Jordan Hamilton, former Texas star and now playing for the Denver Nuggets. Chris Walker (4 points, 6 rebounds and a block), a power forward who will play for the Florida Gators with the guard Kasey Hill, won the dunk contest which took place two days before the game and considered one of the best in the history of McDonald’s All-American.
We had a lot of show and we saw a lot of talent on the floor. This class is one of the best in the last years. For this reason, even if the Final Four still have to be played, the countdown for the next season has already started.
Photo: The six talents of Kentucky // nationofblue.com