NEW ORLEANS – The second-annual All-American Championship consisted of two all-star games featuring 38 of the top seniors and underclassmen in the country.
The difference in the pair of games (North vs. South, East vs. West) versus the McDonald’s All-American Game was the level of competitiveness. A handful of McDonald’s All-Americans were sprinkled into the event but for the most part, the All-American Championship featured outstanding players with a chip on their shoulders. The “McDonald’s slight” was evident in the approach by many of the players and some acknowledged they had something to prove, none more than UConn signee Omar Calhoun (Middle Village, N.Y./Christ The King).
Calhoun's 26 points was the best scoring performance in the two-year history of the event. Normally, in an all-star setting that would mean he scored on run outs and easy buckets but, his game was exactly opposite. Known for his deep stroke, Calhoun also unleashed a barrage of midrange shots within the flow of the game. More impressive was his ability to finish through contact, get to the line and knock down free throws. His role at Connecticut expands with every declaration for the draft and he’ll be ready to take the floor as a freshman.
Robinson, Dekker prove their worth
After watching Glenn Robinson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) and Sam Dekker (Sheboygan, Wisc./Lutheran), I’m firmly convinced these guys belonged in the McDonald's Game. Robinson’s ascension to No. 27 overall in the 2012 class has been consistent and steady. He’s gotten progressively better and even though he wasn’t named to the McDonald’s game, he should be talked about as an impact player. Ditto for Dekker. The Wisconsin forward is way more bouncy than he was last summer and his skills and smarts are on the fringe of being elite.
It’s hard not to talk about Adam Woodbury (Sioux City, Iowa/East) and Mike Gesell (S. Sioux City, Neb./Sioux City) at the same time. They live a few miles apart from each other but in different states. They play AAU ball together and next season they’ll battle with Fran McCaffrey at Iowa. Gesell’s development as a point guard is evident and he basically set Robinson up to be game MVP by assisting him in transition. Woodbury looked well rested and finished (what he didn’t do last summer) while being a factor in the lane.
• Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton School) impacted this game. He came off the bench, shut down driving lanes and displayed much more confidence when he took the floor. From a recruiting perspective, it was hard to ignore the presence of legendary former Hoyas coach John Thompson Jr. who was there as a pseudo-rep of the Hoyas.
• Evan Nolte (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) is well-equipped to be a starter for Tony Bennett at Virginia. If he can defend as a freshman, Bennett will unleash him on offense.
• How about Joel James (West Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer)? The slimmer James ramped up his aggression, knocked down a midrange shot and showed well versus high-level talent.
• It was good to see L.J. Rose (Houston/Westbury Christian) play well. He’s a guy who has put a lot of work into his game and it played out that way. He probed on offense, looked healthy and it seems his perimeter shot is much steadier.
• Another Texan of note was Cameron Ridley (Richmond, Texas/Bush). The center pounded inside against a big East frontline. His peers call him “Mr. Mean” and though he’s a kind, meek center, he’s rugged with his play. There’s a mixture of size and skill in the Top 10 prospect.
• I thought Shaquille Cleare (Houston, Tex./The Village School) came out and looked exactly as you’d expect. He’s a hoss for the Maryland Terps.
• Ridley and Cleare had obstacles toward their success that had to be navigated. DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse, N.Y./Jamesville-Dewitt) rebounded well at McDonald’s and did so here again. The big man is who we’ve thought he is all along. Good week for him.