Thursday, February 14, 2013
Elite battles on tap at McDonald's Game
By Paul Biancardi
The McDonald's All American Game is the gold standard for high school basketball all-star games. Yet again, this year is a bumper crop of elite prospects blessed with versatility and athleticism going head-to-head to showcase why they’re the nation's premier players.
The game itself is always high-scoring and exciting, and if you’re among the chosen few lucky enough to attend practice, it gets even better. The players who get to don the game jerseys will always feel honored to have played in this prestigious event.
Aaron, left, and Andrew Harrison are part of a five-man Kentucky contingent selected to the McDonald's All American Game.
Best representation: Kentucky
Kentucky has five players selected to play in this prestigious contest, representing a fifth of the 24-man roster. So you know the Wildcats, who are struggling this year and just lost impact freshman Nerlens Noel for the season, will be loaded with talent at several positions next winter. This may be the most recruits from one team ever selected to play in the game. You have to wonder if the four UK players on the West (James Young, Marcus Lee, Andrew Harrison and Aaron) will be on the floor at the same time as the East’s lone future Wildcat, Dakari Johnson. I bet Big Blue Nation would love seeing that.
Best backcourt matchup: East PGs vs. West PGs
This matchup features the speed of East guards Kasey Hill, Anthony Barber and Demetrius Jackson against the size of the West’s duo of Andrew Harrison and Nigel Williams-Goss. When it comes to pushing the pace, the East has a distinct advantage. The speedy trio can take the ball from foul line to foul line, often getting all the way to the rim before the defense is set. Hill, Barber and Jackson are exciting ball handers who are hard to slow down in the open floor. But will they be able to handle the West’s size?
It's all about size in the West’s backcourt as Andrew Harrison is the biggest point guard in prep hoops and Williams-Goss has good size along with a great IQ for the game and a penchant for clutch shots. Both Harrison and Williams-Goss are playmakers who get a piece of the paint on their drives, execute in two-man action and knock down open shots. The question with this talented pair is whether they can keep their counterparts out of the lane.
Bobby Portis is ranked No. 13 overall in the 2013 class.
Best frontcourt matchups: East bigs vs. West bigs
Chris Walker and Isaiah Hicks are a pair of East team pogo sticks who can rebound with height, length and impeccable timing. They grab boards, quickly outlet to a guard and rim run looking for alley-oops. Inside, they quickly finish around the rim. If these guys have their motors running hot, they can outrun and outjump their foes to make plays on both ends of the floor.
On the West side, Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon and Bobby Portis can score the ball in a variety of ways but must put a body on their opponents to keep them from using their length and vertical to produce second-chance points.
Parker poses problems at the 3 as he stretches the defense with his shooting and passing skills. Portis is hard to guard from the low- and mid-post areas and rebounds consistently. Gordon is the X-factor in this frontcourt battle as he is the strongest and most explosive finisher among this group.
As an offensive player, Wiggins uses his NBA-level athleticism to make scoring plays in the lane or above the rim. Wiggins is a fluid player who also possesses great body control and a second jump that is unmatched at this level. He also has a knack for finishing through contact or getting to the charity stripe.
Hollis-Jefferson has the frame, length, foot speed and mindset to take on this daunting challenge. In the half-court he will make Wiggins work to receive the ball, then do his best to body him up and level his drive while getting help from teammates. Hollis-Jefferson must stay attached to Wiggins to prevent him from following his miss with a highlight-reel putback.
Everyone knows Wiggins will end up somewhere close to the basket when he attempts his shot, but can Hollis-Jefferson impose his will and contain the nation’s No. 1 player? This will be Round 1 in a matchup that will continue at April’s Nike Hoop Summit.
Best practice matchup 2: Parker vs. Jarrell Martin and Gordon
Parker is a crafty scorer capable of burying open shots or abusing defenders in the paint with pump-fakes. He is a special talent because he doesn't play for his own numbers as much as he plays to win that possession, and ultimately, the game.
Martin has the hops and length to give Parker trouble and can make some jumpers of his own to pull him out to the perimeter.
Gordon is too competitive not to try and lock down the nation’s No. 2 player. He can body Parker inside and has the footwork to hang with him outside. Gordon is hard to guard once he gets a head of steam and is a sensational leaper. Three top-10 recruits; oh what I would give to see these guys go head-to-head on a regular basis.