Last night’s McDonald’s All-American Game — of which I was in attendance for — was horrible.
I’ll try to stay reasonable when I talk about this. After all, these are high school seniors I’m talking about. But the result was exactly what you’d expect when you put a bunch of 18-year-old kids hardwired to play team basketball and then unleash them for 40 minutes in a playground-style showcase of which none of them are talented enough to excel at.
Now, I’m not saying that the 24 players who were in attendance aren’t talented, but this year’s crop of talent certainly wasn’t fit for the style of play that the exhibition game normally suits.
And while this year’s showcase may have disappointed the masses with sloppy and inconsistent play, it’s just another reminder that not every one of these games are created equally.
Take 2014’s class for instance. That game included eight players still playing in the Final Four (four each on Duke and Kentucky), three players from the home city of Chicago (Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, and Tyler Ulis) and five players alone from the state of Texas.
Co-MVP’s Justin Jackson and Jahlil Okafor went on to play for rival schools while Okafor added a First Team All-American honor to his resume (and potentially a National Player of the Year award, too).
I’m not saying the 2015 crop of McDonald’s All-Americans won’t produce great players. But let’s be frank, there isn’t a Jahlil Okafor in this class.
There isn’t a Karl Anthony-Towns or a D’Angelo Russell, either.
Those players had the scent of greatness on them, and their games were developed to the point that it could fully adapt to the playground style of an “all-star” game. This year’s batch of prospects couldn’t do that, and it showed in the team’s shooting numbers alone.
The West was 36-of-96 overall and 6-of-26 on 3-pointers. The East was slightly better, going 46-for-99 from the field and 1-for-16 from the arch.
You’re not reading that wrong. The East team went 1-for-16 from behind the arc and still managed to win the game by 20 points.
It was as painful to watch as it is to reflect on.
The game’s sole local product, Jalen Brunson of nearby Stevenson, had this to say to reporters after the game:
“I really just kept my head and played my style of basketball…the only thing I was focused on was making sure I was making the right play and keeping my teammates involved.”
Brunson, like many other of the players who become successful collegiate players, are bred basketball players. They play rock solid team basketball and play it very well.
Jalen Brunson felt comfortable entering the McDonald’s All-American Game with that mentality, and that’s okay.
As we see in the stark contrast between 2014 and 2015, the collection of talent from top to bottom varies by the season. Every year, the result is going to be different.
And this year, the result was a travesty.