McDonald's All-American Game Review
by Brett Berliner(NCAA Basketball)
Posted on March 30, 2006, 3:56 PM
The McDonald's All-American game, each year, highlights the best of the high school basketball scene as they make their way on to the next level. In the past, many of the kids involved in this game were playing for draft status, as they were forgoing their college eligibility to go to the NBA. This lead NBA scouts to pepper the stands, and turned the game into displays of athletic nature, and not fundamentals. Being an all-star game, the kids have of course barely played together, so running set plays is at a minimum. However, this year, due to the new rule that keeps all of these kids out of the NBA for at least a year, we saw a shift to group performances - players actually passing the ball, playing defense and looking like they wanted to win. Here are the next generation of NCAA superstars, the guys you'll be hearing about next year around this time.
Earl Clark (Louisville): Clark had a hard time finding his niche in this game. He's been billed as a combo guard, but he barely distributed the ball at all and went 1-7 from the field, so I don't know if he'll end up at SG or PG for the Cards. Not a particularly impressive performance, in fact, a very disappointing one, albeit one that doesn't say a whole lot about what kind of player Clark is just yet.
Mike Conley (Ohio State): I've had the pleasure of seeing Conley and his Lawrence North (and future Buckeye) teammate Greg Oden three times previous, and each time I came away very impressed. Last night.. not so much. It looked like Conley was only interested in throwing alley oops and making nice, highlight reel dishes that his teammates weren't ready for. Conley is going to be a great college player, but he's a PG in the mold of John Stockon, not Jason Kidd or Steve Nash. He is a solid, steady floor general who knows how to run a team, but in an all-star game, he won't stand out. He also didn't take any three pointers, which he's quite good at. Hard to judge him here.
Javaris Crittenton (Georgia Tech): The best compliment I can give Crit is that of all the non-Ohio State committed players, he's the one I'd want the most. He'd fit in great in Ohio State - he has handles like a PG but a SG mentality, the type of player Thad Matta drools over. He didn't make all of his shots, but his moves with the ball as well as his picture perfect stroke, showed me why Javaris will be a top player someday at GT. I was really impressed with his game, although it was the first time I'd seen him play.
Wayne Ellington (North Carolina): Ellington didn't have a very good game, which is odd, considering he was billed as one of the more finished prospects in the class. Obviously, he's got room to grow, but as a shooter, I just wasn't impressed yet. To Ellington's credit, however, he wasn't afraid to launch threes even though they weren't dropping - an underrated, but important, quality for a shooter to have. Can't become gun shy if you're going to be a bomber.
Gerald Henderson (Duke): Henderson was VERY impressive in this game. His length and athleticism is immediately noticeable, even among all the athletes on the court, but he looked more finished than a lot of them. He should be able to step right in at Duke and play a major role next year. His rebounding and hustle was definitely contagious, and Coach K should fall in love with him.
Tywon Lawson (North Carolina): Lawson is rated by most as the top point in the nation. He looked alright overall - poor shooting, but excellent handles. His turnovers, as far as I can remember, came on highlight reel assist attempts (of which he hit a few, to be fair), and overall, Lawson looked like a guy who could run a team, push the tempo and become a fan favorite.
Vernon Macklin (Georgetown): Macklin REALLY impressed me in the game, and I expect him, not Roy Hibbert, to be the next in the Ewing/Mutumbo/Mourning legacy. He looked very patient looking for his shot, not forcing it (something that will help if he has talented guards around him), and his rebounding was great. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. He needs to improve his passing in the paint and post, but he showed me a lot on both offense and defense to make me think he'll live up to the hype and become a dominant college center. 10 boards, 16 minutes? Not bad.
Greg Oden (Ohio State): Yeah, this is what you were reading for, I'm sure. Oden is Oden. He is so good, that he doesn't get the LeBron James treatment - there were a LOT of people expecting James to fail for a multitude of reasons, but maybe due to Oden's demeanor, you don't get that. He looked, unsurprisingly, great. On offense, he showed his overall skill level to be very developed for a high school center, especially one of his size. Greg lacks excellent post moves, but his footwork is good enough that I'd be shocked if he didn't develop them. Another point to notice about Oden is his shot is beautiful, especially from the foul line. His attempts touch the bottom of the net everytime, swishing and making that beautiful, beautiful sound of a perfect shot. From that perspective, he definitely isn't another Shaq, but part of that is because his defense is a completely different game than Shaq's is, and probably even more advanced. Oden has a shot-blocker's mentality, and is as good at is as any player I've ever seen.. he's basically Mutumbo in this regard. He doesn't need to play his man with his body because his concentration and timing work with his length to keep the ball out of the hoop. His four blocks all came very early in the game and were highlight reel - in fact, he completely altered the West's game - they only won due to their shifting of gameplan and turning to outside shots, because Oden owned the paint. 19 minutes, 10 points, 5 boards, 4 blocks, and he didn't even look interested in the least for most of the game. Not that he didn't try hard, but he's one of those guys it looks so effortless for that you wonder what happens when he turns it up a notch.
I've now seen Oden on the court four times, and the guys I'm most reminded of are Lew Alcindor and David Robinson, but Oden may even be in his own class. He's that good.
Scottie Reynolds (Oklahoma): I felt really bad for Reynolds most of the game - they mentioned early (and often) that he was really disappointed that Kelvin Sampson had left for Indiana. He and Sampson both explored the idea of him following the coach to West Lafayette, but Reynolds wasn't going to be able to get out of his letter of intent. Poor kid. He didn't do enough to catch my eye - he looked fine, overall, handling the ball and distributing, but he spent most of the game parked at the three line if he didn't have the ball. Probably projects as a distributor, but I can't make a total judgment since he didn't handle the ball much.
Lance Thomas (Undecided - down to Duke or Rutgers): Thomas was my big disappoint of the night. I had heard stories about Thomas' hustle and infectious nature on the court. I was expecting a slightly undersized four who could bang, get boards and step out and nail some shots. Instead, Thomas didn't seem to want to be there. He ended with no rebounds in 21 minutes, and although he shot the ball nicely, he didn't seem to be the type of player I was expecting and had heard so much about. He clearly showed the skills that got him selected, but I was expecting to see something more out of the guy, I guess. Not a bad player, but not close to the scouting reports I'd read.
Brendan Wright (North Carolina): Wright had a pretty decent game and ran the court really nicely. He's got a lot of length and athleticism, which seems to be a cliche, but for this game, it was really true. He has a really nice, well-rounded game that impressed me. Wright hit a few jumpers, took a few to the hole, and did a little bit of everything. I predict he'll make a similar impact with NC next year that Tyler Hansborough did this year. Great player.
Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech): At one time, it was rumored that Thaddeus would join Daequan Cook, Greg Oden and Mike Conley as a Buckeye next season, but he chose Georgia Tech over them and surprisingly over Memphis. Young is one of the best players in the nation and showed that, displaying his power and athleticism with a few thundering dunks. He also took (but missed a pair of threes), but both were close enough to shock people with his range. Young may not quite have the height or length of a Kevin Garnett, but that's his closest comparison. Very, very impressive player that I'm wishing Ohio State had next year. As long as he keeps his head on straight (reputed to be a problem), he will excel. He looked like he was having a great time after the game, though, and his demeanor was positive, and I was really impressed.
Darrell Arthur (Undecided, likely down to Texas or Kansas): I'd heard a lot about Arthur as an athletic big man, and he didn't do that much to impress me. He played fine, but only 13 minutes, and didn't have an overall big impact. He clearly has talent but just didn't fit in greatly in this game. He probably, if he's undecided, should go to Kansas, as his game is similar, but not really complimentary to Kevin Durant, but I'm sure if he ends up in Austin, they'll find a way to utilize both him and Durant. What a terrible problem they'd have...
D.J. Augustin (Texas): Augustin is another one I felt very badly for - he's from the heart of New Orleans, and he had to up and move, but luckily, everyone in his family was fine. They moved to Texas, where he decided to stay close and attend UT. I'd seen Augustin play before, and he was much more impressive with his high school and AAU teams here. He's a true point guard that can score, but picks his spots nicely instead of forcing things with the ball in his hand. He had an okay game, although you can't get a sense of a point guard's true potential in an all-star game.
Chase Budinger (Arizona): I hadn't heard a ton about Budinger until the game's roster was announced, but he was really impressive, even winning co-MVP (a crock, but he had a good game). He's actually a better volleyball prospect than he is basketball, but his game is so solid you could have fooled me, frankly. I didn't notice him on on D, which, honestly, is probably a good thing, but on offense, Chase really impressed me. You hate to stereotype a white player with the term 'fundamentals', but his are superb. He throws nice, hard passes with good aim (especially for a guy his size), and has a really excellent shot. However, Budinger even schooled Greg Oden on a break, avoiding a block, something nobody else could do. He looked extremely athletic and will be a great 4 for Lute Olsen, even if that isn't his likely NBA position.
Demond Carter (Baylor): I don't even remember seeing Carter play, I'll be perfectly honest. I only heard his name once. Nondescript. Maybe just outmatched at this level, maybe timid, injured, I dunno. Didn't leave a lasting impression...
Sherron Collins (Kansas): Collins looked pretty decent overall. He only played 16 mintues, but scored 11 points, had 3 assists, 2 boards and 2 steals. He's a waterbug type PG, all over the place both on offense and on D, and he certainly can handle and dish the rock. Personally, I was really impressed with Collins as a PG, possibly as impressed with anyone I saw last night, except maybe Tywon Lawson, as far as a pure PG goes. He'll enjoy dishing to Mario Chalmers at KU.
Daequan Cook (Ohio State): One thing about Cook I don't get is that he's a guy from Dayton, OH, which is east of Lawrence, Indiana, where future teammates Greg Oden and Mike Conley hail from. Yet, he's on the West team and they're on the East? Bizarre. I know they were trying to balance the squads, but still... Cook is really impressive. I've seem him at least five times before and I never leave disappointed. He's got a real smooth quality to his game that makes his drives and shots look effortless, but he takes over games when he's in. He left with 17 points on 5-9 shooting from beyond the arc and a couple of assists in 19 minutes. He showed why the Ray Allen comparisons fit and why he'll be a big part of a run next year as an Ohio State Buckeye. Easily the most impressive swingman at the entire game.
Kevin Durant (Texas): Nearly anyone who follows college basketball has heard of Durant, as he's probably the second rated prospect behind Greg Oden, but most (including me), haven't seen him play. If they did, they probably weren't disappointed. Durant appeared to be the most athletic player on the court at all times, out running guards at times, and he showed an ability to get points, either by driving to the bucket or by some pretty jump shots. He was very nearly 3-6 from 3 point land (one three rimmed out), and was absolutely dominant, dropping 25 points nearly effortlessly. He's going to be a great one - remember the name. 8 of 9 from inside the 3 point line? Nice.
Spencer Hawes (Washington): Hawes was hyped up as being the best prep center behind Greg Oden, and he delivered. He has issue with defense (4 fouls in 17 minutes, no blocks), but his offense post game is even more impressive than Oden's right now, and he did a nice job of fighting for some boards. He'll probably be the top center in the Pac 10 very soon and a potential NBA player as his body fills out.
James Keefe (UCLA): Very quiet, non-descript game. I know Keefe is supposed to be solid and a good shooter, but he didn't show me anything except the few times I noticed him looking unhappy to be there, but that might have just been at the game he played. He obviously has some talent, but I'm not sure he's a game changer himself like most of the guys are here. He may need a great supporting cast to really shine.
Brook & Robin Lopez (Stanford): Twin 7 footers on their way to Stanford.. where have I heard that before? Honestly, the Lopez twins do have a little bit of Collins' in them - they are both smart players who try hard, pull down boards at a nice clip (8 for Robin, 5 for Brook) and run the floor nicely. They didn't stand out, but I don't think either is the type of player who wants to take over a game - rather, they'll fit into the offense wherever they're needed, be that on the perimeter, post or anywhere in between. They certainly have the athleticism and size to dominate at the 4/5 position for the Cardinal.
Jon Scheyer (Duke): Scheyer has been called 'the next JJ Redick', but he's his own man for now. He does seem a lot like Redick coming out of HS.. he struggles to find his position and shot at times, but if he's open, he usually hits hit. Didn't play enough for me to get a full read on, but if Coach K likes him, I do too. Just a general rule.
Best Player: East: Greg Oden Not a surprise, I'm sure. Oden dominates both offensively and defensively. Only one player on either team completely altered the gameplan of an entire team. Even with the post talent of the Lopez twins, Spencer Hawes and Darrell Arthur, the West couldn't get anything going until they allowed their talent to shoot more from the outside. That's big.
Best Player: West: Kevin Durant Hardly a stretch. Durant has length, athleticism, talent, fundamentals and determination. He seems utterly coachable and will take exactly what the other team gives him. I see him as an elite scorer from the 3 in the NBA. Potential All-Star and the best overall player last night in the game, without a doubt.