Kobe. Jordan. Dwight Howard. Derrick Rose. Before they went on to NBA greatness, they all played in it, the nation’s premier high school all-star game. Tonight, the United Center- home of the Chicago Bulls will host the 2011 McDonald’s All-American Game. The Michael Jordan statue outside the UC is adorned with MJ’s jersey from his appearance in the 1981 game.
What should you expect? Well, it’s an All-Star game so not much defense; but also a fun, laid-back atmosphere. It’s a chance to see the nation’s best incoming college basketball freshmen, who will also probably comprise half the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. The #1 rated recruit Austin Rivers, a Duke commit and son of Chicago playground legend, ex-NBA star and current Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers will suit up for the West team.
By Paul M. Banks
As will local kid and Kentucky signee Anthony Davis, the #2 rated player in the nation, who once put up a quadruple double. Other local prospects include Branden Dawson, a future member of the Michigan State Spartans and Wayne Blackshear (who dropped 56 in a prep game this year) who will ball for Rick Pitino in Louisville next year. Blackshear will miss the game due to a separated shoulder. Also keep an eye on the West’s Adonis Thomas and the East’s James McAdoo, the #3 prospect and a future North Carolina Tar Heel.
I predict the West will win easily tonight, much like the last time the games were held in Chicago. The 1982 game saw 15,836 come to the Rosemont Horizon (remember when the venue had that name, not a corporate sellout moniker) to witness a 103-84 West blowout. Future Illinois Fighting Illini legends and local backcourt stars Efrem Winters and Bruce Douglas led the West to victory. Winters’ 19 points and 9 rebounds garnered MVP honors, even though the East was extremely loaded that year. Their squad featured Brad Daughtery, one of the most famous Cleveland Cavaliers in history as well as Benoit Benjamin and Dell Curry who led the game with 20 points.
The Illini are 14th all time in signing McDonald’s All-Americans with 13. The state of Illinois has produced the third most (58). The West will be coached by local legend Gene Pingatore, who coached many famous stars at St. Joseph’s in suburban Westchester including: Detroit Pistons Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, #2 pick in last year’s draft by Philadelphia, Ohio State Buckeyes Evan Turner, and Illini senior Demetri McCamey, who many think could be a second round pick this June.
You also might remember Pingatore from the critically-acclaimed documentary “Hoop Dreams.”
Go here for the full roster of this year’s All-American game
Tickets for the game Wednesday night are $10 including parking; broadcast on ESPN 9PM CT
He does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbankFollow paulmbanks