McDonald’s: Overlooked All-Americans

Kevin Durant (left) played his junior season at famed Oak Hill Academy while Dwayne Wade was somewhat overlooked at Richards (Oak Lawn, Ill.) and on his Illinois Warriors AAU team. Photo: Student Sports Archives

Kevin Durant (left) was MVP of the 2006 McDonald’s All-American Game while Dwayne Wade was somewhat of a late bloomer on his Richards (Oak Lawn, Ill.) team and the Illinois Warriors AAU team. Wade did not make the McDonald’s All-American team. Photo: Student Sports Archives

Today is one of the most anticipated days of the high school basketball season. It’s the day 24 of the nation’s best players are chosen for the prestigious McDonald’s All-American team. Not everyone’s dream will come true, however, as there is always more great players than spots available. We take a look back at 10 players who deserved recognition on high school basketball’s biggest stage.

RELATED: 2014 McDonald’s All-American Rosters

On January 29 at 6pm ET (ESPNU), the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game rosters will be announced. Over the last 35 years, it really has become a dream come true for high school players to be selected a McDonald’s All-American.

While the McDonald’s All-American Game was once in fierce competition with a couple other prominent all-star games to secure the nation’s best talent, those games either don’t exist anymore or are scaled down compared to what they once were. Student-athletes who sign college scholarships are only permitted to play in two post-season all-star games, per NCAA rules, and that limits where the elite talent can play. Nowadays, the McDonald’s All-American Game is always one of the choices for the elites.

“In some of the early years, we only picked 20 players,” McDonald’s All-American Game founder Bob Geoghan said. “I always felt we picked the best we could. It’s always hard to project late-bloomers and some of the guys who were can’t miss, didn’t make it anywhere.”

As the dream of becoming a McDonald’s All-American has grown over the years, so has the scrutiny of the annual roster selections. Twenty years ago, the picks were announced and few people had the knowledge or insight to argue them without bias. Before the Internet, YouTube and social media, information on great high school players traveled less slowly around the country than it does now and only a handful of national scouts truthfully saw a majority of the nation’s best players.

The Buzz 150Sonny Vaccaro began his game nine years before me (1965) when I started the Capital Classic in 1974,” Geoghan said. “I was always honest with people and told them for the Capital Classic, I did what was in the best interests of the game. The McDonald’s Game was different because you had to be voted on, and I decided I would not have a vote. As the founder and executive director, I would never have a vote. It’s not a perfect system, but I hand-picked a number of people who were legitimate talent evaluators.”

The McDonald’s Selection Committee came under some scrutiny in the late 1990s and 2000s for some of the selections, including a grey area of allowing some fifth-year players to participate and others not to. To its credit, the game’s organizers realized the selection committee needed to be expanded to include younger, more mobile, talent evaluators so in recent years credible talent scouts such as Jerry Meyer (247Sports.com) and Eric Bossi (Rivals.com) were brought into the fold. This infusion of scouts, who are regulars on the recruiting trail, helped curtail a majority of that scrutiny in recent seasons.

“I started with about 12, but the voting committee slowly expanded because I wanted to make it as democratic as possible,” Geoghan said. “I always lamented one of the voters picking a player because he saw them once — and saw him play his best game — and said ‘he has to be a McDonald’s All-American.’”

Not everyone will be happy with the selections on this year’s team. With a task as enormous and important as nailing down the nation’s 24 best high school players, it comes with the territory that the end result will produce a deserving player or two being left off.

And we’re not talking about great talents without a high school resume, or who were injured or fifth-year players ineligible for the game. We’re talking about players who enjoyed some success in grassroots basketball and monster success with their high school team.

All the players that have made a McDonald’s All-American roster in recent seasons were deserving. To the committee’s credit, it’s done a good job.

Over the years, however, there’s been some All-American-level players overlooked and today we decided to give them their proper acclaim.

Top 10 Players Who Should Have Been McDonald’s All-Americans
(List does not include those ineligible for the game because of age, academics, injury or because they were post-graduate players.)

1. Glen Rice (Northwestern, Flint, Mich.) 6-7 F (1985)
Whenever the term McDonald’s snub is used, it conjures up an image of this sweet-shooting forward. Michigan’s Mr. Basketball for 1985, Rice averaged 20.8 ppg on a 27-1 team as a junior and was even better his senior season. Northwestern finished 28-0 and ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today. “The committee didn’t choose him, but we knew of him because, back then, coaches called to make sure we knew about a kid. Quite frankly, they didn’t know how the team was picked,” Geoghan said.

2. Rod Strickland (Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-2 G (1985)
Led Harry Truman (Bronx, N.Y.) to a state federation title as a junior and was a top 20 ranked prospect by the Hoop Scoop, but transferred to Oak Hill for his senior season. Oak Hill didn’t have the sterling reputation it does now and current Oak Hill coach Steve Smith told Student Sports that Strickland was “a handful.” As an assistant coach on that team, one of Smith’s job was keeping Strickland in line. “I don’t remember him particularly, but character counts to a certain degree,” Geoghan said. Strickland was arguably the nation’s best point guard and at Sonny Vaccaro’s Roundball Classic, he was the U.S. team MVP with 20 points, six steals and three assists.

3. Marc “Money” Wilson (Calvert Hall, Towson, Md.) 6-1 G (1982)
The point guard on the No. 1 ranked team in the country by the National Sports News Service (precursor to FAB 50), Wilson was a clutch player and a demon on the fast break, according to coach Mark Amatucci. Wilson got off to a great start his senior season and nowadays, that likely would have created a spot for him on the team in the mold of Tyler Lewis (2012) or Nigel Williams-Goss (2013). Calvert Hall finished 34-0, winning the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic, the Pepsi Cola Challenge and the Alhambra Tournament along the way.

4. Trevor Ariza (Westchester, Los Angeles) 6-8 F (2003)
Ariza might not have had the greatest summer heading into his senior season and was a bit of a position-less monster, but his talent was immense. Ranked No. 18 by the Hoop Scoop, Ariza averaged averaged 22 points and eight rebounds per game on a deep and talented team. Westchester finished 33-3 and ranked No. 4 in the FAB 50.

5. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bouges (Dunbar, Baltimore, Md.) 5-3 G (1983)
Teammate Reggie Williams was the Mr. Basketball USA choice on a team some observers feel is the best high school team, ever. With a dozen other players on the roster who could play at the D1 level, it’s easy to see how Bouges was overlooked. He shouldn’t have been, however, because he was team MVP, averaging eight points, 10 assists and eights steals per game. “He got the MVP of the Capital Classic,” Geoghan said. “I think because of his height, they said he was a water bug, and because Reggie Williams was projected to be a star, Bouges got overlooked. Nobody I knew at the time projected him to be a great college player. To be honest with you, we took Muggsy because we couldn’t get Reggie.”

6. DeAndre Jordan (Christian Life, Humble, Texas) 6-11 C (2007)
The Class of 2007 was a special group, one of the greatest classes of all-time. Looking at the big men in the class, however, it’s easy to see that Jordan belonged. He played outstanding ball at the 2006 ABCD Camp and as a senior averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots per game. Jordan did play in the final Roundball Classic, scoring six points and blocking six shots.

7. Sergio McClain (Manual, Peoria, Ill.) 6-4 F (1997)
Sure, McClain’s game didn’t translate into superstardom on the next levels, but that shouldn’t have kept him from being recognized as a McDonald’s All-American. The leading scorer on the nation’s top-ranked team (18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists), his value in fourth quarter, pressure situations simply can’t be measured by any stat. McClain was one of high school basketball’s ultimate winners, helping Manual win four straight Class AA state championships. He was chosen Mr. Basketball in Illinois, even over teammate and McDonald’s All-American Marcus Griffin.

8. Kawhi Leonard (M.L. King, Riverside, Calif.) 6-7 F (2009)
A classic example of a later bloomer and a player who didn’t get the proper exposure on the grassroots circuit, Leonard was a part-time starter as a high school sophomore. He kept working on his game and after transferring to King helped the Wolves to two consecutive CIF Div. I SoCal regional finals. When most of the selection committee got to see him play, however, he was overshadowed by McDonald’s All-American Renardo Sidney on the L.A. Dream Team. Halfway through his senior season (in which he averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists) it was evident to many Leonard should have been on the team.

9. Leon Wood (St. Monica’s, Santa Monica, Calif.) 6-3 G (1979)
Similar to DeAndre Jordan, Wood played in a loaded class, so it was likely a numbers’ game. Wood, however, was arguably the best shooter in the class. He stood out at the ’78 Superstar Camp, according to noted skills trainer Ruben Luna. “I saw Leon beat Paul Westphal in H-O-R-S-E with the whole camp yelling, ‘Take him outside Leon.’ He was raining from deep.” As a senior, he averaged 41.5 ppg and was his team’s MVP in two games at the Roundball Classic.

10. Imari Sawyer (M.L. King, Chicago, Ill.) 6-2 G (2000)
Ranked No. 19 by the Hoop Scoop, Sawyer was a scoring guard who could also pass the rock with flash. As a senior, he averaged 31 points and 12 assists per game. Even if he had a slow start to his senior year or a couple of bad outings in the summer, it’s not as if voters didn’t know who he was coming from a program that previously produced numerous All-Americans. Sawyer finished his high school career with 3,005 points.

Others Whom Should Be Prominently Mentioned:
(Listed by graduating class)

Dorian Finney-Smith (Norcom, Portsmouth, Va.) 6-7 F (2011)
Ranking: Top 50 (Hoop Scoop)

B.J. Young (McCluer North, Florissant, Mo.) 6-4 G (2011)
Ranking: Top 20 (Hoop Scoop)

Damion James (Nacogdoches, Texas) 6-8 F (2006)
Ranking: Top 25 (Hoop Scoop)

Kevin Bookout (Stroud, Okla.) 6-8 C (2002)
Ranking: Top 10 (Hoop Scoop)

Doug Wrenn (O’Dea, Seattle) 6-7 F (1998)
Ranking: Top 15 (Hoop Scoop)

Kenny Brunner (Dominguez, Compton, Calif.) 5-9 G (1997)
Ranking: Top 10 (Hoop Scoop)

Ricky Davis (North, Davenport, Iowa) 6-5 G (1997)
Ranking: Top 15 (Hoop Scoop)

Jason Hart (Inglewood, Calif.) 6-3 G (1996)
Ranking: Top 35 (Hoop Scoop)

Kenny Thomas (Albuquerque, N.M.) 6-8 C (1995)
Ranking: Top 35 (Hoop Scoop)

Michael Spruell (Albany, Ga.) 6-1 G (1994)
Ranking: Top 10 (Hoop Scoop)

Tremaine Fowlkes (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) 6-7 F (1994)
Ranking: Top 30 (Hoop Scoop)

Andre Woolridge (Benson, Omaha, Neb.) 6-2 G (1992)
Ranking: Top 25 (Hoop Scoop)

Brian Fair (South Mountain, Phoenix, Ariz.) 6-3 G (1991)
Ranking: Top 50 (Hoop Scoop)

Curt “Trouble” Smith (Coolidge, Washington, D.C.) 5-10 G (1989)
Ranking: Top 35 (Hoop Scoop)

Harold Miner (Inglewood, Calif.) 6-5 G (1989)
Ranking: Top 25 (Hoop Scoop)

Richard Dumas (Washington, Tulsa, Ok.) 6-6 F (1987)
Ranking: Top 25 (Hoop Scoop)

Stacy Augmon (Muir, Pasadena, Calif.) 6-8 F (1986)
Ranking: Top 35 (Hoop Scoop)

Len Bias (Northwestern, Hyattsville, Md.) 6-8 F (1982)
Ranking: First Team Top 33 (B/C Scouting); No. 8 (All-Star Sports)

Ronnie Flores is the editor of StudentSportsBasketball.com. He can be reached at ronnie@studentsports.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

Updated: January 29, 2014

3 Comments

  1. Ian Powers

    January 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    You forgot to mention Penny Hardaway. He was Parade Magazine Player of the Year in 1990 and didn’t make the McDonald’s team

  2. Mike Narvaez

    February 7, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Jamal Mashburn, Cardinal Hayes 1990.

    Named Mr Basketball NY State for 1990
    Ahead of McDonald All-Americans:
    Brian Reese, Khalid Reeves, Adrian Autry

  3. Thomas Hall

    April 3, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    There is no mention of the most dominant high school player that played in the 1985 McDonald’s Capitol Classic, Earnest Hall. He led his high school(Spingarn 37-0, located in Washington,D.C.), to the city title game against the favored Dematha High School, featuring Danny Furry. Earnest held Danny Furry to a season low in rebounds and points to win the City High School Title game and Most Valuable Player Honors. Earnest, then played in the McDonald’s Capitol Classic Game (1985), where he won the Slam Dunk Contest. Earnest then went on to Northeastern University in Boston Massachuets to play under coach Jim Calhoun. In 1987, Earnest was being recruited by the Boston Celtics. While on spring break Earnest was playing in the yearly Urban Coilition Game held at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.. Upon returning home that night, he was subsequently stabbed and killed. I am really surprised for all of his efforts, there is no mention of him.

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