McDonalds: Family Matters

The fathers of McDonalds' All-American East teammates Justise Winslow (left) and James Blackmon Jr. played in the 1983 McDonald's All-American Game in Atlanta, Ga.

The fathers of McDonalds’ All-American East teammates Justise Winslow (left) and James Blackmon Jr. played in the 1983 McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta, Ga.

The McDonald’s All-American Game has been around for 37 years, so it’s only natural there’s been a few father-son combos that have participated. The first occurrence was in 2001, but for the first time ever a pair of participants are sons of former McDonald’s All-Americans — and both played in the 1983 game. 

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The McDonald’s All-American Game is a dream — and a rite of passage — for high school basketball players. Only 24 boys and girls  are selected each year so it’s rare when family members, such as a pair of brothers (Zellers, Plumlees) or a brother and sister, are selected.

The girls game, which dates back to 2002, hadn’t been around long enough to create a mother-daughter combo, but there has been a handful of father-son combos. The first one occurred in 2001, when guard Dajuan Wagner of Camden (Camden, N.J.) was named an All-American. In 1981, his father Milt Wagner was a McDonald’s All-American out of the same high school.

McDonald’s history was made this year when two father-son combos were selected in the same class — Duke-bound small forward Justise Winslow of St. John’s School (Houston) and Indiana-bound shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. of Marion (Marion, Ind.). Ironically, their fathers Ricky Winslow of Yates (Houston) and James Blackmon Sr., who also went to Marion, both participated in the 1983 McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta, Ga.

It’s an uncanny situation and one that gives the younger set of McDonald’s All-Americans some unique insight to what this milestone means in the overall frame of their basketball careers.

“I really want my son to enjoy the experience,” said Blackmon Sr., who scored a game-high 21 points before 14,996 fns at the Omni in Atlanta . “He put in hard work to get here.”

As a senior at Marion, Blackmon Sr. was runner-up for Indiana Mr. Basketball to current UCLA head coach Steve Alford and stardom was expected of him at Kentucky. Even though he played professional basketball, it didn’t work out exactly as planned. He never played in the NBA an it’s something Blackmon Sr. is quick to point to to his son, Winslow’s son or any other McDonald’s All-American that thinks stardom is a foregone conclusion.

“This is just the beginning.” Blackmon Sr. said. “Leonard Hamilton recruited me to Kentucky, but I played for Joe B. Hall and he was a bit different. Look, I was the MVP of the McDonald’s Game, and I got my chance, but not everything goes as planned…things happen.”

Blackmon Sr. recalls the ’83 game and really thought highly of Winslow Sr., who played a season in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was a leaper but when Winslow Sr. began to follow Winslow Jr., he teased his McDonald’s All-American classmate.

“I told him, I think he has more jumps than you, Ricky.”

Blackmon Jr., headed for Indiana, appreciates his father’s straight forward advice and knows most of the stories about that ’83 game — how none of the players hardly knew each other and how in the practices and scrimmage nobody could handle the playground-style moves of Dwayne “Pearl” Washington of Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.).

Blackmon Jr. and Winslow Jr. have formed a relationship a bit closer than their fathers because of today’s summer circuit and plethora of elite camps. They are not best friends, but their mutual respect is evident in their interactions and they acknowledge the special bond that the McDonald’s All-American Game has created for them.

“We already knew each other pretty well because of AAU championships,” Winslow Jr. said. “My dad said James’ dad had game. It’s definitely a cool thing that were both in this game just as they were.”

“My dad knew him, but I’m not sure how well he knew him,” Blackmon Jr. said. “My dad told me he had some game. He told me the game was a lot different like with things such as social media, but not different in terms of competition.”

Competing is what Blackmon Sr. stresses and both sons know improvement is necessary to excel on the next level — and beyond. Winslow Jr., who averaged 28.2 ppg, 13.5 rpg, and 3.5 apg as a senior at St. John’s, feels he needs to improve his game with regards to the speed and tempo it will be played at in college. Blackmon Jr. averaged 36.5 ppg, 5.0 rbg and 3.0 apg while building a reputation as one of the nation’s best jump shooters.

“I told him come here and to show that you’re the top shooter and that’s what he did Monday (at the 3-point contest),” Blackmon Sr. said. “I told him where you got to get it done is when you get to Indiana.”

“My father has a lot of respect for James Sr.,” Winslow Jr. said.

Although the respect between the families is mutual, as is the hard-driven goals and realities of what it means to be selected for this game, both former pro players are ecstatic their sons are able to experience what they did 31 years ago.

“My father and family is proud of me for making it this far,” Winslow Jr. said. “I know this is a big step and big moment in my life.”

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: April 2, 2014

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