All-American Game returns to Chicago

By Etheria Modacure

In the 1980 McDonald’s All-American Game, a local player from Proviso East High School in Maywood, Ill., was selected to play in the event. Twenty-one years later, in his hometown, Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers would see his son, Austin, play in the same event at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., on March 30.

The 34th annual McDonald’s High School All-American Game returned to Chicago for the first time since 1982, when it was held at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Ill., currently named the Allstate Arena.

The game wasn’t the only event held here in Chicago featuring select male and female high school basketball players. On March 28, the Powerade Jamfest was held at Chicago State University, which consisted of a skills competition, a 3-point shooting contest and the popular slam-dunk contest.

Each player for the All-American Game was selected by the end of February to compete in the event.

“Just to come out here and play in front of 20,000 people, it’s just unreal,” said James McAdoo, a forward from Norfolk Christian High School in Virginia. “I just want to thank the coaching staff for allowing me to get this opportunity. There [are] thousands of kids who didn’t get this chance.”

Multiple colleges had pledged talent in this competition with the University of Kentucky being well-represented with four players who have committed to play for the Final Four participant. The Wildcats will have a loaded freshmen class this fall to match that of Duke University, which had three players on the boys’ team.

For the girls, powerhouse programs such as the University of Connecticut, Stanford University and the University of Tennessee had multiple players who will be joining their teams in the fall.

On March 28, before the games began, the All-American players were able to showcase their talents and some impressed many with their antics alone.

In the slam-dunk contest, future Duke Blue Devils Marshall Plumlee and Rivers looked like they would share more than playing time as they were early favorites to win the competition.

Rivers took off his black and gold West team jersey to reveal his father’s Atlanta Hawks jersey as he prepared to go for a dunk. In his first attempt, the 6-foot- 3-inch guard from Winter Park, Fla., tried to dunk off an inbound pass from a teammate in the stands. This failed and Rivers quickly improvised a one-handed windmill dunk from inside the baseline.

Plumlee, on the other hand, looked like he was having a party dunking the ball as he completed one attempt with his left hand placed behind his head and came down and performed a dance move. Unfortunately for Rivers and Plumlee, LeBryan Nash from Dallas outshined them  and won the contest.

Nash performed a running power slam with the Oklahoma State University orange Cowboys hat on. Before this attempt, he leaped over a teammate after jumping from inside the free–throw line.

“I tried to be creative and give the fans what they wanted, which is a show,” Nash said. The native Texan said his mother inspired him to win the contest and  gave him a helping hand picking out his hat.

For the 3-point shooting contest, Kyle Wiltjer, 6-foot-10-inch forward from Portland, Ore., won the competition for the boys, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Anaheim, Calif., won it for the girls. Wiltjer has committed to Kentucky and Mosqueda-Lewis will join the University of Connecticut Huskies in the fall.

“I’m just honored to be in this event,” Wiltjer said. “I’ve watched the 3-point contest the last five, six years and to be in it and win it is a great honor.”

March 30 was a record-setter for the All-American Game and Elizabeth Williams. The 6-foot-3-inch forward from Virginia Beach, Va.,  who will play at Duke next season posted a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds. She beat the previous scoring record for the girls’ team by one point.

“I just tried to go out with a full effort and do whatever my team needed,” Williams said. “I think rebounding was really important. It was one of our keys to the game, so I tried to rebound well and that led to a couple easy shots.”

A new record was set for attendance when 20,919 fans witnessed two games from the girls’ and boys’ All-Americans.

Both East squads won their respective contests with the girls winning 78-66 and the boys 111-96.

Three players from Illinois participated in the event: Ariel Massengale, Bolingbrook; Anthony Davis, Perspectives Charter High School; and Branden Dawson, Morgan Park High School.

Massengale will become a Lady Volunteer at Tennessee in the fall and reflected on how much fun she and her teammates had during the week.“It’s been nothing but smiles and laughter this whole week,” Massengale said. “We’re sad it has to come to an end, but I think we finished the night off well.”

For Davis, who will be attending Kentucky next season, he was able to fight off his early jitters of playing in his hometown at the United Center.

“Everyone gets nervous at the beginning,” he said. “When you actually step out there and start playing, all that goes away. You see nothing but the players on the court.”