McDonald's practice matchups to watch
Here is a look at seven practice matchups we are looking forward to as the East and West squads gear up for the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday (ESPN at 10 p.m. ET).
This matchup pits arguably the player with the most upside in the Class of 2011, Davis, with perhaps the best interior defender in the class, Birch. Davis, a Kentucky signee, oozes talent and can punish his defender in a number of ways, but it will be interesting to see how he fares against Birch, a future Pitt defender who has size, length and mobility along with pinpoint timing blocking shots.
When it comes to wing players with all the physical gifts these two players are at the top of the list. Both are highlight reels waiting to happen on the break who rebound in and out of their area on both ends of the floor. The advantage in the rebounding department goes to Dawson, a Michigan State signee, but Nash is more skilled and aggressive to score and make things happen. It will be interesting to see if Nash, an Oklahoma State signee, can keep Dawson off the glass and if Dawson can keep Nash from getting to the rim. Some bruises and blood could surface in this powerful wing matchup.
This is a classic inside-outside matchup. Williams is a long and athletic inside player with solid skills who can dominate the paint when he is motivated. The future Buckeye scores mostly inside 10 feet and should try to take it directly at Wiltjer's chest since he is not a prolific shot blocker. Wiltjer, on the other hand, can score both in the paint and out to 3-point land. The Kentucky signee is the best face-up big man in the class, so we expect him to bring Williams out on the perimeter to both score and open up the paint for his teammates to penetrate.
The best point guard matchup of the game will occur only in practice. Texas signee Kabongo was placed on the same team as the nation's top point guard, Kentucky signee Teague. The matchup is a clash of Teague's speed and ability to get in the lane against Kabongo's strength and overall size. It'll be interesting to see which guard asserts himself and earns the trust of his teammates. We enter the week with open minds on which point guard is better and in order for Kabongo to steal Teague's thunder, he'll have to do it heads up in practice.
Beal, a Florida signee, has been on the national radar for quite some time, while Carter-Williams is improving at an alarming rate. Each has a terrific skill package and they both possess that mental fortitude to take them far. Beal is the Ray Allen of high school basketball with a prolific shooting touch from deep, while Carter-Williams, a Syracuse signee, can slice the defense up with his clever handle and scoring savvy. However, at this stage Beal's game is more polished and he has a definite strength advantage getting to the rim.
It will be great to watch two of the nation's top centers get after each other during the week. It will be interesting to see if the future Duke Blue Devil Plumlee's relentless attitude will rub off on the, often times, less exuberant Christmas. If Christmas, a Syracuse signee, decides to assert himself he will show why many think he is the most talented post in the class.
Two of the best shooters in the game are on the same side and that's where the East may have its lone advantage. Hairston, a UNC signee, crosses half court and he's thinking jump shot. The more vocal of the two by far, Hairston's the shooter with more athleticism, strength and projects more confidence. Caldwell-Pope, a Georgia signee, launches rainbows and we've seen him go on big runs over the years. Two great shooters who own different body styles, but get it done.
2011 MCDONALD'S ALL-AMERICAN GAME
Only 24 players from the 2011 class are given the honor of being named McDonald's All-Americans. This year's group is second to none.When: March 30, 2011 (10 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Where: United Center, Chicago