Commentary

McDonald's All-American Game Matchups

Originally Published: March 21, 2008
By Bob Gibbons | Scouts Inc.

Tyler Zeller and BJ MullensIcon SMICenters Tyler Zeller (East) and B.J. Mullens (West) will do battle at the McDonald's Game.
We are getting closer to the tip-off of the 31st McDonald's All-American Game (Wed., 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Milwaukee. Players will be arriving Saturday and the first team practices will be on Easter Sunday.

This preview will give insights into the team organization and the anticipated player matchups to look for in the game. The game coaches have the daunting challenge of trying to balance the playing time for their 12-man rosters while keeping the game competitive. The 2007 game in Louisville, Ky., was one of the best ever with the West defeating the East team 114-112 in a very exciting contest.

The keys to every all-star game are the player matchups, and structuring the composition of the team units to allow the players to perform at their best position and to be matched against a comparable opponent. A major difficulty is getting close to equal playing time for all of the players. This game will be college length of 40 minutes, divided into two 20-minute halves. This means there are 200 total playing minutes; and doing the math, this would allow 16:40 of playing time for the 12 players on each team. McDonald's rules mandate that every player must play at least 12 minutes unless injured.

The teams will be organized into two six-member units (Units A & B) and coaches will substitute by unit and rotate the six players on each unit. Sound difficult? It certainly is. Ideally, all players will get their minutes and playing opportunities. The teams will have daily two-hour practices for three days (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) and a one-hour scrimmage on Tuesday afternoon. Obviously, this only permits time for team composition and for coaches to implement their basic offensive and defensive sets and drills.

Here are the team units and player matchups we would love to see in this McDonald's All-American Game.

McDonald's Game "A Squad" Matchups
East
West
The Skinny
Kemba Walker, PG
ESPN 150 rank: 8
College: Connecticut
6-0, 180 pounds
Rice (N.Y.)
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Averages: 19.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 8.0 APG

Brandon Jennings, PG
ESPN 150 rank: 1
College: Arizona
6-1, 170 pounds
Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
Hometown: Los Angeles

Averages: 35.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 8.2 APG

Jennings, the nation's top player and best point guard, should battle Walker, the second-rated point guard, in a classic confrontation. It should be a real battle, but Jennings may be just too quick.
Advantage: West.
Tyreke Evans, 2G
ESPN 150 rank: 4
College: undecided
6-6, 217 pounds
American Christian (Pa.)
Hometown: Chester, Pa.

Averages: 33.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 5.5 APG

Jrue Holiday, 2G
ESPN 150 rank: 3
College: UCLA
6-4, 195 pounds
Campbell Hall (Calif.)
Hometown: Chatsworth, Calif.

Averages: 24.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 5.8 APG

This matches two of the top four players in the class in Evans and Holiday. Also, 6-6 Sylven Landesberg (East) and 6-5 Iman Shumpert (West) will likely play at this position as well as at point guard and wing forward. Advantage: East, even though Holiday may be one of the best all-around guards in the game. Also, it will be interesting to watch the chemistry between him and Jennings.
Al-Farouq Aminu, WF
ESPN 150 rank: 6
College: Wake Forest
6-9, 215 pounds
Norcross (Ga.)
Hometown: Norcross, Ga.

Averages: 22.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 APG

Demar DeRozan, WF
ESPN 150 rank: 11
College: USC
6-6, 210 pounds
Compton, Calif.
Hometown: Compton, Calif.

Averages: 30.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 4.0 SPG

At this position size and height favors the East with the 6-9 Aminu. However, the West counters with the athleticism and explosive quickness DeRozan. The East may have to use Landesberg to help at this position. Aminu can also play at the power forward position. Advantage: Even.
Samardo Samuels, PF
ESPN 150 rank: 2
College: Louisville
6-9, 250 pounds
St. Benedict's (N.J.)
Hometown: Montego Bay, Jamaica

Averages: 22.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.7 BPG

Greg Monroe, PF
ESPN 150 rank: 11
College: Georgetown
6-10, 235 pounds
Helen Cox (La.)
Hometown: Gretna, La.

Averages: 22.0 PPG, 14.5 RPG, 4.0 BPG

This should be a duel of power and aggression against skill and finesse. The beastial 6-9 Samuels was too physical for the 6-10 Monroe at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., in December. It will be interesting to see if Monroe, a future Georgetown Hoya, can hold his own against next year's Big East opponent, Louisville signee Samuels. Advantage: East.
Tyler Zeller, C
ESPN 150 rank: 5
College: North Carolina
7-0, 220 pounds
Washington (Ind.)
Hometown: Washington, Ind.

Averages: 32.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG

B.J. Mullens, C
ESPN 150 rank: 8
College: Ohio State
7-1, 260 pounds
Canal Winchester (Ohio)
Hometown: Canal Winchester, Ohio

Averages: 27.5 PPG, 15.3 RPG, 3.1 BPG

In an intriguing pairing of seven-footers, 7-1 Mullens, the tallest player in the game, clashes with 7-0 Zeller. Mullens is heavier and may have more strength. However, Zeller runs the floor as well as any big man we have seen and has more skills and scoring abilities. It will likely come down to the physicality and who gets into foul trouble. Advantage: East may have a slight edge.

The final results of this game could be determined by the matchups and play of the B Units. In analyzing these units, both teams appear to be very equal at every position.

McDonald's Game "B Squad" Matchups
East
West
The Skinny
Elliot Williams, PG
ESPN 150 rank: 16
College: Duke
6-4, 165 pounds
St. George's (Tenn.)
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

Averages: 21.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.5 APG

Larry Drew, PG
ESPN 150 rank: 24
College: North Carolina
6-1, 175 pounds
Taft (Calif.)
Hometown: Encino, Calif.

Averages: 13.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 9.2 APG

6-4 combo guard Williams will run the point for the East team, similar to what his future Duke teammate, Nolan Smith, did for the East in the 2007 McDonald's All-American Game. He will face a pure point guard in pass-first playmaker Drew. Drew, the son of Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew, is well-schooled in the basic point guard skills and won the Leadership Award at the NBPA Top 100 Camp while taking his team to the camp championship. Williams was the Most Outstanding Player at that camp and should matchup well against his future ACC rival, since Drew is a North Carolina signee. Also, another future ACC player, Georgia Tech-bound Iman Shumpert (West) could share time at this position as well as at second guard or small forward. Advantage: Too close to call. Should be fun to watch.
Mike Rosario, 2G
ESPN 150 rank: 20
College: Rutgers
6-2, 180 pounds
St. Anthony (N.J.)
Hometown: Jersey City, N.J.

Averages: 20.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG

Willie Warren, 2G
ESPN 150 rank: 23
College: Oklahoma
6-5, 200 pounds
North Crowley (Texas)
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Averages: 24.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.3 APG

6-3 Rosario knows how to win since he was the team leader for coach Bob Hurley's undefeated (32-0) and No. 1 rated St. Anthony (N.J) team. He will face a formidable opponent in 6-5 Warren, who has O.J. Mayo-type abilities and the potential to take over a game. He has a very quick release on his shot and the ability to knock down 3-pointers in bunches. He is a dangerous opponent for Rosario. Also, 6-5 UCLA recruit Malcolm Lee could play some at this position as well as point guard or wing forward. Advantage: West.
William Buford, WF
ESPN 150 rank: 9
College: Ohio State
6-5, 185 pounds
Libbey (Ohio)
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Averages: 23.0 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 5.6 APG

Scotty Hopson, WF
ESPN 150 rank: 14
College: undecided
6-5, 180 pounds
University Heights (Ky.)
Hometown: Hopkinsville, Ky.

Averages: 24.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 BPG

Versatile 6-5 Buford can play multiple positions, and, like Warren, can be a game-changer. He is pitted against a similar player in 6-6 Hopson. This looks like a stellar matchup of two highly-talented wing players. Hopson is one of the two unsigned players in this game. Advantage: East, but only by a minimal margin.
Ed Davis, PF
ESPN 150 rank: 10
College: North Carolina
6-9, 215 pounds
Benedictine (Va.)
Hometown: Richmond, Va.

Averages: 22.1 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 6.1 BPG

Luke Babbitt, PF
ESPN 150 rank: 13
College: Nevada
6-8, 225 pounds
Galena (Nev.)
Hometown: Reno, Nev.

Averages: 29.8 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.6 APG

North Carolina signee Davis goes against Nevada recruit Babbitt. Davis, the son of former NBA player Terry Davis, is more athletic and a better shotblocker and rebounder. However, Babbitt is a terrific scorer and has good shooting range. Another outstanding forward is Florida State signee, 6-9 Chris Singleton (East), who will likely rotate with Davis. Advantage: East.
JaMychal Green, C
ESPN 150 rank: 15
College: Alabama
6-9, 235 pounds
St. Jude (Ala.)
Hometown: Montgomery, Ala.

Averages: 29.4 PPG, 17.8 RPG, 7.6 BPG

Michael Dunigan, C
ESPN 150 rank: 21
College: Oregon
6-10, 250 pounds
Farragut (Ill.)
Hometown: Chicago

Averages: 17.8 PPG, 14.5 RPG, 5.3 BPG

In what should be a major collision of aggressive post players, 6-9 Green will bang against powerful 6-10 Dunigan. Green is a monstrous rebounder and may have better inside scoring skills than Dunigan. However, the Oregon-bound Dunigan has more bulk, and should hold his own. Advantage: East.

Those are the recommended alignments and matchups we hope to see in this game. We tip our hat to the game coaches, Woodie Jackson (East) and West co-coaches Tom Diener and Jim Gosz, both Milwaukee residents. They have the difficult challenge of motivating these All-Americans to play in a team concept, share the ball, compete on both ends of the court, especially on the defensive end and eliminate those infamous all-star game wide-open, breakaway slam dunks. Hopefully, these highly qualified, veteran coaches will plan their substitutions and player rotations so all players get the playing time they deserve and come away from this game with a most memorable experience from their participation in this classic game they have all had hoop dreams of playing in.

It should be fun!

Bob Gibbons is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports Report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.

Bob Gibbons | email

Scouts Inc. Basketball Recruiting
Bob Gibbons is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball.