- Christopher Lawlor, High School Basketball
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Maalik Wayns called it the ultimate basketball honor.
Wayns, a Villanova recruit from Roman Catholic High in Philadelphia, is referring to being selected for the 32nd McDonald's All American Game on April 1 at the University of Miami's BankUnited Center (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).
He and 23 of the nation's premier players -- 17 of the top 20 players in the ESPNU 100 rankings -- were named Wednesday to the nation's most recognized senior all-star game, including eight of the top 10. (Note: No. 6 John Wall and No. 9 Jordan Hamilton were not chosen. Wall is a fifth-year senior and Hamilton lost an appeal to extend his eligibility.)
"We're all friends, it'll be a fun week," Wayns said. "When we step on the court we're representing the East Team and you want to go out [of high school] on a winning note. Every kid plays for a chance at the McDonald's Game."
Wayns, who suffered a knee injury (torn meniscus) in late January, thought missing time would hamper his chances to become Roman Catholic's sixth McDonald's All American -- the first since the late Eddie Griffin in 1999. Wayns said he'll return for the opening game of Pennsylvania's Class AAAA tournament later this month.
"It was a huge deal to him [Wayns]," Roman Catholic coach Chris McNesby said. "You bet he was super excited when he received the call [last Friday]."
Though Wayns is a pure point guard at 6-foot-1, he'll deliver the ball to a bevy of power forwards, which dominate the East and West squads.
"This game features power forwards who are long, athletic and possess a high basketball IQ," said Paul Biancardi, ESPNU's national recruiting coordinator. "That's the difference in the game."
The East's roster has a trio headed to Atlantic Coast Conference schools -- 6-foot-9 Derrick Favors of South Atlanta (Atlanta), Georgia Tech; 6-9 Milton Jennings of Pinewood Prep (Summerville, S.C.), Clemson; 6-10 DeMarcus Cousins of LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.), undecided on college; and 6-10 Ryan Kelly of Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.), Duke.
The West's front line is fortified by 6-10 John Henson of Sickles (Tampa, Fla.), North Carolina; 6-10 twins Travis and David Wear of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), both headed to North Carolina; 6-9 Wally Judge of Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.), Kansas State; and Renardo Sidney Jr. of Fairfax (Los Angeles).
Sidney, undecided on college, says he'll choose a school Sunday at a news conference in Los Angeles.
The Wears are the third set of twins to play in the boys' game and the fifth and sixth players from Mater Dei, currently No. 1 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 boys' rankings. (Jason and Jarron Collins played in the 1997 game and Brook and Robin Lopez played in 2006; both sets attended Stanford.)
Historically California has produced some of the nation's top players. With the addition of three players from the 2009 West roster, the Golden State has 81 McDonald's All Americans all time. New York rates second with 63.
Perhaps the longest shot selected was 6-5 Michael Snaer of Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.). The Florida State signee was the 44th player in the ESPNU 100.
Additionally Keith "Tiny" Gallon, a 6-9, 293-pound post, from suburban Houston will play for the West. Gallon is the 22nd player from national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) to play in the game.
Conference leaders with the most recruits are the ACC with nine, the Big East with five and the Big 12 with four. Four players have signed with North Carolina.
"The McDonald's All American Games represent the most prestigious showcase of high school basketball in the nation," said Alonzo Mourning, captain of the McDonald's All American Advisory Council.
The 24 boys' players were selected from nominees by a committee of basketball aficionados. They were chosen not only for their on-court skills, but for their performances off the court as well. Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten, who had more than 1,200 wins at DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., is chairman of the selection committee. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, who has been involved in the games since their inception, serves as chairman and as an adviser to the selection committee.
Since 1977, nearly 900 players have competed in the games, forming an elite list that reads like a who's who in basketball history. McDonald's male athletes include NBA greats Alonzo Mourning, Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets).
With 17 of the top 20 players in the ESPNU 100 rankings on the roster, the 2009 edition of the McDonald's All-American game is sure to entertain, writes Chris Lawlor.