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My McDonald's Votes

2/17/2009
Erica Wheeler is a hometown favorite for the McDonald's All-American Game. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

How perfect for girl's and women's basketball, still growing in the minds of consumers if not participants, if there were an Erica Wheeler every year? A gritty, crowd-pleasing player who's spent her entire career in the host city of the McDonald's All-American Game? One with a flair for dramatics, playing maybe the last significant game in her hometown?

It doesn't happen every year, but Miami has not one, but two legitimate Mickey D candidates: Erica Wheeler of Parkway Academy, who recanted an eighth-grade commitment to the University of Miami to sign with Rutgers, and Bianca Lutley, about a half hour up I-95 at American Heritage High School.

Both were on my final McDonald's All-American ballot. The actual honorees will be revealed on ESPN HoopGurlz and during a selection show on ESPNU, Wednesday, 6 p.m., Eastern.

The Selection Committee for the girls was asked to whittle a list of 100 finalists first to 50, then 30 and, finally, to 20 by position and placed tentatively on East and West squads. That final step potentially skews the selection, especially if the other voters spend as much time as I did rationalizing who should go where. McDonald's actually takes the top 24 vote-getters and tries to divide them up as evenly as possible.

For the record, I take into account senior year, career as a whole and status as prospect for the next level. I tend to think of the "East" as the East Coast, plus some of the Rust Belt. Texas, for me, tends to anchor the Southwest and therefore becomes part of the "West."

That's the viewpoint from Seattle, at least, although I spent about one of every three days on the road last year. The culmination of that journey is this.

EAST
China Crosby, 5-6 G, Manhattan Center for Science & Math (New York, N.Y.)
Jasmine Hassell, 6-3 F, Wilson Central High School (Lebanon, Tenn.)
Stephanie Holzer, 6-4 C, Cardinal O'Hara High School (Springfield, Pa.)
Bianca Lutley, 5-10 G, American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.)
Karisma Penn, 6-2 F, Shaker Heights High School (Shaker Heights, Ohio)
Mikaela Ruef, 6-3 C, Beavercreek High School (Beavercreek, Ohio)
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, 6-0 G, T.C. Williams High School (Alexandria, Va.)
Markel Walker, 6-1 F, Schenley High School (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Erica Wheeler, 5-8 G, Parkway Academy (Hollywood, Fla.)
Destiny Williams, 6-3 C, Benton Harbor High School (Benton Harbor, Mich.)

This squad seems to make sense if you go by the McDonald's position designations, but they were not the way I looked at things. Crosby and Wheeler were my point guards, Lutley and Ruffin-Pratt were my guards, Ruef and Walker are my wings with Ruef being able to swing into the backcourt, Penn and Williams are my forwards, and Hassell and Holzer are my posts.

Though lacking in inside thunder, compared to my West squad, this team still has great overall size and versatility. Crosby, Lutley and Wheeler will dazzle in the backcourt, Ruffin-Pratt provides the d-up factor and Hassell and Holzer will do much of the heavy lifting.

Holzer, who led Cardinal O'Hara to the Nike Tournament of Champions title, as well as a current No. 4 national ranking, is the kid who played her way this season onto my final ballot. I'm thinking the Ohioans, Penn and Ruef, have been more heralded by ESPN HoopGurlz and may not have the support elsewhere. All the rest seem like slam-dunk picks.

WEST
Kelsey Bone, 6-5 C, John Foster Dulles High School (Sugar Land, Texas)
Skylar Diggins, 5-10 G, South Bend Washington High School (South Bend, Ind.)
Eliza Pierre, 5-9 G, John Muir High School (Pasadena, Calif.)
Brittney Griner, 6-8 C, Nimitz High School (Houston, Texas)
Tayler Hill, 5-10 G, Minneapolis South High School (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Monique Oliver, 6-2 C, Polytechnic High School (Long Beach, Calif.)
Cokie Reed, 6-5 C, Midway High School (Waco, Texas)
Tierra Rogers, 5-10 G, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco, Calif.)
Taber Spani, 6-0 G, Metro Academy (Olathe, Kan.)
Joslyn Tinkle, 6-3 F, Big Sky High School (Missoula, Mont.)

I have a lot of posts on this team because I think Griner and Tinkle easily slide over to forward. I have three Texans in Bone, Griner and Reed and have my doubts about their being kept together for the actual game. I have even bigger doubts that all three, plus Oliver, plus Tinkle all will end up in the West.

With Pierre being a defensive gem and Hill providing the perimeter punch, Diggins is the one true point guard on this squad. Rogers and Spani also are guards, but both also bring the umph factor significantly inside. If this actually were the West team, the East maybe wouldn't score more than a bucket or two inside 12 feet, other than in transition.

Diggins is the call-out player in this group. Especially if South Bend Washington hangs on to its No. 1 national ranking, the Notre Dame signee would be my favorite for national high-school player of the year.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.