With more of the 24 players linked to the possibility of making the jump than those whose names haven't been tossed around as possibilities to bypass college, this was all about whose stock soared – and whose dipped – leading into this year's NBA Draft.
Dwight Howard did nothing to hurt his status as the likely No. 1 overall pick, but the biggest surprise of the week was J.R. Smith, the North Carolina-bound swingman who displayed his athleticism with an array of high-flying dunks – and also showed he can knock down the trifecta with regularity.
Among the 14,000 in attendance at the 2004 McDonald's All-American Game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, were Pat Riley, Carmelo Anthony, Jay Williams, former OU and current Dallas Cowboy safety Roy Williams, and several current and former NBA stars. The following is a capsule look, in no particular order, at the twenty-four high school basketball players who participated in the 2004 McDonald's All-American Game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
These evaulations are based solely on the ongoings at practice and during the game in Oklahoma City over the past four days.
Al Jefferson (East) 6-9, 265, Prentiss (Miss.) High: "Big" Al, as he is known by the people closest to him, became more and more dominant as practice went on and had a very strong game Wednesday night with 16 points and a game-high 11 boards. Though his monstrous dunks will make highlight reels, his sound fundamentals give him a chance to be special.
Randolph Morris (East) 7-0 270, Fairburn (Ga.) Landmark Christian: Morris had a very solid week. He held his own against East teammates during practice and fared nicely in the game scoring 8 points. At times he is tentative with his decision-making, but he has soft hands around the hoop. Morris said after the game Wednesday night that he really wants to go to college, but he's still a legitimate candidate – based on his size – to go pro.
Rajon Rondo (East) 6-2, 175, Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy: Rondo is going to make Tubby Smith a very happy coach when he arrives at Kentucky this fall. He is very quick and has shown a penchant to squeeze his passes into tight areas. His defensive skills are impressive, as he seems to take pride in being a stopper. Will still need to show people he can knock down the outside jumper. He played well against East teammate Sebastian Telfair during practice after the first day and finished with 14 points in the game.
Darius Washington Jr. (East) 6-2, 180, Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater: Washington has the potential to turn into solid point guard, but he'll need to work on learning to make his teammates better. He shoots well in stretches and certainly looks to create for others. The one criticism of his game from this week is that he tried to force passes that never had a chance of getting to their targets, which led to instant offense for his competition. Scored 9 points in the game.
Sebastian Telfair (East) 6-0, 165, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln: Telfair is a brilliant passer. Plain and simple. He was victimized several times during the week by his teammates who were simply not ready for his passes to come from any angle at any time, which is a function of the lack of having played together as a team, not his teammates lack of ability. He will always have critics who question his size and his shooting ability, but that will only serve to motivate this fiery, intense floor general. Only scored 2 points, but dished out a game-high 11 assists.
D.J. White (East) 6-9, 230, Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Hillcrest: White is a physical player who has a chance to develop into a super player at Indiana. He is agile and unafraid of doing the "dirty" work in the post. He showed a nice shooting touch from the free throw line during the game, finishing with 7 points, and was very active. He should be able to add weight to his frame and maintain his agility.
Mike Williams (East) 6-9, 230, Camden (Ala.) Wilcox Central: Williams had a solid, if unspectacular, week of practice leading up to the game. He showed a nice 12-15 foot jump shot. He still needs some seasoning and work on his post moves. Finished with 8 points on Wednesday night.
Dwight Howard (East) 6-10, 225, Atlanta (Ga.) Southwest Atlanta Christian: Yes. That answers all of the questions. Can he shoot? Rebound? Defend? Block shots? Pass? Handle the ball? The game Co-MVP who put up 19 points showed flashes of brilliance in all of the categories. The only question that anyone might have following his performance this week has nothing to do with his basketball or athletic skills, but whether he always gives full effort? He deserves the benefit of the doubt, as he is a surefire NBA Lottery Pick playing in an All-Star game. Another plus is that he does not carry himself in an arrogant manner.
Josh Smith (East) 6-9, 215, Oak Hill Academy: This ultra-athletic lefty showed plenty this week. He has a very smooth stroke and is a strong, relentless post player. He has a chance to exceed the already very high expectations set for him. The McDonald's Game experience was a plus for him, showing scouts and media types that he can play with the best. Finished with a fairly sub-par 7 points.
Rudy Gay (East) 6-9, 215, Severn (Md.) Archbishop Spaulding: The forward showed that he has the ability to be a force in the post. He finishes well and became more aggressive as the week progressed. Possible weaknesses are his ability to establish position in the post and his tendency to tip rebounds to keep the ball alive rather than just grabbing the rebound. Tremendous future with room to build on his solid frame. Had 10 points in the win.
Corey Brewer (East) 6-8, 187, Portland (Tenn.) High: Brewer is a very interesting prospect. He is very thin, yet he does not get pushed around when he finds himself defending in the post. He is a tenacious defender who has shown a nice touch. He does many things that help his team end up on the winning side of the scoreboard. Scored just 1 point in the game, but don't look for him necessarily to be a big-time scorer.
J.R. Smith (East) 6-6, 220, Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's: Smith, the Co-MVP of this year's game after scoring 25 points, was absolutely spectacular this week. He played with a great passion for the game and showed that such love for the game mixed with a 44-inch vertical jump makes a player nearly impossible to defend. He showed the best range among all outside shooters in game situations. Smith is entertaining and has unlimited potential in this game.
LeMarcus Aldridge (West) 7-0, 235, Dallas (Texas) Seagoville: Aldridge is still growing into his 7-foot frame, and he will be a very physically tough player to handle once he does. He has an awkward release on his jump shot, but can probably be coached out of that. He passes well for a big man.
Robert Swift (West) 6-11, 245, Bakersfield (Calif.) High: When Swift walked onto the practice floor for the first time, he did not look particularly coordinated or athletic. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has excellent foot work, runs well, and is very physical and active on the inside. He held his own physically against the best post players in America at the high school level. After the game, he said, "right now I am planning to go to USC. I know that I could have played better in the game, but I also know that I could not have played harder." He is right; nobody gets cheated on any trip up and down the floor with this gentle giant.
DeMarcus Nelson (West) 6-4, 210, Sacremento (Calif.) Sheldon: Nelson has above-average court awareness and takes it to the basket with no fear whatsoever. He can improve his interior passing, but he is a very good shooter and finishes his drives in traffic very nicely. Scored 22 points in the losing effort.
Glen Davis (West) 6-8, 325, Baton Rouge (La.) University: "Big Baby" was honored at halftime of the game as the recipient of the Naismith Sportsmanship Award for 2004. That was a very fitting conclusion to a week during which he amazed observers with his athletic quickness and his quickness to make people smile. He is a very agile big man and is relentless around the hoop. During the game, he became very physical with Dwight Howard. His reason was simple and yet insightful into just what kind of fine young man he is. "I was trying to bang him [Howard] around to help him get better. In the NBA, he is going to get pushed around every night." Scored 9 points and grabbed 9 boards in the game.
Shaun Livingston (West) 6-7, 175, Peoria (Ill.) Central: The Duke-bound point guard is extremely impressive. He's so long, has great court awareness and floor vision. He has the rare ability to make players around him better. The main concern with him is his very thin physique, which may be something he can change, but his frame indicates possible poor genetics for weight gain.
Jordan Farmar (West) 6-2, 170, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft: Farmar is tenacious and will help with the turnaround at UCLA. He is an accomplished defender who clearly takes pride in that aspect of his game. He is a solid, savvy passer who drives to the basket well, but he needs to improve his ability to get open looks and knock them down.
Daniel Gibson (West) 6-3, 205, Houston (Texas) Jones: At times during the week, Gibson seemed to lose his jump shot, but he is very solid in all aspects of his game. He is a good passer and has excellent awareness of his teammates. As practice went on, he was able to take advantage of what he was learning about his teammates.
Malik Hairston (West) 6-6, 200, Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance: Hairston is an excellent athlete and seems to be a student of the game. He has explosive quickness and is a very good passer. He is unselfish in his approach, which elevates his teammates. He has a nice shooting touch and is explosive to the basket. With respect to his college choice, it should come any day now. He handles himself with great maturity and is very articulate.
Marvin Williams (West) 6-9, 220, Bremerton (Wash.) High: Williams is impressive physically. He will easily put on size without losing much of his quickness. He is a hard worker with great talent and passion for the game. He has surprising range and finishes well around the basket. Williams is also a very good rebounder.
Jawann McClellan (West) 6-5, 205, Houston (Texas) Milby: McClellan has the mechanics of a natural shooter. His stroke is smooth and he has very good overall mechanics, which translates to his defense and passing. McClellan is solid in many areas, though not yet spectacular in any particular one. That should change under the coaching staff at Arizona.
Joseph Crawford (West) 6-4, 205, Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance: The Kentucky-bound swingman arrived less than twenty-four hours after a successful conclusion (27-0) to his high school season. Impressed observers with his effort on defense and has the ability to get his shot off in traffic. He can create his own offense and is a solid rebounder for his size. Crawford could stand to be more aggressive in his approach, because he is a great natural scorer.
Arron Afflalo (West) 6-5, 200, Compton (Calif.) Centennial: Afflalo is an intriguing prospect. He does not jump out as a great player immediately, but as time progresses, it becomes clear that he is an excellent basketball player. He does many of the things that will not show up in a box score. He plays good denial defense and is a very good scorer. Good, strong body.
Notes: Next year's game will be played at Notre Dame in Indiana.
EAST 126, WEST 96
East 56 70-126
West 45 51-96
East: Gay 4-7 0-0 10, Jefferson 8-12 0-1 16, Howard 9-13 0-1 19, J.R. Smith 10-16 0-0 25, Telfair 1-2 0-0 2, Brewer 0-0 1-2 1, White 1-3 5-6 7, Rondo 7-10 0-0 14, Morris 3-4 2-3 8, Washington 4-10 0-0 9, Mi.Williams 2-3 3-4 8, Jo.Smith 3-7 0-0 7. Totals 52-87 11-17 126.
West: Hairston 5-10 0-0 11, Ma.Williams 1-6 0-0 3, Swift 4-7 2-6 10, Affalo 1-7 1-2 3, Livingston 0-4 1-2 1, Farmar 3-6 0-0 6, Aldridge 2-4 1-2 5, McClellan 0-6 3-4 3, Nelson 9-15 4-6 22, Gibson 3-8 0-0 8, Crawford 6-12 2-4 15, Davis 4-9 1-2 9. Totals 38-94 15-28 96. Halftime-East 56-45.
3-Point goals: East 11-26 (Gay 2-4, Howard 1-2, J.R. Smith 5-11, Rondo 0-1, Washington 1-3, Mi.Williams 1-2, Jo.Smith 1-3), West 5-27 (Hairston 1-4, Ma.Williams 1-2, Affalo 0-6, Farmar 0-2, McClellan 0-2, Nelson 0-3, Gibson 2-6, Crawford 1-1, Davis 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-East 55 (Jefferson 11), West 44 (Davis 9). Assists-East 33 (Telfair 11), West 16 (Hairston, Livingston, Farmar 3). Total fouls-East 19, West 14. A-14,040.