The McDonald's All American team is the one team you want to be named to, right? Understandably so; it's been around for a long time, you get to be on ESPN, and you get to play with other great high school players that you've competed against probably since the seventh grade.
My question today is do they really have the nation's top twenty-four players? No, I don't think so, and here are some reasons why.
There are two kids that didn't make this prestigious team a few years ago that are currently the two best players in the Big Ten this season - Deron Williams of Illinois and Devin Harris of Wisconsin. Harris will probably win the Big Ten Player of The Year award, but Williams is pushing him every game. In games against each other earlier in the season, Harris scored 30 points (career high) against the Illini and just last week Williams scored a career high 31 against the Badgers.
Coming out of high school both players received great accolades but not enough to be placed on the McDonald's team. Harris was Named Wisconsin State player of the year by the Associated Press after leading Wauwatosa East to a 21-1 overall record as a senior He averaged 25.3 points, 5.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 steals per game, earning Mr. Basketball honors from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. Williams was a Consensus Top 50 recruit nationally. He averaged 17.6 points, 8.4 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game as a senior, and he averaged 17 points, 9.4 assists, five rebounds and two steals per game as a junior. Williams was selected to the 2001 and 2002 Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) First-Team All-State. He was also a First-team All-State selection by the Dallas Morning News. Williams helped lead the Cougars to a 29-2 mark in 2002.
My point is this: just because your team doesn't have a player named to the McDonald's team, don't worry. It's easy to overlook players. Recently Illinois lost out on recruit Rajon Rondo to Kentucky. He wasn't rated highly on many recruiting lists yet (he didn't make TheInsiders.com Preseason Top 100, for example) but made the team this year.
During an interview once Texas Tech Bobby Knight may have said it best, "There's no difference between the 75th best player and the 76th, and who is to say that's an accurate assessment?"
"When Deron Williams was coming out of high school there were also a lot of good players in his class," said Insiders recruiting guru Dave Telep. "You had Bracey Wright, Dee Brown, Sean Dockery, Daniel Horton and J.J. Redick to compete with." It's not like Deron was slighted, but that's a great group of guards there.
Telep also said of Rondo that he was "a mid-major last year, but when I look at high school kids they either get worse, stay the same or get better. Rondo got a lot better."
"In Harris' case, he was a late bloomer," said Telep. But Harris has more than bloomed in my eyes; he's currently second in the conference in scoring with an average of 20.8 ppg. Williams last year as a freshman was second in assists in the conference and this year he leads the conference with 5.58 ppg and he also is one of the best in the Big Ten at free-throws at .848.
There's no exact science for recruiting, as Telep said. In Williams' case there were a lot of guards to choose from that year. So how do you find the right kids that make you look like a genius as a coach? It's easy. Your coach better have a great eye for talent and hope he can find the right kids to fit into his system.
Contributing information to this story were the Official Websites of the University of Illinois and Wisconsin.