They talk together, hang out together and they even win state championships
together. This week, AAU teammates Mike Conley, Greg Oden and Daequan Cook are
busy being McDonald's All-Americans together.
The successful triumvirate from the Spiece Indy Heat AAU club is soaking up 70-plus degree weather out in sunny San Diego for the 20th McDonald's High School All-American game in Cox Arena.
"Back in Indiana it was snowing earlier in the week," said an overjoyed Oden. "It's real nice (out here) and the women wear shorts.
"I haven't seen that in a while," he added with a laugh.
On Saturday, Cook's Dayton Dunbar Wolverines as well as Conley and Oden's Lawrence North Wildcats captured Ohio's Division II and Indiana's Class 4A State Championships respectively.
It was a big thrill for Conley and Oden to win their third straight championship, but it was an even bigger thrill for Cook to get his first.
"It was great to bring home a championship to Dunbar," he said. "It was the first one in a long time."
Then on Sunday, they were catching up with the rest of the 2006 McDonald's roster.
Greg Oden balls with a seal at Sea World (photo by Henry Abramf)
Because the trio got to San Diego a bit later, sign-ups for the Slam Fest and 3-point shootout had already taken place. However, the 6-5 Cook participated in the 2-ball competition, the guy-girl shot contest, where he was put out in the first round.
The game started in 1977 and this year's game will air Wednesday night at 10 PM on ESPN. Conley, Cook and Oden become the eight, ninth and tenth Buckeyes all-time to play in the McDonald's All-American game.
The all-time Buckeye list includes Clark Kellogg in 1979, Treg Lee and Perry Carter in 1987, Jim Jackson in 1989, Greg Simpson and Charles Macon in 1992 and Ivan Harris in 2003. Damon Flint signed with Ohio State in 1993 and was also selected for the game, but the NCAA ruled he could not attend Ohio State because he was given a gym bag and had a meal on Ohio State's expense off campus.
This year's game looks to be stacked favorably for the East. In addition to Conley and Oden, it also features (North Carolina commitments) Tywon Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright; Duke's Gerald Henderson; Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young; Georgetown's Vernon Macklin, Louisville's Earl Clark, Oklahoma's Scottie Reynolds and uncommitted Lance Thomas, who is likely to choose between Rutgers and Duke.
A shot of the players in practice (photo by Henry Abramf)
The West is not totally without talent, however. In addition to Cook, the West has (Texas commitments) Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin; Stanford's Brooke and Robin Lopez; Duke's Jon Scheyer, Washington's Spencer Hawes, Kansas' Sherron Collins, UCLA's James Keefe, Arizona's Chase Budinger, Baylor's Demond Carter and uncommitted Darrell Arthur, who favors Texas, Kansas and Baylor.
"Kevin Durant looked really good, Chase Budinger looked good, and some other guys like Demond Carter," Cook said of how his team has looked thus far.
Oden is set to start for the East along with Crittenton at point, Ellington or Henderson at shooting guard, Young on the wing and Thomas or Macklin at power forward. Cook is likely to start with Collins, Durant, Hawes and Arthur.
"Everybody's game is just amazing," Oden noted. "We're coming off a state tournament and guys are just so good and everyone has improved so much."
It has already been a busy week for the future Ohio State players as they have made trips to Sea World, the Ronald McDonald House as well as a trip to McDonald's, practices and media sessions.
Cook even got to step behind the counter at McDonald's for 20 minutes to help serve customers.
Thank you for stopping at McDonalds! (Photo by Matt Boring)
"Oh, that was really fun to step behind there and help customers," he laughed. "It was the first time I've really had a job like that."
But they're taking it all in.
"It's awesome, we're having a great time," Conley said. "We've worked hard for this and waited a long time for it. I'm very grateful for the opportunity."
Next week, the three will play on the same team for the Roundball Classic in Chicago on April 6. They will also be joined by Lighty on the East team.
Last year's MVP of the McDonald's All-American game was Josh McRoberts. Gerald Green scored a game-high 24 points.
The top scorer all time of the McDonald's All-American game was Jonathan Bender with 31 points in 1999. Sam Perkins had 24 rebounds in 1980, Jacque Vaughn had 13 assists in 1993, Khalid Reeves had 10 steals in 1990 and Ralph Sampson had 10 blocks in 1979.
Wednesday night, Conley thinks he knows who will win the game.
"Ah, it's going to be the East," he said with Cook standing over his shoulder.
Next year, they hope to all agree to answer a question like that with "Ohio State."
Daequan (back) shares a laugh with some of the other players on a Sea World ride (photo by Matt Boring)