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Basketball Tue Mar 27 2012

McDonald's All-Americans Ready to Go

AAG-35-LOGO.jpgAs everyone who has ever seen a minute of an all-star basketball game knows, the quality of play never really matches the quality of talent. Defense is non-existent, and the players create non-stop fast breaks on the offensive end, leading to inflated scores and stats. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, and it doesn't matter how you play the game.

Yet the boys in town for Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Games say they plan to compete.

"I'm gonna play to win the game," said T.J. Warren, a guard/forward for the East All-Stars who will be attending North Carolina State. "I'm competing, I'm gonna try to get after it."

Other players acknowledged that the game will have the stereotypical all-star qualities, but when it comes down to the wire, competition will rise.

East forward Amile Jefferson said the first 10 to 12 minutes of the game will be light and fun, with the chance to "get the jitters out," but the game will settle down. "We're all competitors," Jefferson said at Tuesday's media luncheon. "I think everyone wants to win. I know the East wants to win."

Back at the United Center for the second straight year, the games tip off Wednesday with the girls at 6 p.m. and the boys at 8:30. Tickets are still available.

This year's class of all-stars includes 12 of ESPN's top 15 boys' recruits. All of the 24 players are ranked 44th or better.

The highest-rated player participating, Shabazz Muhammad (ranked second), is getting a ton of buzz. A big reason why is that the guard from Las Vegas is still undecided, though he will choose from programs like Duke, UCLA, Kansas and Kentucky.

The players recognize Muhammad's game. "He's always just so explosive," said West teammate and Indiana-bound guard Kevin Ferrell. "Dunking on people all the time. He never goes for a layup, I've noticed that."

Kyle Anderson, a guard/forward who will play for the East on Wednesday and UCLA next year, has also showed off his skills during the team practices. Anderson is known for being an excellent passer and a good shooter, and both Jefferson and Warren mentioned they were impressed with Anderson's game.

While the game is meant to be a showcase for the best high school basketball talent across the nation, many players view the contest as their high school swan song, their last prep game before advancing to college ball. It's also a chance to get to know their soon-to-be rivals at the college and possibly the pro level.

Coaches have not allowed the teams to go out and around the city during their free time, so the players held it down in the hotel, relaxing and socializing with one another. East guard Gary Harris, attending Michigan State, said that since getting to Chicago, the guys are "with each other all times of the day, and we build relationships just by hanging out."

The two dozen young men participating in the game all know about the legends that played in the game in the past (including LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Magic Johnson), and realize how big of an honor it was to get selected to play. Warren said he has watched the game since he was a little kid, dreaming of playing in it. Jefferson said getting the nod to play was the "highest of highest honors" for him. Perry Ellis, an East forward that will attend Kansas, said the recognition was very humbling to him.

"It's a great honor," Ferrell said of his inclusion. "As the years go on, to look back and say I was a McDonald's All American is going to feel great. This is one of my goals that I wanted to accomplish this year, and for it to get done just shows all the hard work has paid off."

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