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Basketball Fri Apr 05 2013

Chicago Impresses at McDonald's All-American Game

phpHUgER6PM.jpgFor a guy who just earned Simeon its fourth state championship in four tries, won the Morgan Wootten award for best high school basketball player in the country, and signed to play for Coach K and Duke, Jabari Parker played like he had something to prove in the McDonald's All-American Game. Though he finished with just 10 points in his West team's 110-99 win, Parker played with energy and went right at the nation's other top player, Andrew Wiggins. It was an inspired performance, and one worthy of his boisterous pre-game ovation. Wiggins, to his credit, looked lightning-fast and finished with 19 points.

The rest of the boys' game, which featured 20 of the best high school seniors in the country, was not so pretty. Though dunks were prominent -- game MVP Aaron Gordon had nine -- so were badly missed jumpers and sloppy passes. Poor play in an exhibition is to be expected -- but these high schoolers, having not played in true all-star settings, seemed to lack the understanding of when to make plays and when to let plays happen. When to let your opponent finish the dunk and when to clip his wrist and send him to the line.

The girls' game also featured stingy defense in a rout for the West team, 92-64. The referees seemed anxious to keep the exhibition from turning into a free throw contest, so many blatant hand checks and blocking fouls went uncalled. Whitney Young senior Linnae Harper looked like she might be MVP halfway through the first half, but then the country's number-one player, Mercedes Russell, took over and recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Surrounded by a frenzy of poor passes and desperate shots, Harper spent most of the first half playing with a relaxed precision, catching defenders off-balance with hesitations followed by zipped passes to open cutters. In a game where no one seemed comfortable until the second half, Harper was right at home.

After three years at the United Center, it's hard to believe the McDonald's All-American Game was ever played anywhere else. And yet from 1978 to 2010, the game rotated sites. Before 2011, the game was played in places like Coral Gables, Florida (2009) and Ames, Iowa (1999). Fine cities, yes, but not Chicago. So we shouldn't be surprised that the game will be played in Chicago at least through 2015, as the Chicago spotlight has attracted more high-profile sponsors. Last night's attendance of about 16,000 people wouldn't be reasonable in other cities, either.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Chicago, with Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, and Jabari Parker, has re-earned its reputation as a launching pad for the country's greatest basketball superstars.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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