2014 McDonald's All-American Game: Report Card for Every Player

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IApril 3, 2014

2014 McDonald's All-American Game: Report Card for Every Player

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Defense was in short supply, but the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game made up for it with some first-class offensive fireworks. The final score was 105-102 in favor of the West, but the real spotlight was on the individual performances of the 24 future stars heading to the college ranks for 2014-15.

    One of the best of the lot is center Jahlil Okafor, a Duke-bound behemoth playing a virtual home game at Chicago’s United Center. The 6’10”, 265-pound Okafor showed off his muscle and his motor in tallying 17 points and seven rebounds for the West as the game’s co-MVP.

    Herein, more on Okafor and all the rest of this year’s most impressive high school seniors, graded on their performances in Wednesday night’s contest. The bench players for each side are presented first, followed by the 10 starters, and each player is listed with his future college team.

Romelo Trimble (Maryland)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Plenty of players on both rosters came into Wednesday’s game with reputations for high-level outside shooting. None struggled more to live up to such a reputation than Romelo Trimble.

    The 6’2” Trimble missed all five of his shots from the field, scoring his only two points on free throws. He didn’t have much opportunity to do anything else (13 minutes played), but one assist and two rebounds didn’t help his cause much.

    Grade: D

Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall)

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    Andrew Nelles

    James Blackmon Jr.’s strong second half was bad news for Isaiah Whitehead, who only made it onto the floor for nine of the 40 minutes of game action. Considering his limited opportunities, though, the 6’4” shooting guard didn’t do too badly for himself.

    Whitehead scored six points, including a pair of free throws, while shooting 2-of-5 from the field. However, like many of the wing players in this matchup, he wasn’t much of a factor aside from his scoring.

    Grade: C-

Theo Pinson (North Carolina)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Theo Pinson’s fast-break dunk over Kelly Oubre Jr. will give him a prominent place in every highlight reel of this year’s game. Aside from that show of athleticism, though, Pinson did little to distinguish himself, especially compared to the other future Tar Heels on display.

    In 11 minutes of action, that dunk was the only shot Pinson hit from the field. To his credit, though, he did dish out three assists in the transition-heavy East offense.

    Grade: C

James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Having won the three-point contest on Monday, James Blackmon Jr. came out firing off the bench on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, iffy shot selection in the early going left him with a 1-of-4 night from long range.

    Blackmon did battle back from the slow start to score 13 points, though he couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying shot on the East’s final possession. He was also pretty much invisible when he wasn’t hoisting jumpers.

    Grade: C+

Justise Winslow (Duke)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Given both his reputation as an elite defender and his newly minted Duke loyalties, Justise Winslow probably wishes he could’ve gone up against East teammate Justin Jackson instead of playing alongside the future Tar Heel.

    Even without a chance to lock down the night’s top scorer, though, Winslow made his presence felt on D, recording three rebounds, a steal and a block in just 13 minutes on the floor.

    The 6'6" Texan did some work as a scorer off the bench, too. His nine points were as many or more than three of the East starters managed in the game.

    Grade: B

Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Karl-Anthony Towns might have been even more heavily recruited if Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky—an extremely similar big man in terms of playing style—had emerged as a game-changer a bit earlier on.

    Towns didn’t get many chances to show off his three-point stroke on Wednesday, but the shot-swatting half of his game certainly put in an appearance.

    Towns notched a pair of rejections to go with six points (all on two-pointers) and five rebounds. He didn’t dominate the game like the low-post starters, but he showed that he’ll be able to make an impact against top college competition.

    Grade: B+

Kevon Looney (UCLA)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When the starters came out of the game midway through the first half, the shooting on both sides deteriorated fast. The player who turned those lemons into lemonade was Kevon Looney, a future UCLA Bruin who gobbled up rebounds like former Bruin Kevin Love.

    The 6’8” forward finished with six points and 11 boards, tying for the game high in the latter category in just 11 minutes of action. Looney topped off his high-energy performance by adding a pair of blocks on would-be drivers from the West.

    Grade: A+

Thomas Welsh (UCLA)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The good news for Thomas Welsh—in the black jersey battling Karl-Anthony Towns—is that he holds a distinction unmatched by any of the other 23 players in Wednesday night’s game. The bad news is, it’s the distinction of being the only one who didn’t score.

    With just eight minutes of action as Okafor’s backup, the slender 6’11” Welsh wasn’t a total loss, as he did hand out a couple of assists and grab a pair of rebounds.

    However, future coach Steve Alford won’t have missed that he also managed to commit two fouls in his brief stint on the court.

    Grade: D-

Devin Booker (Kentucky)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Ordinarily, Devin Booker’s 2-of-3 performance from three-point range wouldn’t particularly stand out. However, with these two teams combining for a ghastly .234 performance from beyond the arc, Booker looked like Ray Allen.

    Overall, the son of former Missouri star Melvin tallied eight points, though he struggled with his two-point shooting. He had his defensive issues, too, committing three fouls in 16 minutes of action.

    Grade: B-

Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

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    Andrew Nelles

    When the smallest man on the floor grabs three rebounds, there’s not much question about how active a game he’s playing. Tyler Ulis, all of 5’9”, 150 pounds, scrapped his way to a pair of steals, too, and he had plenty of energy left over to run the West offense.

    Ulis scored a quiet five points and dished out three assists, despite serving as the third point guard on his own roster. However, he did have some obvious (and understandable) problems adjusting to the all-around height on the opposing roster.

    Grade: B 

Reid Travis (Stanford)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Although Reid Travis could only watch this Cliff Alexander dunk attempt, he played a decidedly active role for the West reserves. The muscular power forward ground out five rebounds to go with eight points in just 14 minutes on the floor.

    Travis also attempted to flash a long-range shot, but he missed on both of his three-point tries. On the plus side, he hit four of his six attempts from inside the arc.

    Grade: B+

Joel Berry (North Carolina)

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    Andrew Nelles

    Unlike Emmanuel Mudiay, who started ahead of him, Joel Berry is decidedly a pass-first point guard.

    Even so, the Floridian—one of two somewhat inexplicably placed on the West roster—posted seven points, including one of the few three-pointers that actually found the net for his team.

    Of course, Berry’s usual skill set was also on display, as he handed out four assists off the bench. He also added some solid defense on the high-powered East backcourt, including one of the West’s 12 steals.

    Grade: A-

Rashad Vaughn (UNLV)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    On a team that did the huge bulk of its scoring at the rim, Rashad Vaughn provided some welcome balance. The aggressive 6’6” guard drained the trey as well as he attacked the paint while pouring in 14 points, second only to Jahlil Okafor for the victorious West roster.

    Vaughn also grabbed five rebounds, showing the best nose for the ball of any of the guards on Wednesday. He looked especially at home when the game devolved into end-to-end fast-break play, which helped him add a pair of steals to his night’s work.

    Grade: A

Kelly Oubre Jr. (Kansas)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    You could add any two other players on these rosters together, and they wouldn’t have been as active or as valuable on defense as Kelly Oubre Jr.

    The small forward is known as a scorer—and he did post 11 points—but it was his other contributions that really made him stand out.

    Oubre amassed seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks while defending both in the paint and on the perimeter. On top of all that, he was the free-throw champion of the night, hitting all five of his tries from the stripe.

    Grade: A+

Tyus Jones (Duke)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Renowned for his leadership and game management, Tyus Jones didn’t disappoint on Wednesday. The headliner of the game’s three-man Minnesotan contingent (along with Reid Travis and Rashad Vaughn) dealt out 10 assists, easily the top mark on either roster.

    Jones also showed better scoring instincts than his reputation suggests, draining his only three-point try and hitting a key runner to give his team a lead in the waning minutes.

    The downside to his seven points, though, was an unimpressive defensive night: two rebounds, no steals, and a share of responsibility for the huge game Mudiay put up on the other side.

    Grade: A-

D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State)

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    Andrew Nelles

    Even with the least playing time of any starter (a mere 15 minutes), D’Angelo Russell managed to fit in plenty of ups and downs.

    The combo guard managed some pretty passes and some ugly mistakes, though his final tally of four assists against just two turnovers speaks to his potential as a floor leader.

    He’s also a substantial weapon as a scorer, and his 11 points were the third-highest total for the East. The 6'4" southpaw's one obvious shortfall was in the rebounding department, where he grabbed just two boards.

    Grade: B+

Justin Jackson (North Carolina)

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    Andrew Nelles

    Very quietly, Justin Jackson put up a 10-point first half alongside Cliff Alexander. In the second half, though, he really turned up the heat, attacking the offensive glass while continuing to pile up points.

    The 6’7” SF finished with a game-high 23 points on astounding 11-of-14 shooting. Unsurprisingly, that performance earned him a share of the game’s MVP recognition, especially with five boards added in.

    Grade: A+

Cliff Alexander (Kansas)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Not quite as heralded as fellow Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander looked very nearly as impressive as the MVP big man.

    Showing terrific activity at 6’9”, 240 pounds, Alexander led the East with 11 boards (tied with teammate Kevon Looney for the game high) while scoring nine points.

    He even showed off his improving mid-range jumper for some of that offensive production, a development Bill Self is certainly watching with interest.

    Another promising sign for his Big 12 future was that he was able to succeed even in the thus-far unfamiliar position of giving up both height and weight advantages to many of his opponents.

    Grade: A

Myles Turner (Uncommitted)

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    Andrew Nelles

    Myles Turner made his presence felt on offense in the opening moments of the game, knocking down a three-ball from well behind the line.

    He then spent most of the rest of the night working his tail off on defense against an opponent who outweighs him by 25 pounds.

    Turner repeatedly shut down Okafor in one-on-one post defensive situations, though he was only credited with one block.

    He wasn’t overwhelming otherwise—seven points, seven boards—but he deserves ample credit for playing some of the toughest D in the building.

    Grade: A

Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    The most impressive guard on Wednesday night, by a wide margin, was Mudiay. Not only did the 6’5” PG show off his passing touch with six assists, but he also made a huge impact when he called his own number.

    Mudiay is more Marcus Smart than Shabazz Napier with the ball in his hands, and pounding his way into the lane was his main avenue to 15 points on the night.

    Still, for a player whose jump shot has been questioned, that kind of scoring punch will go a long way toward keeping defenses honest when he gets to the AAC.

    Grade: A+

Grayson Allen (Duke)

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    Andrew Nelles

    After impressing with a win in Monday's dunk contest, Grayson Allen was largely a nonfactor when the actual game tipped off. The three-point marksman came up empty on his two long-range attempts, scoring just four points in all.

    Despite his 6’4” length, Allen also managed only a single rebound on the night. Although he did show his value as a playmaker on D—two steals and a block—he committed three fouls in the process.

    Grade: C-

Stanley Johnson (Arizona)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    A 4-of-10 shooting night did nothing to dispel concerns about Stanley Johnson’s ability to knock down jumpers with consistency.

    That said, Johnson’s reputation for relentless energy also proved valid in a game that saw him chasing super-scorer Justin Jackson for large portions of the action.

    Johnson finished with eight points and four rebounds, right in the middle of the pack in both categories.

    Compared to his lofty expectations as the nation's top-rated small forward, it’s a disappointing showing, but taken on its own merits, it’s a perfectly respectable night’s work.

    Grade: B

Trey Lyles (Kentucky)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Inevitably, Trey Lyles is going to draw comparisons to the star he’s expected to replace at Kentucky, Julius Randle.

    Both have NBA size—Lyles is 6’10”, 255 pounds—but Lyles, who battled for every bit of his eight-point offensive output on Wednesday, certainly doesn't look like the unstoppable force Randle has been in one-on-one low-post situations.

    On the other hand, the Indianapolis native did resemble Randle in leading the West in rebounding with eight boards for the game. He also showed that he can do some of the little things to help his team win, adding two assists and two steals to his contributions.

    Grade: A-

Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Okafor, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the class, looked the part in winning MVP honors on Wednesday. The 6’10”, 265-pound center racked up 17 points and seven rebounds, including an emphatic dunk to give his team the lead in the final minutes of a surprisingly close game.

    The only thing that keeps Okafor from earning top marks here is that he struggled to score when Myles Turner guarded him one-on-one, a major factor in keeping his 8-of-15 shooting night from reaching truly spectacular proportions.

    Otherwise, he controlled the glass on both ends, ran the floor exceptionally well and played solid defense of his own on Turner and Towns.

    Grade: A