The chatter has changed concerning the McDonalds All American game. In times of old, water cooler discussions revolved around the promise of the incoming freshman to a favorite college basketball program. Those days are nearly over. On Wednesday night in Oklahoma City at the 2004 all-star event, the talk was about what spot in the draft that same prep player will go in the NBA Draft. Oh, how they grow up so fast.
In the 27th McDonalds All American game, the stars came out to play in front of every NBA team. The East team won, 126-96, thanks to J.R. Smith (25 points) and Dwight Howard (19 points). The duo shared the Most Valuable Player award.
Smith, a UNC recruit, shined brightly on the biggest stage of his life. With all of the scouts looking at Howard and other potential preps-to-pros candidates, Smith showed off his NBA shooting range and freakish athleticism. He connected on a handful of 30-foot jumpers and threw down a couple of 360-degree dunks. The Oklahoma crowd hasn't seen that kind of movement since the last tornado season.
Howard was his dominant self, showing off his ball handling skills and aggressive interior moves. The probable top-two pick didn't do anything to lower his status in the eyes of the professionals. The Atlanta native will next "interview" at the Hoop Summit in San Antonio with the world's best young talent.
Duke recruit and California's all-time leading scorer, DeMarcus Nelson, led the West with 22 points. The strong-bodied guard powered his way to the bucket for hard-earned scores.
The East's Josh Smith had one heck of a possession, blocking a potential Nelson dunk at the rim and, in transition, Memphis-bound Darius Washington took care of the likely NBA lottery selection for the uncontested power dunk. Smith finished with nine points.
In the first half, USC commit Robert Swift was riding high on confidence and was the aggressor down low. Several scouts were impressed by the 7-footer all week in practice. His first half antics helped improve his somewhat uncertain "draft stock."
Others of note: Al Jefferson is still the rebounding machine he was on the AAU circuit. Expect the Arkansas commitment to officially announce his intentions to test the NBA waters very soon UConn is in the Final Four and they could return next year with a player like Rudy Gay on the roster. The small forward was silky smooth on the wing and took part of the high-flying act, too Sebastian Telfair finished the night with a game-high 11 assists UNC-bound forward Marvin Williams shot the three ball nicely Glen Davis, all 330 pounds of him, took an offensive charge on the 165-pound Washington.
Be sure to check out RivalsHoops' National Scout Jerry Meyer's thoughts on the game as he discusses The LeBron Factor.