Each year, the McDonald's All-American festivities in Chicago are a valuable tool.
The game itself isn't always pretty, however the practice sessions and scrimmage leading up to the game reveal a lot. The setting is also perfect for spending some relaxed time with the outgoing seniors and serves as a bit of a goodbye to that class as we turn attention to the grassroots circuit.
During this past week, practices were particularly spirited and we definitely noticed some trends. To close out coverage from the McDonald's All-American game, here's a look back at what we learned.
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Wiggins is still No. 1
It wasn't as if anybody really expected somebody would be able to take away the No. 1 spot from Andrew Wiggins. Still, you never know what can happen and it isn't like the guys behind him in the rankings aren't coming at the 6-foot-7 small forward from Huntington (W.V.) Prep.
Reflecting on the week's activities, Wiggins withstood the challenge from all comers. He may not have won the MVP of the game, but he was most impressive in the game on both ends of the floor.
However, the gap between Wiggins and the field isn't as wide as some would have you believe. Wiggins is the best athlete, has the quickest reactions, is the best defender and has the most ultimate upside.
But, the game festivities showed us that he must get stronger and that he needs to continue to work on his ball-handling. When his jumper is going down, Wiggins is pretty much unstoppable but defenders can crowd him a bit, and once he becomes more comfortable attacking other elite players off the dribble then look out.
Look out for No. 2
Currently, Kentucky bound Julius Randle sits at No. 2 in the 2013 rankings. Heading into McDonald's week, it looked like a pretty comfortable hold on the No. 2 spot and during the week he didn't disappoint.
Given that the 6-foot-9 five-star from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian had a near three-month layoff during his senior season, he was awfully impressive. Randle arrived in great shape -- something many failed to do -- and came ready to compete. He has an alpha mentality and is very skilled. Randle was great on the glass, mixed in some jumpers and was very physical at the rim. There was perhaps too much dribbling at times, but overall he had a very good week.
Also outstanding was the play of Aaron Gordon. The 6-foot-8 jumping jack was named MVP of the game but his work in the practices was actually more impressive. Like Randle, Gordon has an alpha mentality and it showed during the entire week.
Currently ranked No. 6, the Arizona-bound Gordon is too low and he's making a run at Randle. A strong one. Gordon is more on the lean side, but he's every bit as physical and he's so dangerous as a second chance finisher and in transition.
Like Randle, Gordon sometimes dribbled a little too much. Also, he still needs more consistency with his jumper but is a better passer than given credit for.
Others may have something to say about it, but at this moment these two look to be battling out for final position at the Nos. 2 and No. 3 spots.
After those guys, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Jabari Parker and Chris Walker are fighting it out to complete the top five.
Selden on the rise
For much of the week, overall guard play in Chicago was a bit of a letdown. As expected, Andrew Harrison was the best of the guards but many of the other guys were either suffering from injury or just quiet play.
Well, there was one exception. Wayne Selden was outstanding each day and as consistently good as anybody in the game. We've been hinting all year that his ranking will rise and it is a pretty safe bet that he will move into at least the national top 15 after his Chicago performance.
Obviously, the 6-foot-5 guard from Boston is an impressive-looking prospect physically. He's a muscular 230-or-so pounder and has athleticism to go with it. That we knew. We also thought heading in that he was pretty good in the pick-and-roll and as a defender, but there was some question about how much of it was his ability to bully guys?
Selden can still be a bully on the floor, that's for sure. But, his skill level and feel for the game are legit and the Jayhawks have landed an impact player.
Future SEC foes quietly good
Future foes in the SEC at Kentucky and Arkansas, No. 13 overall Dakari Johnson and No. 17 Bobby Portis have different styles.
A big and physical interior player, Johnson is a true back-to-the-basket center. He uses angles, he boxes out and he takes up lots of space. He's not Usain Bolt up and down the floor, but he doesn't give up on plays, has good hands and seems to be in the right place. Bottom line, he's the best true center in the class of 2013 at this point.
Pushing 6-foot-10, you could probably list Portis as a center or a power forward. If you saw him play as a freshman or sophomore, you would have trouble believing the way he has transformed both physically and from a skills standpoint. A long and lean big who can run, Portis swats shots gets on the glass and has the tools to be a versatile scorer at the rim or in pick and pop situations thanks to his shooting.
Johnson still could be a bit more aggressive at times and Portis will need to get stronger, but both were very good all week long and enhanced their status.
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