The most well-known of the high school postseason basketball games, the McDonald's All-American game, will be broadcast tonight at 9:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN. As has become the norm under head coach John Calipari, Kentucky fans have a vested interest in the game.
Two of Kentucky's three signees, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress, will be participating in the game. Goodwin will suit up for the West squad, while Poythress will play for the East.
In addition, there are five remaining uncommitted prospects in the game, and Kentucky has been involved with all of them. Right now, it appears that the Wildcats are down to two attainable targets, Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett. A third top target, Nerlens Noel, is not participating in the game. Noel was a late reclassification and was not eligible to be selected at the time the rosters were announced.
PLAYERS TO WATCH - KENTUCKY SIGNEES
Archie Goodwin | G/F | Sylvan Hills | Little Rock, AR | Kentucky
When he committed in September 2011, Goodwin became the first commitment in Kentucky's 2012 class. Goodwin looks like a prototypical Calipari guard. He is long and big, measuring at 6'5", with the ability to score from the perimeter or put the ball on the floor.
Goodwin will play for the West squad, where he will be teammates with Shabazz Muhammad. They are perimeter wings, but Calipari has told both players that it wouldn't be a problem fitting each of them in Kentucky's offense. Goodwin is more deft as a perimeter scorer, while Muhammad is a better slasher/finisher. The two went head-to-head in the McDonald's Dunk Contest, which Muhammad won (but just barely).
On the flip side, Goodwin will square off against East wings like(more on him below) and T.J. Warren, both of whom were linked to Kentucky earlier in their respective recruitments.
With a smooth stroke and an explosive first step, Goodwin could have a huge offensive game tonight and leave Kentucky fans drooling over his potential.
Alex Poythress | F | Northeast | Clarksville, TN | Kentucky
Of all of Kentucky's commitments, I am personally most excited by Poythress. He has been called one of the more athletic players participating in the game, which sounds just dandy to me. As a member of the East squad, Poythress will square off against future teammate Goodwin.
I'll be interested to see if Poythress plays more like Terrence Jones, who plays the hybrid forward position for Kentucky but skews to the interior, or like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a perimeter-oriented forward who isn't afraid to mix it up inside.
From his highlights, I think Poythress will be a carbon copy of Kidd-Gilchrist. Bouncy and athletic, Poythress isn't spectacular in any one area but does everything well. As much a glue guy as he is a star, I think Poythress will shine at Kentucky.
PLAYERS TO WATCH - KENTUCKY TARGETS
Shabazz Muhammad | F | Bishop Gorman | Las Vegas, NV | Undecided
Muhammad is the consensus top player in the game, as fellow top prospect Nerlens Noel was not eligible after a late reclassification. The media reports coming out of the McDonald's practices and events have been overwhelmingly positive. He has been practicing hard and showcasing his skills, and whichever team lands Muhammad will be getting a truly special talent.
Two huge news items have recently come out regarding Muhammad's recruitment. First, his originally scheduled official visit to UCLA in early April is no longer happening, which is good news to this Kentucky fan's ears. Second, Muhammad plans to announce his decision at the Nike Hoop Summit, either on April 11 (the first day of the Late Signing Period) or April 14.
Muhammad told reporters that Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA are the three schools that stand out for him, with UNLV and Kansas trailing. Multiple reports have posited that Muhammad plus Noel are UK-bound, as are Muhammad plus Anthony Bennett. We'll find out in a few weeks.
As for the McDonald's game, Muhammad should be considered the favorite to take home the MVP award.
Anthony Bennett | F | Findlay Prep | Brampton, ONT | Undecided
Bennett's recruitment has been a puzzling one. He reportedly had academic-slash-ACT issues, but those have been denied by his camp. Kentucky, Florida, and UNLV make up his top 3, with Oregon and Washington also in the mix. In multiple interviews, both Bennett and his mother have been very high on Kentucky, and the two are exceptionally close.
His recruitment is interesting as Bennett has yet to take any official visits, and it doesn't look likely that he will make a decision by the first day of the Late Signing Period. A top 10 talent, Bennett will have schools waiting for him, though.
Like Poythress' game, I am interested to see how Bennett plays. Bennett is also a combo forward, but looks bigger and stronger than a Poythress or Devonta Pollard and probably will play the 4 in college.
Amile Jefferson | F | Friends Central | Philadelphia, PA | Undecided
Jefferson's recruitment has seemingly been written off by Kentucky fans, but a Scout report says that Jefferson is still considering Kentucky. At this point, he looks like a backup option with Bennett and Alex Oriakhi also under consideration. Duke and North Carolina St. have been Jefferson's two frontrunners for a while now.
He's another one that can be added to that combo forward list. It would not surprise me if Jefferson is the leanest big man playing tonight,, but that doesn't mean he lacks for talent. While he is taller than guys like Poythress and Pollard, he also plays a nice combo game and can function from the perimeter. His shooting skills are not on par with a guy like Kyle Wiltjer, though, so some bulk may be needed before he excels in college.
PLAYERS TO WATCH - OF INTEREST
Devonta Pollard | F | Kemper County | Porterville, MS | Undecided
Unfortunately, Pollard suffered a concussion in practice and will not be able to play in tonight's game. However, Pollard is of interest as he is the most likely participant to play in the SEC and not at Kentucky. Earlier this week, he reportedly dropped Kentucky from his list, as the Wildcats were not showing much interest. SEC schools Mississippi St. and Alabama, along with Texas, are considered the front-runners. He is also considering Missouri and Georgetown.
I was really interested in seeing Pollard, who was on the West squad, square off against Poythress, to see if Kentucky picked the "right" player. You know, in as much as an exhibition All-Star game could tell you, anyway.
Tony Parker | F | Miller Grove | Lithonia, GA | Undecided
It appears that along with Pollard, Parker was another recruit who has dropped Kentucky from his finalists. Per Scout, Kansas, UCLA and Duke are the frontrunners, with schools like Kentucky and Ohio St. falling behind.
The East definitely has heft, as Parker, along with DaJuan Coleman, are the two heaviest players in the game. The two of them will face off against some fleeter feet big men from the West. Texas-bound Cameron Ridley is a similar big body, but players like Isaiah Austin (Baylor) and Brandon Ashley (Arizona) are tall, but lean. The weight questions will likely follow Parker to college, akin to a Renardo Sidney or Josh Smith. The big question for Parker tonight is whether he can showcase his skills while deftly throwing around his weight.
DaJuan Coleman | C | Jamesville-Dewitt | Dewitt, NY | Syracuse
Prior to Nerlens Noel's reclassification, Coleman was the top center target on Kentucky's board. He chose to stay local and play for the Orange, and the Wildcats received a commitment from Willie Cauley a few days after. While Cauley is an intriguing talent, but is lesser heralded than Coleman and, well, not at the McDonald's All-American level.
While Coleman is plenty talented, the knock on him is conditioning. Kentucky should have no such problems on that front with Cauley, who also played tight end for his high school football team. Regarding Coleman, I want to see if he looks physically ready to step into Syracuse's rotation and play major minutes. After all, both the Orange and Wildcats are finalists for Noel, and Noel certainly will be a starting center somewhere next year. Interestingly enough for Syracuse, if Coleman looks too good, that could hurt the Orangemen in their pursuit of Noel.
Kyle Anderson | G/F | St. Anthony | North Bergen, NJ | UCLA
Anderson is perhaps the most intriguing player in the game. Many moons ago, he looked like he could be the next great Calipari point guard. A major growth spurt had people questioning whether Anderson was "too big" to play the point, and he may indeed wind up being a forward at UCLA.
He has tried to be a pied piper of sorts for the Bruins, and has continually been in the ears of players like Muhammad and Parker, telling them to head west to Westwood. Anderson is also a major reason why UCLA retained Ben Howland. Had Howland been fired, Anderson could very well have requested a release from his LOI.
Is Anderson still a point guard? If he is, he will be one of the most dynamic players to watch next season in his attempts to bring UCLA back to prominence.