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How To Watch The 2014 McDonald's All America Game

A short primer on what to look for for your favorite Mickey D during the McDonald's All America game.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, we have the McDonald's All America game, a so-called rite of passage for the best high school players in America. As has been the norm with John Calipari as the head coach, Kentucky has a number of recruits in the game. All of their 2014 signees, in fact.

This thread will serve as both the Open Game Thread for the contest as well as a "how to watch" primer on this game. Most people say you can't learn anything from these things, but I have found that you actually can if you know what to look for. I'm going to help you out a bit with that.

What to watch for in the bigs

Kentucky has two big men in this game; Trey Lyles from Indianapolis Arsenal Tech and Karl-Anthony Towns Jr. from Metuchen, New Jersey.

For big people, here are the things I would be looking for:

  • Face-up game — do they have one? Both of Kentucky's bigs are supposed to be good face-up as well as post players.

  • Footwork — Watch how the big guys set up in the post. Look for a low base, backside balanced over the feet without leaning in or out.

  • Willingness to pass — All-star games tend to favor guards, so sometimes the bigs are black holes when they do manage to get the ball. See if they are willing to pass, or just shoot every time they get it.

What to watch for with guards

Kentucky has two guards on this squad, Tyler Ulis from Chicago Heights, Illinois, a small point guard, and Devin Booker, a big shooting guard from Moss Point Mississippi.

  • How tight is their handle — Does the player look secure when he has the ball in his hands? Does he look confident when defended, or look to pass right away?

  • Crossover — this is a big one-on-one move with guards, and all the best have a good one.

  • Passing — Do they throw short, sharp passes or lazy ones? Do they meet passes or wait for them?

Both big and small

  • Shooting form — Even if you don't know what proper shooting form looks like (and I know most of you do), the simple eye test is usually enough. Does his form look eccentric (too wristy, too long and arm-driven, does it have a "hitch" in it?) Speed (does he get the shot off quick, or slow? How quick from bounce to release?). Efficiency (how many does he make compared to miss?). Range (is he better in the mid-range, or can he shoot from deep?). Elevation (shooters with flatter shot than about 35 degrees tend to miss and have limited range. 45-50 degrees is good, 52 degrees is ideal.)

  • Body language — are they having fun? Basketball should be fun.

  • Off hand — Both Kentucky's recruits are right-handed. Watch for how well they go left off the bounce in the open floor, and if they can use their left hand to finish. This is a very big deal, as one-handed players are much easier to guard in the college game.

  • Look for fundamentals — See a player run a sharp pick and roll, or just set a solid pick? That's a pro move, and you probably won't see it, but look for it. Also, look for how they stand when they are guarding opponents — the lower they are, the better. Are they in a stance, or standing straight up?  Do they rebound with both hands? If not, their coaching may be suspect.

  • Do they move their feet on defense?

  • Athleticism — Can they dunk it easily, or not. Note that this is more of a challenge for small players like Tyler Ulis. Players under 5'10" dunk less often. Quickness and footspeed become the barometer for smaller guards.

  • Leadership — you can usually tell who has some leadership characteristics if you look close enough. Not always, but often.

  • Finishing through contact — Can they put it in while getting fouled or played physically?

  • Look for advanced skills like filling the lanes properly on the fast break, big-to-big passing inside, good shot selection, getting the ball up the floor with the pass rather than the dribble.

That should be enough. You may recognize any or all of these in our players, or in others. It's always worth looking past the flashy behind-the-back dribbles and tomahawk dunks to identify solid fundamental skills. A player that has those won't play any different in an all-star game than in a real game.