On paper, the West squad looks like the favorite to win the 2014 McDonald’s All American boys game in Chicago on April 2. All star games frequently don’t play out like a normal game would, for a variety of factors, but it certainly appears as if this squad has a decisive talent advantage over the East team. The West team can put forth an elite talent at every position, but it certainly remains to be seen how well the personalities will mesh.
Emmanuel Mudiay ( SMU Mustangs/No. 2 nationally in the 2014 class) is a blur at the lead guard slot, and despite the talent level on the opposing squad, it is unlikely he will prevented from going where he wants with the ball, during the game. He has speed, creativity and court vision, and could be a fan favorite, given the way he plays. Mudiay should be backed by Joel Berry (North Carolina Tar Heels/No. 21), who will not only provide a change of pace, but presents himself as a all-around lead guard that emphasizes winning. Mudiay certainly provides flash, but Berry’s consistently strong play should not be overlooked. Small but effective lead guard Tyler Ulis adds depth to this unit. Ulis (Kentucky Wildcats/No. 37) will be a local favorite, and is a waterbug-sized player that can attack and create excitement.
The West has two knockdown sharpshooters available at shooting guard, as well as a tremendous all-around talent. Both Devin Booker (No. 28/Kentucky Wildcats) and Grayson Allen (No. 30/Duke Blue Devils) have college-ready frames, and can hit outside shots regularly. Super skilled guard Rashad Vaughn (No. 8/Undecided) could be the beneficiary of Mudiay’s passes, as his skill level is extremely high and he has a nose to put the ball in the basket. It seems like that duo could be extremely hard to stop, as Mudiay can create opportunities through his penetration, and Vaughn can take advantage of small opportunities to put big points on the board.
The small forward crew could be devastatingly good. Stanley Johnson (No.6/Arizona Wildcats) and Kelly Oubre (No. 9/Kansas Jayhawks) both hold tremendous amounts of talent, and it is seemingly a pick ‘em as to who should join the starting lineup. Johnson has arguably among the best all-around games in the class nationally, while Oubre is an explosive player that can get above the rim in a hurry. Johnson boasts an impressive international resume, having won at virtually every level of the game. Oubre has been a high riser as of late, and it would be a surprise to see him make shock waves in this game.
On the interior, Jahlil Okafor (Duke Blue Devils/No. 3), will be matched in an intriguing fashion against fellow Windy City big man Cliff Alexander, which could be a factor in many ranking services deciding who the final top rated recruit nationally is. Okafor has arguably faced the toughest competition of any high school prospect this season, but he won’t need to carry this team. Okafor is likely to be paired with Trey Lyles (Kentucky Wildcats/No. 11) on the inside. Like Okafor, Lyles is more known for his fundamentals than athleticism. Both players aren’t going to create a highlight reel of above the rim plays, but both will show effort and outwork opponents on the interior. They will both do serious damage in the paint, if the pace of the game slows down enough for an offense to set up. The West team isn’t exactly deep inside, with two future Pac-12 players in Thomas Welsh (UCLA Bruins/No. 62) and Reid Travis (Stanford Cardinal/No. 38) as the reserves. Welsh has been a fast riser in the 2014 class nationally and drawn rave reviews from the west coast. Meanwhile, Travis is an energy guy that should pull down some important caroms.--------------------------------------------
For those fans that wish college basketball was a year-round sport, the College Basketball Newcomers Guide paperback and Kindle book previews the incoming recruits for every team nationally. There’s no need to wait until Fall to learn about the new names in college basketball that will be starring on the hardwood.