One insider's choice for the 2019 McDonald's All American rosters
The real rosters for the 2019 McDonald's All American Games will be unveiled a week from today, on Jan. 24. On Wednesday, McDonald's unveiled its nominees, which included a long list of bona fide stars. There were also notable omissions, including USA Basketball gold medalists Maori Davenport and Aijha Blackwell. Since we're not saddled with the selection committee's criteria, here are the 24 seniors (in no particular order) we'd like to see on March 27 at Atlanta's State Farm Arena.
Haley Jones: The No. 1 prospect and Stanford signee is, of course, a McDonald's no-brainer. She's a player who not only stuffs the stat sheet but also leads by example. Jones has been around the top of the heap each year, but she solidified herself as the primo No. 1 with her continued development. She played through illness in December at the Nike Tournament of Champions, against some of the best competition in the country, and put up big numbers for Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, California). The 6-foot-1 wing is the anchor of the West team.
Jordan Horston: The Tennessee signee and No. 2 prospect in 2019 has her high school team sitting at No. 2 in the espnW 25 Power Rankings. This after earning MVP honors for the United States at the FIBA U17 World Cup over the summer. The 6-foot-1 guard at Africentric (Columbus, Ohio) is one of the most athletic prospects in the class, continuing to elevate her game throughout her career. Horston plays like a pogo stick and is one of three players from Ohio to make our team. She's the lone player from her state whom we're keeping on the East team.
Aliyah Boston: At 6-foot-4, the South Carolina signee is the top low-post prospect in the country. She was an all-tournament selection at the FIBA U17 World Cup over the summer and stars at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. A native of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Boston burst on the scene a few years ago and continued her rise to dominance. She is a lock for the annual showcase, and she stays on the East squad.
Laeticia Amihere: We're doing it. We're bringing a Canadian to the McDonald's All American Games roster. We know the rules stipulate that a player has to play at a U.S. high school, but if we're talking about the 24 best high school players, Amihere is deserving. Not to mention, she'd bring a wow factor from north of the border. Although her high school and club teams make trips into the United States, the explosive Amihere is a player hoops fans might not have seen much. The 6-foot-3 forward is on her way to South Carolina. We're slotting her in on the East team alongside her future Gamecocks teammate Boston.
Samantha Brunelle: A former No. 1 prospect, a multi-gold artist with USA Basketball and a Notre Dame signee, Brunelle recently had surgery on a broken bone in her foot. That isn't part of our equation. Brunelle, a skilled and versatile forward who makes everyone around her better, hopes to return to William Monroe (Stanardsville, Virginia) in late February or early March. We're saving a spot for her on the East team. She has earned it.
Ashley Owusu: The physical 5-foot-9 point guard and scoring machine missed a stretch of her senior season at Paul VI (Fairfax, Virginia) after a car accident. She has been on the mend since early this month, and she should be ready to put on a show by the end of March. Book the Maryland signee on the East squad.
Kierstan Bell: The 6-foot-1 star guard at McKinley (Canton, Ohio) has already played in front of LeBron James, so you know Bell won't be intimidated by the McDonald's stage. The Ohio State signee is a scorer supreme, but "SheBron" passes the ball just as well. The West is lucky to get her.
Zia Cooke: Another South Carolina recruit and another Ohio rep. Cooke, a 5-foot-9 point guard at Rogers (Toledo, Ohio), holds her own against anyone in the electricity department. She has won two gold medals with USA Basketball. We're going to put her on the West team, opposite Owusu, to create an epic head-to-head matchup at the point.
Maori Davenport: Unless your 2019 resolution was to spurn reading, you know about Davenport. The No. 15 prospect in the country was ruled ineligible by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for depositing a check USA Basketball sent her by mistake after she helped lead the U.S. to a gold medal over the summer. Even though she returned the money in full after being notified that it was against her state association's rules, she was suspended for the season. A judge stepped in last week and issued a temporary restraining order to her suspension, but that hearing is still a week away. No matter. The Rutgers signee is smooth in the paint, rises over defenders and can play the center spot if needed. She has already been denied too much of the joy that should come with her senior season. She isn't on the list of nominees, but we're putting her on our East roster.
Rickea Jackson: The No. 9 prospect in the country is the anchor for one of the top teams in the country, Edison Academy in Detroit. The 6-foot-2 wing has range to the arc and the ability to finish the plays she creates. She's headed to Mississippi State, but we're putting her on the East team first.
Aijha Blackwell: She won a gold medal alongside Davenport at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, but things haven't gone Blackwell's way so far in 2019. She signed with Missouri in November and then left the Whitfield School in St. Louis. She landed at Cardinal Ritter (St. Louis) this month and is waiting to make her first appearance as her transfer request makes its way through the Missouri State High School Activities Association. Unlike Davenport, Blackwell has not yet repaid the money USA Basketball sent her in error. She is not on the list of McDonald's nominees. Regardless, the No. 8 prospect in the country deserves a happy ending to the saga. We're sending her out West.
Ashten Prechtel: The Stanford signee has emerged as a post player who can beat defenders inside or outside. Under the tutelage of former NBA player Keith Van Horn, Prechtel, a 6-foot-5 star at Discovery Canyon (Colorado Springs), delivers in the paint and can score from the arc. The West needs a post player to counteract Boston, so we're sending Prechtel to the West roster with her future teammate Jones.
Jakia Brown-Turner: The NC State signee is the best player on the best team in the country. The 6-foot small forward at Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Maryland) scores from deep as well as off the dribble. We're throwing geography out the window and throwing this stock riser on the West team.
Kennedy Brown: The lone representative from Kansas, Brown is headed to Oregon State in the fall. We'll send her to the West team, where she joins Prechtel in the battle to neutralize Boston, Amihere and Davenport. Brown, at 6-foot-6, scores off a variety of moves on the inside at Derby High, but she can also stretch the defense to the arc.
Fran Belibi: The dunking sensation deserves a spot not only on the McDonald's roster but in the Powerade Jam Fest, too. The 6-foot-1 ultra-athletic star at Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colorado) has honed her game. She's the third member of the Stanford recruiting class, and we're keeping her on the West side with her future teammates. One last piece of advice: Throw it down, Fran!
Diamond Miller: The versatile star from Franklin (Somerset, New Jersey) signed to play at Maryland. At 6-foot-1, she has superior backcourt size and can score from deep or off the dribble. She has continued to improve throughout high school. We're slotting her in at the point-forward position on the East team.
Jaden Owens: The 5-foot-6 point guard from Plano West (Texas) injects flair and craftiness into any backcourt. The UCLA signee is also a superb passer. We're slotting the No. 14 prospect on the West team.
Jordyn Oliver: Staying put in Texas, we're calling this Baylor-bound guard to the West team. The No. 11 prospect from Prosper Is a smooth scoring guard with a midrange game that brings consistent results. We're making her half of a special one-two shooting guard punch (along with Bell) for the West.
Anaya Peoples: She struck gold with the USA Basketball U18 team in August in Mexico City, and we're betting she can deliver off the dribble and beyond the arc on the East team in Atlanta. The 5-foot-10 guard from Schlarman Academy (Danville, Illinois) is headed to Notre Dame.
Charisma Osborne: The Windward (Los Angeles) star is sticking close to home and has signed with UCLA. We're hoping to see her take long-range aim in Atlanta. The 5-foot-9 point guard has made a name for herself by scoring -- and scoring a lot.
Nyah Green: The 6-foot-1 guard from Allen (Texas) is heading to Louisville, but first a trip to Atlanta should be in the cards. She can create her own shot and has the versatility to play a number of positions. We're turning her loose on the East roster.
Aubrey Griffin: A sprained ankle has slowed the UConn signee for part of her senior season, but she has certainly shown enough throughout her career to get a McDonald's roster spot. The 6-foot-1 versatile guard from Ossining (New York) should provide scoring depth to the East roster.
Breanna Beal: The fourth South Carolina recruit who deserves the McDonald's honor, Beal is dangerous on the perimeter and in the paint. The 6-foot wing at Rock Island (Illinois) can also complete plays against contact. We're teaming her with future Gamecocks teammate Cooke on the West team.
Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo: The North Carolina recruit has continued to polish her game, but her forte is cleaning the glass. In our ideal McDonald's scenario, the rebounder deluxe at St. John's College (Washington, D.C.) brings her frontcourt skills to the East team.