On March 30, 24 of the nation's finest high school basketball players will gather in Chicago with one common goal: Becoming the MVP of the McDonald's All-American game.
Even the most unselfish ballers can't resist the urge to jack up shots in front of ESPN's cameras and a nationwide audience. Over the years, we've heard it all. Lance Stephenson once said he wanted to break the game's assist record. Lance put up 12 shots but had six turnovers and finished third on his team in assists (he did have a half dozen). The point is, this game, like any other all-star contest, has a way of morphing into a cherry-picking contest. This is the McDonald's game, where for one night even the most conscientious player listens to the devil on his shoulder and lets it rip without fear of consequence.
Last year's game, to the surprise of most, came down to a late jumper by Brandon Knight. Do we expect that every year? Probably not. We've noticed that once the competitive decorum wears out its welcome, jacking shots and racing to 150 points quickly become the goal.
For our 6-foot-8 and above friends taking part in the game, we have one simplistic message: Hit the boards! Instead of hanging on the perimeter waiting for the ball reversal that isn't coming your way, go get yourself a missed shot. Guards, well, do your best to at least fake an entry pass once a half.
After all the uncontested layups are scored and coaching staffs forgive the feeble attempts disguised as missed defensive assignments, there will remain pertinent information that is gathered from this event. Since 1977, the McDonald's All-American game has been the gold standard by which all other games are measured and, in turn, cranked out some interesting stats and trends.
For instance, did you know there are 791 game alumni from 45 states? Were you aware that California produced the most participants (82)? That traditional football powerhouse states Texas (38), Georgia (31) and Florida (28) rank in the top dozen states for producing hoops talent? But wait, there's more. Much more.
10 things you need to know about the McDonald's All-American game
1. Twenty McDonald's All-Americans have become No. 1
Magic Johnson was the first alum to hear his name called as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Actually, in 1979, they probably didn't have a green room and the after party didn't have a DJ. Magic might have learned he went No. 1 by certified letter. Regardless, he started a trend that was followed by many of the game's greats. Magic was the first and Blake Griffin the most recent.
2. Rookie wonders
There have been 18 McDonald's All-Americans who went on to be named NBA rookie of the year. The least impressive guy on this list is Mike Miller of the Miami Heat. Miller, 30, makes $5 million a year. Any questions?
3. MVP treatment
There have been 13 NBA MVP trophies awarded to McDonald's alums. Michael Jordan won five MVP trophies. Johnson earned three and LeBron James already has a pair. Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant own one each.
4. They play defense in this game after all?
The NBA All-Star with the lowest output in the McDonald's game is Chris Paul. Seriously, CP3? All you could come up with was a measly three points? Well, Paul's in good company. Griffin, the league's resident Doctor of Dunk, only scored four points and Derrick Rose had five. Paul dropped 10 dimes in the 2003 game.
5. Here come the regulars
Oak Hill Academy holds the record for most McDonald's All-Americans with 27. Quinn Cook is the most recent addition to the storied list that includes Jerry Stackhouse, Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Jennings. Over two dozen of these McDonald's All-Americans is a big deal. Still, what happened in 2000? That's the last time coach Steve Smith didn't have a McDonald's player on his roster. DeMatha Catholic has the second-most participants with 11.
6. Gary Williams cracked the code
Every year since 1979, except for one, there's been at least one McDonald's All-American on the national champion's roster. In fact, all but six of those teams had more than one McDonald's All-American on the roster. Somehow, though, Maryland coach Gary Williams won the 2002 national championship without a single McDonald's All-American on his roster. For the record, I voted for Chris Wilcox but he didn't make the game. Neither did Steve Blake, Juan Dixon or Lonny Baxter. In case you're wondering, San Diego State is the highest-ranked team in the country that doesn't have a McDonald's All-American. Will Kawhi Leonard be enough to help the Aztecs join the Terps?
7. You need these guys to win
Since 1990, 31 coaches signed five or more McDonald's All-Americans, which in itself is an impressive statistic. However, of those 31 coaches, 15 won national championships. Basically, half the guys collected the talent; the other half haven't been able to cash in on it yet. This group of coaches is responsible for producing the last 20 national titles.
8. Mike Krzyzewski has room to breathe
It would make sense that a four-time NCAA champion, Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Famer would own the distinction of signing the most game participants since 1990. Coach K signed an astonishing 41 kids from this game and Roy Williams is second after signing 33 during his time at Kansas and North Carolina. The next tier, with 13 apiece, is John Calipari, Rick Barnes, Billy Donovan and Dean Smith (he contributed countless more before 1990). Bill Self signed a dozen and Rick Pitino has 11 to his credit. The only other double-digit coaches with 10 each are Jim Boeheim, Steve Fisher, Tom Izzo and Thad Matta.
9. Sign eight, win more
If a college coach were to sign eight or more McDonald's participants in his career, he would have a 73 percent chance at winning the national championship. Since 1990, 15 coaches reached the magic number eight and 11 of them won national titles.
10. ACC, Big East, SEC lead the charge
Though the rankings may not align with the RPI or Top 25, we've gone ahead and broken down the current game alumni by league:
Big East, SEC: 10
Big 12: 6
Big Ten: 5
C-USA, Horizon, MWC: 1
Overall, UNC signed the most McDonald's game participants, followed by Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, Kansas , Georgia Tech and Louisville.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.