All-American selections raise questions

EDITOR'S NOTE: Glenn Nelson was a voting member of the McDonald's All-American selection committee. He resigned after balloting for the 2009 team.

Two high-school girls' basketball players were named to the 2010 McDonald's All-American team despite questions about whether either met the game's selection criteria. One of them, Laurin Mincy, of Newark, N.J., was eliminated from consideration in a final-ballot re-vote, according to several selection-committee members, but still was named to the East squad.

The "final ballot addendum," acquired by ESPN HoopGurlz, does not include three players -- Mincy, plus Whitney Bays of Huntington, W.V., and Michala Johnson of Lombard, Ill. -- who have missed most or all of their senior high-school seasons because of anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. An email from Sports America, Inc., which organizes the McDonald's Game, informed voters that Bays, Johnson and Mincy were removed from the final ballot because of injuries.

Ronika Ransford, of Washington, D.C., is the other player who did not meet the selection criteria of having played in half of her team's games during the four-round voting process which took place in January. Ransford suffered a quadriceps injury during H.D. Woodson's fourth game of the season, missed seven weeks and returned to action on Jan. 23. Final McDonald's voting closed before then; the addendum ballot was due Jan. 24.

Sports America staff confirms eligibility and academic standing with each player candidate's high-school coach or athletic director, according to a document outlining voting criteria and the selection process. "Players must have played at least half of their senior season and should be considered academically eligible throughout the voting process," the document states.

According to the selection-committee guidelines, Mincy and Ransford, as well as Bays and Johnson, should not have appeared on any of the five ballots (usual four rounds, plus addendum) for the McDonald's Game.

The Maryland-bound Mincy told the Baltimore Sun, "I was really shocked [to receive a McDonald's invitation] because I hadn't played all year." The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that Mincy "has spent the entire season recovering from a pre-season knee injury."

When asked if she had been contacted by anyone vetting players for the McDonald's Game, Felicia Oliver, Mincy's coach at University High School, told ESPN HoopGurlz in a text message that she'd been contacted by "everyone" and that "she [Mincy] has played and will play more during the states [playoffs] but as I see fit."

Asked to clarify whom she talked to or what she told them, Oliver replied, "Laurin as well as the team … are getting ready for the rest of the season, and I cannot allow this to be a distraction to my team or an insult to my player."

Requests to address the voting, made directly to Sports America, Inc., which organizes the game, and through a spokesperson for the McDonald's Game, were answered with a prepared statement by the game's founder and executive director, as well as a reference to the document outlining voting criteria and the selection process.

The McDonald's All-American Game will be played in Columbus, Ohio, on March 31, 5:30 p.m., Eastern time.

Considered one of the most talented and exciting players on the high-school level, Ransford currently has played in at least half of H.D. Woodson's games, but had not at the time balloting for the McDonald's team was taking place.

One high-school coach said his player had been eliminated in early voting, but ended up making the McDonald's team. Voters identified that player as one who appeared on ballots for the final re-vote. Sports America added five players to the addendum ballot, meaning 32 players, instead of the usual 30, appeared on the final-ballot re-vote.

"The McDonald's All American selection committee proudly stands behind the 2010 rosters," game founder Bob Geoghan said in a statement. "Each year, the selection committee conducts due diligence to ensure the eligibility and active status of McDonald's All American players. As a result, we're confident that all players participating in the 2010 Games meet our selection criteria. As always, let's be reminded that regardless of who steps on the court March 31, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio, the real winners are the children and families of Ronald McDonald House Charities who benefit directly from the Games."

Selection-committee members who discussed the re-vote all were quick to emphasize that no player voted to the McDonald's Game should be penalized or feel diminished because of the voting irregularities. All pointed out that Mincy and Ransford made it through four rounds of voting, although many of the voters were aware of their injuries. They also pointed out, however, that several other deserving players were denied an opportunity to be voted onto the team.

Mincy is ranked No. 7 in the 2010 class by Blue Star Basketball, No. 9 by All-Star Girls Report and No. 23 by ESPN HoopGurlz.

Maryland-bound Alyssa Thomas of Harrisburg, Pa., is the most glaring omission from the McDonald's roster, according to many coaches on the high-school, club and college levels. Thomas is ranked No. 7 in the 2010 class by both ESPN HoopGurlz and All-Star Girls Report and is averaging 23.8 points for Central Dauphin High School. She also was not named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) team for a game to be played April 3 in San Antonio.

Another player, Shoni Schimmel of Portland, Ore., No. 8 by ESPN HoopGurlz and No. 11 by All-Star Girls Report, was named to the WBCA team, but not McDonald's.

This will be the ninth year that a girls' game has been staged by McDonald's. Last year's game was featured the absence of Brittney Griney of Houston, Texas, one of the most noteworthy girls' players in years. Griner, now a freshman at Baylor, was selected and even considered a likely participant in the dunk competition, but she declined, first citing district academic restrictions, then finances. She played in the WBCA all-star game, held annually at the site of the women's Final Four.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girl's club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.