Spotlight on teams, not stars, at McDonald's

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Where else can 24 of the nation's top prep boys' basketball players cause such a stir but at the McDonald's High School All-American Game?

Call it Golden Arches Madness, a springtime ritual that brings out the best from seniors before they move on to the next level.

Wednesday's game (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) at the University of Miami's BankUnited Center is sold out. The girls' game tips off at 5:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

The coaches have been preaching team play, with everyone getting touches.

The players are thinking showtime. Developing chemistry after only a handful of practices is hard, but Maalik Wayns, a point guard from Roman Catholic High (Philadelphia), has plenty of options.

In two days, he has eyed front-line players 6-foot-10 DeMarcus Cousins of LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.) and 6-9 Derrick Favors of South Atlanta.

Wayns, who is headed to Villanova and is a candidate for the U-19 U.S. men's team, is the quarterback for the East.

"I've [given] a few lob passes to those guys in practice and the scrimmage on Tuesday," Wayns said. "Derrick's athleticism is crazy; he's a great player."

Favors, who is the national player of the year according to Naismith and McDonald's (also known as the Morgan Wootten Award), thinks Wayns is capable of dishing out "20 assists in the game."

"Maalik is a sick passer," said Favors, who will attend hometown Georgia Tech in the fall. "We have to play as a team; we're all getting along and sharing the ball. But if given a chance, Maalik can break the assist record here."

If Wayns does approach the game record of 13 set by Jacque Vaughn in 1993, he'll also target 6-10 Ryan Kelly of Ravenscroft School (Raleigh, N.C.) and 6-9 Milton Jennings of Pinewood Prep (Summerville, S.C.).

With high school careers winding down, Favors hopes "to go out with a bang."

Dante Taylor is on the same page as his East teammate.

Two years ago, 6-9 Taylor was an unknown, raw forward from National Christian (Fort Washington, Md.). After outplaying several highly ranked players in summer competitions and perfecting his NBA-range 3-point jumper, Taylor earned a McDonald's roster spot and signed with Pittsburgh.

"We came here to win," said Taylor, who was named the Met Player of the Year by The Washington Post. "Everyone is a competitor and a quality player."

The East features five players headed to Big East schools and four bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Lance Stephenson, a high-scoring guard from Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., is the lone uncommitted player. On Tuesday, he delayed the announcement of his college choice, but he did say Kansas, Maryland and St. John's are "definitely" his final three.

Stephenson won't delay his decision for long. "I'll make it sooner than later," he said.

The West squad features the No. 1 recruit in the ESPNU 100, Xavier Henry, a Memphis commit who has received added attention because of coach John Calipari's reported departure.

"We're trying to get ball movement," said 5-11 West point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin of Madison High in Houston. "The East will run the floor; their guards will break out into transition. Eventually, you'll need to play defense."

Mason-Griffin, an Oklahoma recruit, knows the West's defensive stopper is slender 6-10 center John Henson of Sickles (Tampa, Fla.).

"He's a big athlete who will block shots; I'm impressed with his game," Mason-Griffin said.

Henson is one of four McDonald's All-Americans who will attend North Carolina. He joins West teammates Travis and David Wear of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and East guard Dexter Strickland of St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.).

The West's height advantage includes four players taller than 6-10, along with a pair of 6-9 forwards, Wally Judge (a Kansas State recruit) and Keith "Tiny" Gallon (Oklahoma). Gallon, who weighs almost 300 pounds, can play in the post, deftly handle the ball and knock down 3s.

"We need to spread the ball around," Gallon said. "No one player will win the game."

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also for worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, where he ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.