The best high school senior basketball players will showcase the skills they'll bring to their respective major college programs Tuesday, when the girls' McDonald's All American Game tips off at the Toyota Center in Houston (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Twenty-four of the top 32 prospects in the espnW 100 have been named McDonald's All Americans, and each has signed with a Division I school. Arizona, Notre Dame, LSU, South Carolina and UConn lead the way with two McDonald's All Americans in the 2023 class. We previously broke down the McDonald's rosters here.
This class includes 11 Gatorade State High School Players of the Year as well as the National Gatorade and Naismith Player of the Year, Juju Watkins. Mikaylah Williams was named the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year. The skill and quality of play in the McDonald's game will be undeniable.
How might this game look when they hit the floor? What are the intriguing matchups and storylines? Let's take a deeper look:
Space and pace
From the professional level to the high school level, the game is evolving to a more spaced and skilled game. Think of it like this: fewer post-ups, more 3s. This year's All American rosters reflect that.
We have three of what are considered traditional post players in Breya Cunningham (6-foot-4), Aalyah Del Rosario (6-5) and Amanda Muse (6-4). We have two traditional forwards in Addyson Brown (6-2) and Essence Cody (6-3). These players spend much of their time battling on the glass and in and around the paint, though they've shown the skill to stretch the defense out to the 3-point line and have skills beyond just the post-up.
The rest of the roster is made up of 19 players who are primarily perimeter-oriented. The majority are 3-point threats and would be on the scouting report as players in which you must be there on the catch defensively. Although not known as major 3-point threats, Jadyn Donovan and Sahara Williams are matchup nightmares because of their overwhelming athleticism and speed combined with their aggressiveness on the glass. So, opponents can choose to help off of them and clog the paint, but that allows Donovan and Williams to cut in space and attack the glass undeterred -- pick your poison.
Madison Booker and Courtney Ogden are wing/forwards who do an excellent job of facilitating for teammates. When a team has a player like that, it allows the speedy combo and scoring guards the luxury of being able to give up the ball, come off actions and screens and attack gaps freely because of the spacing.
Combo guards Zoe Brooks, Milaysia Fulwiley, Kymora Johnson, Taliah Scott and Ashlynn Shade will allow the teams to get out on the break quickly as they provide multiple outlet options rather than solely the point guard. These guards rebound in space as well, so they can snatch it and ignite the break. All five are threats to pull up and knock down shots from the 3-point line as well, so the gravity they bring to the defense allows for more spacing and open lanes on the floor.
You cannot have spacing without shooters. Sofia Bell, Tessa Johnson, Riley Nelson and Emma Risch are knock-down shooters. Defenses must be in their air space on the catch with hands up, or they will rip the nets all day long.
The point guards -- KK Arnold, Hannah Hidalgo and Jada Williams -- could have an assist-fest with these lineups. Arnold and Hidalgo are arguably the country's fastest players end-to-end with the ball in their hands and Jada Williams knows how to read the defense and play chess on the floor, especially in pick-and-roll situations.
The No. 1 vs. No. 2 campaign in the 2023 class is one of the closest we have seen in years. Watkins and Mikaylah Williams would have had a top-5 claim in many of the historic classes in women's basketball. They are that good, as dynamic as they come. I am not ready to bestow Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark status on them yet, but college basketball fans are going to love watching them play for the next four years.
Both players have all the answers. They possess the size to get to the rim and finish in a variety of ways and with contact. They are knock-down 3-point shooters both on the catch and off the dribble and they complement that with a mid-range game many neglect. They make shots with hands in their faces because they can create space and change directions with a hint of hesitation that gives them windows of opportunity to attack. These two are in a category of their own in 2023.
Laila Reynolds really improved her game starting her junior year and into her rising senior summer, then into her last high school season. She is efficient with her dribbles and slashes to the basket off the rip-and-go quicker than most wings in the country. She has the shake and the wiggle off the dribble that defenses cannot contain. Her real separation comes in the details of defensive assignments, rebounding and making the extra pass when she draws help and double teams from defenses. She will help put points on the board one way or another.
Both coaches have more than enough talent to work with, but they may have to think outside the traditional box in terms of game plans, even for an All American game.
The East has a lineup full of more than enough scoring punch, but overall has the smaller roster. It could be argued the West has the more traditional point guards. The presumed starter at the point position for the East will be Hidalgo, who gets going with more of a scoring prowess than a "set the table" mentality. She creates because of her penetration, but she will have to utilize her teammates in this one. Look for Ashlynn Shade and Courtney Ogden to be the connectors for the East.
The East has some prolific scorers in Brooks, Fulwiley, Reynolds, and Scott -- who all scored thousands of points in high school, but there is only one basketball. If they can share it while staying aggressive, they could hang a bunch of points on the board. Nelson and Risch should get some nice open looks from deep. Cody and Del Rosario may have to adjust their games a little. Both are very mobile for their size, and assuming there will be many 3-pointers taken, will have to pursue long boards and maneuver accordingly inside. They will be more than willing to be screeners, but the bigs need some love and touches inside as well.
The East will have to play a little defense as well. Look for Donovan to set the tone for them there.
The West has more of a traditionally balanced lineup. Arnold and Jada Williams fit the point guard role. Cunningham and Muse will anchor things inside. Watkins and Mikaylah Williams are elite at the guard spot. Sahara Williams is an aggressive slasher and a defensive stopper. Bell, Kymora Johnson and Tessa Johnson can bomb away from the perimeter. Booker and Brown are forwards who can rebound with the best of them but are exceptional passers as well, so they will be able to facilitate the West attack.
Finding comfort in roles in these games is key. Each is a great player, but with this much talent on the rosters, some concessions have to be made. This may be an advantage for the West in this case as they arrive with some semi-defined roles just by playing to their respective strengths.