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2023 McDonald's All-American Game Recap
Some of the best young talent in the world assembled, and there were, as always, some standouts.
The McDonald’s All-American Game is always one of the most exciting basketball events on the calendar. For most, it is their first introduction to the newest class of incoming freshmen and hopeful NBA prospects. This game is obviously an All-Star-esque setting, so drilling down into the nuances of a player’s game can be gratuitous. However, these games are typically competitive and a great example of seeing the best young talent on the same floor. Last year, we saw Brandon Miller and Cam Whitmore have excellent performances, which ended up being an indication of what was to come. This game was no different as there were some substantial standouts for fans to get excited about watching next season.
Bronny James – ESPN #28 – Undecided
I promise that I’m not leading off with James just for the clicks. James was legitimately impressive and looked like he more than belonged. At 6’3” and 180 pounds, James has the size of a point guard but plays more like a combo guard. What really stood out with James was his off-ball shooting. He consistently relocated on the perimeter to make himself available to teammates like it was second nature. His mechanics were smooth and consistent, and he was one of the biggest threats from outside in the entire game. James also had a few flashes of intriguing pull-up potential, but the off-ball shooting was the reliable skill. James also showed his capabilities as an on-ball defender. He displayed excellent footwork, a sense of physicality, and the ability to cut off drives. As he continues to get stronger, James could be a highly impactful defender.
The biggest question mark surrounding James after this game was the passing. He clearly has a high understanding of the game, and this is just an All-Star game, but James had a lot of really sloppy passes that resulted in turnovers. If James can clean up the accuracy and consistency of his passing, he’ll significantly improve his value. Instead of being a little more fixed in a combo guard role, James would become more malleable with how he can fit into a lineup.
Jared McCain – ESPN #12 – Duke
McCain immediately won me over with his play. He’s only 6’3” and 195 pounds, but goodness, can he shoot. McCain was launching from NBA range with ease and had one of the prettiest shots out of anyone on the court. What makes him so intriguing, though, is that he’s not just a shooter. McCain showed an ability to attack closeouts, generate his own drives, and score on the interior. He also displayed some really exciting passing chops that will only raise his offensive ceiling. McCain did a great job of finding open shooters out of drives with live dribble passes with both hands.
At Duke next season, McCain could thrive. Playing alongside a more experienced Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell could give the Blue Devils some serious firepower. McCain will likely play purely as a shooting guard next season, but in the long run, he could grow into more of an on-ball creator, given the flashes he showed.
Ron Holland – ESPN #5 – Texas
Ron Holland may be a psychopath, and I mean that as a massive compliment. Over the summer, I recapped the FIBA U17 World Cup, where Holland helped lead the USA over France in the finals. As the final whistle blew, Holland was ready to scrap with the entire French team. His competitiveness and work rate reach levels that very few kids can even imagine. Even in this setting, Holland was tenacious on defense. At 6’8” and 200 pounds, Holland has tremendous defensive versatility with his athleticism, size, and fundamentals. He gets off the floor quickly to block shots at the rim and moves his feet well on the perimeter. The play that really stood out for him was when he drove into traffic and turned it over. Instead of chalking it up as a loss, Holland sprinted back for the chase-down block that he sent into the tenth row.
Besides being extraordinarily fun on defense, Holland also showed some intriguing offensive upside. He covers significant ground in the blink of an eye in the open court and uses his long strides to consistently get to the rim on straight line drives in the halfcourt offense. The next big improvement for Holland is the jumper. His mechanics are really inconsistent, and it shows in the varied results of his shot. If he can find some consistency shooting off the catch next season, he’ll likely be trending toward the top of the 2024 Draft.
DJ Wagner – ESPN #2 – Kentucky
After a pedestrian first half, Wagner came out swinging in the second. The 6’2”, 175-pound point guard quickly showed why he’s one of the top recruits in this class. Wagner had an uncharacteristic scoring game as he really struggled to finish around the rim. This could be something to keep an eye on down the road, but Wagner has a really exciting scoring arsenal. He regularly showed off a creative handle that paired nicely with a quick first step, and his outside shot looked much improved. When juxtaposing this performance against his play in the FIBA U17 World Cup, it’s really hard not to get excited about the player Wagner could grow into someday.
Justin Edwards – ESPN #1 – Kentucky
Through no fault of his own, Edwards underwhelmed. By no means did he have a bad game, but he didn’t pop the way that we expect from a guy with #1 next to his name. If Edwards instead was the #15 rated recruit, there would likely be much more buzz around this performance, which shows you just how dumb high school ratings can be.
While Edwards didn’t necessarily shine, he did show that he’s one of the most well-rounded players in this class. His off-ball jumper looked good, he made the right decisions, and he had some exciting flashes of scoring when attacking downhill. Defensively, Edwards has all the tools and fundamentals to be a menace. He’s strong, has great footwork, and reads the floor like a veteran. Even though he may not have the “superstar upside” of some prospects, he’s going to be a damn good player for a really long time.
Aaron Bradshaw – ESPN #4 – Kentucky
Like most teenagers, Bradshaw needs to get stronger. He really struggled to finish through contact and regularly got moved off his spot. This was the only criticism I could come up with, though. The second that Bradshaw entered the game, he immediately got involved with consecutive possessions consisting of a pick-and-pop jumper, offensive rebound, and another offensive rebound that led to a shooting foul. He didn’t have a great night shooting, but it would be surprising if he doesn’t grow into a good shooter. Where Bradshaw shined, though, was on the offensive glass. He consistently outworked everyone and had a tremendous knack for tracking misses.
Reed Sheppard – ESPN #21 – Kentucky
I know you did it too, but when Sheppard entered the game and was described as “hard-working” and “does the little things,” I immediately thought, “oh boy, here we go.” Then he actually played and was awesome. Both of Sheppard’s parents played at Kentucky, and they certainly passed on plenty of talent. Sheppard displayed high-level passing, defensive playmaking, and scoring versatility. He probably won’t be a one-and-done player, but he has a highly impressive all-around game that opponents will be forced to take note of.
Isaiah Collier – ESPN #3 – USC
Taking this long to get to Collier feels wrong and isn’t an indictment on him. He was awesome. Collier looked like an outside linebacker who stumbled across a pickup game. His combination of strength and explosiveness allowed him to do essentially anything he wanted on the ball. He had flashes of tenacious defense and got to the rim at will. He could very easily put up some bonkers scoring numbers in the PAC-12 next season.
That’s not to say there weren’t blemishes, though, as he struggled shooting and with ball security. He had a lot of turnovers that felt like a young player who was playing too fast. In time, these can be ironed out. The bigger hurdle will be the shot. The ball seemed to come off his hand inconsistently, and the arc was erratic. Collier also struggling a ton from the line is a worrying indication of where the shot is. By all accounts, though, he’s putting a ton of work into it. If his work ethic off the court is anything like it is on the court, then I’d expect to see strides in the right direction sooner rather than later.
Cody Williams – ESPN #6 – Colorado
Williams didn’t have the game of his life, but he showed a lot of fascinating tools. The most obvious takeaway from Williams’s performance was that he has an exceptionally high understanding of the game. His decision-making was sound, and he had great recognition on both ends of the floor. His shot is still a work in progress, but he did a tremendous job of turning the corner on drives, getting to the rim, and drawing fouls. Williams also showed some exciting passing potential, especially on hit-ahead passes in transition. Defensively, Williams had a lot of plays where he was excellent for 85% of it but failed to finish the play. This is something that typically improves in time, and given his awareness and fundamentals, it would be surprising if it didn’t do just that. Williams may be a little more raw than we initially hoped for, but there is a lot to get excited about given his foundation.
Matas Buzelis unfortunately had the least impressive performance. He struggled with ball security and seemed to be just going through the motions. He very easily could’ve been doing just that seeing as he recorded 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two blocks two nights later against Montverde in the quarterfinals of the GEICO Nationals.
Stephon Castle is going to be a lot of fun at UConn. He showed some impressive scoring versatility and ability to score off the bounce.
Aden Holloway was tremendously fun. He is a really shifty ball handler who had some of the most on-ball flair in this game. He used this shiftiness to generate his own shot and draw a bunch of fouls. He’ll fit right in at Auburn.
Sean Stewart continues to impress as a really sound role player. I promise that’s not an insult. Stewart is a big-time athlete who hits the boards and has some exciting defensive potential. His shot looks to have improved a ton since the FIBA U17 World Cup, so there may be even more to his game lurking beneath the surface. He’ll be fun at Duke.
Andrej Stojakovic is very much his father’s (Peja) son. After he worked out the nerves with a rough miss on his first jumper, Stojakovic drained a gorgeous three, finished through contact, and held his own on defense. Good get for Stanford.
Ja’Kobe Walter is still pretty raw, but there is a ton of potential. He’s an excellent athlete who is a pest on defense and knows how to use his first step on drives. The passing was really sloppy, but he showed some interesting pull-up flashes.
Jeremy Fears looks to be next in line as the next awesome Michigan State point guard. He didn’t necessarily shine in this game, but he continued to show more of what he did at the FIBA U17 World Cup. He’s an excellent defender and intelligent passer. He knows how to run an offense like a traditional point guard.