Mitty’s Aaron Gordon caps a spectacular week by winning MVP honors at the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago. In the girls game, California quartet contributes 19 points and 22 rebounds to West’s victory.
By Ronnie Flores
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CHICAGO — Aaron Gordon, a 6-foot-8 senior forward from Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, came into the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game with something to prove.
Most of the country was fixated on the forward matchup pitting Andrew Wiggins (Huntington Prep, Huntington, W. Va.) of the East team and Jabari Parker (Simeon, Chicago) of the West team.
Along with forward Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano, Texas), most respected national recruiting analysts have that trio ranked as the top players in the country. Gordon, last year’s Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year as a junior, translated his aggressive approach to practice with a game MVP performance that he hopes puts him in the conversation with Wiggins, Parker and Randle.
Gordon finished with a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds to lead his West team to a 110-99 win over the East team before 15, 818 fans at the United Center.
“Aaron is a great player and I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone of us players,” said guard Nigel Williams-Goss (Findlay Prep, Henderson, Nev.), who threw a one-handed lob to Gordon with 1:40 remaining that he flushed. It was the final of Gordon’s nine dunks and it put a cap on the West victory.
Sure there were times when Gordon could have battled on defense more and not leaked out. After all, it was an all-star game and everyone was having fun and focusing on making spectacular plays. Gordon, however, was a leader with his energy and approach. That was apparent all week and the East didn’t have an answer for it.
“I try to focus on the technical side of basketball,” said Gordon, who chose the University of Arizona on Tuesday and was 10-for-17 from the field in his MVP performance. “Just trying to get to loose balls and talking to teammates on defense. All week, I just focused in and came out and played.”
“He’s (Gordon) is a battler,” said Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee, who scored his only two points on a last-minute dunk. “He just wants to be the best.”
The other two California natives in this year’s game — wings Jabari Bird from Salesian of Richmond and Isaac Hamilton from St. John Bosco of Bellflower — contributed solidly to the West’s victory.
Bird scored nine points, made his only 3-point attempt, grabbed three rebounds and dished out three assists. Hamilton had seven points, five rebounds and four assists.
Wiggins, the nation’s most high-profile uncommitted recruit, led the East team with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Randle, one of five players on the East in double figures, scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Parker struggled from the field, making 4-of-13 field goal attempts. He finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and two steals. Parker, who played in front of his hometown fans, checked Wiggins on defense most of the night and struggled at times. Wiggins made 7-of-8 free throws after being fouled on most of his drives.
“Going against Jabari (Parker) is just the best going against the best,” Wiggins said. “I hope we can do it again in the future.”
“I know I represent other players and people in the city of Chicago,” Parker said. “I was glad to be out here.”
Despite the West’s victory, the East still leads the all-time series 19-17.
McDonald’s Girls: West Quickness, Chemistry Too Much For East
The West’s quick fleet of guards controlled the girls McDonald’s All-American Game’s tempo and led its team to a 92-64 win over the East team.
Forward Mercedes Russell (Springfield, Ore.) led the way for the West team with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Her back-to-back field goals at the 11:24 mark of the second half told the story of the game.
Russell’s first basket on an offensive rebound put back told the story of the West’s 72-65 rebounding advantage which got close only after the game was no longer in doubt. She sprinted down court after a West rebound on the next possession and was found underneath for a easy bucket and 68-47 lead. That sequence of plays told the story of the West’s focus on teamwork.
“We wanted to push the ball in transition and get good shots,” said Russell, the game’s MVP and a Tennessee recruit. “We had high intensity the whole game and that was our goal.”
Oderah Chidom from Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland was the lone Californian to start for the victorious West team. She finished with two points and eight rebounds. The other three California players for the West contributed greatly to the victory as well.
Guard Kelsey Plum of La Jolla Country Day finished with seven points and two steals. Center Erica McCall from Ridgeview of Bakersfield contributed seven points, seven rebounds and three blocks and consistently beat the East’s bigs to the spot. Kendall Cooper from St. Anthony of Long Beach, yet another post player who contributed boards and energy, had four points, five rebounds and three blocks.
“I know all of their games well and all three of them are great post players,” Plum said of California’s inside McDonald’s trio. “We played team ball and the posts did not force shots. That opened things up for us.”
“We had demanding practices and the focus was to play as a team,” Chidom said.
The East team cut its deficit down to eight points (53-45) with 16 minutes remaining in the game, but could get no closer.
In the first half, the West team quickly went out in front 17-6 and took a commanding 28-11 lead on three consecutive lay-ups by three different guards at the 9:35 mark of the first half.
The West led at halftime, 45-35, as the East was able to close the gap behind the strong play of 6-foot-2 guard Kaela Davis (Buford, Ga.). She was the game’s only double-digit scorer in the first half with 10 points. Davis, the daughter of former NBA forward Antonio Davis, did not score in the second half.
Diamond DeShields (Norcross, Ga.), the daughter of former MLB second baseman Delino DeShields, led the East team with 15 points.
The West now leads the all-time series 8-4
Chicago: McDonald’s Lovin’ It
Douglas Freeland, director of the McDonald’s All-American Games, stated the festivities will remain in Chicago for 2014 and 2015. The event has been held at the United Center since 2011.
The end of the 2006 season marked the last time the event was in California. NBA star Kevin Durant and Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball Chase Budinger (Minnesota Timberwolves) led the West boys all-stars to a 112-94 victory at Cox Arena (now Viejas Arena) in San Diego.