Sports Strength

Nick Smith Jr Is Lethal In Transition

Cultivating a winning culture in a locker room is an age-old dilemma that coaches have been struggling with since the beginning of time. Getting your players to buy-in and put everything they are into that sport is no small feat. Eric Musselman, the head coach of the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team, has created that environment in just two short years. In-turn, Musselman has captured the hearts of some of the best recruits in the country and built the top three recruiting classes in the country. The highest ranking of those recruits being a home-town kid by the name of Nick Smith Jr. Smith is the sixth ranked player in his class, and for good reason. 

Nick Smith Jr. is a 6’4” shooting guard out of Jacksonville, Arkansas. What makes Smith so great is what he is able to do in transition. As soon as he gets the ball off of a defensive rebound, Smith is immediately running in transition with rarely anyone being able to keep up. At the McDonald’s All-American game in late-March I was able to witness his speed and IQ on the break in person and it was spectacular. He also participated in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest, which saw him as the competition’s runner-up. Smith will be a perfect fit to an Arkansas scheme that is hell-bent on running and getting out in transition. 

Nick Smith Jrs. talent has been apparent from a young age. When Smith was just a ninth grader in high school, Musselman was right there recruiting him in his first year as the Arkansas head coach in 2019. Musselman is now seeing that recruitment effort come to fruition as Smith gears up to attend Arkansas this fall. Smith is looking to add to an already explosive lineup with his cunning speed and knack for getting to the hoop on the break. I asked Nick Smith Jr about what it’s been like to watch Arkansas make deep run’s in March the last two seasons and he detailed that experience saying:

“It’s been pretty fun, you know, watching the state of Arkansas and in general just having a good time watching, and you know Arkansas winning. I feel like winning in each and every sport has been fun, the past two years, especially for coach Mussleman and the program, and you know next year the guys we got coming in, we just got it going and just work hard in the summertime you know. it’s not guaranteed we’re gonna make it to the elite 8 next year, but at the same time we have to have that same mindset that we could win a national championship and that’s what we’re gonna try and do.” – Nick Smith Jr.

As the one-and-done becomes ever more prevalent as each season passes, it’s not crazy to say that Nick Smith Jr. could be on an NBA floor in just a year’s time. Under the guidance of Coach Musselman, the ceiling is the roof for Nick Smith Jr. I can’t wait to see what he and the rest of Arkansas’ stacked class can accomplish this upcoming season. The future is bright for Arkansas, and especially for Nick Smith Jr.

Sports Strength

A Conversation With Standout Oregon Commit Chance Gray

Earlier this week the top-ranked high school basketball players in the country took to the court to showcase their abilities in the annual McDonald’s All-American game. Chance Gray, a 5’9” guard, who will be taking her talents to the University of Oregon this fall, turned heads all weekend with her outstanding play. Gray has a DEEP bag of tricks. She’s capable of stringing together a flurry of dribble moves, has a silky smooth jump shot, and can easily finish at the rim.. At the McDonald’s game this week Gray found most of her success on the three-point line, which may be a sign of things to come next season. We had the opportunity to chat with Chance Gray during media day and here was our conversation.

ONE37pm: You were able to play last season with your father Carlton and sister Amber on the coaching staff. What did that mean to you to have them right there on the sidelines for every game?

Chance: It meant a lot to me just because those are the people who inspired me and taught me the game. My dad has pretty much been my coach since I started training, and my sister was a McDonald’s All-American. Just to follow after them and be able to be coached by them, it was the best feeling for my last season.   

ONE37pm: Your sister Amber was a former McDonald’s All-American, what kind of things have you been able to learn from her and her experience as she’s already been through the circuit of high school basketball?

Chance: She’s taught me a lot mostly on the mental side. Just to stay in it, stay focused and don’t get distracted by outside things. Just to keep myself going through the ups and downs, especially times with my dad or anything like that, so she definitely inspires me. 

ONE37pm: Your former AAU teammate at Sports City U and fellow McDonald All-American Grace VanSlooten is also committed to the University of Oregon. What does that mean to have someone familiar with you and your style of play also attending Oregon next year?

Chance: Me and Grace bonded right from the jump. We’ve been playing AAU with each other for three years, now another four years at Oregon together next year. She’s definitely someone I knew I wanted to play with in college. Great person on and off the court. We bond well. She’s really funny, we have our little inside jokes, so she’s a really cool person to be around and I’m really glad I get to spend four years with her. 

ONE37pm: I know that you have plans on pursuing law school in the future, what has it been like trying to balance basketball with academics?

Chance: My parents embedded the student comes first in student-athlete just from the start when I was younger. It’s gotten easier as I’ve gone on and gotten older just to stay organized and stay focused. I’m gonna major in English and probably attend law school after.

Sports Strength

A Conversation With Rapper-Turned-McDonald’s All-American Flau’Jae Johnson

Giving an interview is not easy. You have to be prepared to answer any and all questions, and most likely you are talking to someone you’ve never met before. Some people, however, are born to be in front of the camera. It is just natural for them. Flau’Jae Johnson, a hybrid hooper-musician, is an example, and that’s because this is nothing new to her. Johnson has been in the lime-light since she was 13 years old on shows like “The Rap Game” and “America’s Got Talent”. The 5’10” guard will be continuing both her basketball and rap careers at Louisiana State University next season under Coach Kim Mulkey, and It’s going to be exciting to see what’s next for the 2022 McDonald’s All-American. Check out ONE37pm’s chat with the impressive rapper-turned-baller.

ONE37pm: One of the taglines on your merch is “it’s hard where we come from”. Can you tell us a little about the meaning behind that?

Flau’Jae: Yes, thank you. I made a song called “Come From” and it was just speaking on how I’m from Savannah, Georgia, and a lot of people don’t come out. [There’s] violence, poverty, and murder, and stuff like that. It’s hard where we come from, and I just wanted to put that on a shirt and put that out because a lot of people can relate to that.

ONE37pm: What does that mean to you to represent Savannah, Georgia?

Flau’Jae: It means everything to me, because that’s what my father was doing before he was tragically murdered in the city. He was doing his music and he was rapping, he was putting on for the city, so I feel like it’s my duty to carry on that legacy.

ONE37pm: With the new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal in place for college athletes you’re now able to pursue and profit off of your music career. Before the current NIL rules were put in place, did you ever think that you’d have to choose between your two passions and if so what was that like?

Flau’Jae: That was never a thought for me, because a lot of people don’t know I really just started taking basketball seriously two years ago. I started getting training and just got on the EYBL [Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League] circuit and so in my head I’m like I’m just a rapper you know what I mean? I didn’t even know anything about college and didn’t plan on going to college. I just planned on pursuing music, so the fact that the NIL deal came into effect by the time I was coming to college was just a blessing honestly. That’s how I looked at it. I never thought I’d have to choose. I remember I was getting recruited by colleges and they were like, “well, which one do you want to do?” and I was like, “you’re scratched off the list.” So when I talked to coach Mulkey at LSU and she was like “we’re gonna put you on both, we’re gonna make you the best person you can be overall”, that’s when I knew I was at the right school.

ONE37pm: That is really awesome to hear. You recently broke the Sprayberry High School single-game three-point record hitting 12 three-pointers in a game. What was that moment like for you to have the whole crowd behind you wanting to break that record and being that locked in?

Flau’Jae: It felt like I was on the highest mountain in the world. You’re on cloud nine during those moments and my team was just finding me, getting me the ball. I told them, I feel it today. I was in warmups. I went like twelve for twelve. I said oh yeah, it’s that time. Give it to me. I got you, and I did my thing. I broke the record, and it was just an honor for real for real. Everybody was cheering. It was lit.

ONE37pm: Thank you so much Flau’Jae and we want to wish you the best of luck on your journey!

Flau’Jae: Thank you so much!

Sports Strength

Duke Commits Shine At The 2022 McDonald’s All-American

On Tuesday, March 29th, the future of men’s basketball took the floor at Wintrust Arena to showcase their talents in front of 8,261 fans. The top 24 ranked men’s hoopers in the class of 2022 absolutely put on a show for the city of Chicago. This class is extremely well rounded with some of the most athletic high-school athletes the game has seen. In a game littered with high-flying alley oops and perfectly timed full-court passes, the East was able to defeat the West in a 105-81 contest. Here is what you missed at the 2022 McDonald’s All-American men’s game.

MVP – Dariq Whitehead – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists

There were a number of incredible performances throughout the game, but no one was more consistent and took a bigger leap than future Duke Blue Devil Dariq Whitehead. Whitehead was able to knock it down from deep going 3-7 beyond the arc, all while nearly dropping a triple-double. The most shocking part is that Whitehead isn’t a traditional point guard but was tasked with carrying out the role this weekend by his coaches. Whitedhead explained in the post-game press conference: “I had no intentions of coming here and playing point guard, when we got here and coach Bosley said “you’re playing point guard”, I was like, what do you mean i’m playing point guard? He said you have to, and you know, me being a team-player and always wanting to win, that’s something I had to do for my team.” Dariq Whitehead went above and beyond this weekend and undoubtedly earned his MVP award.

Best Defensive Performance – Dereck Lively II – 3 blocks, 4 rebounds

The best defender of the night goes to #1 prospect and future Duke Blue Devil, Dereck Lively II. Lively is a 7’2” center with an excellent wing span and a knack for getting in position to jam it home on defenders. In an early sequence during the first quarter it looked like Nick Smith Jr. had beat him to the rim, but Lively was able to get back in position and swat the layup attempt. Lively was also perfect from the field hitting all five of his shots, with a majority of those coming off alley-oop passes. Duke is getting an untamed rim protector in Dereck Lively, and the rest of the NCAA should be afraid.

Breakout Player – Mark Mitchell – 19 points, 3 rebounds, 8/13 shooting

The breakout performance of the night goes to another future Duke Blue Devil in Mark Mitchell. Mitchell is a 6’9” forward who plays fiercely inside. Mitchell is keen at backing down defenders and finishing at the rim, but expanded his range for this game. He was able to knock down two threes and shot 62% from the field. Mitchell’s 19 points were tied for a game high with future Nova’ Wildcat Cam Whitmore. The future is bright for Duke and it looks like they are going to continue their winning ways.

There may be no consensus #1 recruit in this class, and that’s because the talent overall is at such a high level. Every player on the court could be a lottery pick in the next two years and for good reason. This class is littered with some of the most athletic boy’s in recent history and that talent will translate beautifully on the collegiate stage next year.

Sports Strength

Future UCLA Bruins Shine At McDonald’s All-American Game

On Tuesday, March 29th, the future of women’s basketball took the floor in an exhibition to showcase the top talent in the class of 2022. This was one of the most well-rounded groups of McDonald’s All-American we’ve seen in recent years and the box score backed that up. The East team was able to get out to an early lead and never looked back, beating the West team 95-75. There was plenty of action and highlights so here are the best moments from the game.

Kiki Rice 17 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds – Gabriela Jaquez 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists
(Via Golin and MCDAAG)

There were a number of stand-out performances, but no two players had a more stellar night than future UCLA teammates Gabriela Jaquez and Kiki Rice. Jaquez was constantly racking up rebounds and nearly secured a double-double with 9 rebounds. She also led the West in scoring, knocking down two threes en-route to a 17 point performance. Kiki Rice was able to put in 17 points as well, but did it with cunning efficiency shooting 70% from the field. It looked like there were five Kiki Rice’s on the floor at one point as she did everything from facilitating teammates to grabbing boards. Both women expressed their deep gratitude for being selected as McDonald’s All-Americans after the game, a true showing of the maturity these athletes possess at such a young age. The Bruins have a very bright future ahead of them.

Best Defensive Performance
Ashlyn Watkins – 3 blocks, 6 rebounds, 1 steal

Without a doubt the best defensive performance of the night was future Gamecock Ashlyn Watkins. The winner of the previous night’s dunk contest, Watkins was a force to be reckoned with in the paint. She constantly was challenging driving opponents which resulted in 3 blocks and was active on the board grabbing six rebounds. South Carolina is getting a fierce defender in Watkins and the SEC will find that out soon.

Breakout Player
Ta’Niya Latson – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block

The breakout performance of the night goes to the #1 ranked guard in the class of 2022 and future Seminole Ta’Niya Latson. Latson is a quick guard who finds great success at the rim. Tonight she was able to expand her range and knock down two threes. Of her fifteen points, Latson shot 50% from the field, 67% from three, and didn’t miss a single shot from the free-throw line. Latson even tallied a block and did this all in only thirteen minutes.

Overall this was an incredible weekend for the future of women’s basketball. NCAA women’s basketball is getting one of its most outstanding classes next year, and it will only help grow the game. These girls have the potential to elevate women’s basketball to a whole new level on a national scale and I am honored to get to witness their greatness in person.

Sports Strength

McDonald’s All-American Monday Night Recap

On Monday, March 29th, the future of basketball took the stage for the first night of events at the McDonald’s All-American Powerade Jam Fest. The opening night of events showcased a skills challenge, three-point contest, and dunk contest similar to the structure of the NBA’s Saturday night all-star event. Here is our recap of the 2022 high school basketball all-star event.

Girls Skills Challenge Round 1

The skills challenge for the girls consisted of four competitors. The first-round matchup saw future Wildcat Paris Clark go up against future Bruin Gabriela Jaquez. In a tight race, both girls got to the final three-point shot at the same time but Clark was able to knock it down first and advance. The other half of the bracket saw Stanford commit Indya Nivar face off against future blue devil Ashlon Jackson. Nivar was able to get out to an early lead and secure the win by making her first three-point attempt.

Girl’s Skills Challenge Championship Round

The championship match was set and Paris Clark faced off against Indya Nivar for the right to be named the girl’s skill challenge champion. In the championship round Nivar shot out of the gate to an early lead weaving through the Powerade obstacle course, but Clark was able to tighten the gap by the last shot. Clark’s efforts weren’t enough however, and Indya Nivar took home this year’s skills challenge for the girls.

Boy’s Skills Challenge Round 1

The first round of the boy’s skills challenge saw Duke commit Mark Mitchell go up against UCLA commit Amari Bailey. Bailey was a little slow out of the gate weaving through the Powerade obstacle course, and Mitchell took advantage, winning this round handily. In the second matchup we had Villanova commit Cam Whitmore compete against future Razorback Anthony Black. Black got out to a fast start and it looked as though he would come out on top, but Whitmore just elevated to another level to sprint back into it. Whitmore would ultimately advance.

Boy’s Skills Challenge Championship Round

The boy’s championship round was set and Cam Whitmore would face off against Mark Mitchell. Mitchell got out to an incredible start and it was all over from there. Mitchell was able to get to the final three-point shot first and knocked it down on his first attempt, crowning him this year’s boy’s skills challenge winner.

Girl’s Three-Point Contest

The three competitors for the girl’s three-point contest were Oregon commit Chance Gray, Notre Dame commit K.K. Bransford, and Ashlon Jackson who also participated in the skills challenge. Ashlon Jackson made her lethal three-point shooting known, dominating the competition with the highest overall score of the night securing 18 points. The loudest the arena got all night was easily when Jackson got to her last two racks and started knocking down a string of shots. It was incredible to see all the other McDonald’s All-Americans get on their feet and support Jackson down the stretch of the competition.

Boy’s Three-Point Contest

The boy’s three-point contest saw Baylor commit Keyonte George, Kansas commit Gradey Dick, and Duke commit Dariq Whitehead. Keyonte George took an early lead and put up a score of 12 points. Gradey Dick started hot, knocking down a flurry of shots on his first two racks. Dick lost energy towards the end though and his shots began to fall short, securing Keyonte George the win. I asked Keyonte George after the event if he was nervous once Gradey Dick began knocking down shots or if he knew he had it in the bag and George told me:

Keyonte George

I thought Gradey was gonna rack it up… you know, he missed a couple shots, and then I was able to win

Dunk Contest

The dunk contest this year had six total participants. The four boys participating were Dillon Mitchell, Chris Livingston, Nick Smith Jr., and Jordan Walsh. The two girls participating alongside the boys were Ashlyn Watkins alongside Ayanna Patterson. There was a litany of perfect dunks awarded a 60 score by the panel of judges. Distancing themselves from the rest of the field, Smith Jr., Watkins, and Mitchell advanced to the final round. Ashlyn Watkins secured this year’s dunk contest with a powerful alley-oop jam off the backboard. Watkins became the second winner of the dunk contest for the girls in back-to-back years, a truly outstanding achievement.

Sports Strength

A Day Practicing With The 2022 McDonald’s All-American’s

It’s 5:00 am and the sun hasn’t risen. My phone alarm begins blaring and immediately my fight or flight kicks in. Do I hit snooze and go back to sleep or roll out of bed? I had no option, it was time to get up. I groggily arose and dragged myself into the shower before heading to the McDonald’s All-American practice yesterday morning on March 27th. I have never covered any event in-person, so it’s no exaggeration when I tell you I was painfully anxious. As I make my 35 minute commute into the beautiful city of Chicago my anxiety slowly dissipates and by the time I’m in my seat my nerves have shifted to excitement. I look to my left and see a single file of chairs with around 40 scouts occupying them. I turn my head to the right and am met with the same image. That’s when the sudden realization hit me of the real type of pressure that’s on these 18 year old kids every time they step in a gym. 

I don’t think “18 year old kids” is the right way to describe the 48 men and women selected to participate in this high school all-star event because they are far from kids. Most weekends these athletes are traveling the United States showcasing their skill to scouts and media at different camps, so this is just another walk in the park for them. I was blown away by the motors that these athletes possessed. We watched for two straight hours as they ran drill after drill. I don’t think we as media and fan’s really take the time to think about how much work these athletes really put in and the sacrifices they have to make to get to this level. 

To get to this level you also have to possess the highest level of competitiveness. I enjoyed watching the girls practice because a lot of their drills had them competing against each other to avoid a punishment. Each side of six girls on their half of the gym had to hit six three pointers, and if they did first the other half would have to do push ups. One of these drills came extremely close and as the coaches whistled that the farthest side won, I saw future University of Tennessee forward Justine Pissott playfully but adamantly contest that they had won. The drive to win even a normal drill like that is what separates these athletes from the rest of the country playing basketball at their age. 

Even with the pressure of having a gym packed with media and scouts as you take every shot, the most prominent thing I saw was the smile on these athletes’ faces. Everyone protruded a sense of gratitude to be there and were more than happy to share that excitement with their teammates. I watched as guys like Dereck Lively II who will be a Duke Blue Devil and Chris Livingston a future Wildcat laughed and interacted as they gave each other advice. It’s that type of humility that shows the bonds and relationships athletes form with their graduating class. 

I leave this practice with a new perspective on basketball players and young athletes in general. These athletes have never really had a break. The second they reach a national audience for their abilities on the court they are thrusted into this media and basketball circus that is almost never ending. The respect and admiration I have for these athletes has never been higher and I am so grateful for that experience. 

Sports Strength

Alabama Commit Jaden Bradley Is Unstoppable In Transition

The high school basketball circuit in the United States is in incredible shape. Over 500,000 boys participated in varsity basketball, and that number continues to grow. With having such an overabundance of talent, it can be difficult to tell who will rise above the rest. A tell-tale sign of development is when one of these high school prospects attends a prep school like Oak Hill Academy, Montverde Academy, or IMG Academy. These programs have done an exceptional job at preparing kids for the collegiate level and beyond. Jaden Bradley who played his last year of high school basketball at IMG Academy is proving he has what it takes to be an elite guard at the next level. Let’s talk about it.

Jaden Bradley is a 6’3” point guard from Rochester, New York. In his sophomore year at Cannon School in North Carolina, Bradley was a dominant floor general dropping 23.1 points, grabbing 6.4 rebounds, and dishing out 6.1 assists per game. Those marks were good enough to earn him the North Carolina Boys Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year. 

What makes Bradley so special on the offense end is his shifty speed, incredibly high basketball IQ, and decision making. You can tell by his body language that Bradley relishes his role as the primary ball handler. Bradley is able to use that combination of speed and high IQ to dominate in transition. Another key aspect that makes Bradley so elite in transition is his on-ball defense. An absolute pest to any offensive player, Bradley was able to secure 2.9 steals per game. 

At the Nike EYBL-Peach Jam last summer, Bradley played on Chris Paul’s AAU team, Team CP3. Putting up 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game, the #2 ranked point guard in the class of 2022 showed that he is more than equipped to face off against other top-level talent in the country. It should come as no surprise that Bradley was selected to participate in this year’s McDonald’s All-American game. 

Bradley will be attending the University of Alabama next season under coach Nate Oats. Bama runs one of the highest paced offenses in college basketball, which makes Bradley the perfect fit for their offensive scheme. The sky’s the limit for Jaden Bradley next season at Alabama and I could not be more excited to see what he can do.

Sports Strength

The Best McDonald’s All-American Men’s Rosters

One of the most difficult aspects of sports is being a scout. Tasked with the challenge of evaluating hundreds of prospects and determining which is the best is no small feat. One of the best places for scouts to get their first taste of recruits is the McDonald’s All-American game. 

Every year in late March, the best twenty-four high school basketball players congregate to showcase the future of basketball in this high-school all-star game. Beginning in 1978, the participants in the McDonald’s All-American game compete in an “east vs west” style scrimmage, as well as a dunk contest and three-point contest. The event used to only name a men’s roster, but as of 2002 a women’s roster and game have been added.  All proceeds from the event go towards the Ronald McDonald House Charities as McDonald’s are the main sponsor of the event.

Selection Process

The selection process for the McDonald’s All-American game is fairly straightforward. To begin the search, a criterion of approved parties sends in potential nominees. The approved parties include High School Coaches, Athletic Directors, Principals, and McDonald’s All-American Games Selection Committee Members. Once the nomination period closes, the McDonald’s All-American Games Selection Committee will vote on who is selected to participate in the game. Per the McDonald’s All-American website; “The Selection Committee is comprised of some of the nation’s most knowledgeable high school analysts, prep scouts, high school newspaper reporters, and prestigious basketball coaches.” To say the least, being selected for this team takes a lot of vetting and is taken very seriously.

Honorable Mentions

Not every class participating in the McDonald’s All-American can be as stacked as the rosters that made this list, but there are a few former participants that can’t be overlooked. Starting with the inaugural team in 1977, Magic Johnson was the main headliner and would go on to win multiple MVPs. The 1981 roster was highlighted by future 1992 Olympic teammates Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan. Similarly, in 1996 future teammates Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal headlined a roster that also included the likes of Kobe Bryant. Lastly, in 2003 we saw LeBron James and Chris Paul suit up for the event.  With the honorable mentions given their roses, it’s time to look at the best men’s McDonald’s All-American rosters.

1995 – Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Stephon Marbury, Chauncy Billups, Shammgod Wells, Shareef Abdur-Rahim

The 1995 McDonald’s All-American roster was more than just a stacked class, it was a clear signal of the new-age of basketball that was to be ushered in. The early 2000’s NBA can be defined as flashy, loud, and swaggy. Players began swaying away from the dull repetition of wearing suits to games and replaced that with street clothes that gave way for more self-expression. This class is headlined by two future final’s MVPs in Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett, as well as NBA iron-man Vince Carter and Instagram live enthusiast Paul Pierce. An underrated addition to this roster is Shammgod Wells. Most fans may not know the lore of Shammgod, but he is a pioneer dribbling the basketball and is a major influence in the way that guys like Kyrie Irving have developed their ball-handling skills.

2004 – Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Shaun Livingston
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

This year’s McDonald’s All-American class was littered with future NBA champions and all-stars. Combined this year’s roster would go on to win ten NBA championships and a litany of regular-season awards. Dwight Howard would go on to win three defensive player of the year awards as well as a championship in Los Angeles. Rajon Rondo would be an integral part of the 08’ Boston Celtics, being the floor general that helped win them a chip. J.R Smith may be most known for attempting to run out the clock in a game they were losing, but he had an extremely impressive NBA career which includes an NBA championship.

2007 – Derrick Rose, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Eric Gordon, Michael Beasley, O.J Mayo
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Though the 2007 McDonald’s All-American roster may not tout NBA championships, the individual careers this class has had is beyond belief. Headlining this class is the youngest MVP in NBA history in Derrick Rose. Suiting up with Rose is 2018 MVP James Harden, one of the most prolific scorers of this era. Eric Gordon would go on to win the sixth man of the year award alongside Harden on the Houston Rockets. Dunk contest champion Blake Griffin rounds out the forwards alongside NBA champion  Kevin Love. Most of the players on this roster are still active in the NBA, so more accolades may be in the future for this class of McDonald’s All-Americans.

2014 – Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kelly Oubre Jr., Grayson Allen, Myles Turner, Justin Jackson, Justise Winslow
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2014 McDonald’s All-American class is best known for the “bromance” that has formed between Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Devin Booker. Booker and Towns both teamed up at Kentucky together in college, while Russell and Towns would end up becoming teammates in the NBA in Minnesota. All three would be named to an all-star roster at different points in their career, but the best is yet to come for this class. Only eight years removed from this year’s McDonald’s Game, the participants are truly just starting to come into their own. Towns recently dropped a career-high 60 points and Booker is helping lead the Suns to the best record in the NBA.

2016 – Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Lonzo Ball, Jarrett Allen, Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, Markelle Fultz
(Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Similar to the 2014 class, the 2016 McDonald’s All-Americans are still coming into their own in the NBA, but have already made an impressionable mark. Jayson Tatum has already helped lead the Boston Celtics to two Eastern Conference Finals, including a matchup against Bam Adebayo and the Miami Heat. Adebayo has solidified himself as one of the best rim protectors and overall defenders in the league. Jarrett Allen has built a similar reputation in Cleveland as an elite rim protector and was recently named to his first all-star team. Miles Bridges was a front-runner to win Most Improved Player this season before dropping off in production but has shown signs of being an elite NBA player this season. Still extremely young, this class has untapped potential.

Sports Strength

Flau’jae Johnson Is Redefining What It Means To Be A Hooper And Musician

Basketball and Hip-Hop have an intimate relationship. The legend himself Lil Wayne once said “Athletes wanna be rappers, and rappers wanna be athletes”. Yes, we have seen the likes of J.Cole attempt a pro-basketball career and, similarly, we’ve seen guys like Lonzo Ball attempt to garner a rap career. More times than not these athletes’ rap careers fizzle out because the music isn’t good enough, or it’s too much of a commitment. Flau’jae Johnson however, has been surrounded by the rap game from an early age and is also a top-ranked women’s high-school recruit in the class of 2022 committed to attend LSU this upcoming fall. Johnson is just getting started breaking through the barriers of the basketball and music world. 

Currently playing out her senior year of high school hoops in Georgia, Johnson has shot up the class of 2022 high school basketball rankings this season. Slotted as the 22nd ranked player in her class and recently named to this year’s McDonald’s All-American game, Johnson has been a walking bucket for Sprayberry high school. Earlier this season Johnson knocked down twelve threes in a single game to break the school’s record. Similarly, Johnson has the capability and will to take any defender in the paint for a quick layup. On the defensive side Johnson shows no fear and plays with a level of intensity parallel to Russel Westbrook as she constantly tracks offensive players driving into the paint for chase-down blocks. 

Johnson is also slated to be the only female hooper selected for the Allen Iverson 24k Showcase, “a full-length game featuring more top talent from across the country” as stated on the Iverson Classic website. It’s one honor to be selected for an all-star event, but to be the only female player in a game against some of the top-ranked high school male hoopers in the country puts Johnson in a league of her own. However, Johnson is no stranger to being on the big stage. 

Flau’jae Johnson was introduced to the national audience when she was a standout on the third season of “The Rap Game” at only twelve years old. Music was always something deeply connected to Johnson, as her late-father Jason who went by the name “Camoflauge” was a well-known rapper in the Georgia area. Following her father’s legacy, Flau’jae has built out an extremely impressive music career which includes appearances on XXL and America’s Got Talent. Garnering a following of nearly 700k on Instagram and over 100k on youtube, Flau’jae has built a legitimate fanbase around her music. 

Committed to playing basketball at LSU next season, Johnson is still looking to pursue her passion of music and hoops. There is no question that Johnson stands out as a top high school player in the country. Damian Lillard better watch out, because Flau’jae Johnson is coming for his spot as the best current hooper/rapper in the country.