In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Michael Visenberg previews one of the most storied high school basketball events in the country, the McDonald's All-American Game, analyzing each participant's journey as well as forecasting their longterm projections leading up to the 45th annual MCDAAG in Chicago, Illinois:
The McDonald’s All-American game has held the status as one of the highest levels of prestige for high school basketball prospects since its inception in 1977. It has produced countless NBA prospects and calendar-wise, the MCDAAG usually kicks off the high school all-star circuit and drives buzz for the next NBA draft class. Even with the game being canceled and just a symbolic gesture the past two years due to COVID-19, the alumni list of current and/or projected NBA players has continued to grow.
This McDonald’s class has been affected by COVID-19 as well, with past high school seasons and summers operating far from normal. The 2022 class lost a few likely recipients when top prospects Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren reclassified to 2021 (both competed for Memphis this season), with Shaedon Sharpe’s late reclassification and enrollment at Kentucky being yet another example (Note: check out our ‘Film Study’ breakdown on Shaedon, here). Some players who were likely selections also went the professional route, with Sterling “Scoot” Henderson joining the G League Ignite program, and three other likely selections going to Overtime Elite in the Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, along with Jazian Gortman. Also, as is the case with the McDonald’s All-American game, multiple top fifth-year high school players were not eligible, removing top prospects Kyle Filipowski (Wilbraham & Monson Academy/Duke commit) and Yohan Traore (Dream City Christian/Undecided after decommitment from LSU) from consideration.
While the criteria for selection isn’t public, and the selection committee is under a code of secrecy, it is filled with a lot of major players in the world of grassroots basketball. The game is a career achievement and it’s something these players don’t take lightly as they work toward the designation. However, a lot of weight seems to historically be put into the summer before a candidate’s senior season in AAU basketball, when they are playing on more of a national scale and most of the committee can get to events to see them play. With the summers being far from normal in 2020 and 2021 with most of the major shoe circuits shut down or severely condensed, this past summer likely played an even larger role than normal.
With the 2022 rendition set to be played March 29 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, it feels appropriate to become familiarized with what each nominee did to warrant their spot in the storied all-star game. Below, we’ll look at what each player may have done last summer to solidify their MCDAAG roster spot. We'll also look ahead as we project each prospect into the future. With this game being a launching pad of sorts for so many past and present pros, this article should serve as a helpful precursor as to what the 2022 McDonald’s All-American game participants have to offer.
Jaden Bradley | Guard | IMG Academy (FL) | Alabama commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 7th (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 17th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team CP3 (Nike)
How he became an All-American: Bradley had long been considered one of the state of North Carolina’s best players and was near the top of the class nationally when he left Cannon School (NC) for IMG Academy (FL) as a junior. Bradley went on to lead the 2021 Nike EYBL in assists, and was named All-EYBL Peach Jam Honorable Mention, per The Circuit. Bradley will be playing in the GEICO High School Nationals on number-two ranked IMG Academy to close out his high school career.
What to expect moving forward: With Nate Oats possibly losing multiple guards to the professional ranks, Bradley will be expected to contribute right away regardless of who stays or goes. He has shown an ability to run the pick-and-roll, has finishing craft and his size at the point should help him contribute as a defender. Bradley is a streaky range shooter and while he is not the bounciest guard, he has functional quickness that should help him get to his spots. He may not be a lock to be a one-and-done at Alabama, though it’s only a matter of time before he’s fully on the NBA radar.
Dereck Lively II | Big | Westtown School (PA) | Duke commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 27th (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 1st (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team Final (Nike)
How he became an All-American: Though Lively was on the radar from a young age, he really rose up the rankings right before summer 2021 hit and he was featured in a Team Final (PA) frontcourt with likely 2022 NBA draft lottery pick Jalen Duren. Lively kept growing, both in terms of size and skill, throughout his high school career, now to the point where he is close to 7’2” with rim protection and developing offensive ability. The 2022 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year, Lively is very enticing as it is very rare to find someone with his combination of size, vertical pop and movement.
What to expect moving forward: With what we have seen in the development of Mark Williams during his time at Duke, Coach Jon Scheyer should have a great blueprint of how to develop Lively. This should lead to a lot of lobs, touches in the dunker spot and responsibility as Duke’s back line of defense at the rim. Lively has an exciting two-way ceiling, though using his size and athleticism to his advantage in the paint should really benefit him early on in Durham. He should provide immediate rebounding and rim protection, with his skill and development at the offensive end serving as icing on the cake. Just how quickly he rounds into form and continues to develop will be the difference in when he’ll hear his name called on draft night in June 2023.
Chris Livingston | Wing | Oak Hill Academy (VA) | Kentucky commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 3rd (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 7th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: W.A.C.G (Adidas)
How he became an All-American: The latest superstar high school player from prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (VA) to participate in the McDonald’s All-American was proclaimed early on by many as the most talented player to come out of Akron, Ohio since LeBron James. Livingston was named MVP of the 2019 U16 FIBA Americas and has been considered among the top in the country since the inception of the 2022 class rankings. Known for his strength, athleticism and scoring ability, Livingston led both We All Can Go (TN) and Oak Hill in scoring. Oak Hill is a number-five seed in this year’s GEICO Nationals tournament, where Livingston will look to send off legendary coach Steve Smith on a high note.
What to expect moving forward: The last time Kentucky had a wing with the physical profile of Livingston likely dates back a few years to Keldon Johnson in 2018-19. While Livingston may not have the shooting profile of Johnson at the same stage, he should bring some physicality as a defender along with his ability to drive and finish through contact. The key with Livingston is rounding out his all-around ability, in terms of playing without the ball and finding more ways to impact the game if he is not scoring. He will have a role at Kentucky from day one and is a candidate to become yet another one-and-done from #BBN.
Brandon Miller | Wing | Cane Ridge HS (TN) | Alabama commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 11th (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 11th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Brad Beal Elite (Nike)
How he became an All-American: Strong consistency from Miller in maintaining his spot among this class, as he has long shown flashes on both sides of the floor as a rangy 6’8” wing. He certainly has displayed an ability to earn “stocks” (steals and blocks), plus has some soft touch out to long range and can even put the ball on the floor in a straight line. Miller was named the Defensive Player of the Session at the 2021 Nike EYBL Peach Jam, along with being on the All-EYBL 2nd Team. He was the second-leading scorer on a Brad Beal Elite (MO) that made it to the Peach Jam finals.
What to expect moving forward: Even with Miller not necessarily having prototypical length for a wing, he seems to make up for it with his movement, motor and instincts as a defender. While he did not take a huge volume of outside shots in the EYBL, he has touch and seemed very comfortable shooting off the catch and dribble in what was pretty much a do-everything role at Cane Ridge (TN) this past high school season. One can envision Miller fitting the “3-and-D” archetype, though a major key for his potential 2023 draft stock will be how he can develop finishing around the basket and getting to the free throw line. There is certainly some athleticism and agility to work with, and he should be called upon early at Alabama.
Dillon Mitchell | Forward | Montverde Academy (FL) | Texas commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 172nd (11/15/20)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 14th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: E1T1 United (Nike)
How he became an All-American: One of the major summer risers in the class of 2022, Mitchell is likely one of the few players whose actual high school season earned him a McDonald’s nod. He had a number of key performances in major and televised games with Montverde, excelling as a combo-forward and even spending some time at center. Mitchell played at some different schools in Florida before attending Montverde, where his athleticism, ability to play without the ball and defense have moved him to five-star status heading into college.
What to expect moving forward: While expanding his range will certainly be a key, and his shot may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, Mitchell does several things that pop when you watch him play. His defensive versatility is one of his main features, as he moves well laterally, has great verticality, and can guard up or down positions. He is also a great cutter, can finish well at the rim and will chip in as a rebounder on both ends of the floor. He is about 6’8” and has more of a wing-type build, but his dynamic athleticism and toughness should help alleviate pressure on his ability to excel at one of the big positions. He will undoubtedly be an early contributor at Texas and will likely have a short stay in college.
Julian Phillips | Forward | Link Academy (MO) | Undecided
First ranked on 247 Composite: 73rd (12/29/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 12th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Upward Stars (Adidas)
How he became an All-American: Phillips experienced a rapid ascension within six months of initially appearing on the class of 2022 rankings, and by the time summer of 2021 was finished, it seemed he was likely McDonald’s-bound. At 6’8”, he is bouncy, moves well as a defender and has an easy release out to three-point range. He was a big-time scorer for Upward Stars (SC) on the 3SSB Circuit, as he shot above 40% from 3 and 80% from the free throw line. This season for Link Academy (MO), Phillips has been one of the key components to the team’s success, earning the Lions the fourth seed at GEICO Nationals.
What to expect moving forward: Phillips recently opened his recruitment after Will Wade was let go from LSU. His final schools before his initial commitment included Florida State, Tennessee and USC, though it also looks like Auburn has been involved. Phillips is a really good shooter off the catch, and should be deadly shooting the corner three. He can guard the perimeter and should also be able to move up and guard quite a few fours, as well. He is a threat to finish around the basket with a head of steam and should chip in on the offensive glass, leveraging his length. Ball skills and passing will be two areas to really monitor with Phillips, whose size, shooting and athletic tools should make him an NBA target sooner rather than later.
MJ Rice | Wing | Prolific Prep (CA) | Kansas commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 23rd (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 25th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team Loaded (Adidas)
How he became an All-American: Since he stood out as one of the self creators among the class of 2022 group at USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp in 2018, Rice has managed to maintain his spot in the upper echelon of the national rankings. After playing with Oak Hill Academy (VA) as a junior, he had a solid summer with Team Loaded (NC). Rice featured prominently with Prolific Prep (CA) as a senior and has them nestled in as the number-eight seed at GEICO Nationals, next week.
What to expect moving forward: Standing 6’5” with a college-ready build, Rice can get downhill effectively and finish through contact. It’s been rumored that he may be a potential G-League Ignite target, though he is currently set to go to Kansas, who will likely be losing some wing depth to the upcoming NBA draft. Rice will have to work on his consistency as an outside shooter, but his strength and aggressive style should get him scoring early and often in college. Look for him to provide some physicality as a wing defender in the Big 12, as Rice looks to round out his two-way skill set in preparation for the NBA level.
JJ Starling | Guard | La Lumiere School (IN) | Notre Dame commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 48th (7/28/20)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 30th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: City Rocks (Nike)
How he became an All-American: A steady riser in the rankings since initially debuting nearly two years ago, Starling led a strong guard lineup with La Lumiere (IN) these past two seasons after relocating to Indiana from New York. He competed with City Rocks on the Nike EYBL Circuit, showing his scoring ability, and providing good positional defense. Starling’s senior season at LaLu likely put him over the top with the selection committee, as they scored a few strong wins during the season, sliding in as the number-seven seed at GEICO Nationals.
What to expect moving forward: Blake Wesley may not have been named a McDonald’s All-American, but his play as a freshman at Notre Dame has placed him in possible first round contention in June. Starling has at least somewhat of a similar physical profile and will likely be asked to do a lot of the same things as Wesley, plus would be a wonderful complement should Wesley decide to return. Starling will provide shooting off the catch, some creative finishing, and an ability to create space with his handle. He is a decent athlete for a guard and looks to be a multi-year college player who could build up his draft stock over time.
Ernest Udeh | Big | Dr. Phillips HS (FL) | Kansas commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 189th (11/15/20)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 29th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Southeast Elite (Adidas)
How he became an All-American: The big man out of Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High School experienced a gradual climb up the rankings, capped by impressive performances at Pangos All-American Camp and with his Southeast Elite (FL) team in 3SSB. With legitimate center size and tools, Udeh has developed his offensive game in the post and finishing around the hoop, to go along with his rim protection and rebounding. Udeh’s play in the spring and summer of 2021 established him as one of the most consistent big men in his class.
What to expect moving forward: With Kansas losing a lot of its front court depth, Udeh and fellow ‘22 big man recruit Zuby Ejiofor should see early minutes as freshmen. Udeh will likely be a drop coverage big who provides some backline shot blocking and some defensive communication duties. He can finish above the rim at times, is good at scoring close to the hoop, and scoring in traffic, which should lead to a healthy amount of trips to the free throw stripe. If he can couple his strong frame, baseline skill set and work ethic and develop into a switchable defender and continue to polish his offensive game, he’ll work his way to the pro level.
Jarace Walker | Forward | IMG Academy (FL) | Houston commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 4th (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 9th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team Thrill (Under Armour)
How he became an All-American: Part of the IMG Academy (FL) program since 2018, Walker has had a college-ready, possibly even pro-ready frame since he was about 14. Building his way up from being more of a complementary piece into one of the key contributors at IMG, Walker also had reps as one of the go-to players for Team Thrill (MD) on the Under Armour Association Circuit. He is functionally strong and athletic with the ability to play either forward spot, finish through contact at the hoop and create some for others, as well.
What to expect moving forward: Houston is one of the premier college programs in the nation and Kelvin Sampson teams seem to consistently grade-out superbly on the defensive end. Walker is one of the highest-level recruits Sampson has landed at Houston and should fit right in with the departure of some senior forwards. He has the physicality to contribute on both ends from day one and should be a major match-up problem with his handle and passing ability given his size and length. Walker can even stretch the floor some, though just how much and how often will likely determine how high he is valued as a 2023 NBA draft prospect.
Dariq Whitehead | Wing | Montverde Academy (FL) | Duke commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 15th (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 5th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team Durant (Nike)
How he became an All-American: At Montverde Academy (FL) since eighth grade, Whitehead has always teased a tantalizing combination of athleticism, physical tools, and skill set. In fact, many walked away from USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp in 2018 feeling Emoni Bates, Jalen Duren and Whitehead were the top-three names in the class of 2022. Among the younger players in the MCDAAG, Whitehead has established himself as an alpha dog on the number-three ranked team at GEICO Nationals and arguably the most intriguing long-term prospect in the class. Whitehead also won the 2022 Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year award, joining the ranks of recent winners like Chet Holmgren, Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, and R.J. Barrett.
What to expect moving forward: With current Duke freshman standout A.J. Griffin set to be a lottery pick in a few months, Whitehead will likely plug into the same spot on the wing. While it is too much to expect him to shoot it like Griffin has in 2021-22, Whitehead will still bring a ton to the table, including multi-level scoring and playmaking. He’s also a versatile defender, who should thrive on the perimeter and serve as an ultra-switchable chess piece for Coach Scheyer. Considering his physical tools, he may even be able to play the four for stretches in Durham, offering plenty of lineup versatility. As it currently stands, Whitehead is one of the most enticing prospects projected in the 2023 draft and he will be someone Duke counts on right away as a freshman.
Cam Whitmore | Wing | Archbishop Spalding HS (MD) | Villanova commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 115th (7/28/20)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 20th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team Melo (Nike)
How he became an All-American: Whitmore popped up on the radar after his strong summer showing as a rising junior, only to further rise up after the summer of 2021. With his elite vertical athleticism and overall motor, he was a major defensive presence for Team Melo (MD). He also had some incredible above-the-rim finishes and moments in big games with Archbishop Spalding (MD), showing off his plus-rebounding and developing offensive game.
What to expect moving forward: One of the best athletes in this high school class, Whitmore should be in line to fill an immediate role at Villanova thanks to his relentless rebounding and versatile defensive presence. Whitmore should be able to finish around the basket with effectiveness as a freshman and looks to be developing nicely as a straight-line driver. He will need to continue to work on quick decision making as well as his shooting off movement and off the catch. Coach Jay Wright is commonly known for taking time to develop his freshmen, though Whitmore has the athletic tools, strength and a contagious energy which will make it difficult to keep off the court.
Amari Bailey | Guard | Sierra Canyon School (CA) | UCLA commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 10th (9/12/19)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 2nd (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Mac Irvin Fire (Nike)
How he became an All-American: Committed to DePaul before his first day of high school, Chicago native Bailey played all four seasons of high school basketball out west at Sierra Canyon School (CA). After showing serious flashes on a stacked team as a freshman, Bailey kept growing and maintained his on-ball ability as he did so. Even without playing in the EYBL last summer due to injury, Bailey has maintained his title as one of the most highly-touted players in the class with his ability to get to the basket, his shooting profile, and his defensive acumen.
What to expect moving forward: UCLA will need some scoring next season and Bailey will likely quickly become a go-to option for the Bruins. He has shown plenty of on-ball ability and playmaking over the years, though he will need to prove himself in that area at the next level and needs to work on his decision making. What he will bring to Westwood is his lefty shooting ability, burst and power as a driver, plus his potential to defend both backcourt positions. There is a lot to like with Bailey and he remains an intriguing combo guard prospect who should be a name NBA teams know leading up to the 2023 draft.
Anthony Black | Guard | Duncanville HS (TX) | Arkansas
First ranked on 247 Composite: 130th (9/25/20)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 22nd (1/20/22)
AAU Team: 3D Empire (Independent)
How he became an All-American: Growing up, Black was a dual sport athlete who was a highly sought-after wide receiver at Coppell High School (TX) before zeroing in on basketball as his main sport. In our group’s opinion, Black’s current 247 Composite ranking is far too low and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him crack the top-10 by the time the final rankings are submitted. He really moved up during his play with 3D Empire (TX) during the AAU season, as well as when he teamed up with Keyonte George at Pangos All-American Camp, where Black thrived while playing on-ball. Although eligibility issues forced him to miss a portion of his senior season at Duncanville High School (TX), when he was playing, they looked like a team that could compete with anyone in the country.
What to expect moving forward: Black announced his commitment to the Razorbacks this evening during the Powerade Jam Fest in Chicago as part of the McDonald’s All-American festivities. Although he appeared to be a prime candidate for the G League Ignite or Overtime Elite, it appears he chose between Arkansas, Gonzaga, and Oklahoma State. Gonzaga was the odds-on favorite down the stretch, but at the end of the day, the 6’7” Black will be taking his talents to Fayetteville. Black has legitimate prowess as an offensive initiator and as a scorer and should be able to defend multiple positions in the SEC. While he has a lower release on his shot, it is still a weapon, and his fluid athleticism reveals itself on both ends of the floor. Black was a player NBA scouts really liked when they saw him last summer at Pangos and with another year of seasoning, that interest should only increase.
Adem Bona | Big | Prolific Prep (CA) | UCLA commit
First ranked on 247 Composite: 14th (12/29/20)
Current rank on 247 Composite: 16th (1/20/22)
AAU Team: Team WhyNot (Nike)
How he became an All-American: Born in Lagos, Nigeria and eventually brought to Turkey, Bona first arrived on the basketball scene with impressive performances for the Turkish U17 World Cup team and U16 European Championships in 2018. By the time he got to Prolific Prep (CA), he stood out in a crowded front court with his activity level, out-of-area rebounding ability, defensive intensity, and functional athleticism. With broad shoulders and some ridiculous vertical pop, Bona is a difficul