Nationally, the class of 2016 is loaded with basketball talent. Locally, it was a down year. So for the third time in the 39-year history of the McDonald’s All-American Game, no player from the Chicago area was selected for the boys team.
2009 and 2012 were the other years the area wasn’t represented in the game.
Several of the players involved in the game, which is at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the United Center, have played in Chicago before. Jayson Tatum, a 6-9 small forward from St. Louis and Frank Jackson, a 6-4 point guard from Utah, have both impressed at previous Chicago Elite Classics.
Tatum and Jackson are both heading to Duke. There are four Kentucky recruits in the game: 6-9 Bam Adebayo, 6-3 De’Aaron Fox, 6-11 Sacha Killeya-Jones and 6-3 Malik Monk.
“It’s extremely special to be here and showcase our talents,” Tatum said. “It just shows the future that we have together at Duke next year.”
Another player to keep an eye on is 6-5 point guard Lonzo Ball from Chino Hills, CA. Ball played with two of his younger brothers this season on a high school team that captured the hearts of Los Angeles sports fans with no-look passes, high-flying dunks, long-range three-pointers and perfection.
Chino Hills won the state championship with a 35-0 record. The closest game in their playoff run was a 20 point victory.
“It was the perfect season, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Ball said. “To play with my family, my brothers, that even tops it off.”
Ball’s numbers are almost unimaginable for a high school basketball player: 25.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 12.9 assists. The Huskies scored more than 100 points in 18 games this season, which tied a California state record.
Ball didn’t shy away when asked if Chino Hills could hold its own against his McDonald’s All-American West Team.
“I think we’d actually do alright,” Ball said. “[Chino Hills’] style of play is a little different so they’d probably have to get used to us.”
There is one local representative at the event. New Trier’s Jeannie Boehm was selected to play in the girls game, which tips off at 5:30 p.m. at the United Center.
“I have a ton of family and friends coming,” Boehm said. “I’m so excited to be able to wear the jersey and go out there and play with 24 amazing players. I’ve grown up going to Bulls games ever since I was little. I’ve watched so many games on this court. Scrimmaging [on Tuesday] and playing [on Wednesday] is going to be awesome.”
Boehm, a 6-3 forward, will play at Harvard next season. With no boys players in the game, she’s had to step up to and run the local media gauntlet the past few days.
“I’ve actually enjoyed it,” Boehm said. “We’ve done so many fun things. The Ronald McDonald House was probably the best part so far. It was awesome to be able to meet all the kids that are in a tough spot. It was eye-opening. But they are also amazing, every one of them.”
The net proceeds from the game benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The game has raised more than $11 million since 1978.