45th annual McDonald’s All-American Game played in front of a nearly sold-out crowd

Illinois had no representation in the girls’ or boys’ game this year, but Wintrust Arena had a near-sellout crowd of 8,261.

SHARE 45th annual McDonald’s All-American Game played in front of a nearly sold-out crowd
Duke signee Dariq Whitehead raises his MVP trophy above his head after leading the East team to a 105-78 win over the West.

Duke signee Dariq Whitehead raises his MVP trophy above his head after leading the East team to a 105-78 win over the West.

Kirsten Stickney/Sun-Times

Chicago native Amari Bailey, of Sierra Canyon High School in California, knocked down his first three-pointer of the night with 14 minutes left in the first half Tuesday.

Applause broke out, but it was nothing like when Chicago had a player representing the city in the McDonald’s All-American Games.

The last Chicago-area player to play in the games was Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson in 2015. Young’s DJ Steward, Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie and Naperville North’s Greta Kampschroeder were selected for the games that weren’t played in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, Illinois had no representation in the girls' or boys' game, but Wintrust Arena had a nearly sold-out crowd of 8,261.

‘‘Chicago has a rich history of great basketball players,’’ McDonald’s All-American boys MVP Dariq Whitehead said. ‘‘To come here and be part of that tradition is something you’ll forever remember.’’

Bailey, who grew up in Chicago, was the closest thing Illinois had to a McDonald’s All-American in 2022. He said before the boys’ game Tuesday that he had family fly in from California and plenty of friends from Chicago who would be in attendance.

Similar to the girls’ game, the East jumped out to an early lead and never gave it up, beating the West 105-78. The East had five players score in double figures.

The last 10 minutes of the game were garbage time, but they provided some of the best highlights of the night. As both teams’ defenses relaxed, the dunks intensified. Dereck Lively II, the top recruit in the 2022 class, had three dunks in the final minutes.

Lively, from the Westtown School outside Philadelphia, will play for Duke next season. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds for the East. Whitehead, of Montverde Academy in Florida, also will play for Duke next season and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Bailey had 10 points, six rebounds and two steals for the West. Sunrise Christian Academy’s Mark Mitchell was the leading scorer for the West with 19 points. Mitchell is Duke’s third signee among the 2022 McDonald’s All-American class.

Similar to the girls, the boys were conscious of the court they were playing on and the WNBA championship history that recently was made on it.

‘‘Candace Parker is one of my favorite athletes of all time,’’ Whitehead said. ‘‘Knowing that I was going to play on the same court that she played on is something I talked to my mom and my aunt about when the week started. It’s something we were all excited about.’’

Rapper Lil Baby performed at halftime, and all the All-Americans shared the court with him for his 10-minute set.

Jermaine O’Neal, a six-time NBA All-Star and 1996 McDonalds All-American alum, sat courtside Tuesday. It was O’Neal’s first time attending the All-American Game since he played in it 26 years ago.

‘‘I have my son and my godson with me tonight to help them understand the prestige of this event,’’ O’Neal said. ‘‘They’re dreaming of being in this game one day, as well. Chicago is a great place to have it.’’

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