CHICAGO — The best of the best in high school basketball converged in the Windy City for the annual McDonald’s All American Game Tuesday night.
A crowd of family, friends and fans came to Wintrust Arena, home of the WNBA champion Chicago Sky, to bear witness to the cream of the crop from the East and West showcase their talents before they make their transition into college. It was also the first time in two years that the festivities were held in person due to COVID.
From the start, both sides struck a balance between competitiveness and camaraderie. In other words, playing at the highest level while also enjoying the spirit and vitality of the exhibition.
The East ended up winning over the West convincingly, 95-75, and the biggest standouts were future UCLA Bruins Kiki Rice (East) and Gabriela Jaquez (West), who each finished with 17 points and were named Co-MVPs.
Rice plays for the Sidwell Friends Quakers in Washington, D.C., the No. 1 high school basketball team in the nation. Jaquez represents the Camarillo Scorpions out of Camarillo, Calif.
Rice excelled at driving to the basket when needed and converted on some good shots over much taller opponents. She was 7-of-10 from the field and was able to dish out five assists. Jaquez did well beyond the arc and did all she could to keep the West in the game.
For most of the game, the East was in total command, as they were converting on good shots, got the ball in transition and were solid on the defensive end. During the second quarter, they outscored the West 29-18 and were 6-of-10 from the 3-point line.
Meanwhile, the West was struggling in all those areas and had a bit of difficulty sustaining a groove. Nevertheless, they had additional standouts such as Aaliyah Gayles of Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas who has committed to USC this fall. Even with just five points, she seemed like a scrappy young talent, diving for loose balls and showing signs that she will be a dynamic playmaker with four assists.
On the East, Janiah Barker of Montverde Academy in Tampa, who has committed to Georgia, contributed in the paint and on the boards, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds. Chance Gray from Winton Woods High School in Hamilton, Ohio, who will be attending Oregon, was a solid shooter who finished with 14 points.
Throughout, the spirit and vitality of the moment was demonstrated by each of the players on both sides as they got the chance to showcase their talents before a national audience.
Afterwards, Rice spoke of how this experience lived out a lifelong dream for her as well as the equal treatment the girls received this weekend compared to the inequalities that generally exist in AAU and high school.
“This weekend and the whole McDonalds All American experience has been everything and more,” she said. “This weekend you could tell that we were given the same treatment and I really appreciated that.”