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March 25, 2011

McD's game offers plenty of intrigue

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Saturday afternoon, the nation's top high school basketball players will arrive in Chicago for the 2011 McDonald's All-American game. Festivities will get started on Sunday when the East and West squads hold their first practice at the ATTACK Athletics center (not open to public). The game is at 8:30 p.m. Central on Wednesday at the United Center.

Rivals.com will be on hand the entire week in Chicago for McDonald's week. Here's a few of the things that we'll be watching.

Big questions need answers

Which big - preferably more than one - will step up and demand more respect? Both college coaches and recruiting analysts have complained about the bigs in this class being pretty average. Native Chicagoan Anthony Davis has more than proven himself but there are legitimate questions about the rest of the guys in the game.

Does Khem Birch have an offensive arsenal consisting of something more than dunks to complement his incredible athleticism and high-level defense?

Can Rakeem Christmas put together consistent effort on both sides of the floor?

Marshall Plumlee has taken a lot of heat for his inclusion in the game. Does the Duke signee come out with some fire and prove that he does indeed belong in the game?

Those are just a few of the questions that are begging for answers.

East's shooters versus West's versatility

Examining the wing players on each roster, you notice a bit of a trend. The East seems to be loaded with more finesse/scorer types - outside of Mike Gilchrist - while the West has more athletic, slashing players who make plays at the rim.

With Brad Beal, Michael Carter-Williams, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and P.J. Hairston, the East won't lack for shot-making ability from deep. But, of that group, Beal is really the only physical player who will attack the rim off of the dribble.

Meanwhile on the West team, there is a skill/scorer guy in the nation's top player, Austin Rivers. But he's joined by LeBryan Nash, Wayne Blackshear, Branden Dawson and Adonis Thomas, who are much more likely to play a physical game and get their points in either transition or at the rim.

Can the East match the West's physicality on the wings? Will the West be able to withstand a barrage of deep jumpers? Which side's players will show us that they have a more complete game than they've been credit for up until now?

Point(s) of emphasis?

The East has a pair of excellent point guards in Quinn Cook and Shannon Scott. However, there's no question that we're looking most forward to watching Myck Kabongo and Marquis Teague match up with each other in practice. We're also curious to see which player emerges as the West squad's leader.

Kabongo has long been considered the ultimate teammate and has been lauded for his defensive ability and leadership skills. But, there have been questions about how well Kabongo takes care of the ball and how he projects long term because he's not a huge scorer.

On the other hand, Teague has been looked at by some - outside of the Rivals.com offices at least - as a guy who has ridiculous talent but isn't necessarily the type of guy who is a true competitor or leader at the point guard position. Can Teague continue what was an impressive final season of high school and prove once and for all that he's much more than just a big-time athlete and potential guy?

Finally, will Cook and Scott be able to handle what they are going to face out of Teague and Kabongo, who likely will have been getting in each other's grills for three days leading up to the game?



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