The news of his selection to the prestigious McDonald's All-American Game just two hours old, Notre Dame Prep's Khem Birch couldn't help but look at the texts and Facebook messages pouring in, and grin.
"I'm so excited for me and all the people that have helped me along the way -- my city too," said the Montreal native tonight by cell phone. "I'm the first one from there to get picked. Everyone up there's real happy for me. They've all watched me grow up, and now look at where I am."
Spokesmen from the McDonald's All-American game confirmed tonight that Birch is indeed the first Quebec native to be selected to the game, which will take place March 30 at the United Center in Chicago. Birch first came to the United States two summers ago when he enrolled at Winchendon School for the 2009-10 academic year, then transferred down the road to the Fitchburg, Mass.-based Notre Dame Prep last May. Birch, the No. 1 center in the Class of 2011 in ESPNU's latest rankings, signed a letter of intent with Pitt this past November.
Meanwhile, St. Andrew's Michael Carter-Williams, the other New Englander selected to the game, is the first player in the history of the event from a Rhode Island high school (Carter-Williams hails from Hamilton, Mass.).
"It feels like such a great honor, I'm real happy about it," Carter-Williams said this evening. "But I have to give credit to my teammates and my coaches. Without them, I wouldn’t be in this game at all. Just to represent St. Andrew's school, the state of Rhode Island as well as Massachusetts, I'm so happy about it."
The 6-foot-7 Carter-Williams, who signed with Syracuse last November and is the No. 5 shooting guard in 2011, will play on the East squad. The 6-foot-9 Birch will play on the West squad.
Here is what our colleagues at Scouts Inc. had to say about the picks:
Stats: 20.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 6.3 apg
Paul Biancardi's breakdown: Carter-Williams is a long, thin athletic scoring guard who is always in attack mode. He is also excellent at creating space for his jumper or creative with the dribble to get to the rim, especially with the clock winding down.
Dave Telep's take: In his final summer on the AAU circuit, Carter-Williams captained a youthful group of BABC All-Stars. His first game at the Peach Jam was a 44-point eruption and was the catalyst for his candidacy as an All-American. ESPN's Mike LaPlante noted that he made 30 of 35 free throws on his first day at the Peach Jam.
Stats: 18.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 6.0 bpg
Biancardi's breakdown: He is a terrific, young athlete and tremendous shot-blocker. Defensively, Birch can cover a lot of ground and is one of the few prospects who can influence the game without leaving the paint.
Telep's take: The 2010 LeBron James Academy was the setting, and Derrick Favors comparisons were ringing out from the crowd. Months later, Birch would switch from the class of 2012 back into the 2011 class. He played beat the buzzer, then inked with Pittsburgh giving Jamie Dixon his highest-rated recruit ever as Panthers head coach.