High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Shabazz Muhammad

Goodluck Okonoboh is in a tough spot.

The 6-foot-9 center is getting ready for his senior year at the Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.), and college offers are rolling in for the athletic big man. But it's not all good news for Okonoboh.

That's because no one wants to be "The Replacement."

In all of sports, it might the worst situation in which to find yourself: replacing a departed superstar. Especially at the high school level, where a dominant player can graduate, take his game to a Division I college and leave a huge hole in the lineup.

[+] EnlargeNerlens Noel
J.Anthony Roberts/ESPNHS.comIt will be a challenge replacing Nerlens Noel, pictured, at Tilton, but Goodluck Okonoboh is up for it.
Unfortunately for Okonoboh, that's exactly where he is right now. With former Tilton School star Nerlens Noel having graduated and heading to Kentucky, Okonoboh will step into the void next season, and he'll be tasked with replacing much of Noel's defensive presence, rebounding, shot-blocking and leadership.

Noel was the No. 1 player in the Class of 2012, so Okonoboh has some huge shoes to fill.

"I think I'm ready," Okonoboh said. "I learned a lot from Nerlens, and I give him credit for a lot of the things he has taught me. I think during the high school season I'm going to be a different player, and I'm going to open a lot of people's eyes."

Okonoboh is considered more raw than his predecessor was at this stage in his career, but it will be hard to stop people from holding Okonoboh up to the standard set by Noel. The comparisons are too easy: same school, same position, same style of play, same elite athleticism -- they even sport a similar high-top hairstyle.

Okonoboh has the talent to get the job done. He started in the frontcourt alongside Noel last year and put up solid numbers, and his defense was especially impressive. Schools like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Gonzaga have already offered, and he's ranked as the No. 11 center in the Class of 2013 by ESPN. Luckily for Okonoboh, he got to learn from Noel, one of the greatest shot-blockers in high school history, before trying to replace him.

"He taught me that, like anything else, you've got to work at it," said Okonoboh. "Blocking shots is an art form. It's not just about being big -- it's about timing. Nerlens has great timing, and I've been working on it."

Okonoboh also plays for the same AAU team that Noel did, and this summer he's performed well as the top big man on Boston-based BABC, averaging 3.0 blocks per game.

That should give him some experience in playing outside of Noel's shadow, but it still won't be easy next year. It's never easy being "The Replacement."

Who’s got next?

Here’s a look at five other big-name ballers with big shoes to fill this upcoming season:

Rashad Muhammad replacing Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2 in Class of 2012)
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Perhaps no player will be under the microscope as much as Rashad, who is tasked with stepping in for his older brother and last year’s Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year in Gorman’s lineup. Rashad, an unranked 6-foot-5 junior wing, is a talented playmaker and rebounder and has interest from the likes of Maryland, USC and UNLV.

Karviar Shepherd replacing Isaiah Austin (No. 3)
Grace Prep Academy (Dallas)
Shepherd could very well join Austin at Baylor during the 2013 season, but for now, he’ll take a shot at replacing the standout 7-footer in the middle of the Lions’ lineup. Shepherd (No. 29 in the ESPN 100) is a physical presence in the middle with his 6-foot-9 and 215-pound frame, and he will use every bit of that size to alter shots and keep opponents off the offensive glass. While he lacks the refined offensive game Austin hung his hat on at Prep, Shepherd is a capable finisher and will form a nice 1-2 frontcourt tandem along with classmate Jordan Mickey.

Hallice Cooke and Josh Brown replacing Kyle Anderson (No. 5)
St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
It just might take two players to replace the all-around play Anderson wowed spectators with every time he stepped on the floor for this storied program. St. Anthony’s hasn’t lost a contest in either of the past two seasons and won a national title in 2011 with Anderson running the show. Cooke is a 6-foot-3 off guard with a deft touch from the outside, while Brown is another dangerous perimeter threat and holds offers from Gonzaga, UVA and Temple, among others.

Ishmail Wainright replacing Justin Anderson (No. 49)
Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)
Don’t expect much of a drop off in production at the 3 spot this winter as Wainright and Anderson are similarly built forwards who could take over a contest with their athleticism and basketball smarts. Anderson averaged 18 points with 5.7 helpers last season to guide Montrose to a top-15 national ranking. Wainright, the No. 18 player in the rising senior class, should enjoy a spike in production after posting 8.0 points, 8.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds a contest as a junior.

2012 Under Armour Elite 24 announced

June, 26, 2012
The seventh annual Under Armour Elite 24 will be held in Los Angeles at the Venice Beach outdoor courts Aug. 25 and will be televised live on ESPNU (7 p.m. ET). The event also will showcase a slam dunk contest on Aug. 24 (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET).

Featuring 24 of the nation’s best high school players, the Under Armour Elite 24 was held at the famed Rucker Park in Harlem its first four years. Since 2010 it has been held in Los Angeles and will return to Venice Beach for the third consecutive year.

Last year before an overflow crowd of more than 2,500, the Marques Johnson Squad defeated the Raymond Lewis Squad 142-132. Each squad, in the tradition of the event, are named after local playground legends.

Marques Johnson team MVPs were UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), who finished with 18 points and eight assists, and Virginia recruit Justin Anderson of Montrose Christian (Portland, Ore.), who finished with 23 points.

Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), also headed to UCLA, and Aquille Carr of Patterson (Baltimore, Md.) were named MVPs of the Ray Lew team.

Rosters for the 2012 event will be announced at a later date.

Prominent alumni through the event's first six years include NBA All-Star Kevin Love (Timberwolves), 2010 No. 1 NBA Draft pick John Wall (Wizards) and 2011 NCAA Final Four MOP Kemba Walker (Connecticut). Two Under Armour Elite 24 alumni were named NBA Rookie of the Year -- 2010 honoree Tyreke Evans (Kings) and 2012 honoree Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), the No. 1 pick in last year's NBA Draft.

Alumni Bradley Beal (Florida), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Austin Rivers (Duke) and Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) are expected to be high picks in this year's NBA Draft.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Toasting the Class of 2012

May, 18, 2012
Noel NerlensKelly KlineWe think UK recruit Nerlens Noel is headed toward a bright future both on and off the court.
With graduation right around the corner, it’s almost time to bid adieu to the class of 2012. Before the veteran ballers flip that tassel, we’re going to bless them with some last-second love and immortalize them in the form of senior superlatives. We’ll gaze into our crystal ball to make a few predictions as well as reflect on the myriad achievements of this talented crew.

These are our picks, but feel free to chime in with your selections on Twitter @espnhs.

Most important commitment
Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
Sure, Anderson’s commitment to UCLA might have been overshadowed by the subsequent pledges of Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker. But who knows if the Bruins would’ve landed those two prized recruits had it not been for Anderson -- the ultimate team-first guy and winner -- jumping on board first. Anderson's versatility will be valuable as the heralded class looks to restore UCLA's lore after a tumultuous last few years.
Runner-up: Baylor lands Isaiah Austin, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)

Most likely to succeed in the NBA
Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
We’re not the only ones envisioning Muhammad going toe-to-toe with Bron Bron and the rest of the league's heavyweights. The consensus among pro scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit was that ‘Bazz was the most pro-ready domestic prospect in the class. His Kobe-like demeanor and ability to get buckets in a variety of ways should bode well for whatever squad scoops him up in the Association.
Runner-up: Anthony Bennett, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)

Most likely to land an acting role
Nerlens Noel, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.)
The high top fade alone should be enough to land this menacing shot blocker in the reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or if they ever recast Kid or Play for the next “House Party.” Combine his tight 'do with his affable personality and his ability to take over defensively on the hardwood, and we could be looking at a star both on and off the court.
Runner-up: Justin Anderson, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)

Read More »

Mr. Basketball USA: experts' take

April, 16, 2012
This year's ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA debate had three worthy contenders -- UCLA-bound seniors Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), plus junior Jabari Parker of Simeon (Chicago).

When the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel tallied its final expanded ballot, Muhammad led Parker by an 11-point margin.

Every year, there are many factors to consider, and it's always fun to look back on the picks as the college, and likely pro, careers of the top candidates plays out.

You've seen the numbers. Now read the opinions of the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel, and other prep basketball experts, about this year's national player of the year race.

Experts' Take

"With Jabari Parker we are talking about a very unique player and person. On the court, he influences every possession with his physical tools, versatile skills and basketball IQ. He has led his Simeon team to a state championship and a city title... They played a national schedule and only lost to Findlay Prep. As a young man, he is special because of his humbleness and work ethic on the floor. Off the court, he takes care of his school work and gives back to his community. Can be a difference maker in his next stop at the collegiate level with the ability and traits to be in the NBA."
-Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Basketball Recruiting

"I'm a firm believer that the POY has to have a body of work to go with his pro potential. There are three candidates in my mind that have the combination of those two attributes in Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel and Kyle Anderson. No doubt that Noel is the top pro prospect of the trio with his ability to dominate the paint defensively. Anderson (is) the most versatile and a true winner at the high school level who players love to play with as he can really deliver the rock. But my choice for 2012 has to be Shabazz Muhammad. He competes at a close to 100 percent level in almost every game he performed in for Bishop Gorman. He's an explosive scorer who has blossomed offensively with the addition of a solid jumper from the arc, but it may be his approach to the game defensively, where he takes special pride in making big plays, that gives him the overall edge and makes him the top individual performer night in and night out. It is that consistency that sets him above the rest."
-Van Coleman, hot100hoops.com Editor

"I think Shabazz Muhammad earned that honor. We're talking about a guy every time he hits floor, he works harder than everyone else."
-Evan Daniels, Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst

"There are plenty of talented players in the 2012 senior class but nobody is as complete a player as Shabazz Muhammad. He's done it against all-comers and at all levels. He's simply the best player in the country."
-Jody Demling, Louisville Courier-Journal

"Shabazz has been dominant. If anyone starts to question him, he goes out and totally dominates. He doesn't take any prisoners."
-Clark Francis, Hoop Scoop Editor & Publisher

"Shabazz Muhammad is consistently the most productive player on the court. I have watched him progress since he first played at my TOC as a freshman. At that age he was playing up with rising seniors and showed no fear. He's competitive and confident and proved that year after year. His intensity level and desire is right there with guys like Michael Jordan and LeBron James."
-Bob Gibbons, All-Star Sports

"Every time I see Shabazz Muhammad, not only is he the most talented guy, but most competitive. He's focused and I love his energy."
-Jonathan Givony, Draftexpress.com President

"It's a tough call, but I give it to Shabazz (Muhammad). He's the top talent in the class, led his team to a state championship, put up numbers and met expectations. Kyle Anderson does great things for an unbeaten team, but nobody has passed Shabazz."
-Jerry Meyer, Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst

"I know what a defensive game changer Nerlens Noel is, and he has been rapidly adding to his offensive skill package, but my vote for the class of 2012 POY goes to Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad has dominated his class since he was a freshman. He is an elite athlete with a matching motor. A highlight waiting to happen on the break and finishes above the rim on all clear paths to the rim or in traffic. He is a big-time scorer off the bounce with powerful slashes from the wing and has improved as a 3-point shooter. Muhammad is also a multiple position defender and rebounds in and out of his area. He reminds me of Arkansas and NBA great Sidney Moncrief. Muhammad is the player other players in the class get up to play against and he still dominates. He plays extremely hard on both ends and has been productive on a consistent basis not for months, but years."

-Reggie Rankin, ESPN Recruiting

"To me, the two best players in the country are Jabari Parker and Shabazz Muhammad. It's hard to separate them, but they are the two best high school players right now."
-Don Showalter, Mid-Prairie (Wellman, Iowa) & 2011-12 USA Men's Developmental National Team coach.

"This was a tough year to pick a player of the year. Would love to give it to Muhammad or Noel, but I don't know how you give those two player of the year. When you talk about taking advantage of opportunity, Tyler Lewis is the most effective player in America. Lewis did it on a big stage, he's the best passer out there and did a good job of maintaining egos on Oak Hill's team."
-Patrick Stanwood, Patrick Stanwood Basketball

"My first inclination is to go with Kyle Anderson because he hasn't lost a high school game in two years and for most of the year, actually until this vote, I had him No. 1. I was swayed in a different direction after the week at McDonald's because of the sheer dominating effort and focus Shabazz Muhammad arrived in Chicago with. Combine that with his state championship and I could make the argument in his favor. Muhammad won and was sensational on a number of big stages and that doesn't take anything away from Anderson, whom I had been leaning toward the entire season."
-Dave Telep, ESPN Senior Basketball Recruiting Analyst

JBC Notebook: Shabazz finishes strong

April, 14, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It didn’t really dawn on Shabazz Muhammad until he walked into Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., to play in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, but when he thought about the fact that this was the last time he’d get the chance to lace 'em up as a high schooler, he could think of only one thing.

“It was important for me to finish strong,” said Muhammad, a UCLA-bound swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “This was the last time to go out and showcase what you can do with all of your friends, so it was important to finish strong and have fun.”

Muhammad had a ball leading the West past the East 99-95. He scored 20 points and grabbed four rebounds en route to claiming the West’s MVP trophy.

Rodney Purvis Jordan Game MVP
Kelly KlineN.C. State-bound guard Rodney Purvis scored a game-high 22 points to earn co-MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic.
Rodney Purvis, a shooting guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was named MVP for the East after scoring 22 points in the loss.

“We all had a lot of fun this week, but it was definitely important to go out with a strong performance,” Purvis said. “You want to set the tone for what you’re gonna do next season. Since I was playing in front of my hometown fans from NC State, I wanted to put on a good show.”

Noel’s Influx Of Followers
So much for the myth that once you commit to a college, you lose Twitter followers due to the fans of the schools you didn’t pick clicking the “unfollow” button.

When Nerlens Noel, a center at Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), announced Wednesday night on ESPNU that he was going to Kentucky, his Twitter-follower numbers skyrocketed from 23,000 to 38,000 that very night.

As of Saturday, he was up to 44,000 and counting.

“That’s the power of Big Blue Nation,” said Noel, who suited up for the East. “I knew they would have my back. That’s a major reason that I picked Kentucky. You can’t find better fans anywhere else on the planet.”

Parker Ready To Decide
Looks like we’re finally going to find out where Tony Parker is headed for college.

Parker, who is considering Duke, Ohio State, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown, Kansas and Memphis, said he’ll make his decision late next week at his school.

“I haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but next week is the week,” said Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) who suited up for the East. “I’m just ready to get it over with. It’s been a long process, and I’m ready for it to be over. I’m still weighing things out, but I gave myself 'til next week. That’s when it’s happening.”

Bennett For Three
On April 7, after Team USA battled back from an 18-point deficit, World Select forward Anthony Bennett buried a 3-pointer, which was deep by NBA standards, to thwart any chance of a USA win. World Select went on to win 84-75 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

At practice for the Jordan Brand Classic, Bennett, a senior forward at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), re-enacted the big shot during water breaks, taunting the eight All-Americans who had suited up for Team USA.

“It was a pretty good shot, huh?” Bennett said. “That thing was pretty!”

None of the other players agreed. Go figure.

Harrell Leads East
Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) forward Montrezl Harrell scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the East past the West 84-82 in the Jordan Brand Regional game.

Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) forward Montay Brandon led the West with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC Notebook: UNC recruits ready to go

April, 13, 2012
Jordan Brand Classic shoesUNC fans will be out in full force Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C., for the Jordan Brand Classic to watch future Tar Heels J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- J.P. Tokoto signed with North Carolina for the tradition, Roy Williams and to win a national title, but another big reason Tokoto was excited about being a Tar Heel was to have the chance to learn from swingman Harrison Barnes.

That won’t happen now.

Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson all declared for the NBA draft recently, and for Tokoto that meant just one thing.

“We’re gonna have to be ready to step right in and produce,” said Tokoto, a bouncy forward at Menomonee Falls (Wis.). “We’ve still got plenty of talent, but I think we may get called on a little earlier than most people thought we would.”

Brice Johnson feels the same way, and he said he’s ready for whatever the staff needs him to do.

Johnson and Tokoto are teaming up this weekend at Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the East. Another UNC commit, Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) point guard Marcus Paige, was supposed to play in the game, but he had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and couldn’t travel. Dwyer (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) forward Joel James rounds out the Heels’ 2012 class.

“We’re all gonna need to be ready sooner,” said Johnson, a forward at Edisto (Cordova, S.C.). “That’s fine with me, though. Bring it on. I’m ready. I’ve just gotta gain weight.”

He’s contemplated giving up track, because the little weight he does gain ends up falling right off with training. But when you’re the reigning state champion in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, it’s hard to walk away.

“I’m about 210 now, but I’m gonna get it up,” Johnson said. “I eat a large pizza and a half of another large in one sitting, so I’m going hard at it. Either way we’re gonna be ready. All of us. I don’t want fans to drop their standards. We will show people next year. We’re gonna be a force.”

Starting Lineups

The probable starters for the West are Rasheed Sulaimon, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. The probable starters for the East are Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Rodney Purvis, Nerlens Noel and Tony Parker. Both lineups are as of Friday and could change by game time.

2K Challenge Owned by Wildcats

Last year, Anthony Davis took home the Jordan Brand Classic NBA 2K Challenge. Davis went on to win the Wooden National Player of the Year Award and be named NCAA Most Outstanding Player after leading Kentucky to the national title.

This year, Noel kept the Kentucky tradition alive when he and the Miami Heat took out Tokoto and the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime.

“It’s just the Kentucky swag already coming on me,” said Noel, who announced for Kentucky Wednesday night on ESPNU. “All we do is win, no matter what. What can I tell ya?”

Courting Parker

Once Muhammad announced that he would take his talents to UCLA next season, he made it clear what his first order of business would be with the Bruins.

“I’ve got to get Tony [Parker] to come along with me and Kyle [Anderson],” said Muhammad, a swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “I think we can get him. He’d just bring a lot to the team next year. I think with him in the class we’d be set.”

Anderson, who was the first to commit to the Bruins, will team up with Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), on the East against Muhammad at the Jordan Brand Classic this weekend. But if he has it his way, this will be the last organized game that the three are divided.

“We’ve got to get Tony,” said Anderson, a point guard at St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.). “I think with me and now Shabazz coming at him, it’s even more appealing to him. We’ve been on him all week here. I think we’ll be able to get it done.”

Sulaimon is on Point

With West point guard Paige out, Sulaimon will have to step in and run the point.

“I’m very comfortable running the point,” said Sulaimon, a shooting guard at Strake Jesuit (Houston). “I’m willing to do whatever I’ve got to do in order for my team to get this win. That’s all I’m worried about. This will only continue to help me develop.”

Sulaimon, a Duke signee, said that the Blue Devils’ coaching staff has talked to him about running the point at times next season.

“I’ve talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski about it and they want me to be ready to play some point next season,” Sulaimon said. “I’m fine with that. I’ve always trained to be versatile in the backcourt and even though I’m a scorer first I know the importance of setting my teammates up. I’ll be ready to roll.”

Highlight of the Practice

East point guard Anderson threw swingman Tokoto an alley-oop and Tokoto caught it and did a 360 dunk. The gym went into a brief frenzy.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC stars reveal their No. 2 schools

April, 13, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brandon Ashley is finally ready to reveal a few universal secrets about the recruiting process, secrets that are so exclusive he can only tell you at the end of his senior season.

“Hey, I mean, this is the last event of the year and, either way, I’m headed to Arizona. Why not?" said Ashley, who will suit up for the West in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

That’s why his cunning grin said it all when he was posed with the first question: Do recruits really have a list of five to seven schools that they’re considering?

“To be honest, no,” Ashley said with a laugh. “That’s just something we put out there to keep it exciting. We put it out there in the media to build that suspense, but in our minds it’s like, 'I’m not going there.' It’s usually just two schools in the end.”

Rodney Purvis concurred.

He said that after a while, players get tired of the “same old boring questions that media guys ask” and decide to spice things up and make it fun.

“I would go on Twitter sometimes and say something like, 'It’s time to get away from my family and grow up,' and people would panic and say I was headed to UConn,” said Purvis, who will suit up for the East on Saturday. “I know for a fact that most of us do things like that, but Brandon’s right, it typically comes down to just two schools in the end.”

The operative questions are: Who came in second? And how close did it really come between the final two?

“Whoa, man, that’s some heavy stuff right there,” said Rasheed Sulaimon, who will suit up for the West. “That’s top-secret info right there. You sure you wanna know that?”

Oh indeed we do.

We caught up with a handful of Jordan Brand All-Americans and had them reveal which school they almost signed with.

Brandon Ashley
Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), F
Signed to: Arizona

The school that came in second for me was …
“Oregon. I just had a great relationship with them and I just loved everything about that school. That said, I can honestly say that they weren’t anywhere close to Arizona for me. I don’t care what I said during the recruiting process. When I went on my visit to Arizona it was over.”

Rodney Purvis
Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), SG
Signed to: NC State

The school that came in second for me was …
“UConn. I gotta keep it real, it was super close. When I came back home from visiting there I said, 'I’m going to UConn.' Then I talked to my mom and she said to wait it out a little longer. The more I thought about it I knew that it was NC State. They were just in my heart. Coach [Mark] Gottfried did a great job recruiting me and every time I would shoot around at State it felt right. I remember when I was at UConn after we played pickup, I went back to the gym alone just to shoot around to see what feeling I got and it wasn’t the same. I didn’t sense that it was the right place for me.”

Rasheed Sulaimon
Strake Jesuit (Houston), SG
Signed to: Duke

The school that came in second for me was …
“North Carolina. I know I may lose cool points with my Duke fam for this one, but we’re keepin' it real tonight. Of the two schools, North Carolina recruited me first. I grew up a Duke fan, but at the same time when those letters come in you just get excited about who’s on you. North Carolina was leading for me. Then Duke came in and the separation was when I talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski. We just got close really quick and built a strong relationship. I guess you could say Duke stole me away from North Carolina.”

Kelly Kline/ESPNHSKyle Anderson said that if UCLA didn't exist he'd be a Seton Hall Pirate.
Kyle Anderson
St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), G/F
Signed to: UCLA

The school that came in second for me was …
“Seton Hall. I’ve never told anyone this, but this is crazy. Exactly a week before I chose UCLA I had decided that I was going to Seton Hall. It was a done deal. Then I had another talk with my family the next day and I felt like it was UCLA. If UCLA didn’t exist I’d be at Seton Hall, no question. I just couldn’t turn down [UCLA], the tradition, the weather, the beach, all the pros that play there in the summer. Plus I’m cool with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, just everything about it. And I mean, c’mon, it’s L.A.!”

Shabazz Muhammad
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), SF
Signed to: UCLA

The school that came in second for me was …
“I’m not just making this up either, but I promise you it could’ve gone either way between Duke and Kentucky. I promise. It was so tough saying 'thanks but no thanks' to those schools. With Duke, they needed a scorer and I knew if I added myself to that team it would really be successful with the guys they had coming back. Then with Kentucky, you’ve got Archie [Goodwin], Alex [Poythress] and Nerlens [Noel] coming in, and if I joined them I know we could’ve done big things. I’m telling you it was just crazy tough. UCLA was just the best fit for me in the end.”

Archie Goodwin
Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.), SG
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Kansas. I love coach Bill Self and I loved Kansas. The school was great, the fans were great and they did a great job recruiting me, but, honestly, there wasn’t anything they could’ve done to get me. I had been saying since the ninth grade that I wanted to play for Coach [John] Calipari. I tried to give everyone a chance, but I never got the same feeling I did with Coach Cal.”

Alex Poythress
Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.), SF
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Vanderbilt. It was so close. They were recruiting me for the longest and I honestly had the best feel for that school. But in the end I just had to go with my gut feeling. But it was close.”

J.P. Tokoto
Menomonee Falls (Menomonee Falls, Wis.), SF
Signed to: North Carolina

The school that came in second for me was …
“Wisconsin. It was home and it felt right, but once I visited North Carolina and talked to the players and guys that were coming in, it was a no-brainer.”

Nerlens Noel
Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.), C
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Georgetown. My mom really liked them a lot. She was sold on them. She loved how family-oriented they were and, like I said in my blog, my mom’s opinion was what mattered most to me. We had to sit down and talk and I had to really get her to take a longer look at Kentucky. Then when she did she started to like them a lot, too. But it was pretty close, man. It was pretty close.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Notebook: Ridley bounces back; McD's misses

April, 3, 2012
Cameron Ridley, a center at Bush (Fort Bend, Texas), was upset after not getting the ball during the West’s 106-102 win over the East in the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 28, but when Ridley suited up for the West in the All-American Championship in New Orleans Sunday, his teammates must’ve got the memo that Ridley was the best low-post option.

Ridley pumped in 16 points and was named MVP for the West, but that wasn’t enough to stop Omar Calhoun and the East. Calhoun, a shooting guard at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), scored a tournament record 26 points to lead the East to an 84-72 win over the West at Lakefront Arena.

In the second game, Braxton Ogbueze, a point guard at United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.), sank two free throws with nine seconds left to give the South an 86-85 win over the North. Joel James, a forward at Dywer (West Palm Beach, Fla.), was named MVP for the South, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while Glenn Robinson, a forward at Lake Central (Schererville Ind.), took home MVP honors for the North with 16 points.

No McDonald’s, No Sweat

Winston Shepard doesn’t mind admitting that he feels he should’ve been named to the McDonald’s All-American Game along with his Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) teammates Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley.

“I definitely felt like I should’ve been there,” said Shepard, a San Diego State signee who is ranked No. 53 in the ESPNU 100. “But you can’t control what other people decide. After watching the game, I don’t mind that I wasn’t a part of that.”

Shepard had a great consolation, helping the Pilots claim their third ESPNHS National High School Invitational title in four years on March 31 with an 86-83 come-from-behind win over Montverde (Montverde, Fla.).

Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) forward Justin Anderson wasn’t as committal as Shepard on his thoughts about not making McDonald’s, but Anderson’s coach Stu Vetter certainly was.

“The people who picked the players for McDonald’s got it wrong,” Vetter said. “That’s just the truth. Justin is one of the best players in the country and he should’ve been in that game. Period.”

We're Talking About Practice

It's no secret among long-time media scribes that the McDonald's All-American practices are often more meaningful than the game. The game is for friends, family and fans; practice is is for evaluation.

In practices, Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) felt he and fellow point guard Tyler Lewis of Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) could do more damage playing together to create mismatches and openings for teammates. In the game, those East teammates never saw he floor together and Lewis struggled. No individual played less than Lewis, who went 1-of-7 from the field in 12 minutes.

Another player whose practice performances didn't translate over to the game was Marcus Smart of Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas). He went hard in practice and displayed the ability to defend on the wing and create offense at three different positions. For the victorious West, Smart struggled in the game. He failed to make a field goal to go with five assists and three turnovers.

Most keen practice observers would have loved to see Smart on the team opposite of Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.). He challenged Muhammad in practice, which lifted the intensity level two notches higher than the one the East displayed. Naturally, Muhammad quickly set the tone in the game, scoring nine consecutive points to give the West an early 11-2 lead in its eventual four-point victory.

Who Else? Muhammad is McDonald's MVP

March, 29, 2012

CHICAGO -- With the approach he took to this game, did it really surprise anyone that Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) captured MVP honors at the 2012 McDonald's All-American Game?

Muhammad let it be known early he was in charge, scoring nine consecutive points for the West squad in the game's first three minutes. The 6-foot-6 forward set the tone and gave the West team a quick 11-2 lead en route to its 106-102 victory.

Shabazz Muhammad MVP McDonald's
Charles Rex Arbogast/APShabazz Muhammad scored a game-high 21 points to earn MVP honors at the McDonald's All-American Game.
"At the shootaround, I was thinking I wanted to come out and dominate," said Muhammad, who finished with a game-high 21 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with six rebounds. "At the beginning of the game, I was really getting up and down the court, and things were going good for me."

Rated the No. 2 recruit in the ESPNU 100, Muhammad's competitive fire is one of the attributes that separates him from the other players in the Class of 2012. Capturing MVP honors at Wednesday night's game was the culmination of that approach.

"No matter what event you go to, you want to be known as the best player in the event," Muhammad said. "When everything is cooking, it's a beautiful thing."

Muhammad said he's going to return to Las Vegas and relax for a few days before focusing on his next endeavors -- playing in the Jordan Brand Classic (ESPN, April 14, 7 p.m. ET) and making his much-anticipated college decision.

In a nationally televised pregame interview, Muhammad said three colleges are still in play for his services: UCLA, Kentucky and Duke, in no particular order. At the news conference following the game, Muhammad said it would be special to join Archie Goodwin of Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) and Alex Poythress of Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.) at Kentucky if he were to choose the Wildcats. Those were the two players seated next to him at the podium.

"If I went to Kentucky," Muhammad said, "that can be a really good class."

Same Town, Different Team

Despite growing up 15 minutes apart, Gary Harris of Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.) and Yogi Ferrell of Park Tudor (Indianapolis) ended up playing on opposite McDonald's All-American teams Wednesday night.

Ferrell was one of the standouts for the winning West squad, finishing with three points and a team-high eight assists. Harris suited up for the losing East squad, finishing with two points and five rebounds.

"It's kind of crazy ... we live in the same state and the same city," said Harris, a Michigan State pledge who is rated the No. 11 recruit in the ESPNU 100. "I think it's kind of funny how it all worked out."

"When it was announced on ESPN, a lot of people [in Indianapolis] were surprised by it," said Ferrell, an Indiana recruit who led Park Tudor to its second consecutive Indiana Class 2A state title this season.

They never attended school together but got to know each other quite well on the AAU circuit over the years. They first met in fourth grade, and to say Harris was impressed with Ferrell's game would be an understatement.

"The first time I saw him, he was the quickest player I've ever seen," Harris said. "Things haven't changed much since then."

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Muhammad wins dunk contest in style

March, 26, 2012

CHICAGO -- There was a strong sense of anticipation for Monday's POWERADE Jam Fest, as the curious crowd wondered how the three female contestants would fare in the slam dunk contest.

One of the female dunkers -- 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Breanna Stewart of Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) -- successfully threw it down. But in the end, it was her Wootten POY male counterpart -- Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) -- who ended up the winner.

Shabazz Muhammad
Henny Ray Abrams/McDonald'sShabazz Muhammad won the POWERADE Jam Fest Slam Dunk contest in style Monday.
The No. 2 recruit in the ESPNU 100 threw down four perfect dunks over two rounds of competition. In the championship round, he bested Archie Goodwin of Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) by two points (140-138).

Muhammad got assists from North Carolina-bound point guard Marcus Paige of Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) on both of his final round dunks. First, Paige threw the ball off the backboard and Muhammad flushed it with two hands before doing his best Cam Newton imitation with the Clark Kent jersey rip to ignite the crowd. Needing a 69 on his second attempt to win the contest, Muhammad got a perfect pass thrown off the side of the backboard by Paige and dunked it with power.

“Just to be mentioned with names like (2003 winner) LeBron James and guys like that is an honor,” Muhammad said. “I was going to do the behind-the-back dunk, but Archie (Goodwin) did a really good job with that. I’m glad that I was able to come away with the win.”

Of the three female contestants, Stewart was the only one to advance to the finals. Looking to become the first female winner since Candace Parker in 2004, Stewart advanced by throwing down a two-handed dunk off a pass from Shaq Goodwin of Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.) who was the designated passer for the female contestants. Stewart, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, received a perfect 70 for her first dunk. The crowd appreciated her second effort even more when she threw one down with her left hand and received another 70. She couldn't repeat those performances in the finals, however, leaving Muhammad to raise the trophy.

Although Muhammad defeated three female and four males contestants, he's only considered the second-best dunker on his high school team. That title goes to UNLV recruit Demetris Morant.

"Not bad for the second best dunker on the team," Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. "No matter what Shabazz does, he tries to go out and be the best and win. I think this is the first dunk contest he's ever been in and of course he won it."

Muhammad is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UCLA, USC and UNLV and is scheduled to make his college decision on April 11.

Rivalry Commences

Strake Jesuit (Houston) shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When he saw that he’d be facing Paige in the finals of the POWERADE Jam Fest 3-point contest he couldn’t help but think about the potential for early bragging rights.

Sulaimon, a Duke signee, and Paige, a North Carolina signee, will be arch enemies next season on Tobacco Road. For now, Sulaimon can say that his score of 18 was good enough to be crowned 3-point champ over Paige.

“That made it even better,” Sulaimon said. “The Duke-UNC rivalry is big so I liked getting the win over him.”

Sulaimon also knocked off Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) guard Morgan Tuck in the boys-vs-girls bonus round. Sulaimon scored 12, while Tuck scored 10.

No Place Like Home

Tyler Lewis may have won the Jam Fest Skills Competition, completing the course in just 31.2 seconds, but all he cared about was the fact that he was back in the United States.

Lewis and his Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) team played nine international games in China from March 7-19 and went 8-1. The Warriors finished their high school season No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 with an unblemished 44-0 record.

“We lost the first game that we played over there, but it had a lot to do with our travel schedule,” said Lewis, an NC State signee. “We ended up playing that team again and beating them, so we got even. We had a good time.”

Just not when it was time to eat.

“Food was horrible,” said Lewis. “Even the places that we have over here like McDonald’s were bad. ... I’m just glad to be back and eating good ol' American food.”

More Than A Game

Long after the 2012 McDonald's game is complete and the players have returned home, they'll have some great memories of their time in Chicago.

The highlight of the event for many so far was Sunday's visit to a regional Ronald McDonald House. Amile Jefferson of Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.) and a few other All-Americans were also able to visit the Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago across the street from the Ronald McDonald House and it's something he said he'll always remember.

At the hospital Jefferson met Jordan Chesney, an 18-year-old who has underdone multiple brain surgeries.

"They told us there was something wrong with his brain and we couldn't shake his hand too hard," Jefferson said. "I wanted to understand the issue and make him remember me because many of us were unprepared for that. The time I spent with him will always inspire me."

Jefferson, who competed in the 3-point contest and the skills competition at the Jam Fest, understands the unique opportunities his physical gifts have afforded him.

"It was a chance for us to give back," Jefferson said. "We come in and the kids light up and smile. To be able to give them that through the game of basketball is great."

Mr. Basketball USA Tracker week 9

March, 9, 2012
Last week, we took a look at the most important criteria in the ESPNHS Mr. Basketball. This week, we asked players from across the country to give their opinions on what makes a national player of the year.

It should come as no surprise top vote-getter Shabazz Muhammad (94 points, 10 ballots) solicited plenty of support, but the reasons why he and other top candidates were the choice varied.

Student-athletes around the country placed great emphasis on leadership skills and the ability to make teammates better which leads to team success, regardless of the amount of talent on the roster.

"Is he a winner? How's his attitude? Does he play hard consistently? Has he had big games against good teams? ...I haven't seen all the guys this year, so I guess I'll go with Shabazz (Muhammad)."

-Zena Edosomwan, Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.), 2012

"Of course I'm going to say myself. But if not me, then Shabazz Muhammad. I think the player of the year should be a great person on and off the court. He should also be a warrior that hates to lose."

-Archie Goodwin, Sylvan Hills (Sherwood, Ark.), 2012

To read the rest of this story and see the Mr. Basketball USA voting results, CLICK HERE.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Muhammad named Naismith Player of the Year

March, 5, 2012
Shabazz Muhammad was named Naismith High School Boys’ Player of the Year Monday, beating out Grace Prep’s (Arlington, Texas) Isaiah Austin, St. Anthony’s (Jersey City, N.J.) Kyle Anderson and Tilton’s (Tilton, N.H.) Nerlens Noel for the prestigious award.

Shabazz Muhammad
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSShabazz Muhammad is still considering Kentucky, UNLV, Duke, Kansas, UCLA and USC.
Muhammad, who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 100, will be recognized at the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Naismith Awards Banquet at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta on March 22.

“We feel honored that Shabazz was picked for the Naismith award,” said Muhammad’s father Ron Holmes. “It’s obviously very prestigious and it’s a testament to all of the hard work that he’s put in over the years. We’re very proud of him.”

Muhammad led Bishop Gorman (28-4), who is ranked No. 14 in the POWERADE FAB 50, to its third state title in four years on Feb. 24 with a 96-51 win over Hug (Reno, Nev.). Muhammad scored 36 points in the win.

“He is a true competitor in every way and his work ethic is second to none,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said of Muhammad. “He deserves every accolade he receives.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Players reflect on season regrets

March, 5, 2012
Call him greedy, unsatisfied or, perhaps, unfulfilled. But even after a season of averaging 31 points per game, dominating countless times on ESPN and capping it all off with a state title, Shabazz Muhammad has a regret or two about the season as a whole.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Warren
Dave TelepT.J. Warren said he wouldn't change a thing about his one-loss season at Brewster.
“There’s always something you could’ve done better,” said Muhammad, a senior swingman who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 100.

Plenty of players shared Muhammad’s sentiments when we asked them what, if anything, would they have changed about this past season.

Shabazz Muhammad
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), 2012, SF

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“That’s hard because I feel like I did pretty well this season with a lot of stuff. But I guess one of the things that I probably would take back is the game against Findlay Prep [Henderson, Nev.]. I want to get one more shot at them.”

Brannen Greene
Mary Persons (Monroe, Ga.), 2013, SG
Committed to: Kansas

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“I would’ve let [my teammates] know I had all the confidence in the world in them and see where that would’ve gotten us. We had too many players with low self-esteem when it came to the court. I think that may have translated to game production.”

Wayne Selden
Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), 2014, SG

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“I would’ve worked harder. Being hurt now and being out for the rest of the high school season, I wish I would’ve worked harder. I had those days of practice where I didn’t go as hard and I just took my health for granted. I was fully capable of going hard all the time but I slacked some days. Overall, I just wish I would’ve put forth more effort in the weight room and in practice. But when I get back healthy there’s no doubt that I’m gonna go harder than ever.”

T.J. Warren
Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), 2012, SF
Signed to: North Carolina State

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“Nothing. Looking back, Brewster has developed me into a better player and an even better person. This is the best team I have ever played with. I feel like we could’ve beaten some D-I colleges. And it’s gonna be fun working toward this national title.”

Nerlens Noel
Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), 2012, C

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“I definitely would’ve hit more of my free throws against Brewster at the Hoophall. I think that made the difference in us losing that game.”

Kris Jenkins
Gonzaga College (Washington, D.C.), 2013, PF

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“I would’ve changed that last foul call in the semifinals against DeMatha. I fouled out on that one and I feel like we would’ve had a better chance to win the game if I was in there.”

Isaiah Lewis
Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), 2013, SG

The thing I would’ve changed this season…
“Is definitely getting more rest when we’re on the road at big tournaments. That lack of sleep definitely had an impact on the way I played. I’d get a lot more sleep.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Mr. Basketball USA Tracker week 8

March, 2, 2012
As the playoffs heat up in many states, this week is a perfect opportunity to explain the criteria that goes into selecting the ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA winner and give some insight on what it takes to earn national player of the year honors.

The talent of previous winners is clearly evident to those lucky enough to witness them in high school, but what separates the winner from other strong candidates?

Talent level

This is the most important factor. The winner must possess the skills to make an immediate impact on the college level. Nearly all past winners projected as NBA players, but not all of them start the ascension to player of the year candidate from the same point.

Just look at where 1997 winner Tracy McGrady was as an underclassman compared to runner-up Lamar Odom. McGrady was a non-descript forward at Auburndale (Fla.) as a junior. He wasn't on anyone's radar the summer before transferring to Mount Zion (Durham, N.C.), whereas Odom was one of the nation's best players since his sophomore year at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.).

Of the 57 eventual Mr. Basketball USA choices, only two did not go on to play in the NBA: forward Bill Raftery of St. Cecelia's (Kearney, N.J.) in 1959 and Damon Bailey of North Lawrence (Bedford, Ind.) in 1990.

Team success

Leading a POWERADE FAB 50-ranked team and helping it win a state title is a significant factor. Those teams generally play tough competition, which nowadays means the candidate's team challenged itself against competition from outside its region.

Two years ago, Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio) led the nation's No. 1 ranked team before the Vikings were stunned 71-45 in the Ohio regional playoffs by an unranked team. The other top candidate that season, Harrison Barnes of Ames (Iowa), led his team to a 27-0 record and No. 10 final FAB 50 rating. If Barnes' team would have lost even one game, or if Sullinger's team would have won the state title, Sullinger might have been the winner instead of Barnes.

To read the rest of this story and see the Mr. Basketball USA voting results, CLICK HERE.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

HS players say bring on NBA All-Stars

February, 24, 2012
Julius Randle is a forceful, 6-foot-9, 235-pound slab of man with shoulders as wide as a small compact and Pogo Stick-like jumping ability that allows him to dominate the opposition in so many different ways it’s almost unfair.

Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSJulius Randle glides past Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams at the Elite 24 Midnight Run.
From a consistent mid-range jump shot to a plethora of effective post moves to picking the defense apart with crisp passes, Randle, a forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), is arguably the toughest player in the country to defend, regardless of class, and yet that’s not the reason he’s dominant enough to be considered the No. 2 junior in the country.

“It’s my mindset, more than anything,” Randle said. “I’m the kind of player that doesn’t think anyone can stop me when I play my game. No one.”

He isn’t kidding, and that blunt bravado isn’t just confined to the high school game.

When asked if he thought he could make a significant impact in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Randle responded with a resounding, “Yes!”

“I just think that I could do my thing in that setting,” Randle said. “I’m not saying I’d be the best player on the court, but I could contribute. I could definitely contribute.”

Don’t be so quick to chalk Randle up as a silly teenager whose confidence is further along than his game, because he’s not the only elite high school player who thinks he’d fare well at the NBA All-Star Game.

Nerlens Noel, a senior center at Tilton (N.H.) who is the top ranked player in the ESPNU 100, said that he’d bypass contributing and dominate in the laid back setting.

“I mean, think about it, they don’t really play a whole lot of defense anyway in the All-Star Game,” Noel said. “They don’t contest dunks or anything. Oh yeah, I think I could get in there and drop a 30-piece on the low.”

Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) point guard Tyler Lewis was a little more practical.

“I think I could create a lot of highlight dunks for my teammates with my passes,” said Lewis, an N.C. State signee. “I definitely think I could produce.”

Call it foolish pride or downright delusional, but the general consensus among high school ballers was that they could be productive players.

Still, as Randle continued to daydream about suiting up with the most elite basketball players on the planet reality began to set in.

“You know I think because I’m in high school they would play harder defense on me,” Randle said. “I don’t think anyone’s gonna want to get scored on by the high school guy. So that would make it a little harder. I think the biggest thing would be that everyone on the court is a great athlete. You can’t get by off that strength or athleticism like you can in high school. You’ve got to have a skill set to be out there.”

Added Shabazz Muhammad: “It would be a huge change to play against that level of talent. NBA All-Stars? That would be tough.”

Still, Rasheed Sulaimon had a valid point.

He and 23 of the top high school players in the country, including Noel, Muhammad and Randle, held their own against NBA stars like Kemba Walker, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Derrick Williams in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Midnight Run in Los Angeles last August.

And, truth be told, the NBA All-Star Game is little more than a glorified pick-up game filled with SportsCenter-esque highlights.

“Playing against the pros at the Elite 24 gave us a taste of what the NBA is like,” said Sulaimon, a Duke signee. “But still, we’re talking about the best players in the entire world. I’m confident, but I’m a realist too.”

And just when a glimmer of reason brightens the otherwise skeptical subject matter, the competitor inside of Sulaimon begins to battle the realist.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think my best chance is to hit a lot of threes. I think I could get about 10 of them.”

The competitor wins.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.