Commentary

Off-the-court experiences open eyes at McDonald's game

Updated: April 2, 2009, 2:04 PM ET
By Michael Snaer | Special to ESPNRISE.com

Editor's note: Michael Snaer, a senior at Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and the No. 44 prospect in the ESPNU 100, is blogging for ESPNRISE.com about his experiences at the McDonald's All-American Game. Check out Ryan Canner-O'Mealy's profile of Snaer.

Wednesday, April 1

Today I woke up ready to go. I grabbed my uniform, and it started to hit me. All I could think was, "It's finally about to happen!" This is what I've been waiting for since I started playing ball and knew about the McDonald's All-American Game. My roommate this week was Mason Plumlee, and we were hyping each other up this morning for the game. We both said we were ready to go and get it done out on the court.

We went over to the University of Miami campus for a shootaround this morning. After that we took some photos in our uniforms, which was cool. I can't wait to see my pictures because I looked pretty good.

When we got back to the hotel from the shootaround, I met up with my AAU coach and got to see my mom and grandma, who came all the way from California to see me play. With a little time to spare, I took a nap for two hours. When I woke up, my coach had McDonald's waiting for me. I always get a No. 1 when I visit McDonald's -- it's my favorite.

[+] EnlargeMichael Snaer
Doug Murray/Icon SMIMichael Snaer capped off a great week with a slamming performance in the McDonald's game.

The most important thing for me before the game was getting a good mindset to go play on such a huge stage. I needed to remind myself that I can play with the best of the best. All 24 guys here are the top players in the country, and I wanted to go out and play to prove that I deserve this great honor just as much as the other guys.

When we first arrived at the BankUnited Center, we watched the girls play the first half, and then it was our turn to prepare for the game. We had to sit in the locker room and wait for about two hours, which gave me even more time to relax and prepare. I listened to some R&B and Taylor Swift's "Our Song."

When I ran out on the court, the crowd was absolutely crazy. I couldn't even think about being on national television because I had to focus on the game. Most importantly, my play tonight helped raise money for the families I met at the Ronald McDonald House in Miami. This week I learned there is nothing better than using your gifts to help others -- that's what the game is all about.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences throughout the week. My time in Miami for the McDonald's All-American Game was one I will always remember.

Tuesday, March 31

This morning, I woke up and went over to the University of Miami for practice. This was the last day for us to get ready for the McDonald's All-American Game, and I'm pretty confident that the boys' West team will be bringing home the title. After practice, we went over to do a media day, and I couldn't believe how many reporters were there, all to see us! Lance Stephenson made a statement about continuing to review his college choices and [Memphis commits] DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry got a lot of questions about their basketball program. It was nice to get all that media attention and helped to prepare me for future interviews when I go to college.

After media day, we hit the court again for our scrimmage. We scrimmaged against each other for an hour and I was really impressed by all 24 guys on the floor. It was nice to get out there and prepare before the actual game on Wednesday at the BankUnited Center.

Last night, we attended the player banquet at Jungle Island. All the guys got dressed up in these shirts called guayaberas that are really popular in Miami. The girls wore these bright-colored dresses, and all-around I would say our 2009 team cleans up pretty nice! We were announced in front of everyone and Alonzo Mourning handed each of us a ring. Pat Riley also gave a speech, and it was really cool to hear from two of Miami's biggest basketball legends about life and basketball. Both of them talked about how important it is to use your gifts to help others, and our visit to Ronald McDonald House Charities was a perfect example of that. They challenged us to look for opportunities to help others as we continue our path to become great basketball players. Looking back, I've experienced so many great things during my time here, and it all leads up to Wednesday night. Don't forget to watch me live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.

Monday, March 30

I woke up this morning after a long day yesterday -- they really keep us busy out here! We started out at practice a little bit slow this morning because we were all tired, but then really picked things up. We worked on offense and really got to know the team and grow with each other on the court. We have the scrimmage tomorrow and the game on Wednesday, so we have a lot of work to do to get ready. I also got a chance to talk to my coaches and my teammates about our game strategy. There were a lot of media at practice that wanted to talk to players and I did a few interviews before heading to the locker room.

Michael Snaer
McDonald's All-American Game Michael Snaer threw down during Monday's POWERade Jam Fest.

After practice we went to a local McDonald's to eat lunch, which was good because I was starving! I got to work behind the counter at the restaurant and even made my own McFlurry. It was cool to see what the McDonald's employees do on a daily basis, and I had a great time working there for the afternoon.

After lunch, we made our way over to the Miami Seaquarium. We had the chance to swim with dolphins, but I decided not to because I honestly was a little scared. It was even more fun to watch the other members of the team get in the water with the dolphins. There are a lot of big guys on my team, and it was funny to see them a little nervous to play with the dolphins when they got in the water! We also got to see the manatees and had a chance to feed them. I couldn't believe how big the manatees were and how slow they moved. I was glad we had a chance to go to the Seaquarium and be a part of the whole experience. It's just great to spend time with my team and take in the whole experience of game week leading up to the McDonald's All-American Games.

When we got back to the hotel, I had to rest up for the big event -- POWERADE Jam Fest. During the event I watched the 3-point contest and Jam Fest's first-ever skills contest. I was impressed with how well everyone did, and it was fun to cheer them on in front of the crowd at the BankUnited Center. I had a chance to compete in the dunk contest, but I didn't display everything I had. It was more fun to support my team and watch them put on a show.

When I got back from this exciting day, I got to see my family, who flew in to see me play. It was nice to relax with them before preparing for another big day tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28

I woke up on Saturday morning ready to head to Miami, and I was thinking, "Wow, this is finally happening!" I got on the plane headed to game week and slept the whole way.

On Sunday, I went to visit the Ronald McDonald House of Miami, and it was so much fun. I have five little sisters and one little brother, so I always grew up around kids and love being around them. I played basketball with the children and got to know all of their stories. Each of them had a smile on their face during our time at the house and it brightened my day as well as theirs. We ate Chicken McNuggets and Quarter Pounders for lunch. Before the visit, I may have taken some things for granted, but seeing those sick children really put everything in perspective for me. It makes you want to count your blessings.

After the house visit, we went to our very first practice. I am playing for the West team and I already know the majority of the other guys from camps. I'm really looking forward to playing with them April 1 at the BankUnited Center. Practice went really well, and we got a good feel for the team. We ran a little bit of five-on-five, and I was putting in that work! My coaches are good guys, and they taught us a little flex offense today, too.

The atmosphere out here in Miami is just unreal -- the fact that you are playing in the McDonald's All-American Game is amazing. Not many people get this opportunity, and the fact that I am being honored as one of the top high school basketball players in the nation is unbelievable.

When we got back from practice, I took a quick shower and then we went to the players lounge to hang out with the other players and eat some dinner. I also got to stop by the barber and get an edge up. It's been a great time so far and I'm looking forward to tomorrow!

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