Commentary

Can McDonald's haul predict success?

Updated: March 26, 2012, 10:31 PM ET
By Glenn Nelson | HoopGurlz

Moriah JeffersonGlenn Nelson/ESPN.comMoriah Jefferson and her explosive game are headed for Chicago in March for the McDonald's All American game.

Because the selections are overwhelmingly weighted toward college prospects, there is a perception that landing McDonald's All-Americans is a predictor of a college program's success.

In 2012, perception may well become reality because all three members of what could be the most remarkable college women's basketball signing class ever were selected on Thursday to play in the March 28 McDonald's game in Chicago.

The 11th girls' game could serve as an advanced coronation for Connecticut and its recruits: Breanna Stewart of North Syracuse, N.Y., ranked No. 1 in the class by ESPN HoopGurlz; Moriah Jefferson of Glenn Heights, Texas, the No. 2 prospect; and Morgan Tuck of Bolingbrook, Ill., ranked No. 15 in 2012. The all-star format is a great showcase for all three, particularly Jefferson, one of the most scintillating, individually skilled performers to emerge from the high-school ranks in years. Stewart, with her unmatched international experience and versatility at 6-feet-3, is another excellent bet to shine.

This trio portends well for Connecticut because it joins last year's three-selection Huskies group, led by consensus national player of the year and No. 1 prospect Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Both sets, in turn, will have two more seasons with point guard Bria Hartley, a McDonald's pick in 2010 who was the Big East's rookie of the year last season.

Otherwise, landing multiple McDonald's picks can mean little in isolation.

Only four times since the launch of the girls' game in 2002 has a program landed four McDonald's selections in the same year. Of those, only Tennessee's 2004 foursome of Nicky Anosike, Alex Fuller, Alexis Hornbuckle and Candace Parker, with two national titles, arguably fulfilled its potential. Connecticut's 2002 quartet rode Diana Taurasi's coattails to two championships. Cal hasn't made considerable hay since landing four in 2009, and Tennessee's 2008 quad is trying to avoid being shut out of an NCAA Final Four appearance.

[+] EnlargeCandace Parker
AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Ty Russell Candace Parker headlined a 2004 Tennessee recruiting class that included four McDonald's All Americans.
Other exceptions to the McDonald's path to success include, notably, Southern Cal, which has six McDonald's All-Americans on its roster (Ashley Corral, Ariya Crook, Briana and Stephanie Gilbreath, Christina Marinacci, and Alexyz Vaioletama) but sits in the middle of the Pac-12 standings. The Trojans' total doesn't include a seventh choice, Jacki Gemelos, whose college career was ended in December by her fourth anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.

Connecticut (2002, 2004, 2010, 2011) has landed at least three McDonald's selections the most times. Tennessee (2004, 2007, 2008) is next, with three. Cal (2009), Maryland (2004), Rutgers (2008) and Stanford (2007) are the only other programs to have hauled in at least three selections from a single year.

Five other programs have two McDonald's picks in their 2012 signing classes -- Baylor (Niya Johnson, Alexis Prince), Duke (Alexis Jones, Sierra Moore), Notre Dame (Jewell Loyd, Michaela Mabrey), Syracuse (Briana Butler, Brittney Sykes) and Texas A&M (Jordan Jones, Courtney Williams). All five are ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as among the top eight signing classes of 2012, so the double McDonald's selections are reflections, of course, of recruiting success.

Four of the aforementioned five also represent the recruiting phenomenon of "in-vogue" schools. Notre Dame and Texas A&M are beneficiaries of the NCAA championship game after-effect, while Baylor has enjoyed great visibility because of Brittney Griner. Duke has had consecutive top-10 signing classes. The fifth double-choice program, Syracuse, has the No. 6 class in 2012 and is considered on the rise nationally.

No program can directly recruit McDonald's All-Americans because, with very few exceptions, the selections are made months after National Letters of Intent are signed. The designation is more of a confirmation of recruiting success.

High school All-American status is no guarantee of college success. With a historic signing class that includes the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects, plus another in Tuck who appeared headed to a top three ranking before an ACL injury, however, Connecticut's trio is as close to a sure thing as they come.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.

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