Every Sunday Jayson Tatum pulls up a chair at his grandmother Dorothy’s dinner table and demolishes her legendary spread of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, collard greens, corn and yams with his family.
“It’s so good,” Tatum said. “She’s the best cook.”
Still, Sunday he’ll trade in grandma Dorothy’s golden dinner rolls for the Golden Arches.
“I’m headed to McDonald’s — got to,” said Tatum, a forward at Chaminade College Prep (St. Louis) who is ranked No. 2 overall in the ESPN 100. “Making the McDonald’s All American Game is a dream come true for me. I love the fish sandwich there so, yeah, I think I’ve gotta get one.”
Tatum, a Duke signee who will suit up for the East, was one of 24 players representing 15 states selected for the game, which will be played March 30 at the United Center in Chicago (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Texas had the most All Americans on the boys’ side with five while California and Florida had three apiece. Thirteen of the 24 players were selected to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA preseason team in November.
Kentucky’s No. 1 recruiting class led the way with four All Americans while Duke, Michigan State and UCLA all had two.
Beginning this week, the McDonald’s All American Hometown Heroes presented by American Family Insurance will travel the country honoring the players selected in their local communities.
The girls’ roster nearly mirrored the boys’ with 24 players representing 15 states with Texas leading the way with six, California had three while Illinois, Tennessee and Indiana had two apiece. Fifteen of the 24 players were selected to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA preseason team in November.
The 15th annual girls game begins at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be shown on ESPNU.
“This (boys) roster is very strong, and really on par with what we saw in 2013, which was the (Andrew) Wiggins, (Jabari) Parker year,” said Douglas Freeland, director of the McDonald’s All-American Games. “There’s a lot of length and athleticism with this group. We think this might’ve even been the most talented roster in the last decade had we not had a couple of unfortunate injuries to two top five players.”
Harry Giles III, the No. 1 overall player in the ESPN 100, and Dennis Smith Jr., the No. 4 overall player in the ESPN 100, are both sidelined with ACL tears.
Giles, a forward who is signed to Duke, has since transferred from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) back home to rehab and take online courses at Forest Trail Academy (Kernersville, N.C.) and Smith enrolled early at North Carolina State in December.
“Obviously, we’d like to have those two guys here,” Freeland said. “We’re sorry they’re not here, but in talking with our committee they still feel really strongly about this group. We’re all really excited about the players that we’ve got.”
The players, naturally, share those sentiments.
Chino Hills (Calif.) point guard Lonzo Ball said playing in the game fullfils a dream he’s had ever since watching LeBron James score 27 points and take home the MVP trophy back in 2003.
“Ever since I was a kid it’s been a goal of mine to be a McDonald’s All American,” said Ball, a UCLA signee who will suit up for the West. “To actually have the chance to play in it now is truly a blessing.”
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