CHICAGO – Dakari Johnson knew this would happen.
All year he’s been spoiled by his Montverde (Fla.) teammates, getting the ball right where he likes it on the low block with his back to the basket.
“That where I work best,” said Johnson, a center. “I feel like I’m automatic right there.”
Be that as it may, just a few minutes into the McDonald’s All American game Wednesday night at the United Center in Chicago, Johnson knew that he’d have to transform from low-post scoring dynamo into a paint-lurking garbage man.
“Us big boys weren’t getting the touches man,” said Johnson, who is signed to Kentucky. “They definitely weren’t looking to feed us down there.”
Those sentiments were shared by nearly every big man on both squads.
In the end, the West won out over the East, 110-99.
“It’s kinda crazy to be honest,” said Johnson, who excelled in his new role with 12 points and five rebounds for the East. “But it’s all in good fun. I’m not tripping, but, trust me, it was noticeable that we weren’t getting the ball.”
East forward Chris Walker, who won the slam dunk contest on Monday, said he “went ahead and chalked the game up” before it even began.
PHOTOS: Highlights from the game
“I knew after watching the games in the past that they don’t feed the post,” said Walker, a forward at Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.) who is signed to Florida. “I felt like since I like to run the floor and fill lanes that I would get my fair share of touches.”
Walker was wrong.
He only attempted six shots and finished with four points and six rebounds in the loss.
“I was a little shocked that they were kinda freezing the big men out,” Walker said. “I mean I don’t think it was conscious or anything, it’s just a guard-dominated game. It’s all good, we were just out here having fun anyway.”
Still, not everyone was willing to let the mild frustration roll of their back.
East center Kennedy Meeks got so irritated with the lack of touches that he launched two deep 3-pointers. He finished 0-for-3 with zero points.
“I mean it was pretty ridiculous to be real,” said Meeks, who hails from West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) and is signed to North Carolina. “I mean, c’mon man, you’ve gotta share the ball. I know it was an all star game and I expected a little bit of this, but I wasn’t expecting this. I won’t lie, I’m not all that happy.”
His future teammate Isaiah Hicks, who finished 2-of-6 for four points, concurred, but added that “in perspective” it was a lot easier to get past.
“I mean, yeah, I wanted more touches,” said Hicks, a forward at Webb (Oxford, N.C.). “But at the end of the day I was playing where Michael Jordan played for the biggest game you could ever play in as a high school player. So when I think about that, I don’t mind that I wasn’t getting the ball. I’ll get it more in college.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.