CHICAGO – Whether he was playing with kids at the Ronald McDonald House, joking and laughing with the guys in the player’s lounge or simply gazing at the bling on his McDonald’s All American ring, East forward Cheick Diallo kept with his plan to have nothing but fun during the pre-game festivities.
But Wednesday night, when the bright lights came on at the United Center, Diallo’s plan very much changed.
“I play to win,” said Diallo, from Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.). “I don’t care what game it is; I’m gonna go hard.”
The business-like approach paid off.
Diallo scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in route to being named MVP in the East’s 111-91 win over the West.
Allonzo Trier, a shooting guard at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), led the West with 17 points and four rebounds.
When asked if he was trying to win MVP, Diallo answered with a resounding, “Yes!”
After an abysmal shooting first half, in which both teams combined to go 39 of 96 from the field, things picked up.
The East used a 13-2 run midway through the second half to open things up and, ultimately, secure the win.
The McDonald’s All American game was the beginning of what will be a hectic three weeks for a handful of All Americans who will head out to Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit on April 11 before playing in the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 17.
“It’s a lot of travel,” said Homestead (Fort Wayne, Ind.) center Caleb Swanigan, who scored two points and grabbed five rebounds for the West. “But it’s a blessing to even be able to say you travel a lot for basketball. The good outweighs the bad by a lot. We all love to compete.”
For five McDonald’s All Americans the real competition begins Thursday.
Montverde’s (Montverde, Fla.) Ben Simmons, Oak Hill Academy’s (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Dwayne Bacon, Huntington Prep’s (Huntington, W.Va.) Thomas Bryant, Wheeler’s (Marietta, Ga.) Jaylen Brown and Trier will all fly out to New York City in the morning to compete in the DICK’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals. All eight teams will compete in quarterfinals Thursday with Trier having the earliest start time in the noon ET game.
“We all know what’s at stake,” said Simmons, who scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the East and will be competing for his third-straight DICK’s Nationals title. “I’m focused on what I have to do and my team is ready. Tonight was fun, but now I want to get No. 3.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY