Isaiah Hicks can vividly recall watching Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal lead the Lakers to three-consecutive NBA titles from 2000-02. Hicks still knows that, back in 2009, Wayne Ellington was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after leading North Carolina to the NCAA title.
And then there’s the time when Vince Carter jumped over the 7-foot-2 Frenchman in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
“That was just crazy!” said Hicks, a forward at Webb (Oxford, N.C.).
But ask Hicks what his favorite sports memory is and he won’t hesitate to tell you that it was watching LeBron James dominate the 2003 McDonald’s All-American game.
“He was just so dominant,” said Hicks, who is signed to North Carolina. “You could tell he was gonna go on to do big things. Ever since then, I wanted to play in that game. It was a big goal of mine.”
On Thursday, Hicks and 23 other high school basketball players from 15 states were selected for the 2013 McDonald's All-American boys' game April 3 (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) at the United Center in Chicago.
Kentucky leads the way with a record five All-American recruits: Deer Valley (Antioch, Calif.) forward Marcus Lee, Travis (Richmond, Texas) guards and twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Rochester (Rochester, Mich.) forward James Young and Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) center Dakari Johnson.
North Carolina, Florida and Duke each had two players selected to the game, while no other college currently has multiple recruits selected to the game.
The rosters for the McDonald's All-American girls' game, which will preced the boys' game, were also announced. Duke and North Carolina led the way with three All-American recruits apieces. Nine of the 24 players selected are committed to ACC schools.
Seven of the eight seniors selected for the preseason American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Basketball Team made the boys' game and all eight of the seniors selected for the preseason ALL-USA Girls Basketball Team made the girls' game.
“It’s just a dream come true,” said DeSoto (Texas) shooting guard Matt Jones, who is signed to Duke. “I mean to be a part of this game is something that I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. When I found out that I’d made it I was just really happy. I don’t know a high school player that doesn’t want to play in this game. The guys that play in this game go on to do big things.”
Big things indeed.
Twenty-two McDonald’s All American alumni have gone on to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, 20 have been named NBA Rookie of the Year and seven have won a combined 16 NBA MVP awards.
That’s why it’s easy to understand why Lee was constantly checking with other elite players from around the country to see if they’d received word about whether they made the cut.
One night last week, Lee found out that his friend, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) forward Aaron Gordon had received word that he was in.
“I’ve gotta be honest, I was happy for him, but I was a little upset because I hadn’t heard so I thought I was out,” Lee said. “I didn’t sleep well that night. Then I walked into school the next day and my coach gave me a packet from McDonald’s. I was so shocked and excited. I’m surprised I didn’t cry. It was that big for me.”
Quinn Cook knows that feeling.
He can still vividly remember the afternoon when Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) coach Steve Smith informed him that he’d been picked for the game back in 2011.
“It was the greatest feeling just to get that news,” said Cook, now a sophomore point guard at Duke. “It was one of my dreams that came true. The whole experience was a blessing and an honor.”
Shabazz Muhammad was named MVP of last year’s McDonald’s All-American Game and he said that it’s “almost surreal to know that all of the legends have played in the same game.”
“It’s crazy to know you’re in their same shoes when you make this game,” said Muhammad, now a freshman forward at UCLA. “That alone is a major honor.”
McDonald's All-American Games director Douglas Freeland said that, even in the 36th year of the game, he still gets “goosebumps as we’re gathering the information to send out to the players.”
“You just know the reaction that they’re going to have,” Freeland said. “Every player wants to be part of this game because of the prestige. Last year we named the 35th anniversary team and guys like Alonzo Mourning, LeBron James, Bobby Hurley, Jay Williams all still had a deep fondness for this game. It was kinda their coming out party so we’re thrilled to have this group of talented young players. These are the stars of tomorrow.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.