Breaking Down the McDonald’s Candidates | Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Breaking Down the McDonald’s Candidates

Before we can analyze any particular player’s chances of being named a McDonald’s All-American, we first have to understand how the process of selecting the rosters works.  After the initial nominations are made (click here to see all of New England’s nominees), it then becomes the work of the selection committee to select those deserving.  The selection committee is comprised of high school analysts, prep scouts, high school newspaper reporters, and coaches.  Legendary high school coach Morgan Wooten, formerly of DeMatha Catholic, chairs the 31 person committee.  Prominent committee members include Dave Telep (, Tom Konchalski (HSBI Report), Clark Francis (Hoop Scoop), Van Coleman (Hoop Masters), Jerry Meyer ( and Paul Biancardi (ESPN).  The committee goes through four rounds of voting before they come up with their 20 man roster (10 on the east & 10 on the west).  Wooten then has the option of adding an additional 2 players to each roster so that it is possible to have a maximum of 24 players participating in the game.  The official announcement of the roster will be made on ESPNU on February 19th at 6:30pm. 

When we consider how the process works, as well as who has been chosen in the past, we can decipher that there are a few clear indicators that help to project whether a player will get picked for the game:  First, are they consistently ranked among the top 25 seniors in the country; Second, have they performed well at national type events where many of the prominent members of the selection committee are on hand; Third, are they listed as seniors or post-graduates at their current schools (the McDonald’s rules clearly state that only fourth year seniors are eligible, although historically that has only caused post-graduates problems and not fifth year seniors).  With those questions in mind, here’s a look at New England’s best prospects. 

Alex Oriakhi:  The Tilton senior has the best overall package of what the voters are looking for.  First and foremost, he’s consistently ranked in, or very close to, the top 20 players in the country. has him 14th, ESPN 19th, and Rivals 21st.  He’s also played well at the right times, showing his best game when members of the selection committee were on hand.  He was never better than at the Lebron James Skills Academy last July were he solidified himself as one of the best big men in the country.  He’s also shined in the national spotlight with his BABC team as they captured the championship at the King James Shootout in April, advanced to the finals of the Nike Peach Jam, and the final four of AAU Nationals.  He has continued to play well at the right times with his Tilton squad this year posting 20 points & 16 rebounds in a win over MCI at the National Prep Showcase and picking up another 23 points & 17 rebounds in a win over Hotchkiss at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.   

Erik Murphy:  ESPN has him at 21, Hoop Scoop 31, and Scout 39, putting him squarely on the bubble in terms of rankings.  We can only hope that voters don’t pay too much attention to his Rivals ranking of 104 as that falls so far outside his normal range it makes us wonder what type of evaluation went into such an assessment.  Murphy never made a stronger case for his candidacy than he did at the Adidas It Takes 5ive Tournament last July when he led his New England Playaz squad to the gold championship and dominated his individual match-up with the nation’s highest ranked big man Derrick Favors in the championship game, scoring 25 points and limiting Favors to only 6.  The Florida bound big man was also selected to the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Game in August.  Since the beginning of the high school season, Murphy has played well in national events, although his team has struggled to get wins in those settings.  He was limited by foul trouble against Findlay College Prep at the National Prep Showcase, but still scored 21 points in the best game of the weekend.  The St. Mark’s senior had another 21, along with 13 rebounds and 5 blocks, a few weeks back in a loss to Gonzaga at the Spalding Hoophall Classic. 

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel:  Although his ranking numbers fall outside the normal range of a McDonald’s All-American (32nd by ESPN, 65th by Rivals, 81 by Scout), many members of the selection committee have seen him thrive on the big stage on more than one occasion.  He was BABC’s leading scorer and best perimeter defender last season in their noted accomplishments at the King James Classic, Nike Peach Jam, and AAU Nationals.   Coombs-McDaniel was also selected to participate in the Lebron James Skills Academy and for the Nike International Travel team in August.  He has continued his dominance for this, his senior season, at the Tilton School.  He hit his average of 22 points & 9 rebounds in a win over MCI at the National Prep Showcase and was absolutely tremendous a few weeks back in possibly his last chance to play live in front of the voters as he went for 33 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists in a win over Hotchkiss at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.   

Thomas Robinson:  A year ago, he was a player that most talent evaluators had never heard of, but no prospect in the country saw his stock shoot up quicker last spring and summer than Robinson.  His breakout performance came in April at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest, but his summer was perhaps even more noteworthy as he dominated at the Reebok All-American Camp as well as in Las Vegas with his Squash All Beef AAU team.  So not only does Robinson have the advantage of being a “hot” name, but he also has some solid ranking numbers – 18th Rivals, 20th Scout, 58th ESPN.  He transferred to Brewster Academy for his senior year and may have taken a small step back to start the season as he lacked his normal energy level and productivity at the National Prep Showcase.  And although a snow storm kept his team from participating in the Hoophall Classic, it is undeniable that Robinson has been on a tear of late and in so doing has Brewster Academy surging down the stretch.  He was particularly impressive this past weekend at the National Prep School Invitational, especially in his team’s match-up against the Patterson School.