The McDonald's All-American Game selection committee's recently released annual list of nominees originally included two New York City basketball players who no longer play high school hoops, and of course The New York Daily News, which broke the story late last week, cleverly called it "a whopper of a mistake."
Current Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College freshman forward Tafari Whittingham and former Pathways (Queens, N.Y.) Prep forward Jordan Washington, who has been barred from playing basketball at the school, have -- as The Daily News is wont to say -- "played as many games this season Ronald McDonald himself."
"Shows how much they know," said Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) High head coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, who had Whittingham on his Railsplitters roster last season.
And that's not even the best part. While there's no debating the talents of Whittingham and Washington, there is plenty of debate, however, about who is to blame for the gaffe.
Whittingham is averaging 9.8 points and 4.6 boards for unbeaten HCC, the National Junior College Athletic Association's No. 1 ranked team. As a senior at Lincoln last winter, he was suspended during the Public School Athlete League playoffs for allegedly throwing a punch during a forfeit loss to South Shore (Brooklyn, N.Y.) High.
Meanwhile, Rivals.com rates Washington as a three-star recruit with offers from Louisville, Pitt and Villanova, among others, but the Pathways principal hasn't cleared him this season after he briefly left for West Oaks (Orlando, Fla.) Academy last year, according to The Daily News report.
So, how did either end up on a list of 814 McDonald's All-American Game nominees, which includes 20 NYC-area boys and girls basketball players? Depends on who you ask.
McDonald's selection committee chairman and legendary former Dematha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) High coach Morgan Wootten issued a statement to The Daily News placing blame on longtime McDonald's selection committee member and 5-Star Basketball Camp founder Howard Garfinkel.
"Garfinkel ... who is also credited with discovering the likes of former McDonald's All-American Michael Jordan -- nominated a number of talented high school athletes this year," the statement said. "New York standouts Tafari Whittingham and Jordan Washington were among his selections."
However, Garfinkel, 83, claimed that, despite requests for more names, he only nominated St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) Prep point guard Tyler Ennis because of his inability to travel the way he once did as one of the nation's first elite talent evaluators.
"I never sent in these names. I never heard of these people. That's made up," Garfinkel told the paper. He later added, "I just sent in my ballot. There's no Whittingham and Washington on there. I get blamed for everything."
The two players have since been removed from the list of eligible candidates for the McDonald's All-American Game at Chicago's United Center on April 3, and The Daily News has since reported that the committee added Christ the King (Brooklyn, N.Y.) High guard Jon Severe to the list of 814 athletes who will be pared down to 24 on Feb. 14.
“I don’t know anyone in the state who’s better,” Christ the King head coach Joe Arbitello told news outlet. “It just shows there’s a flaw in how they pick these guys. In any of these all-star games, it’s a popularity contest -- who’s tweeting, who’s putting up big numbers. It’s just a ridiculous thing to me.”
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