HOUSTON — The McDonald's All-American Game is one of the highest honors in high school basketball. Each year, 24 boys basketball players are selected from around the country to compete in three days of practice, a scrimmage and an all-star game in front of several NBA scouts.
"This is a great benchmark on where players are and a chance to see the growth in their game," one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
There are several players representing blue-blood programs, but it was a couple players outside of the top-ranked prospects who impressed scouts the most. Yahoo Sports takes a look at eight players who showed out during the McDonald's All-American week.
Ron Holland, Texas
There's a small separation gap between the top players in the senior class, and Holland stepped on the court with something to prove in the first two days of practices in front of NBA scouts and executives. He has great length at 6-foot-8 and was consistently knocking down tough shots during drills and scrimmage play. Holland has a lot of upside as an NBA wing and made a strong first impression. His ballhandling and decisions when getting downhill are still areas of improvement, after being a little turnover-prone during his senior season at Duncanville High School (Texas).
Holland will be joining a Texas squad that made an incredible run to the Elite Eight alongside five-star guard A.J. Johnson. There's a little more stability in the program as Texas announced the hiring of interim head coach Rodney Terry as the permanent head coach.
“I’m really excited about that," Holland said during media day. "Just knowing how hard he had those guys playing, he really deserves that job and just to see him reach that goal and for them to give him the chance to coach that team. I get to stay committed to that team, me and A.J. Johnson get to go and try to get us a national championship next year.”
D.J. Wagner, Kentucky
Wagner has been considered one of the top guards in his class from the moment he was a high school freshman. No moment is too big for Wagner, and he continues to deliver time after time against tough competition. Instead of forcing shots and trying to draw contact at the rim, he's developed a bit of patience and is doing a better job of creating separation when trying to facilitate in the lane.
Wagner looks visibly stronger from the start of his senior season and his shot selection has improved. Wagner is coming in alongside a ton of young talent, giving Kentucky the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. He'll be sharing the backcourt with five-stars Rob Dillingham and Justin Edwards, and playing alongside sharpshooter Reed Shepard and 7-foot center Aaron Bradshaw.
Isaiah Collier, USC
Collier is a consensus top-three player in the class and is one of the best passing guards in the country. He already has great size at 6-5, 210 pounds and is so strong with the ball when turning the corner off a screen. Collier is teammates with Bronny James on the West Team and the pair have been talking about possibly teaming up at USC next season.
“I’m looking forward to [playing with him] and I’m definitely trying to recruit him," Collier said. “He’s a great shooter. I feel like he’s one of the best all-around players in the country. So, he’s a great player and knows how to play the game and he’s not going to overdo anything. I’m just telling him he can stay home, that’s all I’ve got say.”
Since head coach Andy Enfield took over in 2013, USC has now secured five commitments from five-star recruits and this is the second top-three recruit since landing Evan Mobley in 2020.
Omaha Biliew, Iowa State
Biliew's defensive presence and versatility have been the most impressive during McDonald's All-American week. NBA scouts are always looking for young players with 3-and-D upside and Biliew has shown strides in his development this season. He's not a consistent outside shooter yet, but makes good reads off high ball screens and can make passes over the defense at 6-9.
Justin Edwards, Kentucky
Some recruiting experts regard Edwards as the No. 1 overall prospect in the class and as far as NBA potential and upside, he passes the eye test and then some. Edwards is a 6-7 athletic guard who is a three-level scorer and loves to push the ball up the court. The game comes so easy to him and sometimes it comes off to scouts as being a little complacent or going through the motions, but when Edwards wants to turn it on, he's the best player on the court.
He's a great complementary piece on the wing to both Wagner and Dillingham and has already started building chemistry on the East Team alongside Wagner and Bradshaw.
"We've definitely started to build that team chemistry, for sure," Edwards said. "Just the way we're starting to find each other on the court. I'm figuring out where Aaron [Bradshaw] wants the ball and D.J.'s finding me off different cuts."
Jared McCain, Duke
McCain might not be the biggest or flashiest guard in the senior class, but he's a winner and finds different ways each night to positively impact the game for his team. McCain has won three California state championships and is coming in with a loaded Duke recruiting class next year. He shoots the ball extremely well at the point guard position (even taking home the top honor in the 3-point contest) and isn't afraid to make big plays down the stretch.
The NBA tends to value longer point guards but there is an avenue for McCain, particularly with how well he shoots the ball from 3-point range. He's a hard worker who plays the right way. If he's successful as a first-year guard acting as the floor general for a Duke team that is seemingly always under the microscope, NBA scouts will have no choice but to take a closer look.
Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite
Buzelis chose the G League Ignite over blue-blood programs North Carolina and Kentucky. What immediately stands out are his length at the guard position and how bouncy he is when playing above the rim. He'll need to add some muscle to his 6-9 frame, especially going up against stronger, older guards in the G League. But NBA scouts who value youth and potential can mold in their system over older, established players in the draft. Buzelis has a lot of positive traits NBA scouts are looking for in young guards.
Stephon Castle, Connecticut
Castle has great pace and has made huge strides in improving his overall game this season. He's a bigger guard at 6-7 and has solid body control around the rim. He plays with confidence and has a consistent midrange game when pulling up off the pick-and-roll option. He's not as much of a high-volume shooter as Villanova's Cam Whitmore, but both guards are have similar size and tendencies when the ball is in their hands.