Home Sport Meet the 2024 McDonald’s All-Americans, starring Cooper Flagg in a loaded class

Meet the 2024 McDonald’s All-Americans, starring Cooper Flagg in a loaded class

by News7

Competing in the McDonald’s All-American Game is a right of passage for the basketball stars of the future. While the game itself often takes on the feel of an All-Star Game as an exhibition meant to excite the fans, the practices and scrimmage leading up to the big event are historically much more competitive and offer a better evaluation setting before the top prospects in the country jump to the next level.

The class at the 2024 boys McDonald’s All-American Game already feels more talented than the groups from the previous two years. This year’s class has a true superstar prospect in Duke-bound forward Cooper Flagg, who is the heavy favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft. If the general consensus is that Flagg has separated himself from his peers at this point, the practices and scrimmages showed just how deep with talent this class is. It’s already clear there are going to be many impact freshmen around the country next season that will create a stronger NBA draft class in 2025 than the one coming this June.

Let’s meet this year’s McDonald’s All-American class, with a focus on what we saw during the scrimmage on Sunday.

Cooper Flagg is the future superstar Duke and the NBA needs

Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last summer, we ranked Flagg as the best long-term NBA prospect in high school basketball over a loaded cast of challengers including Cameron Boozer, A.J. Dybantsa, Tyran Stokes, and more. He’s going to be the biggest freshman one-and-done star in college basketball since Zion Williamson, and it would be a major shock if anyone overtakes him for the first pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

What makes Flagg so good? It starts with his two-way skill, non-stop motor, quick decision-making, and strong frame at 6’9 with a 7-foot wingspan. Flagg can be one of the most impactful defensive freshmen to hit college hoops in years with his ability toggling between protecting the rim and handling ‘wing stopper’ duties in one-on-situations. His offense has leveled up as well over the last year, with an improved shooting stroke and impressive cutting instincts to complement his already fantastic passing flashes.

Here are two clips from the scrimmage that show part of what makes Flagg special. In the first clip, he handles the ball in the open floor and throws a beautiful bounce pass to Maryland-bound big man (and current Montverde teammate) Derik Queen for the layup. In the second clip, Flagg recovers the offensive rebound and shows off his quickness off the floor to finish with a dunk.

There were other moments during the scrimmage where Flagg reminded us just how young he is. Remember: with a Dec. 2006 birthday, he’ll only be 18.5 years old on draft day in June 2025, making him the youngest top prospect in the class. He’ll play plenty of big games at Duke as a 17-year-old.

Here are a handful of clips from the scrimmage where Flagg struggled. He gets rejected by Flory Bidunga in the first clip after failing to create separation on his drive. He bricks a shot in the second clip, misses an open layup in the third clip, misses an inside shot over a contest with length in the fourth clip, and airballs a clutch shot in the fifth clip.

Flagg has spent two years building his case as the best prospect in high school basketball. These clips are just from one game, so it’s not a big deal. He had a number of tremendous plays in the first McDonald’s Game practice, showing off his devastating cutting ability, connective passing, and downhill scoring. Flagg is going to be great at Duke and even better in the NBA. The best is yet to come.

Ace Bailey is the big, athletic wing NBA scouts dream about

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Airious “Ace” Bailey looks like an NBA star from the moment he walks into the gym. The 6’9 wing from Georgia’s McEachern High School (which also produced Josh Smith, Isaac Okoro, and Sharife Cooper) has an incredible combination of speed and leaping while also shooting an easy ball from three-point range. Bailey made the jarring decision to attend Rutgers next year, where he’ll team with fellow five-star one-and-done recruit Dylan Harper. The McDonald’s scrimmage confirmed he’s going to be a huge star.

Bailey plays with elite bounce around the rim. He can jump off one foot or two when attacking the rim, and has a great nose for the ball as an offensive rebounder. His ability to quickly explode off the floor and high-point the ball will be a signature ability of his game:

I feel pretty confident this was an intentional miss by Dylan Harper to set up Ace Bailey for the backboard lob. Bailey has some serious springs in his legs, sheesh. Rutgers (??) is going to be so fun next year. pic.twitter.com/sVYtIz17Jt

— Ricky O’Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) April 1, 2024

Bailey is also a very confident shooter. He can create space for his shot by bouncing into side-steps, and it’s hard to challenge his release because he’s so tall. Defenders know they have to stay ready for him attacking the basket, which gives him all the space he needs to rise and fire from deep.

Ace Bailey looks like the best player on the floor in this scrimmage so far. Big time athlete at 6’9 who is also super confident as a shooter. pic.twitter.com/x4qtcMbx2o

— Ricky O’Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) April 1, 2024

Bailey is just oozing with natural talent, but he’ll have to prove he has a high-level understanding of the game, too. He has a tendency to settle for difficult shots, in part because he can make them, in part because McEachern needed him to. As he readies to play with a great point guard in Harper when he enters college, it will be fascinating to see if Bailey slides into more of an off-ball player and forces his shot less often. He’ll also need to continue to improve his handle, which you can say for basically any wing at this age.

Bailey is also extremely young for his grade with an Aug. 2006 birthday. That should be great for his 2025 draft stock. The most impressive moment of the scrimmage was his spinning fadeaway over Flagg. The footwork and shot-making here is high level.

Holy cow, Ace Bailey!!! Ridiculous space creation and shot-making over Cooper Flagg. I’m shocked but Bailey looks significantly better than Flagg in this scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/bfFVRJACOu

— Ricky O’Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) April 1, 2024

The McDonald’s scrimmage sold me on Bailey’s long-term potential. He’s the favorite to go No. 2 overall in the 2025 NBA Draft right now.

V.J. Edgecombe never stops attacking

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V. J. Edgecombe is a hyper-athletic two guard out of The Bahamas who will go from playing in Brooklyn to arriving at Baylor next year as a freshman. He plays with an undeniable physical edge that translates into an aggressive style on both ends of the floor.

At 6’5, Edgecombe currently projects as an off-ball guard who will relentlessly attack downhill on offense, and provide ball pressure and force takeaways defensively. With a strong frame and a quick first step, he can force his way to the basket and shows off excellent body control on his finishes. There were multiple instances in the scrimmage where he turned defense into instant offense. Here’s a nice compilation of his top plays from the scrimmage.

VJ Edgecombe (Baylor) – He was by far the most electric player on the court, made plays from the jump and put a lot of intensity both on defense and offense until the last whistle pic.twitter.com/TrtWqOMx8I

— Amine (@AmineSymbiose) April 1, 2024

The question for Edgecombe will be where he’s at as a shooter and passer. Still, his impressive physical tools and ability to force his imprint on the game should make him a one-and-done star at Baylor and a potential top-5 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

Flory Bidunga brings ridiculous bounce to Kansas’ front court

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Bidunga is a 6’9 big man from Congo that settled for high school in Indiana. He’s taking his talents to Kansas next season where he’ll add explosive athleticism and above-the-rim playmaking on both ends of the court.

Bidunga isn’t the tallest center, but he has the ability to play with tremendous force at the rim. His combination of length and power is unparalleled for bigs in this class, and he should be slamming home lobs and putbacks and rejecting shots for Kansas all year long. Here’s Bidunga turning an offensive rebound into a huge slam:

Here’s another look at his block on Flagg that we posted earlier in this story:

A few questions for Bidunga: will he always play with a high motor? Can he make free throws? Where is his perimeter skill as a passer and ball handler? Can Kansas surround him with enough shooting? Either way, Bidunga is an appealing prospect as a rim runner/rim protector who will certainly provide some awesome highlight plays in Lawrence as a freshman.

Liam McNeeley is more than just a shooter

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McNeeley is a 6’8 wing who plays high school ball with Flagg at Montverde. He was committed to Indiana before re-opening his recruitment last month, with the expectation that he’ll land at Kansas or UConn. It’s a devastating loss for the Hoosiers, because he’s exactly the type of player they needed last year.

McNeeley has a reputation as the best shooter in this year’s group of McDonald’s All-Americans. The scrimmage showed there’s so much more to his game beyond that. McNeeley is highly comfortable attacking close outs and getting to the rim to set up himself and others for buckets.

If he’s really the high-volume, highly-accurate three-point shooter he’s supposed to be, having this dimension to his game will make him an incredibly valuable off-ball player. He looks like a top-10 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft to me.

Ian Jackson and Boogie Fland will be takeover guards as freshman

Ian Jackson (left) and Boogie Fland (right) are headed to blue bloods next season and appear poised to be among the top freshmen guards in the country. Jackson is a 6’5 guard from New York going from Overtime Elite to North Carolina. Fland is a 6’3 guard going to Kentucky. Fland has a reputation as the better shooter, Jackson is potentially a more crafty creator. They both looked great in the scrimmage.

Jackson was incredible in the scrimmage, knocking down shots, attacking the defense off the dribble, and playing with an impressive change of pace. This was his best drive during the game, a beautiful hesitation before exploding to the basket and finishing with the scoop.

ian jackson (unc) had a productive offensive day and the handling here is impressive, hesitation into inside hand lefty scoop finish to evade the shot blocker pic.twitter.com/zW4kls75Xm

— ben pfeifer (@bjpf_) April 1, 2024

Jackson used the scrimmage to show just how much he’s improved as a shooter, knocking down a barrage of three-pointers off a variety of actions.

If Jackson can keep shooting like that, he looks like a top-10 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

Fland was also electric with his shooting and live-dribble playmaking. There’s no safer bet than a freshman guard at Kentucky. Fland is next in line. He showed off some high-level shot-making off the dribble and the catch in both the practices and scrimmage:

Fland also got involved defensively, using his quick hands to force turnovers. He’s unlikely to provide the same level of playmaking as Rob Dillingham, but Kentucky can still trust him to make the right decisions with the ball. He looks like another one-and-done lottery pick for John Calipari in the backcourt.

Donnie Freeman looks like an NBA forward

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Donovan Freeman is the highest rated recruit to land at Syracuse since 2012. His shot-making in a 6’9 frame was extremely impressive in the practices and scrimmage. He looks to have terrific size for an NBA four, and shoots such an easy ball with real range. He was the most pleasant surprise of the scrimmage based on my priors.

Syracuse-bound forward Donnie Freeman is catching my eye in this scrimmage. Total sniper at 6’9 with deep range, and looks like he has good tools for an off-ball scorer. pic.twitter.com/XdIxr5wz3i

— Ricky O’Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) April 1, 2024

McDonald’s All-American Game boys roster 2024
Here are the full rosters for the boys game. You can find the roster for the girls game here.

How to watch the 2024 McDonald’s All-American Game
The girls’ game will start at 6:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the info for the boys game:

Date: Tuesday, April 2

Location: Toyota Center, Houston

Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV and stream: ESPN

Source : SBNation

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