Last night, ESPN aired the annual glorified pick-up basketball game better known as the McDonald’s All-America game, and Syracuse University commit Malachi Richardson struggled to find his shot, finishing as the only player held scoreless in the game after logging 14 minutes coming off the bench for the West team. Because apparently New Jersey is in the West now, I guess.
Richardson finished the game going 0-for-6 from the field, and 0-for-5 from three point range, adding a rebound and an assist. The shooting woes no doubt jump out to Syracuse fans, since Richardson is coming to the Hill with a reputation of being a lethal shooter. And to the people who are particularly nervous or skeptical, I can only say this: you can learn about as much from watching a high school basketball player throw darts as you can from watching him compete in the McDonald’s game.
Oh, of course it’s a great honor to be selected for the game. It’s the biggest high school All-Star game in the country, but the reason you can’t really take it at face value is right there in the title: it’s an All-Star game. Big men are often frozen out because guards want to show off and chuck threes, and team players are invisible because they have a tendency to, you know, play team basketball. It’s why a guy like Michael Carter-Williams struggled in his McDonald’s game, too.
As far as Richardson goes, his game right now is about his shooting prowess. And yes, he’s got serious shooting prowess. He was narrowly edged out of the final round of the three point contest at the Powerade Jam Fest, finishing with 17 points (the three finalists each had 20) and he hit 74 threes over the course of his senior season. He was also knocking down his shots in the Tuesday scrimmage. But if your shot isn’t falling in an All-Star game, and that’s primarily how you do your damage, obviously you’re going to fail to stand out.
Richardson also isn’t alone in his struggles, as far as past burger boys who went on to play for the Orange are concerned. Since 2002, Richardson is the ninth Syracuse commit to play in the game (Thomas Bryant could be the 10th). Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points and was, obviously, outstanding in his McDonald’s game, because he’s Carmelo Anthony.
But since ‘Melo, the production has gone steadily downhill as far as Syracuse players are concerned. In 2005, Eric Devendorf was a McDonald’s All-America participant, scoring 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes of action. In 2007, the game featured both Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene. Greene finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, grabbing just two rebounds, while Flynn hit 3-of-7 shots to finish with nine points and six assists.
In 2010, Fab Melo was Syracuse’s representative, hitting 1-of-3 shots to finish with two points and seven rebounds, while committing five fouls in 19 minutes. Yes, you read that right: Fab Melo committed five fouls in under 20 minutes in an All-Star game, which is a contest that, by law, isn’t allowed to have any defense played.
2011 was another year to feature multiple Syracuse commits, with Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams, not many people probably remember, actually won the skills competition at the Jam Fest, but struggled in the All-Star format. The man who would be NBA Rookie of the Year hit 1-of-4 shots to finish with just two points and three assists. Rakeem Christmas didn’t fare much better, also hitting 1-of-4 shots to finish with two points and three rebounds, and he committed four fouls in just 13 minutes of action.
The last time before this season that Syracuse had a representative was 2012, when DaJuan Coleman was a starter for the East team. Coleman played 20 minutes, scoring seven points on 3-of-10 shooting while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds.
McDonald’s game struggles aren’t limited to Syracuse players like Richardson, either. Last year, Maryland’s star freshman point guard Melo Trimble went 0-for-5 and scored just two points. He could have been a one-and-done player this year. Noah Vonleh scored just three points in 2013, and promptly went on to become a lottery pick the next year. Marcus Smart went 0-for-4 and scored one point in 20 minutes of action in the 2012 game. Back in 2008, Iman Shumpert, Greg Monroe, and Al-Farouq Aminu combined for just one point, and now all three of them are key members of NBA rosters. On the flipside, in 2009 the game’s leading scorer was Tiny Gallon with 20 points. He’s never gotten above the D-League.
The bottom line is that the McDonald’s All-America game is far from an accurate measuring stick. Obviously, guys like Carmelo, and Kevin Durant, and LeBron James all stood out. Those are big, athletic guys who can do just about everything on the floor. As a wing player whose forte is shooting three pointers, on the other hand, Richardson’s not going to have the ball in his hands very much. And when he does get the ball, if his shot’s not falling…well, you’re going to have a game like last night.
Oh, and if you were curious, Thomas Bryant finished the game going 4-for-5 to finish with nine points and three rebounds in 16 minutes of action.