This weekend's Final Four promises to be one of the most exciting events of the sports year. Some of the nation's most talented collegiates will go head-to-head in the last three, most bitterly fought contests of the season.
If you can't wait for this weekend's events for a basketball fix, however, look no further than the McDonald's All-American game, where the participants of Final Fours to come will receive one of their last opportunities to showcase their games on the high school level.
The 2004 McDonald's All-American Game will take place tonight in Oklahoma City, Okla. Historically the most prestigious of all the prep all-star games, its alumni list reads like an NBA Who's Who, including such players as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James and Grant Hill (Trinity '94).
Once again, the future Blue Devils will be well represented at the game. Duke signees Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Nelson will play on the West team, giving the Blue Devils 36 total high school All-Americans.
"It's a very big honor, but I'm not surprised, really," said Frank Livingston, Shaun's grandfather. "He has had a great year."
Livingston finished his high school career averaging 18 points, six assists, and six rebounds per game, leading his Peoria Central High School team to a second consecutive state championship.
Standing 6-foot-7, Livingston possesses unusual size for a point guard. Combined with silky smooth ballhandling skills and eye-popping passing ability, Livingston has been dominant in previous postseason all-star events. Earlier this month, the spindly floor general scored 12 points and dished out seven assists at the EA Sports Roundball Classic, good enough to be named the West team co-MVP.
"I suspect he will put on another dominating performance [at tonight's game]," said Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated college basketball analyst. "He was dominant at all the practices. Everyone came away thinking he was the best player."
Livingston, however, may be dominating too much for Duke fans' tastes. The pièce de résistance of the Blue Devils recruiting class of 2004, Livingston has garnered serious attention from NBA scouts--so much, in fact, that he may be the first point guard taken in the NBA draft should he declare out of high school.
"If you're a Duke fan, you're hoping Shaun Livingston goes 0-for-19 from the floor," Davis said. "He had an unbelievable game at the Roundball [Classic] and people are very impressed."
The Blue Devils' other representative in the McDonald's game, DeMarcus Nelson, averaged a staggering 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists a game as a senior at Sheldon High School in Sacramento, Calif. The three-time California State Player of the Year also set a new state scoring record, finishing with 3,462 points.
An intimidating physical specimen at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Nelson is a deadly scorer, solid passer and outstanding rebounder for his size. Nelson exhibited these all-around abilities in last week's Adidas Superstar game, logging 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
In the third women's McDonald's All-American game, Chanté Black and Wanisha Smith will represent future Blue Devils. Duke has now had at least two signees in each women's game.
Black, a 6-foot-5 center from Winston-Salem, N.C., averages 20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks per game for East Forsyth High School. An imposing defensive stopper, Black is considered one of the best post players in the class of 2004.
Smith, a Washington, D.C. product, averages 20 points, seven assists and three rebounds per game for Riverdale Baptist High School. A prolific scorer and exceptional ball handler, the 5-foot-11 shooting guard is also one of the top-20 women's basketball players in the class.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.