CHICAGO — Canadian basketball phenom Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points to lead his East team Wednesday at the 36th McDonald’s All-American game — high school basketball’s biggest stage.
The 18-year-old from Vaughan, Ont., was his solid self, showing off his speed and scoring range with an array of shots. But his performance wasn’t enough to lift his East team to victory in the all-star game.
The West roared to a 110-99 win, with Aaron Gordon winning the John R. Wooden award as the game’s MVP. The Arizona signee had 24 points and eight rebounds.
The McDonald’s game, billed as “Basketball’s rite of passage,” has a rich tradition that goes back to 1977 and has showcased a who’s who of future NBA stars — among them, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Michael Jordan.
The 20,500-seat United Center was about three quarters full with a crowd that included Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, plus several dozen NBA scouts.
A Kentucky fan held a sign that read “Wiggins: You know you bleed blue” in reference to the Canadian’s much-anticipated school announcement. Wiggins has visited Kentucky, Florida State, North Carolina and Kansas.
The quiet Canadian, who won the Naismith Trophy as the season’s top U.S. high schooler and has garnered more hype than any player has seen probably since Kevin Durant and O.J. Mayo were high schoolers, rambled unassumingly onto the court during the glitzy pre-game introductions. His game was much the same — strong but without the flash of the likes of Gordon, who threw down a couple of huge dunks, including a reverse windmill.
Wiggins, dressed in McDonald’s red and Adidas’ special McDonald’s edition “QuickSprint” shoes, scored 12 first-half points, opening with a two-handed dunk about two minutes in. He missed a three-pointer several minutes later after sprinting the length of the court for a steal. He ran in for the putback on his miss.
He took it to Duke signee and hometown star Jabari Parker just before the break, darting by the No. 2 prospect to finish with a two-handed dunk.
The West led 56-44 at halftime.
Wiggins’ has a couple more high-profile events coming up. He was the top pick for the Jordan Brand Classic on April 13 in Brooklyn, N.Y., a game that brings together the top 22 prospects in the U.S.
Wiggins then heads to Portland to play in the Nike Hoop Summit on the World Select Team, coached by Canadian Roy Rana. Trey Lyles of Saskatoon was named to the team, but can’t play because of an injury.
Tyler Ennis of Brampton, Ont., was also chosen for the Jordan game. The Syracuse-bound Ennis was expected to be named to the McDonald’s game as well, and he responded to the snub by scoring 52 points in a high school game that night.
The McDonald’s showcase is a good gauge of the growth of the game in Canada. Wiggins is the seventh Canadian to play in the game in the past three years.
North Carolina signee Kennedy Meeks played AAU basketball against Wiggins and said he knows of the Canadian talent.
“Honestly, I think they’re taking over really, starting by him being one of the best players to ever come out,” Meeks said. “People compare him to LeBron James and stuff like that so I think that’s pretty crazy.”
Recent Canadians to play in the game are Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph (2010), Myck Kabongo, Khem Birch, Kyle Wiltjer (2011), and Anthony Bennett (2012).
Olu Famutimi was selected for the game in 2003 but didn’t play due to injury. There was a 17-year gap before that when Canada wasn’t represented. Barry Bekkedam (1986) and Bill Wennington (1981) are the only other two Canadians to have played in the game.
Ninety-eight graduates of the McDonald’s game have gone on to win NBA championships.