All-American Elite Team Retrospective

We’ve been publishing our All-American Elite teams for 30 years and we’ve had plenty of fun evaluating and pouring over the high school data of the nation’s elite players. Obviously, no one is perfect but we’ll put our track record against any of the All-American teams out there. Keep in mind, many of them have come and gone, but we plan on plugging away for as long as possible.

Today, we take a look at five selections over the years we’d love to have back and five we are proud of.

The high school industry has changed plenty over the years. In the 1970s and 1980s, getting your name in the local paper was the IT thing. In the 1980s, USA Today helped mainstream national team rankings and All-American teams, but the national daily newspaper cut its high school editorial department in Dec. 2019. In the 1990s and 2000s, national magazines were all the rage. Getting on a national cover was hot and something many athletes aspired for such as the cover story of Student Sports Magazine. LeBron James and De La Salle (Calif.) football helped high school sports become something worthy of regular national telecasts, but All-American teams have been constant throughout going back to the 1950s.

Most of the ones produced in recent decades have been recruiting-oriented and many we’ve seen even had players on them that barely played half of their team’s game that season. We’re proud of the fact we take some time to research the players and what they actually accomplished and take some local consensus into consideration. We’re not perfect by any means, and today we decided to take a look back at the five best choices we made with our All-American Elite teams we’ve produced over the years, starting in Student Sports Magazine for the 1994-95 season. Those teams have also been published under the title sponsor of EA SPORTS and under the umbrella of ESPN and Ballislife as well.

Here’s a look at 10 defining moments of choosing our annual All-American Elite Teams.

5 All-American Choices We’d Love To Take Back

1. Mike Bibby Over Kobe Bryant For ’96 Mr. Basketball USA
There is no doubt Mike Bibby is the best high school player from Arizona (in terms of his career) and is probably still the state’s only "rock star" player, but he wasn’t a better talent that Kobe Bryant. Mike Bibby was a Student Sports Magazine cover subject and we had a compelling story to go along with the selection. Still, Bryant had a monster senior season after a terrific summer in 1995, when a plan was hatched to send him straight to the NBA. Sometimes, you have to just pick the best player. It should be noted that the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker began for the 2007-08 season and the voting results may have been different had a 10-man panel voted on it, instead of a group of journalists choosing.

2. Kawhi Leonard On ’09 Third Five
Now we’re cheating a bit here because having Kawhi Leonard on any All-American team in 2009 was a good call. It’s a somewhat famous snub that he didn’t play in the 2009 McDonald’s All-American Game. However, taking a deeper look at that team, Leonard should have been somewhere on the second five. The fact he was behind sophomore Michael Gilchrist of St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) or seniors John Henson of Sickles (Tampa, Fla.) is not awful, but is certainly not great, either. The 2009 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball out of King (Riverside, Calif.) averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game and led King to its second consecutive CIF Div. I SoCal regional final.

3. Blake Griffin On '07 Third Five
The class of 2007 was star-studded and one of the best of all-time. It certainly wasn’t easy to make All-American that season, but looking back Griffin should have been on second five. He was excellent in the McDonald’s All-American practices and game and it was easy to see he was more explosive and a better player than a few guys with more national notoriety or higher in national player rankings. Was Griffin a better high school player than either second five pick Corey Stokes of St. Benedict's (Newark, N. J.) or Gani Lawal of Norcross (Ga.)? Probably so.

4. Kemba Walker On ’08 Second Five
Willie Warren of North Crowley (Fort Worth, Texas) was a clutch player and state champion in Texas, but it was a close call to put him on first five. Now, we wish we would have went with the two point guard offense on first five with Walker and player of the year Brandon Jennings. At the McDonald's All-American game, Walker didn't take a backseat to any guard, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. He didn’t begin playing basketball until 12, but Walker developed into one of the many decorated floor generals to attend now defunct Rice (New York) and went on to an excellent college and NBA career.

5. Jalen Suggs On ’20 Second Five
He moved up from second team All-American (30 players) to the second of four fives (our first team has had a 20-player format since 2004-05). After a career that rivaled any Minnesota player ever, Suggs probably would have been the better first five choice than sophomore Emoni Bates, who had tons of hype that season and was even named Gatorade National Player of the Year. We didn’t think that highly of Bates, but he did have a terrific season, but Suggs was probably better and we should have employed a three guard offense with Mr. Basketball USA Cade Cunningham of Montverde Academy (Fla.) and Jalen Green of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.). At the time, Suggs was the highest-rated recruit ever to commit to Gonzaga and was also the nation’s top Grid-Hoop Player who was named the 2019 Minnesota Mr. Football as a signal-caller on the gridiron.

5 All-American Choices We’re Most Proud Of

1. Onyeka Okongwu On Fourth Five As A Junior In ‘18
The Chino Hills (Calif.) big man was terrific as a junior and we’re glad to honor him as a two-time All-American. He really deserved it and it’s still incredible to think he was a major omission from the 2019 McDonald’s All-American Game. He showed how good he was in high school when one year later the two-time California Mr. Basketball was the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

2. Jalen Brunson On Second Five As A Senior In ’15
There is this narrative the Stevenson (Lincolnshire, Ill.) was overlooked in the NBA Draft or that he’s been “slept on” until joining the New York Knicks, but that narrative is from from the truth. This pick actually can fall in both categories, as we wish we placed him on first five. Brunson was that good for his high school team and on the grassroots circuit. Some just don’t know what they are looking at when evaluating if players don’t have the typical quickness or athleticism that stands out.

3. Draymond Green On Fourth Five As A Senior In ’08
This Saginaw (Mich.) big man wasn’t rated anywhere near the Top 20 on the 2008 class. In fact, he was rated No. 122 in the country by, but we could see he was a talented player and more importantly, a winner. Green led the Trojans to a second straight state Class A championship while posting a 27-1 record. He was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball for his all-around play.

4. Anthony Davis On First Five As A Senior In ‘11
Well, it wasn’t a big evaluation coupe to have A.D. on first five. After all, he was probably the most talented player in the country after being a virtual unknown as a junior. He completely blew up on the travel ball circuit, but the problem was he didn’t have any momentum from previous seasons, Perspectives Charter (Chicago) was a small school playing against relatively meager competition and the team finished 6-18. The Mr. Basketball USA Tracker knew his talent was too much to ignore, as he appeared on eight of 10 ballots, including three second-place votes. His future Kentucky teammate Michael Gilchrist was the Mr. Basketball USA that season.

5. Jalen Duren On First Five As A Junior In ‘21
Montverde Academy (Fla.) lost four starters off its terrific 2020 team, but was still able to repeat as FAB 50 champs mainly behind the play of the nation’s most physically dominant interior player. He opened up the season as the eighth highest vote-getter in the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, but ended up third behind Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith in the final analysis. After being named national junior of the year, he re-classed up a year and left to Memphis.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of He can be reached at [email protected]. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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