By Amauro Austin Sr
Timing in life is everything.. And with Tuesday’s announcement of the 2023 McDonald’s All American Game rosters, what a perfect storm came for Saturday’s high school game of the year (Imhotep vs Camden 2pm @SJU Hagan Arena) as 3 members of the East Roster will be featured in that game.. Talk about the perfect Segway.. In fact 4, that’s right FOUR Locals made the East boys roster. and one very special lady made the East Girls Roster.
Let’s show these 5 outstanding student athletes a little love:
Imhotep’s Justin Edwards is one of my favorite stories ever in our rich history of high school basketball.. He never skipped steps while steadily rising up the charts because of his consistency.. He’s one of those guys who comes to work every day does his 8 + an hour of OT, never calls out and works his ass of while he’s there. And that’s how we’ve gotten to this point where he is considered the #1 player in all the land according to ESPN.. #3 according to 24/7.. #4 by way of Rivals.com.. #6 in On3’s opinion.. The 6-7 lefty mixes high end skills with high end athleticism with high end effort in a pot to make an Elite stew that’ll land him at the University of Kentucky next season. Justin is the prestigious, Nationally known Imhotep Institute Charter’s very first McDonald’s All-American selection..
7-1 Aaron Bradshaw of Camden High, for my money is the top “talent” in the Nation in the Class of 2023.. His size + skills package is as promising as it gets. Beats most down the floor.. Soft touch out to the three point line.. Protects the rim better than anyone in the Nation.. Finishes with authority.. On3 considers Bradshaw its #1 player in the country while 24/7 says he’s #2, ESPN says he’s #4 & Rivals opinion is that he’s #5.. ALL of the 4 Major recruiting sites consider him to be the top Center prospect in his class of 2023.. AB will also be taking his talents to Kentucky to play for Coach Cal next year. If it all clicks, I don’t anticipate him being there long.. Salute Big Fella!!
I’m more impressed with how D.J. Wagner carries himself than anything else. He could easily be entitled or be a punk or just be overwhelmed by all the pressure his last name has bestowed upon him. Instead, for the better part of DJ’s 4-year high school run he’s been considered the top prospect in his class while carrying that title with dignity and class. Dajuan Wagner Jr is the first 3rd Generation McDonald’s All-American in the rich history of the game. His bloodline of royalty started with his grandfather, Milt Wagner, a 1981 Camden High grad who went on to star at Louisville, winning a National title in 1986 and then going on to the NBA to win a world title as a reserve for the 1988 Los Angeles Lakers (Showtime). The pedigree continued with his father, Dajuan sr, who by my accounts was the best guard I ever saw in high school due to his domination of even the best of the best guards in the country. From 1998 to 2001, I was lucky to have spent a lot of time over in Camden to witnes this with my own eyes.. How would I describe the latest of the Great Wagner Men? DJ is what you get when an Iron Will meets polished, pedigreed (there goes that word again) skill.. The 6-3 Combo Guard is ranked #2 in the Nation according to ESPN, #3 on Rivals, #4 on 24/7 & #6 in On3’s Opinion.. He too will be headed to the Bluegrass State to play for Kentucky..
Powerful 6-3 Combo Guard Elmarko Jackson might be a surprise selection to some but not I cause I thought “Marko” could very easily claim to have been playing like the best guard in the country last spring and summer. The South Jersey (Marlton) native spent the previous two seasons at Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA before deciding to spend his Senior year at South Kent Prep School in Connecticut. Jackson could easily stake his claim as the most explosive player in the country. His ties to Philly run deep.. Both of his parents are Temple alums. His father, also Elmarko Jackson was a star Running Back on the football team.. Jackson is ranked #16 in the Nation as per On3.. #22 by EPSN.. #23 by 24/7.. And #27 by Rivals.com.. Elmarko will play his college ball for Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks. SALUTE!!!
And Finally, the lone girls representative from the Region is consensus Top point guard in the Nation, Paul VI of Haddonfield, NJ star Hannah Hidalgo. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this young lady play live on a few occasions including on the Girls EYBL last Spring. What a treat!!! Hannah plays for keeps in between those lines, let me tell you. Not only is she an offensive juggernaut capable of scoring 40 any night but she’s also a crafty creator and has the best defensive instincts I’ve seen Male or Female. Dribble the ball in front of her casually if you want.. ha ha ha.. It’ll be going the other way for a layup in quick fashion.. Hidalgo is a one woman full court press. Even better, I absolutely love her college choice going on to play for Coach Ivy at Notre Dame. I just believe Ivy & Hannah’s energies will mesh well. And Ivy has been where She’s trying to being an Elite PG herself who’s played and now coached at the highest levels. SALUTE!!!
Lastly, I have to weigh-in on the Bronny James/Mikey Williams/Robert Dillingham situations.. For those that thought Bronny wasn’t gonna make the game, please stop, please. Or even worse that he shouldn’t have made the game, I’ll pray for you. One take it naïveté on how the McDs AA process works.. The other is pure hate.. Bronny was penciled in as long as he could stay in or around the top 30 in the Nation in the scouting services. And NO, his dad didn’t have to make any calls. The Nationwide panel of voters, many of whom I know, voted him in.
Mikey & Dillingham are trickier situations. Both left their traditional high schools to play for places perceived as play for pay situations. It’s now legal to do so and keep college eligibility if done properly but it’s still a new concept and in my estimation/speculation, especially in Dillingham’s case, the McDonald’s committee penalized them for it.. That’s it.. That’s all.. We gotta stop running with the conspiracy theories and call things exactly what they are. Those boys and their families made some pioneering choices and this was one of the results that came from it. That’s all I have for today.. Please Like, Share & Subscribe.. — AA