Here is our final of four intallments of West boys coach Frank Allocco's
journal from the McDonald's All American Game in Chicago. Allocco is a
state champion coach at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.).
We thank coach Allocco for adding to his already very long, demanding but fruitful week. See blog one, two, three and his career path to Chicago. See also how his West team defeated the East 105-102.Wednesday, April 2
Game day7 a.m. —
It's our final staff meeting. We discuss the entire week of activities and logistics for morning pictures, shoot-arounds, walk-throughs and game operations for tonight's game. It's nice to spend time with all the men's and women's coaches, but I will not miss the early mornings that follow our late, late nights. Final details9:30 a.m. —
We're bussed to the United Center and enter through the visiting hockey locker room. Our players dress for practice while our staff watches the final minute of the East-West girls walk-through. Our players dress in their game uniforms and pose for pictures in this historic arena. After photos are complete, we walk through our offensive sets and out-of-bounds plays and conclude with a brief shooting workout.
A ball, a boy and a basket11 a.m. —
After the walk-through and shoot-around, the team walks to the locker room and Stanley Johnson
of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
approaches. He asks if he can do "Some serious shooting." I tell him that the bus is leaving soon, that we have 20 minutes. We rush back to the United Center floor, grab a basketball and get to work. I rebound for Stanley as he takes 3-pointers and works on his mid-range game. I remind him to bend his knees and slow down his rhythm. Then, it happens. The lights go out. Stanley hesitates. I urge him to keep shooting. As the very talented and gifted 6-foot-7 guard headed for Arizona continues to stroke shots from all angles in the dark, I realize what a magical moment this is. This is a bustling week filled with crowds and even NBA scouts following and evaluating the every move, dissecting every word of these student athletes. Each day these young men and women performed on the biggest possible stage. In a few hours from now, when the bright lights come back on, 17,000 fans will fill the arena, excited to watch this game and these athletes. Millions more will sit in front of their televisions or computers, enjoying the talents of these amazing athletes. But right at this moment, the game is stripped to its most basic core – just Stanley and I alone in a dark gym – he trying to improve and me committed to helping him get better. I'm overwhelmed by the simplistic beauty of this game, of this moment, just a ball, a boy and a basket. I will cherish this memory as one of the great treasures of the week. Treasured friends12:30 p.m. —
I walk into a local restaurant to have lunch with Alan Lesnewich, my best friend and teammate from New Providence (N.J.)
and Bob Haggerty, a dear friend of mine who helps with my Excel Basketball Camps in New Jersey. Al and Bob flew out this morning to be here to share this special day with me. It's great to get a break from the hotel food and enjoy a meal with my assistant coaches and two of my best New Jersey friends.Birthday wish
2:30 p.m. — I head back to the hotel with my staff to take care of last-minute game preparation. When coaches Mark Noack and Brian Sullivan leave my room I think about how fast this week has flown by. It has been an amazing experience, but I am ready to go home and see my family, especially my four wonderful grandchildren! Today is my son Frank Jr.'s birthday and I wish I could be there to share the day with him. I am sure, however, that his birthday wish would be for his father to be coaching in the McDonald's All American game!Peanut butter and jelly5 p.m. —
I'm met in the players hospitality room at the hotel and then board a bus to head back to the United Center. Upon arrival at the arena, we head to the locker room to drop off our equipment and then take the elevators up to two luxury boxes. Our players and coaches enjoy an old-fashioned snack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while we watch the first half of the girls game. At halftime, we head down to the locker room where I speak to our team briefly about our game plan. I express how important it is to stop offensive transition, rebound and stop dribble penetration. We talk about our different offensive and defensive sets, and out-of-bounds plays.Crescendo7:50 p.m. —
The players' excitement level is building to a crescendo as game time gets closer and closer. Once the players finish getting dressed, stretched and taped, I stand before them and challenge them to win the game and showcase themselves as players and as great competitors.
After the West girls defeat the East by an 80-78 score, the boys take center stage and begin layup lines. The stands begin to fill in anticipation of a great showcase of the best in high school basketball.
Lucky stars8:30 p.m. —
Tip-off is delayed as ESPN awaits the conclusion of the Knicks-Nets NBA game. Our players leave the floor and assemble in the tunnels for their pregame introductions. As we stand in line awaiting an outstanding performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" I think about how lucky these boys and girls are to have the opportunity to represent McDonald's, a first-class organization, and compete before 17,000 fans, while following in the footsteps of the legends of the game who preceded them in the past 36 years. Passage of time
8:45 p.m. — We lose the opening tipoff and the East team instantly scores on a tip play. This inability to get back and stop transition plagued us throughout the first half. The East is a different team than the one we defeated in a scrimmage yesterday. Their explosive guards are flying out on the break and knocking down 3-pointers and competing at a very high level. At halftime we trail 51-50. I tell the team there is no reason to panic, we are playing our worst basketball of the week and we were still only down one. I conclude my speech by saying "Maturity is understanding the significance of the passage of time." I explain that when you are young, time is not your enemy, it seems to go by so slow. When you are older, you realize that the clock is ticking way too swiftly. I challenge them, saying they had 20 minutes left in this game and that time was running out in this game. If they did not understand the importance of every possession, we would not win. I stress that we must get back on defense, make better decisions on offense and compete the way we did throughout the week.
Second half9:45 p.m. —
We take the court after the half and play much better. However, coach Lou Wilson had the East team competing at a high level and they weren't going to disappear. The second half goes back and forth, but we finally pull away for an eight-point advantage, the biggest lead of the game. North Carolina-bound Justin Jackson makes big shot after big shot to narrow the lead and the East eventually secures a one-point lead with less than three minutes to go. Our West team does not back down as we battle back to take a one-point lead before making two key stops to win the 37th Annual McDonald's All American Game Classic, 105-102. Postgame challenge10:30 p.m. —
I am escorted to the media room with East player Justin Jackson
, and West players Rashad Vaughn
from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
and Jahlil Okafor
of Whitney Young (Chicago)
. Jackson was the leading scorer with 23 points while Vaughn contributed 14 points with Okafor chipping in 17 points and seven rebounds. Jackson and Okafor share the Most Valuable Player award. The media questions me about my experience coaching in this game and Okafor speaks about how special it was to play his last game here in front of the hometown fans. He also thanks "Coach Frank" for challenging him to compete all week! That gives me a warm feeling. Farewells and thank-yous
11:15 p.m. —
We board the bus and return to the Marriott Hotel. Coaches Noack, Sullivan and I go to the players' hospitality room to say our goodbyes to our players. We thank them for their effort and promise to stay in touch. We then go to the sixth floor to join the McDonald's All American Game staff party. We enjoy eating a post-game meal and say our farewells to the many people who make this event such an amazing experience for these special young men and women. Sweet slumber1:30 a.m. —
I begin packing to go home. My 5:15 wake-up call is right around the corner! I am sure to have sweet dreams tonight. I always sleep better after a great win!
It was a pleasure to represent De La Salle High School and Northern California in this historic event. The memories and friendships that were created during this unforgettable week will remain in my heart forever!