Here is our third installment 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.). The McDonald's games are scheduled for Wednesday at the United Center, the girls game at 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU and the boys follow at 8:30 on ESPN. See blog one, two and his career path to Chicago.
Tuesday, April 1
7 a.m. —
Our pregame day starts with a mandatory staff meeting. The directors, support staff and coaches discuss the Powerade competitions from Monday and all agree it was truly a magical moment. We have lively discussion with East coaches about expected attire for the day. Good banter. It continues throughout our buffet breakfast. Our laughter draws attention. Everyone wonders what all the commotion is about. We sure bond well with the East coaches. Good men. So pleased to have made such great new friends. Early bird catches NBA attention9 a.m. —
Today is our earliest practice of the week and our shortest due to a scrimmage scheduled later at the United Center. Practice is brisk. Spirited. Enthusiastic. Competitive. Just the way I like them. It draws attention from the NBA scouts assembled, I think. A scout from the San Antonio Spurs comments about how hard our team competes and how much we accomplished in such a brief practice. Our team refuses to have a "light day" and competes the hardest they have all week. Good stuff. Bright lights10:30 a.m. —
After practice we're bussed directly to the United Center, home of the Bulls. We have boxed lunches and visit the Bulls' front office, which has an amazing display of championship history. For the next hour or so, the players and coaches participate in media interviews. I'm amazed at how well the players handle themselves. Very bright, articulate and quite savvy with a microphone. Looks like they've done this before.
Posing with MJ1 p.m. —
The interviews conclude. Both teams walk outside to see the Michael Jordan statue in front of the United Center. Michael is decked out in his McDonald's All-American jersey and the boys pose for several photos in front of his likeness for the national media. Old friend1:30 p.m. —
We watch the girls East-West scrimmage. The girls are fun to watch and compete with great intensity. I visit with Don Showalter, an old friend, and one of the top high school coaches in the country. He coaches at City (Iowa City) and has also won several gold medals as the head coach of USA Basketball U16/17 teams from 2009-13.
At halftime of the scrimmage, we enter the visiting locker room in the United Center. We have a brief chalk talk and get fired up to play against the East. It's scrimmage time. Scrimmage: Good news, bad news2 p.m. —
Our boys are ready to play and come out with great energy and enthusiasm. In the second half, one of our players goes in for a breakaway dunk. I yell at him "show me something good." His ferocious windmill dunk attempt hits the back of the rim and caroms back to half court for an East uncontested transition score. Stanley Johnson, of Mater Dei, quips: "Hey coach, would you be laughing if that was a De La Salle guy who missed the dunk?"
I counter: "I'm the one who told him to show me something good!"
Coach Noack then chimes in: "That's the first time I've ever seen you laugh at a five-point swing."
My staff and I continue to marvel at how cohesive we play both offensively and defensively. The good news is that we won the scrimmage. The bad news is that reportedly the team that wins the pregame scrimmage has never won the actual game in the entire history of the event.
We plan to change that trend tomorrow. Formal challenge
6 p.m. —
It's a special night. Our boys and girls dressed in formal attire — the boys in black tuxedos and girls in gowns — for our dinner and ring presentation to commemorate being selected All Americans. During hospitality hour, I visit with Morgan Wootten, the top high school coach in history. Coach Wootten and I spoke at a clinic in Lake Tahoe many years ago and at that time he prophetically told me that some day I would coach at the McDonald's All American Game! How did he know?
The banquet is one of the highlights of this trip. Each player is individually recognized and presented with a beautiful commemorative ring. My friend Gary McKnight from Mater Dei is also honored with a lifetime achievement award for his incredible success with the Monarchs. I enjoy visiting with Gary prior to the banquet.
The night ends with a challenging and stirring presentation by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. He challenges the All Americans and the other attendees to fulfill their potential, to be accountable, to never make excuses and avoid the pitfalls that have plagued so many athletes with great potential who preceded them. It is a standing ovation performance and the kids truly appreciate his passionate presentation.
Memory lane: The Woodens 10 p.m. —
My night ends with a visit to the McDonald's Hospitality Room at the Marriott. I have a chance to visit with Tom Valdiserri, whose father was the legendary Sports Information Director at Notre Dame when I was a student-athlete there. I have a great conversation with coach John Wooden's daughter and his granddaughter. I reminisce with them about the great Notre Dame-UCLA basketball games that I was a part of and share my treasured personal experiences that I had with coach Wooden. Saving lives11 p.m. —
I conclude this busy night with a chance encounter with John Lucas, the former NBA All Star who has done such amazing work with substance abuse counseling. His John Lucas Foundation has been instrumental in saving countless lives and careers. He and I share a laugh about our basketball connection as we were both recruited by the legendary Lefty Driesell at the University of Maryland. John took him up on his offer. I went to Notre Dame. It certainly worked out for both of us! Midnight —
Off to bed, another great day at the McDonald's All American game is behind us. I can't wait for tomorrow night, we finally get the chance to compete at 8:30 p.m. Central Time on ESPN.
Click to next page to see more formal wear and photos throughout the day.