I've covered De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) basketball coach Frank Allocco since he began coaching high school hoops in 1991. For the last 12 years, our family receives a Christmas poem penned by Allocco that he sends out every holiday season. MaxPreps asked him if he'd be interested in writing a daily blog from Chicago, where he and De La Salle assistants Brian Sullivan and Mark Noack will lead the West squad in the 37th Annual McDonald's All American Game. The following are the first two days of Allocco's journey from California to the Windy City. Look for daily entries the rest of the week.
Saturday, March 296:30 a.m. —
Depart from Oakland airport. Traveling with Brian Sullivan and Mark Noack, two of my coaches from De La Salle, who will serve as my assistants for the McDonald's All American Game.
Our flight is a working trip. We spend our time on the airplane reviewing a scouting report of both teams put together by Ray Costello, my student manager at De La Salle. We review various video highlights of our players that are available online. Wow.
This game features 24 of the top high school players in the country. Watching their highlights, it's quite clear that this is an extremely talented and physical group. We're excited to represent Northern California and De La Salle in this prestigious event. Noon —
We arrive at Midway Airport and are driven to the headquarters hotel, the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. We drove from the airport with Mikayla Cowling
and Gabby Green
from Saint Mary's (Berkeley, Calif.)
. We joke that we had the Christian Brothers covered with our Bay Area representation. Mikayla, Gabby and Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
senior Mariya Moore
will represent the West team in the girls game. Gabby and Mikayla will stay near home and play at Cal next fall. Lucky Cal. 4 p.m. —
We check into our hotel and meet Joe and Terri Lynn Wootten. The Wootten family is synonymous with the McDonald's Game. Joe's dad Morgan Wootten is one of the original committee chairmen of this event. After picking up our gear for the week, we have a coaches meeting where we all meet with the McDonald's organizational team for the first time. Impressed with the organization. First class all the way. The McDonald's team has all their bases covered!
My staff and I meet our team and are very impressed with their friendly demeanor and competitive spirit. 6 p.m. —
We depart on two buses to the Lucky Strike Lanes where we enjoy a wonderful buffet dinner while watching the Men's and Women's NCAA Tournament. After dinner, the coaches and players from both genders mingle, bowl, play pool and ping pong. 9 p.m. —
Head back to the hotel for a brief meeting with our team and then up to the room for a West Team staff meeting where we prepare for our first practice of the week.
It's been a long day for the California contingent. Was happy to get to bed at a decent hour. We have to be sharp for a staff meeting at 7 a.m. and a full day of festivities. Sunday, March 307 a.m. —
Bright and early, rise and shine. We start with a breakfast buffet for players and coaches. After that, we have photo head shots taken for the ESPN telecast. We join all the players and coaches for a 10 minute walk to the Ronald McDonald House. What a beautiful facility. It's the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world and can house up to 85 families. Amazing.
At the house, the players and coaches have brunch and mingle with the children and families that are staying at the house. This puts it all into perspective. What an unbelievable experience. This is truly the real purpose for these games. Especially heartwarming to see these giants of young men coloring with children, reading to them, playing games and decorating cookies. The talent of the All Americans is only surpassed by their compassion. I'm already feeling bonded to these players. They are truly great young men!
2 p.m. —
We get on the bus and head to the Quest Center, a basketball training facility in Chicago, where we conduct our practice. I'm very impressed with Stanley Johnson
, the 6-foot-7 swingman who just flew in from California after leading Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
to its fourth-straight state crown. I heard he had 25 points and eight assists. Not surprising. What is surprising is that he's the first one to practice. Impressive. After competing against him at De La Salle in the 2011 state title game – and several other head-to-head battles – it's finally nice to have him on my team!
We also have 7-foot center Jahlil Okafor
, who is headed to Duke. He's widely recognized as the top player in the country. We also have Kentucky-bound Trey Lyles
, Devin Booker
and Tyler Ulis
, along with another Duke commit, Grayson Allen
. Running the point is Emmanuel Mudiay
(SMU) and North Carolina-bound Joel Berry
I love Stanford-bound Reid Travis
from De La Salle-Minnesota who really attacks the glass and plays with great energy. Two wing players from Findlay Prep, Kelly Oubre
(Kansas) and Rashad Vaughn
(UNLV) can shoot it and get to the rim. The team is rounded out by UCLA-bound Thomas Welsh
, a 7-footer.
We're having a great practice with coach Sullivan and coach Noack conducting breakdown drills with our players. It really showcases their skills before the assembled NBA scouts. That's right, the NBA scouts are on hand. The kids are great listeners and eager to learn and to compete. We are pushing the ball up the floor, giving them every opportunity to showcase their exceptional skills. I'm impressed with each player's incredible basketball IQ and their ability to read and react with great instincts.
5 p.m. —
After practice, we join more than 100 Chicago-area boys and girls who participated in a well-organized skills camp. Former McDonald's All American Christian Laettner speaks to all of the McDonald's All Americans and then works with all of the young campers! What a treat. 6 p.m. —
After practice we're bussed to McDonald's where we watch the Kentucky-Michigan game and eat dinner. The place erupts when Kentucky's Aaron Harrison hit the late game-winning 3-pointer. Our four Kentucky-bound McDonald's All Americans are pretty excited! 7 p.m. —
After dinner, it's back to the bus and a brief visit to "Hamburger University" where we see the new McDonald's All American game exhibit and tour the displays portraying the history of the McDonald's Restaurants. Founder Ray Kroc was truly a great man with a special vision, a businessman and great philanthropist.7:30 p.m. —
We return to our hotel to prepare for media interviews with the national press. 8 p.m. —
Our West staff meets tonight to review today's practice, discuss matchups and to plan tomorrow's early morning practice. We are all very excited for another incredible day at the McDonald's All American game.