Cali pride

Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett won't just be representing the Arizona Wildcats at tonight's McDonald's All-American Game.

They're also playing for their home state, being the first Californians named to the game since 2009.

"You definitely want to win this game, especially coming from California," Jerrett said. "I just want to win the game for my school, my family and everyone in California."

The lack of Californians and West Coast players in the McDonald's game in recent years had even Ashley unsure if he would make it, despite his high recruiting rankings.

"Honestly, rankings don't matter," Ashley said. "There's a lot of kids on the West Coast who should have made it. For me to actually make it, that's huge."

Quick turn

Not only is Ashley getting some college-type competition this week, but he's also getting a taste of an NBA schedule. After playing in the McDonald's All-American Game tonight, Ashley and Findlay Prep teammate Anthony Bennett will fly straight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., for the National High School Invitational championships.

The Pilots will open play Thursday night, so it's a good thing Ashley can often sleep on planes.

"I try to," he said.

Big time

Not only do the McDonald's All-Americans get to play tonight's game on the Chicago Bulls' home floor, but they are also holding practices at the nearby Attack Athletics facility in front of NBA executives who crammed the sidelines of their Wednesday practice.

Attack is owned by Michael Jordan's trainer, Tim Grover, frequented by a number of NBA stars, and it also is where Barack Obama shot a little hoops on Election Day 2008.

Some perspective

The week isn't all about basketball for the McDonald's players.

They made a two-hour visit to the local Ronald McDonald House to visit seriously ill youth, and visited the "Rock N Roll McDonald's" in Chicago's Near North neighborhood.

"It's been fun, and at the same time, we've had a lot of life-changing experiences," Ashley said. "That was crazy (at the Ronald McDonald House), going in there, and seeing what these kids are going through, yet they can smile and have so much fun and really enjoy themselves."

Back to Chicago

Formerly having rotated all over the country - even to San Diego, for UA signee Chase Budinger's hometown game in 2006 - the McDonald's All-American Game has found a semi-permanent home in Chicago.

The game attracted a record 20,118 fans last spring at the United Center, which will host tonight's game and, director Douglas Freeland announced Wednesday, will also host the 2013 boys and girls games.

"It's been very well-received here," Freeland said.

Additional proof that Chicago likes the game? The statue of Bulls legend Michael Jordan outside the United Center was adorned with a McDonald's All-American jersey on Wednesday.

Jam Fest

Former UA target Shabazz Muhammad, already's No. 1 prospect in the class of 2012, picked up another title on Monday. He won the Powerade Jam Fest by compiling two perfect scores on dunks, including one where he caught the ball off the backboard and slammed it in powerfully with two hands while jumping over another player.

Muhammad, who is expected to announce his college choice on April 11, is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and UCLA.


"Looking at all the history, it's kind of cool to see you're actually playing in this game. It's been a great experience." - Grant Jerrett

The big number


Number of teams who have won an NCAA title since 1979 without a McDonald's All-American on its roster (Maryland in 2002)