Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sports

McDonald's All-American Game: Putting Kevin Knox's selection into a Tampa perspective

In 1987, David White was summoned to Boca Ciega High's gymnasium for a photo. The basketball standout for the Pirates put on a T-shirt and stood in front of a white background.

Curious, White asked his coach what the photos were all about.

"Coach just said, 'Oh, you were selected for the McDonald's All-American Game,' " White recalled.

A coveted recruit, White already had received plenty of accolades. So his selection to the McDonald's game did not carry much significance considering there was little fanfare surrounding it.

White, now an assistant boys basketball coach at Lakewood High, did not realize what an exclusive club that would become. He is one of only five players from the Tampa Bay area who has been selected to play in the game, which has become the premier high school showcase event.

Tampa Catholic's Kevin Knox is the latest. The 6-foot-9 forward, a consensus five-star recruit, will play in the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday at Chicago's United Center.

Knox realizes the magnitude of the moment. Michael Jordan played in this game. So did Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal.

"To me, this is the best event in high school basketball," said Knox, who has narrowed his list of colleges to Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State, and is expected to announce his decision in mid April. "I'm really looking forward to it because it's the best of the best. Very few get selected for this game, and I'm happy that I did."

White knows the Knox family. After his basketball career ended at Florida State, White decided to become a tight end for the Seminoles as a fifth-year senior in 1991. That year, he met Knox's father, also named Kevin, who was a sophomore receiver.

The two reconnected six years ago through basketball. White remembers watching the younger Knox in a travel league. Knox was in middle school but was already growing — in size and stature.

White soon discovered the player he was raving about was his former teammate's son.

"Kevin was already 6 feet and could play," White said. "I knew he was going to be a great player, but it's hard to project even back then that he would play in the McDonald's All-American Game. I don't know if anyone can project that."

White's selection in 1987 came a year after former Brandon High and Florida standout Dwayne Schintzius was the first from the area to play in the game. Schnitzius died in 2012 from leukemia.

"Dwayne and I played together for Team Florida," White said. "He was a fun-loving guy and kind of chuckled when he was selected because he thought (former Brandon teammate) Toney Mack was just as deserving.

"I felt the same way. The spotlight did not really make its way to the area. We were honored to be among the first, but we both felt there were other guys who could have come before us."

The 1987 game was held in Philadelphia. White's roommate was former UNLV and NBA star Larry Johnson. At practice, White injured his ankle. He took himself out of the dunk contest but played in the game.

With Schintzius and White selected in consecutive years, it appeared the area annually would have players recognized. That did not happen.

Former Tampa Prep standout Casey Sanders was selected in 1999, ending a 12-year drought for the bay area. Sanders signed with Duke and roomed with future teammate Jay Williams the week of the game.

In the game, Sanders watched as Jonathan Bender scored 31 to set the scoring record previously held by Jordan.

"I think as the years go by you appreciate more and more just how much of an honor it was to play in that game," said Sanders, who now works for a laser printing company in Tampa.

John Henson, a former standout at Sickles High who now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, was the last area selection in 2009 before Knox. DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Lance Stephenson were among those who played in that game.

Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia attended a banquet the week of the game and sat with the Plumlee family.

"I remember the mother asking me how thrilling it must be attend this every year," Garcia said. "She must have thought we were some powerhouse program that had players selected every year. I had to explain to her that John was our first and this was a pretty rare occurrence in our area."

For Knox, getting to the McDonald's game was a goal throughout his high school career. He will be in the 3-point contest Monday and hopes to play significant minutes Wednesday.

"This is my first and only time for this game," Knox said. "I'm really glad to be going and having the experience. I'm going to have fun, play hard and just do my thing."

Contact Bob Putnam at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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