Despite not playing a single game or having any official practices, four senior girls from California - Southern California and the CIF Southern Section to be exact - were named to the 12-girl West squad for the McDonald’s All-American Game, even though the game has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just like last year’s game.
The four selections matched the most for any state along with Georgia, which had three players chosen for the East squad and one for the West. North Carolina was next with three selections while Arkansas, New York and Texas garnered two each.
The headliner of the girls selections and a member of the East squad is Connecticut-bound point guard Azzi Fudd, the nation’s top recruit from St. John’s of Washington D.C.
Included among the four SoCal girls selected were a pair of players who were finalists for Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year and All-State Elite First-Team selections, both of whom are bound for Stanford: Cal-Hi Sports State Junior of the Year Okikiola "Kiki" Iriafen, a 6-3 forward from Harvard-Westlake of Studio City and 6-foor-3 guard Brooke Demetre of Mater Dei-Santa Ana.
Also included are the USC-bound duo of All-State Elite Third-Team selection and 6-foot-3 point guard Rayah Marshall of Lynwood, and All-State Junior First-Team Junior selection and 6-foot-4 center Clarice Akunwafo of Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro.
“It’s an honor to be a McDAAG All American,” Iriafen said. “Definitely wish we could have the game this year but still such an honor. It’s definitely helping me keep my spirits up with our high school season still up in the air.”
Prior to the announcement of the 24 girls selected for the two teams among the several hundred nominations, some coaches like Melissa Hearlihy of Harvard-Westlake were concerned that players like her star Iriafen might get overlooked with California not playing while other states are either playing or have concluded their seasons.
“I’m concerned that Kiki and the other California girls will get penalized because they haven’t played,” said Hearlihy, who according to the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book is No. 2 all time in California girls basketball history with 762 career coaching victories.
To get an answer for Hearlihy and the other coaches that reached out to us, we reached out to someone on the McDonald’s All American Selection Committee for an answer earlier this month and prior to the announcement that the game was being cancelled once again.
Although California doesn’t have a voting member on the selection committee, Chris Hansen of ProspectsNation.com and EliteIsEarned, and who is based in the Pacific Northwest, has his finger on the pulse of California girls basketball. He couldn’t tip us off to who he voted for, but from the results it’s obvious his influence had an impact.
“They are letting us vote based on body of work even if the West Coast kids haven’t played yet,” was Hansen’s answer.
“Final ballots are in,” Hansen continued. “I’m not sure on the announcement date as I think they are still trying to figure out if there will be a game played or not.”
While the annual event won’t take place again this year the 24 girls and 24 boys selected for the games will be honored in a virtual ceremony.