Boys Basketball: West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman to represent Illinois at McDonald’s game
Updated: March 27, 2012 6:26PM
For only the second time in the 35-year history of the McDonald’s All-American Game the state of Illinois will not have a representative in the game.
But thanks to a rich basketball tradition and a large fan base that helped the United Center draw a sellout crowd of 20,018 — an event record — last year, the game returns to Chicago on Wednesday.
The game, which is set to tip at 8:30 p.m., will still feature some local flavor. Legendary West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman will helm the West team.
“So far everything has been great; the kids have taken a mature attitude,” Kerkman said. “They’ve worked extremely hard. They work very well together. They’ve really been a pleasure to coach.”
After being on the sidelines at West Aurora for 36 years, Kerkman will get his second chance to coach an all-star game at the United Center after coaching in the Roundball Classic in 2002.
“I’ve been fortunate enough where I’ve had the opportunity to coach an all-star game in the past but never the McDonald’s game,” Kerkman said. “It’s probably more special for the kids than it is for us, but it’s still a special opportunity that you only get once or twice in a lifetime.”
Although no local players will be found in the program, the players are still excited to play at the United Center.
“I’m excited to see if it’s going to be a sold-out crowd,” Philadelphia-native and East forward Amile Jefferson said. “Chicago is a great sports city and to be here and be a part of this game is really an honor.”
Jefferson, along with East teammate Tony Parker, and West forwards Devonta Pollard, Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad are the only players not committed to a college. For now, all five are focused on the game on Wednesday and the experience of being a McDonald’s All-American.
“This has been a great experience,” Muhammad said. “Knowing that all of these guys — Derrick Rose, LeBron James — have been in this game and been in our shoes before, I’m just fortunate to have this opportunity.”
It was also announced Tuesday that the McDonald’s All-American Game will return to the United Center in 2013.