Jesse Granger, staff photo
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 | 2 a.m.
The best basketball players in Southern Nevada gathered Tuesday afternoon at the McDonald’s on Rainbow Boulevard and the 215 Beltway.
Troy Brown Jr. of Centennial High, Chuck O’Bannon Jr. of Bishop Gorman and P.J. Washington of Findlay Prep all posed for pictures and devoured piles of chicken nuggets and fries as they celebrated their send-off party for the McDonald’s All-American game.
The celebration has almost become an annual tradition in Las Vegas. The valley has sent 13 players to the game since 2012 and 17 since 2009.
“It’s a special thing to see three kids from Las Vegas out of the 24 named to the teams,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “The city has been well represented the last four or five years, and I think that will continue.”
Of the 17 players, Brown is the only one from a school other than Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep — and the only one from a public school.
“I wanted to stay loyal to my high school where I grew up,” Brown said. “Me being stubborn, I wanted to do it my way with my friends from my high school, and I never felt the need to go anywhere else. I’ve been blessed.”
Brown, who is committed to Oregon, was named the Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year on Monday after leading the Bulldogs to the Class 4A Sunset Regional semifinals with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game.
O’Bannon, who is committed to USC, is the fifth player from Bishop Gorman to be named a McDonald’s All-American. O’Bannon led the Gaels this season with 21 points and eight rebounds per game, and scored 36 to help Bishop Gorman win its sixth straight state championship in February.
“It was very special to end my career with that game,” O’Bannon said. “That game is still kind of a blur to me.”
Washington, who is committed to Kentucky, follows a long list of Findlay Prep alums to play in the game. The Pilots have sent 10 players over the last eight years — six of whom went on to become first-round picks in the NBA draft.
“It’s great. Most of the guys that have done this from Findlay Prep have gone on to the NBA, so it’s a stepping-stone and it’s great. I’m just excited for (the McDonald’s All-American game) in Chicago.”
The three have played together on club teams and against each other for their high schools for years.
“I’ve known these guys since I was a lot younger, and it’s just great to see us all grown up and doing great things and representing Las Vegas,” Washington said.
All three said it was nice to finally meet up without having to battle on the hardwood.
“It’s amazing,” O’Bannon said. “Growing up we have all played against each other and with each other and for us to all accomplish this together is special.”
With powerhouse programs like Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep, and rising teams like Centennial, Clark and Coronado, the Las Vegas Valley shouldn’t have to wait long for its next party at McDonald's.
“People are definitely taking note on the national scene,” Rice said. “With everything that’s going on with the summer (club) tournaments in July, the NBA Summer League and Team USA being here, basketball is really getting more popular in Las Vegas.”
The McDonald’s All-American game will be played at the United Center in Chicago on March 29. The game tips off at 4 p.m. and will be aired live on ESPN.