To be selected as a nominee for the McDonald’s team is a huge accomplishment. To make it on this prestigious list of boys and girls means you are considered one of the best young hoopers in the country. Legends like Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Candace Parker have shared this achievement. Last week, 380 boys were selected from 41 different states to potentially participate in the 45th edition of the McDonald’s All-American game. Incoming SDSU basketball recruits Miles Byrd and Elijah Saunders received nominations.
The East Village Times caught up with Byrd and Saunders to learn their thoughts about receiving the honor.
“It’s an honor to be nominated for such a prestigious game, especially alongside many good players in my class,” Byrd said. “To be recognized is a pleasure, and I appreciate those backing me.”
“It’s really exciting being nominated for the game. It’s an honor to be on a list with all the other great players from our region and around the country.” Saunders said, echoing the sentiment of his future Aztec teammate.
The nomination comes because the two players are having stellar seasons at their respective schools. After losing only one game last season and winning the state championship, Saunders has led Sunnyslope High School to a 17-2 record. Their only losses on the season came at the hands of the number one team in the states of California and Utah.
Saunders’ Vikings are currently ranked third in the state of Arizona. The 6’8” forward is averaging nearly 22 points and nine rebounds per game.
Byrd is having similar success. Playing for the Lincoln Trojans out of Stockton, CA, his team is ranked 31st in the state. They boast a 14-3 record. He’s averaging nearly 18 points and six assists.
Byrd is pleased that his talent is recognized enough to be selected as a nominee. But aside from his basketball potential being noticed, there’s another reason this nominee feels extra special.
Byrd’s father, Calvin Byrd, played in the 1989 edition of the McDonald’s All-American game alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Byrd says he grew up watching his father’s All-American game on VHS tapes and particularly remembers an iconic dunk contest hosted by Dick Vitale.
He even has his father’s jersey that he wore in the game currently hanging in his bedroom. Byrd is certainly proud to follow in his fathers’ footsteps.
Along with their recognition as McDonald’s All-American nominees, the duo’s star has risen in the recruiting ranks. Byrd is rated the 53rd player in the nation according to 247 sports. Saunders checks in at 146. The accolades they are receiving shine light on their growth as players that started this past summer.
“I’ve played against a couple of the guys on the (McDonald’s nominee) list over the summer,” Saunders said. “The summer was big for me because it showed me that I can play at the same level as a lot of these other top guys.”
“Unfortunately, I only got a chance to play in the Under Armour Circuit for one summer and Grind Session during my junior year,” Byrd added. “I’ve crossed paths with a few of the guys, but not as many as I would’ve liked. I’m actually pretty good friends with some of the other nominees from the West Coast, and of course, Elijah Saunders got nominated, who will be coming to SDSU with me next year. At the end of the day, I’ll bet on myself over everyone and everything. I’m confident I would be able to play at a high level with everyone who is on the list.”
Only 24 boys are selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game. The final team announcement is set for Jan. 25 on ESPN. Both players believe they deserve to be a part of the final team. The game will be hosted in Chicago in March at the home of the 2021 WNBA champion Chicago Sky.