Meet the Next Gen Stars and Their Family Who Paved the Way
Every spring, the McDonald’s All-American Games gather a few dozen stars of the one million — yes, one million — boys and girls that play high school basketball every year. The games are showcases that pay tribute to local success stories and introduce the athletes to a national – and international – audience.
But sometimes, they don’t need full introductions. A few of this year’s honorees are related to past All-American Game participants, and if their relatives offer any indication, this class is one to keep an eye on. Get to know the Class of 2023 (and their families) here, and see why you better learn their names fast.
There are several hoopers in this year’s game with relatives who have had success at the highest levels of basketball without participating in the All-American Game. One of those is small forward Andrej Stojaković, son of former Sacramento King Peja Stojaković. Since Peja started playing professionally in Europe at age 15, he never appeared in a McDonald’s All-American Game, but he’s remembered today as a legendary sharpshooter.
A few players have parents who cracked college rosters: On the girls’ side, wings Sofia Bell and Madison Booker had fathers who were rotation players at Oregon and Southern Miss, respectively. For the boys, Kwame Evans’ father, Kwame Sr., played at George Washington and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. Justin Edwards, the top recruit in the class of 2023 who’s headed to Kentucky in the fall, is the son of Ebony Twiggs, who starred at Pennsylvania HBCU Cheyney University and briefly played professionally in Portugal. Meanwhile, the parents of small forward Matas Buzelis played professionally in Lithuania before immigrating to the United States.
Finally, two of this year’s boys’ honorees have relatives who didn’t make the All-American rosters but made it to the NBA. Small forward Cody Williams is the younger brother of Jalen Williams, a rookie forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, currently averaging about 14 points per game. Duke commit Sean Stewart is going to be a third-generation college player. His father, Michael, played eight years in the NBA. His grandfather, Mike, was a standout center at Santa Clara and was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1972.
However, only three of the 48 players from both games share the All-American honor with an immediate family member.
A fluid offensive player who can score from outside or finish at the rim, this wing from Kansas will attend Iowa State next year. You don’t have to look back too far to see the McDonald’s alum she’s connected to: Brown’s older sister, Kennedy, played in the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2019.
After committing to Oregon State, the elder Brown played for two years under head coach Scott Rueck before transferring to Duke, where she started every game as the team’s center this season. Brown anchors the paint for the Blue Devils, which entered this year’s NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed. She helped lead Duke to a comfortable 40-point first-round victory over Iona, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds in only 21 minutes of action.
Perhaps one of the most famous children of a professional athlete ever, Bronny James has a lot of eyes on him as he prepares to graduate high school. With a name like “LeBron James Jr.,” it’s hard to separate the son from his father, but Bronny is carving out his own path in the game. A projected top-10 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, James is the only McDonald’s All-American who has yet to choose his next step but rest assured he’s got some pretty good advisors in his corner.
LeBron James’ illustrious high school career at St. Vincent—St. Mary included three state championships, three Ohio Mr. Basketball awards, and two National High School Player of the Year awards. The 2003 McDonald’s All-American Game was an exclamation point, one of his last opportunities to make his case for the top overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. As expected, he didn’t disappoint — James poured in 27 points to lead all scorers, pacing the East team to a 15-point win. He was named the game’s MVP, and was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers exactly three months later.
Though Bronny’s dad has a strong case for being considered basketball’s G.O.A.T., D.J. Wagner’s family ties to the NBA run a bit deeper. If he continues on his current path, Wagner will become the NBA’s first-ever third-generation player. His father, former Cavaliers shooting guard Dajuan Wagner, was a highly-touted prospect whose promising NBA career was derailed by health problems. D.J.’s grandfather, Milt Wagner, won championships in college at Louisville in 1986 and in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988. He also worked as a coach for three different colleges after retiring from the game.
Even more notable, both his father and grandfather played in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Not many stats exist for Milt’s appearance in 1981 (except for the 30 points scored by a North Carolina high schooler named Michael Jordan, which stood as the record for 18 years).
Dajuan impressed in his 2001 showcase, leading the East with 25 points but falling by six points to the West.
Selection to the All-American Game by no means assures you a lengthy, accolade-filled pro career, but it’s obviously a pretty good sign you’re on the right track.
Take a look back at the All-American rosters from the past few years. You’ve got rosters filled with the brightest young stars in the NBA and WNBA, like Anthony Edwards (2019), Trae Young (2017), and Sabrina Ionescu (2016). Go back further, and you’re looking at the titans of the sport — Skylar Diggins-Smith (2009), James Harden (2007), Kevin Durant (2006), and Chris Paul (2003).
From a collector’s perspective, what more could you ask for? McDonald’s All-American cards are an opportunity to start collecting the sport’s superstars before they even leave high school.
Does that mean there’s more uncertainty? Sure, it does. Not every player in every game makes it to the biggest stage. But McDonald’s All-Americans make up a small, elite club, and its honorees have proven over time that they’re not to be doubted.