McDONALD'S ALL-AMERICAN GAME
McDonald's was a lot of fun. It's always been a lifelong dream of mine to play in that game and just to basically have one last go around with all the players.
As far as the week, we got to do a lot of things. We visited the Ronald McDonald House and charity - which is probably the most fun thing. It was just kids who had their own problems in life that they were struggling with. We got to talk to them. I remember talking to this kid named Leonardo. He just sticks out in my mind because he was the first kid I got to meet. They were aware of the game and everything and they were happy to get to meet us. It was definitely a humbling experience. It opened my mind up to a lot of stuff that I'm not fully aware of that goes on in the world.
We also had practices throughout the week. The East and West teams, we didn't get to see each other until the final day when we played against each other. With my team I'd say Kyrie Irving and Jared Sullinger definitely stuck out. They played very well throughout the week in practice. They played a lot together throughout the week. They had great chemistry. Also DeShawn Thomas looked good. C.J. Leslie is very athletic. In the open floor, he's very hard to deal with.
It was a lot of fun hanging out with Harrison and Reggie. We've gotten to know each other. With me and Reggie, we've been committed so long our friendship has grown pretty close. Over the last couple of months Harrison has also gotten close with us. We get along great. We all have great personalities and bring different stuff to the table. Also getting to play with each other has been a lot of fun. I've gotten to know both of their games. They're both great players. Both easy to play with. I got to play with each of them at two events so I think it worked out.
Harrison's performance in the game was very impressive. He basically showed a little bit of everything in the game. He did a great job getting out in transition and finishing strong. He rebounds well and shoots the ball well. So I was happy for him.
I think we could've avoided that video Reggie, Harrison, Kyrie and myself made becoming a big story if all of us had controlled ourselves a little bit better. But it was just all fun. We all get along great. Me, Harrison, Kyrie and Reggie are all pretty good friends on the circuit. We didn't feel like it was that big of a deal. I think people made a bigger deal out of it than they should've or had to. I thought what Reggie said was a little disrespectful - he just told us he was playing and he apologized and everything. We didn't really put much into it because we knew he wasn't trying to disrespect him in any way. The second video, I don't even know what to say. Reggie is just a different kid. He's going to speak his mind on how he feels and he's going to let you know. But it's more of a joke than anything. I'm sure there's nothing about it now.
The day before the game they had the players and coaches vote on who they thought had the best sportsmanship. I guess I received the most votes and it was nice to see that people acknowledged that I try to do stuff the right way. I think the sportsmanship award is what kind of person you are, how you treat others, how you interact with others - whereas an award on the court is more based on your skill level.
You always have to adjust your game depending on who you're playing against. There's stuff I can get away with in high school basketball that I'm not going to get away with with this many great players on the court. It definitely gives you a great perspective of where you are and that there's a lot of work to be done. It just pointed out some things that I need to work on in my game.
It was a lot of fun. Being around the guys and playing with the guys is what we really enjoyed. I enjoyed it and it was a lifelong dream that I'm happy I got to participate in.
That's probably the game I was most looking forward to playing in just because of the competitive level and being able to represent your country. That was a lot of fun. USA Basketball does things a lot differently, definitely in a good way. When you're out there playing on the court, you're not out thinking about your area or yourself, you're thinking 'We have to go out there and win this game for our country.' It's not just about playing well for myself. I think that was the biggest thing. The way we treated it throughout the whole week, you could just tell that we wanted to win. It wasn't about showcasing or having fun, we were out there to win the game. We performed well and we got the win.
It was a lot different than the other games. The international rules - the big thing we struggled with was being able to take the ball off the rim. In America, that's goaltending. But in FIBA rules, you're allowed to do that. So we struggled with that a little bit. Definitely the international teams played a lot of zone and it was a different pace than what we were used to playing in the USA all-star games.
I thought I played OK. I went out there and tried to help my team out. I made a couple assists, hit a three-pointer and was just happy to get the win.
We got to go to the Mavs-Blazers game while we were out there. That was definitely something I enjoyed. I'm not sure why, but I've been a Mavericks fan my whole life. The Mavs are my favorite team and Dirk is my favorite player. Just being able to meet him and take a picture with him and Jason Kidd -- who's one of my idols -- and Mark Cuban. I definitely try to pull things from Jason Kidd's game. He's a great point guard, a great player. He rebounds well for his size and he wins. So of course there are things I like to pull from his game but I wouldn't say I mold my game after his. And Mark Cuban, he's the man. I was happy to get to meet him. I always thought he was an interesting character. He was friendly and everything. It was nice. It was just a great experience for me to be in their presence.
JORDAN BRAND CLASSIC
I caught a fever when I was with Team USA. I was waking up in the middle of the night sweating - puddles of sweat. I had a mouth infection to where I couldn't really eat. When I got home from the Hoop Summit, the doctors told me I had to get my wisdom teeth pulled and that was the reason for my fever and mouth infection. I believe I had to leave for Jordan on Wednesday and Tuesday I had the decision where I could either get my wisdom teeth pulled and I'd have to miss Jordan or I could just wait until I get back and basically suffer with the pain. I ended up waiting until afterward and it was tough to deal with. I couldn't eat anything with the mouth infection. I tried to eat soup but that was too hot. I could drink Gatorade but it hurt to brush my teeth. I was in a lot of pain. I ended up losing 12 or 13 pounds in two weeks. It was tough to deal with. Since I hadn't worked out or anything before the Jordan game, it was more affecting my wind and being able to run up and down the court.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if you have the opportunity to play in the Jordan Brand Classic in Madison Square Garden, I don't think that's something you can pass up. It was painful but it was bearable for five days.
Percentage-wise, I'd probably say I was at about 50 percent. Like I said, it was painful but it was bearable to where I could be out there. I don't think I played well at all. I wasn't making that many great decisions and I wasn't shooting the ball well. But just to be out there at the Jordan game and be out there at the end, trying to help my team win - we ended up coming out with the W.
I think I got back Sunday and had the surgery Monday morning. They took out four of my wisdom teeth. After Monday, I was pretty much laid up for about six days.
I feel like I'm in a very fortunate situation. I've been blessed to go to the University of North Carolina, to play in the three biggest games a high school player can play in at the end of the year and it was just an obstacle I had to overcome, so I'm not really complaining about it.
The memories are going to be the experience of being and hanging out with the guys, really. Players like Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones and Tobias Harris, whom I've grown really close to over the past two summers, just being on the circuit with them and playing in tournaments and getting to know them. I think that's the main thing I'll initially remember is the friendships. People see me and Kyrie, or Harrison and Kyrie, who supposedly have to be rivals because they're going to Duke and Carolina, but they're actually great friends. These last three games, being around each other, we've formed some great friendships. With all of us going to our respective colleges, this was going to be the last time we were going to be around each other.
I got to know Harrison better over the last few weeks. When you're around somebody at first, it takes them a while to open up. But once you're around them more and more you get to see the true person - he's a great kid and someone I'm going to enjoy being around for the next couple of years.
This experience was everything I'd expected and more. To come out and experience new places and spend time playing basketball -- the game that I love -- and missing school; I definitely enjoyed it.