On Friday, March 27, hundreds of Michiana locals gathered at the Wiekamp Center at Bethel College to watch some of the best high school basketball talent in the local area compete head to head in the annual McDonald's Michiana High School All-Star Basketball Games.
Many basketball players have participated in the McDonald’s national high school basketball all-star game, including professional talents such as Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Seven years ago, one of the local McDonald’s owner-operators had the idea of having a local version of the game. That idea became a reality, and since then, Michiana has had its own version of the national event.
The girls’ game tipped off at 5 p.m., with the gray team overcoming the red team 114-90. The boys’ game began shortly after at 7:15 p.m., ending the with the red team on top 120-113.“It was a lot of fun being able to do this,” said Coach Ryan Ehm, Bethel women’s basketball assistant coach. “This is the second year I’ve done this game. It’s fun getting to meet all the guys. Some of them will go on to play at different colleges, while others still have more high school ball ahead of them.” Ehm coached the men’s red team, while men’s assistant basketball coach Alex Daniel guided the gray team. Daniel noted the surprise increase in defense in the seventh annual game. “There was a little bit more defense than normal,” Daniel said, “There was a shot clock violation…you don’t see that very often in all-star games.” A lot of planning went into the event before the games even tipped off. A marketing and advertising company called Villing & Company played a large part in the planning and marketing for the event. “We’re a part of the planning team,” said Aaron Charles, Bethel alum and account executive for Villing & Company. “Starting in December, we have monthly meetings with Bethel coaches, we also coordinate with our local RMHC chapter.” Villing & Company handles all aspects of the event, including communications and getting the word out to media outlets and community partners. The creative team puts together the artwork for the game, including billboards, social media and the programs handed out at the game itself. The first year Villing & Company worked with McDonald’s on the event, they had the national McDonald’s All-American game at Notre Dame. Some of the talent in this year’s women’s all-star game included Penn High School senior Sara Doi and LaPorte High School junior Riley Ott. The men’s game featured Damezi Anderson, a senior from South Bend Riley who was coached by Bethel basketball alum Eric Brand. Anderson is a top recruit in the 2018 Indiana basketball class and has committed to Indiana University for the coming fall. “[A] couple of them are going to be really good,” Daniel said. “There’s Damezi [Anderson] who’s going to IU. I think he’s going to learn a lot, but he’s got the ability and capability to make a big impact on that level. Shamar [Dillard] also played well tonight.” “They’re here for a reason,” Ehm said, “They’re the better players on their high school teams, in their conference and in the northern part of Indiana…they’re going to be really good for their college programs.” A couple Bethel basketball stars have come out of the high school game when they were at the high school level, including current junior guard Ryan Lutz. Lutz’s younger brother, Drew, a Penn junior, had the chance to play in the game. “It was really fun just playing with the guys,” Drew Lutz said, “It’s cool that my brother played in it, following in his footsteps and it was just a great experience.” The annual all-star games gives the best local players a chance to showcase their talents for the community. And, if history is any indication, we may have seen some future Pilots take the court for the first time. (Photo Credit: Bethel College Athletics)