Alexa Middleton steals show
Candace Parker was the pioneer. Breanna Stewart ignited the trend. On Monday night at the University of Chicago's Gerald Ratner Athletic Center, A'ja Wilson became the latest girl to compete against the guys at the McDonald's All American Games slam dunk contest.
Competing against seven of the nation's best high school boys dunkers, Wilson -- the No. 1 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 and the lone undeclared girl competing in Wednesday's McDonald's All American Games at the United Center in Chicago -- failed to convert a dunk in either of her two 45-second rounds.
Grayson Allen, a Duke commit, won the event by leaping over future Blue Devils teammate Jahlil Okafor in the final round. Celebrity judges at the event included Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, former Bulls player and coach Bill Cartwright, and ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.
"The whole thing was great," Wilson said. "I loved every minute of it."
Wilson is expected to announce her college destination April 16. Her finalists are Connecticut, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Speaking of the Lady Vols, it was a Tennessee recruit who warmed up the stage for Wilson.
Alexa Middleton scored victories in both the 3-point shootout and the skills contest, the first McDonald's All-American ever to win multiple events.
"It was such a great atmosphere out there with all those people and some of my family members," said Middleton, who averaged 18 points per game for Riverdale High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) her senior year. "I didn't think I was going to be able to pull off both, but it ended up being a lot of fun."
Middleton wowed the crowd in the skills competition, successfully executing every pass and making the all-important jump shot on her first try, completing the course in 27.9 seconds, well ahead of both Duke-bound Sierra Calhoun (34.2 seconds) and Notre Dame-bound Brianna Turner (35.9 seconds).
Middleton then captured the 3-point shootout over Recee' Caldwell (UCLA) and Brooke McCarty (Texas). Her impressive shooting display included a run of nine straight made 3s. Middleton then fell one point short of the boys' winner, James Blackmon Jr., in a battle of the sexes.
The girls' 2014 McDonald's All American Game will air at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Middleton and Wilson will both play for the East team.