Four Arizona Wildcats recruits were nominated for the 2021 McDonald’s All-American game on Thursday, even though the game has already been cancelled for the second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
K.J. Simpson and Shane Nowell got the nod on the boys side, while Madi Conner and Aaronette Vonleh were recognized on the girls side. Over 700 players were nominated, so it’s not the most exclusive honor, but still worth mentioning nonetheless.
The actual rosters will consist of 48 players and be announced later this month. The players will be commemorated with a virtual celebration.
Simpson is a 6-foot-2 combo guard from Chaminade Prep in West Hills, California. 247Sports composite rankings peg him as the No. 99 player in the 2021 class.
The No. 80 prospect in his class, Nowell is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Eastside Catholic in Sammamish, Washington.
Vonleh, a 6-foot-3 post from Portland, is the No. 100 player in her class, per ESPN. Conner, a 5-foot-11 sharpshooter from Chandler, was the No. 71 player in her class before joining the Wildcats as a midyear enrollee.
Arizona has had 26 McDonald’s All-Americans on the boys side, with Josh Green and Nico Mannion being the latest in 2019. Cate Reese (2018) is Arizona’s lone McDonald’s All-American on the girls side.
Dalen Terry and Lauren Ware were nominated last year but did not make the final roster. Ware probably would have had she not missed the season with a torn ACL.
What Arizona coaches said about them about signing day
Sean Miller on K.J. Simpson: “He loves the game. He’s not just a point guard. We could play him in a three-guard lineup as a combo guard with another point guard, or I think he could be the one and only guy out there to handle the ball. Very athletic, can be a two way player. I would say that’s the other thing—guys that understand that defense is important and have the ability to play our man-to-man. I think those guys enjoy our program perhaps more than somebody that struggles on that side of the ball. So we want to get a balanced type of player. He comes from an incredible family, played for some really good high school coaches, and a high school program that people really respect and we’re excited to have him. We really are.”
Sean Miller on Shane Nowell: “I think everybody is familiar with Jaylen, his older brother, who developed at Washington. I got to know Jaylen through Lorenzo Romar, who recruited Jaylen in Seattle. And Shane comes from a great family, lost his father early in his lifetime, which I think really motivates him as a basketball player. But Jaylen Nowell, if you followed his career, he got better as he got older. I think Shane is in many ways a diamond in the rough as we evaluated him. Taller than K.J. Simpson, more 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, but somebody that has the ability to dribble the ball, pass the ball, play in transition. A two-way player, a guy that can play our version of defense, and somebody who doesn’t like the game of basketball but really loves it, that wants to do great things. We’re elated to to have him.
“Obviously Jason Terry was a big connection to Shane because of JT’s relationships in Seattle and being from Seattle himself, which certainly helped make a connection between our basketball program and Seattle as a city. Shane’s grandmother lives in Phoenix as well, which certainly helped us.”
Adia Barnes on Aaronette Vonleh: “The special thing about Aaronette is she’s got very good size. She’s really good around the basket, but she’s got very soft hands. So to have the size and stuff, you usually don’t have the hands and footwork she has. It must be in her genes, because her brother (Noah Vonleh) has the same thing, but she’s gonna be a good player, I think she’ll be a better college player than high school player, I think because she’ll have so many more resources and just get coached a little bit differently.”
Adia Barnes on Madi Conner: “It’s very rare to have an extremely talented player in the state of Arizona. And we have a couple every probably 10 years, and they never seem to stay in Arizona. If you think of, you know, Cal got a couple...like there’s a lot of times players end up leaving. And Madison was someone who I was her first offer. When I first got to Arizona five years ago, I knew I wanted her. She’s a great shooter. She’s got a very high basketball IQ. She’s got a very fast release. And I think what I loved more than all of that stuff was just she’s feisty. She’s a competitor. She’s not afraid. And most of the time, shooters aren’t like that. Most times shooters want to shoot, but they don’t want to get down and play defense. They don’t want to fight.”