Attach another national honor to this historic class of 2021 athletes from the state of Washington.
O’Dea’s Paolo Banchero, Eastside Catholic’s Nolan Hickman and Olympia’s Jackson Grant were announced Tuesday afternoon as three of the 24 members of the 2021 McDonald’s All-American boys basketball teams.
The only other times this has happened in Washington was 2005 when Jon Brockman (Snohomish), Micah Downs (Juanita) and Martell Webster (Seattle Prep) were honored, and in 2009 when Avery Bradley (Bellarmine Prep/Findlay Prep), Abdul Gaddy (Bellarmine Prep) and Peyton Siva (Franklin) were selected.
Banchero, the Duke signee who is arguably the nation’s top recruit in this class, seemed to be a no-brainer selection. He is the reigning Gatorade state player of the year, and is also a finalist for the Naismith Award.
As a junior for O’Dea, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game in leading the Irish to the Class 3A state championship game.
He is O’Dea’s first McDonald’s All-American honoree – and Jason Kerr’s third as a coach (Aaron Brooks, Peyton Siva at Franklin High School). Banchero also plays for Seattle Rotary.
Hickman, the explosive 6-foot-3 Kentucky point guard signee, played his first three years of basketball with Eastside Catholic, leading the team to the 3A semifinals in each of those seasons. He was an all-Metro League selection as a junior, averaging 18.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Last summer, he transferred to Wasatch Academy in Utah. He’s been the team’s leading scorer with 16.0 ppg and 3.3 apg. The school is currently 18-6 playing a national-caliber schedule. He also plays for Seattle Rotary.
“He’s a winner,” Eastside Catholic boys coach Brent Merritt said. “He’s going to do whatever it takes to win. He’s going to play the right way. He’s stubborn – in a good way. He believes in himself.”
Grant, the 6-foot-9 wing player signed with Washington, averaged 17.0 points and 11.0 rebounds last season in leading Olympia to a fourth-place finish at the 4A state tournament. He was the 4A SPSL player of the year.
He also plays for Washington Supreme in the offseason.
“It is a big deal. We all grow up watching the McDonalds All-American Game … and we see the greats,” Olympia boys coach John Kiley said. “To put Jackson in a category like that is incredible.”
Just like in 2020, no McDonald’s All-American Game will be played this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the corporation announced in a statement last week.