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Three Brooklyn high school hoops stars headed to McDonald’s All-American game

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Brooklyn will be well-represented in this year’s McDonald’s All-American games, as three players with ties to the borough will compete in the prestigious high school basketball all-star contests.

Abraham Lincoln guard Isaiah Whitehead will be the lone New York City representative in the boys’ game on April 2 at the United Center in Chicago and broadcast live on ESPN at 7 pm. Nazareth point guard Bianca Cuevas and Christ the King wing Sierra Calhoun, a Brooklyn native, are competing in the girls’ contest. Whitehead believes getting three All-Americans from one borough speaks volumes about the talent in Kings County.

“That says everything about Brooklyn basketball,” he said. “We’re the borough. Without Brooklyn in New York, I don’t think basketball would actually be that good. It just shows how strong Brooklyn basketball is.”

The McDonald’s nod is just one of the accolades Whitehead brought home to the borough. He also earned New York State’s Mr. Basketball honor, given to the state’s top senior, joining fellow Lincoln alums Lance Stephenson, Sebastian Telfair and Stephon Marbury on that esteemed list. He will also compete in the Jordan Brand Classic national game on April 18 at the Barclays Center.

Whitehead sees all of these honors as a chance to continue bringing attention to New York City and Brooklyn hoops.

“Just keeping my statement alive that New York City basketball isn’t dead,” said Whitehead, who is headed to Seton Hall. “I’m just going to go out there with a chip on my shoulder and just play hard.”

Big-time all-star games have become the norm for Whitehead, but they are a completely new experience for Cuevas. She asked former Nazareth teammate and All-American Brianna Butler about what to expect. She’s never been to Chicago, or played in a game with so many high-caliber players — but she’s looking forward to it.

“I want to meet new people,” Cuevas said. “I want to experience stuff I never experienced.”

She was never certain she’d make the game after her rocky junior season. The South Carolina-bound Cuevas was suspended for the remainder of the year last February for fighting, but has since turned things around. She sees the All-American nod as a vindication.

“It makes me feel better as a person,” Cuevas said of making the McDonald’s game. “I have confidence that I did something.”

Calhoun, who knows many of the game’s participants from her time playing for United States Basketball, is looking forward to giving back during her time in Chicago. The players visit children in a hospital receiving help from the Ronald McDonald House charities.

“I love giving back to charities, meeting the younger kids and bringing some light to their day,” Calhoun said. “I know they will bring some light to my day.”

All three hope to bring smiles to the faces of Brooklyn basketball fans with their play in the game, and to represent themselves and their schools well. It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime either way.

“Growing up that was everyone’s goal and their dreams — McDonald’s All-American,” Calhoun said.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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