ATLANTA - At first, it seemed like just another honor.
When Al-Farouq Aminu heard he had been selected to play in this year's McDonald's All-American game, the Norcross senior knew it was special but wasn't overwhelmed. It's hard to blame him. As a junior, he played with another McDonald's All-American in Gani Lawal, now at Georgia Tech.
The annual game was not foreign to Aminu.
After his selection, things changed. He met with representatives of the game and learned about the selection process and the people involved.
"I really think it is a big deal," Aminu said last week at the official send-off for the three Georgia players involved in this year's game. "I have met some of the people that actually do the selecting and they know a lot about the game of basketball. For them to select me, there is a lot of prestige and honor behind it."
Among the coaches, media and scouts that pare down the 2,500 nominated players are DeMatha Catholic (Md.) head coach Morgan Wootten who has won more than 1,200 games and former UCLA coach John Wooden. From the 2,500 nominees, 24 players are chosen. That puts Aminu in the top 1 percent.
Perhaps because Aminu is as good as he is, the three-time AAAAA state champion doesn't need tonight's 9:30 p.m. game on ESPN2 for exposure. He is already headed to Wake Forest. He doesn't need to prove his skills.
That makes this week a reward, not a chore.
"I am going to try to meet everybody, get to know all the players, try to keep in touch with them," Aminu said. "A lot of them I know already. This is just going to be fun."
And it is not just Aminu making the trip to Milwaukee. This will be the second straight year for Norcross coach Eddie Martin to sit in the stands and watch one of his players showcase not just their own skill, but also represent Norcross.
"I feel very blessed," said Martin, who takes his coaching staff with him to the game. "There is no question about it. When you have kids like Gani Lawal last year and Al-Farouq Aminu this year, it is definitely a blessing for me and just an honor to be able to work with these kids.
"I am afraid that I sit up in the stands smiling the whole time. I wear Norcross paraphernalia and that type of stuff. I am very proud of the kids that are playing."
Joining Aminu on the East team is Dunwoody senior Chris Singleton. In all the high school games and all the AAU tournaments, Singleton and Aminu have never met on the court. With Singleton headed to ACC rival Florida State, the two will use the week as teammates to learn each other's game.
"I think it is a good thing to see what he's got and he'll be looking at me," Singleton said. "We will be on the same team, so I guess it will be different. I am ready to go."
Reticent in nature, Aminu won't boast about what he plans to do tonight. He probably means it, but he knows the nation will be watching so if he gets a shot, he wants to shine.
"I am just trying to have fun, maybe throw down a dunk or something like that," Aminu said. "Even if I don't score a point, the experience itself is rewarding."
McDonald's All American Game - Slam Dunk Contest
What: McDonald's All-American H.S. game
Where: Bradley Center, Milwaukee
When: Today, 9:30 p.m.