Riley Nelson was notified that she made the 2023 McDonald’s all-American game by a sudden onslaught of joyous teammates.
Nelson was one of three local girls’ basketball stars selected Tuesday to the annual high school all-star event, joining Sidwell Friends guard Jadyn Donovan and Shabach Christian guard Laila Reynolds.
The boys’ and girls’ teams were announced on ESPN. The games will be played March 28 in Houston.
Nelson watched the unveiling in a classroom at Bullis, surrounded by her teammates and family. She had been nervous all day, worried she would not make the cut. Nelson, who committed to Maryland in November 2021, will join Donovan and Reynolds on the 12-person East team.
“I’ve been thinking about this possibility forever,” Nelson said. “This is the number one accolade I’ve been working toward. I’ve wanted this so bad since I was a kid.”
This is the sixth consecutive year that multiple D.C.-area players were chosen for the showcase. Last winter, Sidwell’s Kiki Rice and Archbishop Spalding’s Cam Whitmore received the honor.
Donovan, Rice’s former teammate, has started for the Quakers since her freshman year, and each season brought new responsibility. Last year, Donovan helped the program ascend to new heights with her all-around game. This winter, the Duke commit has stepped into a leadership role as a senior, helping to fill the void left by Rice’s graduation.
“Kiki was the first to go and represent us, so to get this the following year is really special,” Donovan said. “I’m super happy, and I hope that we can keep that trend going at Sidwell.”
Just last week, Donovan made a game-winning breakaway basket to lift the Quakers to a 52-50 win over Webb School (Tenn.) in the final of the Geico Girls Basketball Invitational. She watched Tuesday’s announcement with her team, shortly before the Quakers’ game against Holy Child.
“My teammates are like my sisters, so just to be surrounded by them in that moment is really amazing,” Donovan said.
Reynolds is the first McDonald’s selection from Shabach Christian Academy in Prince George’s County. She has stuck with Coach Sam Caldwell, first at New Hope Academy and now at his new program. Reynolds has watched as a parade of Division I talent cycled through starring roles in Caldwell’s system and has taken advantage of her chance to shine.
“I’ve been hoping for this since I stepped on the circuit,” Reynolds said. “I’ve tried to set high goals for myself, and this was definitely one of them.”
This winter, the Florida commit has been the star of the Eagles’ show as Shabach strives to put itself on the local basketball map in its first year. The Eagles are 17-5 with an eye toward postseason success. But once the season is complete, Reynolds will head to Texas to play on the high school game’s biggest stage.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve gotten better every year as a player,” Reynolds said. “My coaches believed in me and my development, but I believed in myself, too.”