COLUMBUS – Two Ohio boys’ basketball players learned on Tuesday that they will be playing in the most prestigious high school all-star game in the country.
Ohio State signees B.J. Mullens from Canal Winchester and William Buford from Toledo Libbey were selected for the 2008 McDonald’s All-American Game. Interestingly, Mullens will suit up for the East team and Buford will play for the West. On Wednesday, there was a press conference for Mullens at a McDonald’s near the Ohio State campus on Olentangy River Rd.
The 7-1 Mullens is ranked as the No. 2 center in the country by ESPN and the No. 6 prospect overall. He is averaging 27.5 points, 17.7 rebounds and four blocks per game for 19-2 Canal Winchester thus far this season.
The 6-5 Buford is ranked as the No. 3 shooting guard in America and the No. 11 prospect overall by ESPN. He is averaging 22.3 points and 11 rebounds for Libbey.
“It’s a big honor and a privilege to be a McDonald’s All-American,” Mullens said. “I have to thank God for my ability to play basketball and I’m appreciative of being on the court every day. It’s an honor to come in and play in this game knowing the past years and all the great players like LeBron James, the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin) from Stanford, Greg Oden and all the rest who have played in this game.
“It’s a big deal for me to come up and be a part of it. It means a lot to me and my family and my community. This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time. It’s another big step as I get ready for the college level.”
However, before he plays in the game on March 26 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis., Mullens has his sights set on winning a Division II state championship. Top-seeded Canal will face Columbus Mifflin in a sectional final on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
“Yeah, we have a big game tomorrow against Mifflin and we’re going to have a lot of people in the stands and it’s going to be a big one for us,” Mullens said. “We want to go all the way and bring home a state championship. Hopefully it goes our way.”
Mullens is listed at 7-foot even, but says he has grown just a little bit over the last year.
“I’m 7-1, 265 right now and I’m just continually working on getting stronger and improving my game,” Mullens said.
Mullens committed to Ohio State before his freshman year during the summer of 2004. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta hadn’t been on the job for long and one of his first orders of business was securing the best big man to come out of in Central Ohio in years.
“It’s been a long time – I committed when I was a freshman,” Mullens said. “Me and the coaches up there are like family now. Coming in next year, I know there’s a lot of people saying there’s a good chance of me starting. We are going to have some great players coming back and that’s going to be a huge privilege for me to come in and play for the Buckeyes as a freshman.”
If everything goes according to plan for Matta and the Buckeyes, Mullens will start at center, allowing the 7-foot Kosta Koufos to slide down to power forward. However, Koufos was offered a $5 million contract by a Greek professional team last year and would likely be a top 15 NBA draft pick if he decides to leave early.
Mullens and Buford have a good relationship and they have already been in contact with each other about the McDonald’s honor.
“Yeah, I talked to him actually on my way up here,” Mullens said. “I tried to call him (Tuesday) night when it was announced but I think he had a game or something. We congratulated each other. But it’s kind of weird because he’s on the East team and I’m on the West team. When I saw the roster (Tuesday) night I thought that was strange.”
Reached via telephone on Wednesday, Buford also reacted to the good news.
“I feel real good about it,” Buford said. “Making the McDonald’s All-American team is something a lot of basketball players dream about. I feel like all the hard work paid off.”
Buford also discussed the fact that he will be playing against his future teammate Mullens.
“Yeah, I wish we could play together just to show people what we can do when we’re on the same side,” Buford said. “It’s kind of funny that two guys from Ohio are on opposite teams, but we’ll have fun going against each other.”
Interestingly enough, Mullens and Buford are the two lead contenders for the Mr. Basketball award, given annually by the Associated Press.
“Yeah, right now B.J.’s got the No. 1 spot, but I’m coming for him,” Buford said with a laugh.
Buford has already led Libbey to the Toledo city championship and now he wants to go as far in the Division I state tournament as possible.
“I’m doing pretty good and our team has a goal of winning state,” Buford said. “We won the Toledo city championship and now we’re just working hard to try and win state.”