Trevon Duval and Rellah Boothe sat on opposite sides of a podium inside the IMG Academy Student Center on Tuesday, Duval with a black jersey and Boothe with a white tossed over their IMG golf shirts as camera phones clicked to commemorate a historic occasion. The jerseys were inverses, but the same — placeholder garb to honor their selections to the McDonald’s All-American Game.
For the boys, this year’s game with be the 40th annual contest and for the girls it will be the 15th. The Ascenders found a way into decades of history. For the first time in the 15 years the McDonald’s Game has had both boys and girls contests, there will be one school with representatives in both games. Duval and Boothe, IMG’s first ever selections to the games, were both invited to play in the games March 29 in Chicago.
“I feel like I made history. I feel like we both made history. We basically did,” Boothe said. “I used to be in the gym with Tre also, working on my handles and stuff, and I feel like he’s another part of the reason why I made it.”
Neither Duval nor Boothe have been in Bradenton long, although both have had their profiles rise during their time with the Ascenders. Boothe, an Ocala native, is in her second year at IMG (17-2) and has evolved from a forward passed over by the United States women’s U-18 national team in 2015 into a no-brainer selection for both Team USA and the McDonald’s Game. Boothe, who has already signed with Texas, is the No. 3 player in the Class of 2017, according to ESPN. She’s averaging 23.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Duval was already regarded as one of the top players in the nation when he transferred in September. With the point guard in the fold, the Ascenders (18-1) are in the midst of their best season ever, ranked No. 6 in the nation by USA Today. Duval remains one of the top prospects in the nation — he sits at No. 5 overall in 247sports.com’s composite rankings — and ultimately plans to play at Duke, Arizona, Baylor, Kansas or Seton Hall. He’s averaging 16.1 points, 7.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game this season, while shooting 54 percent from the field.
“I think we’re starting a great culture here on the basketball side, a winning culture,” Duval said. “I feel as if we have a chance to win the national championship and it’s just helping IMG create its basketball stature.”
The historic event became the first stop for the McDonald’s Game’s Hometown Heroes tour only two days after final rosters were announced Sunday.
Boothe became the first player to speak on the tour and became choked up as she reflected on the accomplishment. She thanked the academy, her coaches, her family and her friends before pausing for more than 30 seconds to gather herself.
“It took a lot for me to be here today,” she forced out between tears. “I worked really hard for it and I appreciate you guys picking me to be able to play.”
Duval swooped in as Boothe finished to hand his classmate a tissue before he stepped to the podium himself.
Boothe later said she never really paid much attention to the McDonald’s Game — she doesn’t watch much basketball. Duval is different. The guard from Newark, N.J., specifically remembers watching Kevin Durant play in the 2006 game and dreaming of one day reaching the game himself. In less than three months, he’ll finally have the chance to take the court in the United Center.
“This is just a dream come true for me. It’s a blessing and I’m happy to be a McDonald’s All-American, I’m happy they chose me and I’m just ready to go out and play now.”