McDonald's snub motivates Northern High star Ricky Council

Jan. 30, 2014 @ 09:01 PM

No run for Ricky.

Sides have been chosen for the 2014 McDonald’s All American Games, and Northern’s Ricky Council II had to settle for being that kid who wanted to play with the big boys yet only could stand by bouncing his basketball.

The McDonald’s All American teams were announced late Wednesday. The top high school basketball players in the country get to show why they’re coveted by schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky. The all-stars will play in Chicago’s United Center on April 2.

Despite being nominated for consideration, Council won’t be there.

“I was disappointed,” Council said. “I think it’s going to be motivation for me.”

Council is averaging 25 points, five rebounds and three assists per game during his senior season at Northern, where he’s played his entire high school career, three years with the varsity team. The 6-5, 190-pound shooting guard figures that may have something to do with his omission from the McDonald’s team.

It’s becoming more and more common for high school basketball players to go from school to school looking for increased playing time and exposure, the end game being scholarships to play college basketball. Some players end up at non-traditional high schools that are more or less designed to prepare them for college basketball.

Amateur Athletic Union squads have also cut in on traditional high school teams. Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh) basketball coach Marque Carrington organized a 2011 symposium to address that. Dave Telep, an ESPN recruiting analyst at the time, moderated the session and spoke passionately about restoring the importance of traditional high school teams.

Council, 18, said he might have earned a spot in this year’s McDonald’s game if he’d pursued a non-traditional route for high school basketball.

“It probably would be more attention because they play on TV sometimes, and things of that nature,” Council said.

At the same time, those so-called basketball academies, typically with small student enrollments, don’t offer the diversity of a school like Northern, where everybody knows Council’s name.

“Everybody knows who I am, and everybody’s supporting me and the team,” Council said. “Everybody’s thinking we can win the state championship.”

Northern is 16-2 overall, 3-1 in the PAC-6 4-A, and that blemish on the Knights’ league record came in a 76-69 home loss to Jordan.

That game splashed cold water on the Knights’ faces. It woke them up, because their success early in the season had them in a little stupor, Council said.

“After losing to Jordan, we got back to playing really hard in practice,” Council said.

“We can’t play laid-back defense like we did that night,” Northern coach Ronnie Russell said. “We’re kind of clicking right now.”

Northern hasn’t played a game since losing to Jordan. Rough weather prompted the postponement of Tuesday’s game with Riverside. The Knights are scheduled to visit Person tonight. Northern blew out Person 83-48 on Jan. 7.

While the McDonald’s game didn’t work out for Council, it’s not like college coaches don’t know who Council is. He said he has scholarship offers from UNC Wilmington, Appalachian State, Western Carolina and N.C. Central. Council said Wake Forest, Temple and Cincinnati have shown interest as well.

Duke is where Council said he’d like to play. That’s where four of those members of the McDonald’s men’s game are headed.

Council has the grades to study at just about anywhere he wants. He has a 3.8 grade-point average.

But Council has a nice basketball IQ, too. The McDonald’s people took a pass on him, but Council wants to prove that he’s got a whopper of a game. He’d go a long way toward doing that by leading Northern to a state championship. The Knights are built to win it, Council said.

Northern guard Timothy Crutchfield is back for the Knights after going down last season with a broken ankle, and forward Kentrell Barkley at 6-5 supplies length and leaping ability and really good motor.

Barkley scored 30 points when Jordan beat Northern. Council, who had 13 points that night, said he doesn’t have to carry the team.

“It takes a lot of pressure off. Not just Barkley but the whole starting five and the bench,” Council said. “But he’s doing really well, and everybody’s cooking at the right time.”

Council is the top chef.

“He’s doing more this year than he’s done the last two years,” Russell said.

Council led the Knights in scoring and assists last season.

“Assists are not something that everybody talks about, but it’s very important,” Council said.

Council this season is getting his buckets but also is passing the ball well and defending it better, Russell said.

“He’s playing a total game now. I think that’s a sign of maturity on his part,” Russell said.

Telep, these days working as the draft scouting coordinator for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, said Council can play.

“Council, to me, is a hidden mid-major Division I target,” Telep said. “He’s improved each year, shoots it exceptionally well and has basketball intellect.”