By almost any measure, Jonah Mathews was already having an outstanding senior season with the Santa Monica High boys basketball team.
He nailed a late 3-pointer as part of a 41-point performance in the Vikings’ opener against Pasadena-La Salle, a thrilling 72-71 victory. He led them a title at the St. Monica tournament, where he showcased his offensive skills. And he carried Samohi through four wins in five days to capture a division crown at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, where he was named most valuable player.
But perhaps his most impressive individual accolade came this month, when the USC-bound guard was nominated to play in the McDonald’s All American Games.
Mathews is on a list of more than 700 male and female high school seniors from across the country considered for participation in the prestigious annual basketball showcase. The final male and female rosters will be revealed Sunday night on ESPNU, according to a news release.
The games will be played March 30 at the United Center in Chicago.
The list of nominees will be whittled down to 24 boys and 24 girls by a selection committee, which is spearheaded by chairman Morgan Wootten, a Hall of Fame high school basketball coach.
“The 755 high school seniors nominated for the McDonald’s All American Games are the best representation of high school basketball talent in the country,” Wootten said in the release. “From Hawaii to Alaska to Maine, we are thrilled to celebrate their accomplishments.”
The boys McDonald’s All American Game has become a rite of passage for elite basketball players. Its list of alumni features numerous NBA stars, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Being selected to play is a rare accomplishment, as the exhibition has hosted just three former local stars in its nearly 40-year history: Samohi’s Montel Hatcher (1982), St. Monica Catholic’s Brian Williams (1987) and Crossroads’ Baron Davis (1997).
Other standout Southern California athletes who have been invited over the years include Santa Ana-Mater Dei’s Cedric Bozeman (2001), Los Angeles-Westchester’s Hassan Adams (2002), Compton-Centennial’s Arron Afflalo and Woodland Hills-Taft’s Jordan Farmar (2004) and Compton’s Demar DeRozan (2008).
DeRozan and O.J. Mayo (2007) are among the McDonald’s All American Game alumni who continued their basketball careers at USC, where Mathews is headed next year.
The Trojans, whose roster includes an Ocean League product in former Lawndale star Chimezie Metu, are off to a phenomenal start in their third season under coach Andy Enfield.
USC is a perfect 11-0 at home so far, a mark that includes the team’s wild 103-101 triumph over No. 7 Arizona in quadruple overtime Jan. 9. It will host rival UCLA in a Pac-12 showdown Feb. 4.
As Mathews keeps track of the Trojans, he’s putting his talent on display in his final season with the Vikings. He scored 30 points in their 68-58 win over Palisades at home Jan. 6, and he had 14 points in the first quarter of their 66-51 victory against Long Beach-Millikan three days later.
Mathews and Samohi (14-2, 1-0 in the Ocean League) host Lawndale tonight in their conference home opener. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.