De La Salle High basketball coach Frank Allocco is living the dream heading into Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Games at the United Center in Chicago.
The coach of the West boys squad, Allocco finds himself surrounded by top talent in a focused Spartan-like learning environment.
"These are not prima donnas," Allocco said by phone from Chicago. "They're very talented kids, but I'm just impressed. They're good listeners. They really want to improve."
It's a banner year for East Bay schools at the McDonald's All-American Games. Allocco is just the second Northern Californian to be selected to coach in the boys game after the late Frank LaPorte of St. Joseph did so in 1991.
Three East Bay players are participating in the girls game -- Gabby Green and Mikayla Cowling of St. Mary's and Salesian's Mariya Moore. Green and Cowling, both headed to Cal, are playing for the West team and the Louisville-bound Moore is playing for the East squad.
"I get to hang out with a lot of my friends like Gabby and Mikayla," Moore said by phone from Chicago, "and it's great that we get to share this together."
Allocco is coaching a West team that boasts McDonald's national Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor, who's headed to Duke, and Arizona-bound swingman Stanley Johnson, who led Mater Dei-Santa Ana to its fourth straight state championship with a win over Bishop O'Dowd in the Open Division final on Saturday.
"I don't know how things are going to go Wednesday night, but I'm pretty confident," Allocco said. "Three days of practice, these guys are pretty prepared to play.
"Hopefully, we don't get into the game and the excitement of the game takes over and you forget everything we put in, but right now it looks like they're learning our stuff pretty good."
Among the impressive "sleeper" guys is Stanford-bound stalwart Reid Travis, who attends another De La Salle High, in Minneapolis, Minn.
"I just texted one of the assistant coaches at Stanford, and said 'You're gonna love this kid.'" Allocco said of Travis. "He's a banger, not a real flashy guy, but he's strong and he can do a lot of things around the basket, so he's a tough, tough kid."
No stranger to basketball talent, Allocco has sent 32 players to Division I schools in 17 years at De La Salle, according to CalHiSports.com. He has guided three teams to state championships, two at De La Salle and one at Northgate.
Even still, he finds himself feeling like a fan watching his West players.
"Absolutely," he said. "The kid Okafor, the best player in the country, is like Wilt Chamberlain. The ball gets in his hand and he waves it around. He's strong, and his quickness around the basket is just amazing."
Allocco said the team has taken to his quick-paced "De La Salle" practices, with 3-on-3 drills. They're being showcased for the NBA scouts lining the gymnasium each day.
"I'm amazed at how much they've picked up," said Allocco, who brought his coaching staff with him to Chicago.
Moore flew out of Sacramento to Chicago late Saturday night after Salesian lost its Open Division championship to Long Beach Poly -- with Lajahna Drummer of Long Beach Poly -- and they arrived in Chicago on Sunday morning.
"It wasn't awkward at all," Moore said. "We never even mentioned the game, we just talked about how excited we were."
Staff writer Stephanie Hammon contributed to this story.