Four Long Island Lutheran basketball players have been selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Game. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.  Credit: Anthony Florio

Six weeks ago, four seniors at Long Island Lutheran High School learned that they’d be playing in the 2024 McDonald’s All-American Game, one of, if not the, most prestigious All-Star event in all of high school athletics. On Wednesday, that realization felt a little more cemented as the four were presented with their commemorative jerseys for the event at the school's chapel in Brookville, with McDonald's representatives on hand.

Long Island Lutheran girls basketball players Kate Koval, Kayleigh Heckel and Syla Swords were selected along with boys basketball player VJ Edgecombe to play in the game, scheduled for April 2 in Houston, Texas.

“You work hard for this moment and it’s every kid in the country’s dream to be a McDonald’s All-American,” Edgecombe said. “Just being selected, one of 48 players including the girls, means a lot. I’ve worked hard for it and to be noticed amongst the best players in the country means a lot.”

The girls will play at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2 with the boys following at 9 p.m. on ESPN. LuHi became the first girls program to have three players selected for the same game and Edgecombe became the first Crusaders’ male picked since Vassil Evtimov in 1996.

“I knew I was a McDonald’s All-American, but seeing the jersey made it just seem so real,” Heckel said. “It just felt like [living] the same reaction again, so just seeing the jersey and also seeing VJ, Syla and Kate get it is also really cool.”

"The jerseys look amazing,” Koval added. “And just being here with my girls, my teammates, having all the people I love around me was awesome.”

Edgecombe, a 6-5 forward committed to Baylor, has led LuHi to a 19-4 start. He’s averaging 17.2 points, six rebounds, four assists and 2.1 steals against one of the toughest schedules in the country. He hopes to be an inspiration as the program’s first boys player in more than 25 years to be selected for the game.

“It means a lot knowing the next younger kid can see my name on the wall and know I helped pave the way for them,” Edgecombe said. “Just like (Evtimov) paved the way for me.”

The LuHi girls trio are the program’s first players since Paris Clark in 2022 to be selected for the game. The three wanted to make the game together and it just wouldn’t have been the same for them if only one or two of them were selected.

“We all cried together and it was just a really cool moment to know we were all going to be in the game together,” said Heckel, a 5-9 guard who is committed to USC and is averaging 16.6 points, 8.3 assists and 3.1 steals this season.

For Koval, who is averaging 15.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks, the stage provides another opportunity for her to showcase the talents of the Ukrainian people. The 6-5 forward and Notre Dame commit grew up in the Ukraine before coming to LuHi for her sophomore year. Her home country has remained a key influence.

“Every opportunity I get to put my country’s name out there, I never take that for granted because not everybody’s able to do that,” Koval said. “We don’t have this kind of stuff back home so for me, it was a dream once I came here.”

Swords, a 6-foot guard committed to play at Michigan, is the team’s leading scorer at 17.6 points. She’s also averaging 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists in a 21-1 season that features eight wins over teams currently ranked in the ESPN Top 15.

Swords, who grew up in Canada, knew about the McDonald’s All-American Game but never imagined playing in it.

“I love to compete, I love to see how far I can go, how I measure up to the best in the game,” Swords said. “It’s going to be really fun to play against the best players in the country.”

Edgecombe, who is the No. 4 ranked senior by ESPN, is excited to share the court with players who have the same aspirations of reaching the NBA.

“I feel the game is going to be super competitive,” Edgecombe said. “Everyone trying to prove themselves. We’ll have a bunch of great players across the court on each team, nobody's there for no reason. You’re there because you’re a good player and you deserve your spot so the atmosphere is going to be amazing. I can’t wait to get out there.”

Koval hopes the opportunity to play on television helps grow the sport for younger girls as well.

“We all compete, we all go hard, but we also take the opportunity to promote girls basketball in general,” Koval said. “So I would say bringing all the top girls together like this shows younger generations to set their goals [and] helps them look at the women’s game differently.”

Long Island players who made the McDonald's All-American Game


Cheick Diallo, Our Savior New American, 2015

Tobias Harris, Half Hollow Hills West, 2010

Danny Green, St. Mary’s, 2005

Jason Fraser, Amityville, 2002

Vassil Evtimov, LI Lutheran, 1996

Zendon Hamilton, Sewanhaka, 1994

Shelton Jones, Amityville, 1984

Tim Kempton, Oyster Bay, 1982

Bill Wennington, LI Lutheran, 1981

Bret Bearup, Harborfields, 1980

Matt Doherty, Holy Trinity, 1980

Jeff Ruland, Sachem, 1977

Wayne McKoy, LI Lutheran, 1977


Paris Clark, LI Lutheran, 2022

Celeste Taylor, LI Lutheran, 2019

Bria Hartley, North Babylon, 2010

Samantha Prahalis, Commack, 2008

Danielle Wilson, St. John the Baptist, 2006

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