The rosters for the 2018 McDonald's All-American Basketball Game have been set.
Twelve of the nation's top high school players from the east and 12 from the west will go head-to-head in Atlanta in March.
This year, the coach selected to lead the eastern team is John Mirabello of Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford.
Mirabello boasts 30 seasons and more than 530 victories.
"It's hard to put into words how grateful I am for the opportunity to represent the state, the school, my family," Mirabello said.
He's been coaching the team since he was 23 years old.
"I had a freshman coach in high school that told me, you're going to be a good coach someday," Mirabello said. "And I looked at him, I was still a young kid, like I want to have a future in basketball. He said, 'you're not going pro so you'll be a good coach.'"
He led his teams to four state titles and was honored last year by the CIAC for his dedication to high school basketball.
It wasn't an easy journey.
"We won two games my first year coaching and that's kind of daunting, [I was] thinking 'what am I doing here,'" Mirabello said. "But again, it was the patience of the school and a lot of good people. [I] kind of figured [it] out as time went on."
But 30 years later, one of the greatest honors in the country came calling.
"I hadn't thought about it for one second. Not one second of my life," Mirabello said. "I got a phone call and they mentioned something about 'your name came to our attention as a nomination.' It kind of caught me off guard. I looked at the phone for a second and I said yeah, absolutely. Never thinking anything would come of it. And when we were selected it was a wonderful feeling. I use the word surreal a lot for people because it did really hit home."
His All-American roster includes Duke University-bound athletes like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, two of the top high school players in the country.
"It's very exciting," Mirabello said. "These will be kids probably in the pros in a year or two and it'll be a great privilege to work with them, be around them."
For now, however, he said his focus and dedication remains in West Hartford with his team.
"I think what's really helped me personally with this whole situation is this group of kids I'm coaching right now," he said. "Because we don't talk about it. It never comes up. Because it doesn't need to. It has nothing to do with this group. We're just trying to work hard and this group of kids is getting better and better as the season goes on and they've been so fun to coach. It's been a great distraction for me."
Proceeds for the McDonald's All-American games go to local Ronald McDonald House charities and their house programs.
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