On June 24, Team USA defeated Latvia 108-72 and then proceeded to run past Australia 89-64 the very next day. With top player Jabari Parker out with an injury, the national team would look to inside man Jahlil Okafor for much of their production.
The five-star center from Chicago has been the anchor and has yet to disappoint. In the win over Latvia, Okafor scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds followed by 19 points and six rebounds in a win over Australia, winning MVP honors of the tournament.
Okafor has seen his game reach new heights and it is paying dividends. Before leaving the country with the team, the center talked about how exciting it is to play with pressure and confidence.
"There's so much competition out here and so much pressure on you because you have the best coach and the best players [out here]," explained Okafor. "The coaches are watching you and dissecting everything you do, so there's a lot of pressure on you. It's a huge challenge."
Being on Team USA means that you have a chance to learn from great coaches and play against the best players in the world. Many of these student-athletes have not had to compete for a roster spot and even Okafor says it makes him push himself even more.
"It's a new feel for me," said Okafor. "Last year was my first year trying out and I made the team. Just having that much pressure on me, wanting to make the team so bad, and when you hear your name called you get so excited."
Okafor will be looked upon to be a major part of the success that Team USA U17's is expected to have in Lithuania. Besides being a perfect complement to cross town rival Parker, he has learned to be a big time leader with both his words and his actions.
A lot of what scouts and coaches see from him on the court is a large reason why he is so highly touted. Going into his junior season, Okafor is already one of the best players in the country and is even getting his body ready for the next level.
Being from Chicago, it is easy to see why some Big Ten teams have been recruiting him the longest.
"Everybody is pretty much in the boat as far as my recruitment," said Okafor. "I will say the teams recruiting me the longest are Michigan State and Ohio State. They have been on me from the start. Since I was a freshman, they have been on me the hardest."
Arizona has been in on Okafor for a while as well and will continue to recruit him heavily. He first visited Tucson at the end of 2011 and still talks about the visit and his admiration for the program.
"I love Arizona," said Okafor. "The last visit I had was amazing. The players were so great, the coaches were great. I've been on a couple of visits and the players don't even pay you any attention, but when I went down there Nick Johnson and Sidiki Johnson, even though he left, were very nice to me. I love Arizona."
Team USA will begin play in Lithuania on June 29 and will play Australia. again as well.