Revisiting Okafor's Decision

Chicago is becoming one of Duke's most fertile recruiting grounds. revisits the ceremony with more thoughts from Jahlil Okafor inside.

Whitney Young Magnet School was abnormally quiet outside on Friday afternoon.

In fact, there wasn't a soul anywhere outside the school everyone was in the gymnasium, waiting for the big announcement.

That afternoon when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel walked into the gymnasium with the stands completely full and cheers began erupting. It would have been easy to mistake the applause for the Mayor.

But the crowd was dressed nearly completely in Young's familiar Navy and orange and was chanting "Duke, Duke, Duke."

In fact, it seemed that barely anyone even noticed the Mayor, except for the brief moment when he hugged the man of the hour, and of course the one foot and four inch height difference between the two.

The thunderous cheers were for 6-foot-11, 260 pound five-star hoops prospect Jahlil Okafor.

While it was pretty obvious that Okafor's size is imposing, his demeanor is anything but. Sitting patiently, Okafor chose the Blue Devils by just putting on a Duke cap and then spoke about why he was headed south in his signature soft spoken and calm personality.

During his announcement, Okafor and his family were all smiles -- clearly enjoying the moment. What you couldn't see on Okafor's face was just how hard the decision was for him in the days leading up to Friday.

"This decision was very difficult for me, definitely the most difficult decision that I have ever made in my entire life," Okafor said. "It was very hard like I said, I really wish I could cut myself into different pieces and send myself to each different university but that is not reality."

Okafor chose Duke for several reasons that set them apart from all the rest.

"The tipping point was that I want to win. I want to win. That is was I want to do and I want to win a national championship and Coach K is the most winning coach in basketball history so I figured you have to go along with that," Okafor said. "I can't stress enough how special each university was but I am happy with the decision that I made and am ready to move forward."

What many thought was a decision made a long time before the official announcement was actually a bit more difficult. The key factor though, was making sure that Okafor and future teammate Tyus Jones were happy.

"Well this past two and half weeks my family and his family and our inner circles have been having a conference calls during the week and comparing all the schools and all the universities were great," Okafor said. "When it came down to it with Duke we looked at the academic side, we looked at Coach K, so we felt we couldn't go wrong. And like I said the academics at Duke really pushed us too."

He added, "We just decided last night officially that we were going to Duke."

Where the pair would end up might have been a mystery until last week -- but the fact they would be a package deal wasn't at all.

"Well we decided we wanted to go to school together my freshman year when we were playing with USA basketball," Okafor said. "We talked back and forth every day, we talked on the phone, if I was ever going through a rough time — I would call him."

He continued, "And if he was going through a rough time, he would call me. Our relationship goes far beyond basketball and that is the best thing about it."

And according to Okafor, they never wavered. p>"No never at all, we never thought about splitting up," Okafor said. "It was always where are we going to go, what are we going to do, and where are we going to win a national championship at."

It's no secret now that that place that Okafor and Jones will pursue that dream is Duke, continuing the Chicago pipeline to the Blue Devils.

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