This weekend's tilt featuring two Chicago powerhouses, Whitney Young and Curie, provided a great game for the Windy City title, yet still proved disappointing. Billed as a potentially legendary struggle between Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander, but the individual duel fizzled while Curie won a thrilling contest in quadruple overtime.
But the focus here pertains to Scout.com's No. 1 senior, Okafor. The future Duke Blue Devil announced in unison with Tyus Jones last fall, and since then he has turned his attention toward mounting a dominant senior season.
Okafor's averages soared in his final prep campaign, as he notched roughly 28 points and 14 rebounds per contest. At the Les Schwab Invitational in December, he topped 31 points per game over four contests. His efficiency remains impressive and his status as a potential collegiate star unblemished.
His game doesn't differ starkly from what he demonstrated either in 2012 or 2013. Okafor actually is a fairly basic player, and for that reason opinions divide whether he's a true NBA franchise talent or merely a very good prospect. Either way, his size, strength and scoring tools should place him into a very high income category, but the conversation has to be more ambitious when discussion the No. 1 guy.
At his best, he establishes very deep post position and delivers with educated feet and a soft touch with either hand. Because he plays at such close proximity to the basket, even longer and more athletic players struggle to alter his attempts. He has primary moves and counters, and they are instinctive rather than mechanical.
When he has appeared vulnerable at all this season, his conditioning and lack of straight-up leap have been the culprits. He needs to improve his stamina to run for a full 40 minutes, particularly when the Blue Devils will encounter uptempo opponents. He also doesn't project as a show-stopping defensive presence, given his limited lateral quickness and shotblocking.
Still, consistently dominant low-post scorers are rare. College basketball this season makes the case. Okafor could top the freshman numbers even of Julius Randle next year, as he's bigger and actually more suited for the collegiate game. He also has proved during the past few months that he can perform despite having a target on his back. Whether it's a rival (and friend) like Alexander or scrappy guards triple-teaming him and looking to strip the ball, he has answered the bell and played at the level we'd all expected.
His prep career isn't finished yet. He'll hit the postseason circuit this spring, including the McDonald's All-American Game and Nike Hoop Summit. From there, it's an offseason to work himself into tip-top shape and prepare for what's likely to be one, excellent year for Mike Krzyzewski's program.