What's not to like? Okafor can be a Hyde but typically operates as a Jekyll, a true center who can exact competitive annihilation on the basis of his physique and great hands, but whose game includes so much more.
He catches everything inside and utilizes polished, intelligent post moves to score at will. He's too big for defenders to deny point-blank position, but even in suboptimal space he delivers via jump hooks, drop steps and turnaround jumpers. But despite the finesse, his body and game imply brutality. A threatening shoulder precedes a skillful play inside — a Rottweiler wearing a tuxedo is still a Rottweiler — and his dual identity frustrates and demoralizes defenses.
Along with his scoring talent, Okafor also is a fine interior passer. He gets plenty of practice versus double- and triple-teams, and when he can't score he has learned to distribute effectively to teammates who frequently are wide open. It's that ability to command attention and then deliver with great efficiency that secures his place at No. 1.
His rebounding is solid, if not spectacular, and he should develop into a tough post defender as well. His lateral quickness has improved, and thus he won't be a liability versus the more perimeter-oriented big men he'll likely face in the NBA.
Okafor doesn't possess elite straight-up leaping ability. That's not going to trouble him during what's likely to be his one season in college, but NBA big men may prevent him from releasing his shot in traffic consistently.
He also isn't tremendously quick off the floor, limiting him as a shotblocker and offensive, out-of-area rebounder.
Before the clock struck Midnight on January 1, 2011, Okafor already had collected scholarship offers from Michigan State, DePaul and Illinois. His offers expanded to a degree that precludes any meaning. If you were a college coach armed with nothing more than a smile and a prayer, it was worth tossing one his way.
His junior season was superlative. He scored 34 points in a contest at the Chicago Elite Classic, just one game in which he relegated his opponents to secondary status. Though not overwhelming at the City of Palms Classic, he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds versus elite competition.
His recruitment continues to trend along with that of Tyus Jones, and the two conducted quasi-coordinated visit schedules this fall in advance of their decision.
Duke has long been associated with Okafor and the Blue Devils have continued to push to have the Chicago big man on campus as much as possible. Okafor visited Duke officially on October 25th, unofficially twice in the last two years. Throughout that time the Chicago big man has continued to develop a relationship with Krzyzewski, and the Duke coach has worked to make a big impression on player, family, and fellow coaches. Before the summer, Okafor recapped his in-home visit with Krzyzewski and how Coach K became "his guy".
"When Coach K came in the house, pretty much all my family knew who he was. Also, just seeing how he embraced my family was really great. He just spent time,and he is such a normal, down to earth guy. He talked with us for like two and a half hours. He talked about Duke, but he also talked about life and the future and all the things he sees in me and all the great things I could do in the future."
"Coach K and I…we just see eye to eye on a lot of things. He really believes in me a lot and is really high on me as a person and player. I can talk to him about anything, and not just about basketball, but things in the world. He's just a really great person to talk to. When you think about college basketball, you think about Coach K."
"I've been able to talk to Jabari [Parker] and he tells me it's even better than what he thought. I just like Duke a lot."
The Package Deal:
For more than a year Jones and Jahlil Okafor have talked about teaming up in college. As the two recruitments have progressed, each player has continued to insist that they would attend the same school.
"Tyus is my brother," Okafor told Scout.com. "We are going to school together. We have pretty much that four I told you, is pretty much his four also. We are pretty serious about it. It's going to happen."
Jones told Scout.com that the chances of he and Okafor playing together in college is "99-percent." Okafor said the percentage is even higher.
"99.9-percent," he said. "That's about right."
So why do Okafor and Jones want to play in college together?
"I think first off it starts with him being a true point guard," Okafor said. "The first game [at USA Basketball] he had 10 assists in eight minutes. That speaks for itself. Me being a true big man I think we would really complement each other well."
"Off the court we are the best of friends," he added. "Everybody here at USA basketball knows that's my best friend and I'm his best friend. They always know we are together. We go eat together. They put us in the same room. With us having such good chemistry on the court and liking each other so much off the court, it's perfect for us."
Like Jones, Okafor has also been responsible for reaching out to Justise Winslow in hopes of enlarging the package deal.
"Playing with Justise and Tyus…I can't say that it's 100% likely. It's just the ideal situation, we would all love to go to the same school and have everything work out. It's not 100% but it's something we would all like to do and hope it works out."
Duke Projected Depth Chart
A quick review of the 2013-2014 roster shows the Blue Devils to be stacked at every position aside from center. In the paint Duke is starting Amile Jefferson, a 6'8 power forward, with another 6'8 forward backing him up in the form of Josh Hairston. The lone traditional post player on the roster this year (and next) will be Marshall Plumlee, who would be hard pressed to push Okafor out of minutes during the Chicago big man's expected one year of college.
Blind Duke Comparison with Jim Sumner: (Link)
Sumner Says…: Carlos Boozer (2000-2002)
Carlos Boozer was the second in a string of three straight dominant big men to play in Durham from 1998-2006, bookended by Elton Brand (1998-1999) and Shelden Williams (2003-2006). At 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, Boozer was the biggest of the three, and likely the most pure offensive post of the group. Before he came to Duke, Boozer dominated the state of Alaska, averaging 30 points and 12 rebounds for Juneau (Alaska) Douglas High. He was described in as a back to the basket center who combined strength and finesse with an understanding of how to establish position and hold off defenders with his large frame. Boozer was named as a McDonald's All-American, Parade All-American, as well as the Alaska State Player of the Year in 1999.
Over the course of his three seasons at Duke, Boozer averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the field over the course of his 101 game career. Boozer was also a surprisingly good free throw shooter, hitting 74 percent of his attempts.
Much like Boozer, Okafor is known for his ability to seal off defenders and score in a number of ways around the basket. Both players developed a reputation of being able to catch any and everything that was sent their way from teammates. Once the ball was received, both players could spin either way using drop steps, jump hooks, or simply lowering their shoulder and powering toward the basket.
As his career progressed at Duke, Boozer became a much better passer out of the post. With so much talent on the roster, teams were rarely able to afford chancing double teaming Boozer in the post, but that's not been the case with Okafor to date. Teams are often known to send two and even three players into the paint to guard him, and he's become an accomplished passer.
On the boards, Boozer may have actually been the third of the trio of bigs mentioned earlier when it comes to rebounding prowess. Much like Okafor's career to date, the production on the glass at Duke was solid, but not spectacular. Similarly, neither player is considered an elite shot-blocker due neither being overly quick off the floor.
These deficiencies weren't overly limiting for Boozer in three years at Duke as the rebounding was a shared by the rest of the players on the roster (Shane Battier averaged six rebounds per game during Boozer's career, while Mike Dunleavy averaged 5.8 rebounds per game, while Dahntay Jones averaged 4.2), and Boozer's size advantage and space to operate in Duke's offense allowed him to overcome any challenges he would end up facing after he moved on to the NBA in 2002.
Similarly, wherever Okafor ends up attending college it's likely he'll immediately be considered one of the top five or six big men in the NCAA. With big men being at such a premium at the collegiate level, it's unlikely Okafor will face many opponents who will exploit any sort of athletic deficits.
Jones and Okafor will announce their college choices at the same time on Friday afternoon (3:00 PM CST), likely on ESPN.
As with any television event, there is a great amount of coordination that must take place. That coordination appears to be starting with their Twitter accounts, which announced the decision date and time in a templates format:
"I'm excited to announce my college decision on Friday Nov 15th, 3pm at Whitney Young high school," Okafor tweeted out Monday evening.
"I'm excited to announce my college decision on Friday Nov 15th, 3pm at Apple Valley High school," Jones said in his tweet.
ESPN will broadcast "Signing Day Special from Charlotte, NC" at 4:00 PM EST (3:00 CST) on ESPNU.