Fighting Illini In Solid With Jahlil Okafor

Tyrone Slaughter's Whitney Young program has produced a large number of talented prospects over the years. This year's team is loaded with Division One recruits up and down the roster, but it is freshman Jahlil Okafor that could be the best in the long run. Illinois knows this and is in the race early for his services.

Jahlil Okafor is a 6'-9", 255 lbs freshman power forward from Whitney Young who has received major attention at an early age. He has the game to back it up. Okafor is a truly special prospect, and the Illinois coaching staff has taken notice. He likes what he has seen of the Illinois program.

"I like Illinois. It is one of the colleges I would like to go to."

The freshman big man has been on campus multiple times already. He participated with Whitney Young in Illinois's summer team camp at the Assembly Hall in June. And was part of the recruiting party that attended Illinois Midnight Madness at Huff Hall to kick off the season. Okafor enjoyed the festivities for Madness.

"That was really fun. My favorite part was the dunk contest."

The big man received attention nationally when as an 8th grader DePaul offered him a scholarship. Coach Bruce Weber and ace recruiter Jerrence Howard were not far behind as they have also offered the young star a scholarship to the University of Illinois. He was not overly surprised by the early offer from his home state school.

"I was kind of expecting it."

When it is all said and done, Okafor will have every major basketball power in the country knocking down his door. He already holds offers from a Big East school and two Big Ten perennial contenders.

"I have offers from Michigan State, DePaul, and Illinois."

Along with his offers, there are several other schools that are heavily recruiting the Whitney Young prospect.

"I am being recruited by Purdue, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and a bunch of others."

It is still very early in the process, and Okafor says he is going to hold off on a decision. He does not have any favorites at this stage, but he likes the ones stepping up to the plate with offers.

"No, not really any favorites. The schools that have offered me scholarships are the ones that I look at."

What is the freshman looking for in the lucky program that will receive his commitment?

"A good education and know that the program would benefit me."

Whitney Young head coach Tyrone Slaughter has been impressed with what he has seen of Okafor early in the season.

"He has done real well. It is a learning curve for him going from eighth grade to high school. The speed of the game is faster than what he has been used too.

His skill set is really good, and his understanding of basketball is really good. What he may lack early on as a focal point in relation to the speed of the game, he is able to make up in his understanding of what he needs to do."

Okafor is in a unique situation at Whitney Young, as he does not have to shoulder the bulk of the scoring for his team as a freshman, which he would have to do at many other schools. Slaughter says this allows him to continue to learn.

"On this team, we are not asking him to carry the load for us to be successful. He is more in a learning mentality where he has the opportunity to learn as the process goes forward."

The big man is glad he chose Whitney Young to attend over the next four years and is enjoying his freshman campaign.

"The season has been really fun. I think I made the right choice about going to the right high school. We have a bunch of bigs that help me out like Thomas Hamilton and Jermaine Morgan."

He has the distinct advantage of playing with the top center prospect in the class of 2013 nationally in Tommy Hamilton. The freshman has learned from his sophomore teammate.

"Playing with Tommy I have learned a lot. I like a lot of his moves. He goes hard all the time, makes me stronger, and makes me a better basketball player."

Okafor played only limited minutes for his talented team while at the Best of the Midwest Shootout in their victory over Lee (Alabama), but he proved to be the most intriguing prospect of the night. His combination of size, length, and skill set make him a big time prospect.

He already shows skilled footwork and moves in his post game. On the boards, he boxes out well and is tough. His length allows him to block shots on the defensive end of the floor. The player he reminds me of is a young Jared Sullinger. That is certainly high praise for a freshman, but he has the talent and skills to live up to it.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories