Jahlil Okafor is a 14 year old basketball prodigy. Already as big as many centers, Okafor is getting valuable minutes for Whitney Young during summer basketball. He was impressive in his debut at the University of Illinois for their team camp.
The Dolphins finished second in the large school Illinois state championships last season after winning everything the two previous years. They struggled in the camp with mostly young talent, but Okafor did well.
"I think I've been doing pretty well. We're missing four players, three of them are seniors. I feel real confident out there. I've worked hard all summer, so I expect it."
Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter is impressed with his young prodigy.
"Jahlil is a really skilled big man. One of the things he does real well is with his back to the basket. He can catch the ball and make good decisions. He's a tremendous rebounder. He has excellent hands and can rebound the basketball.
"The game right now is a little fast for him, but he's a smart kid and I think things will come along by the time we get to basketball season."
Okafor made headlines when he and his dad Chucky traveled to Champaign a day before the team camp to visit the UI campus and Illini coaches. He enjoyed himself, and an equally talented close friend joined him.
"I visited yesterday with Larry Austin. It was fun. We just scrimmaged with some of the guys, and after that we went out to eat and got a view of the campus. I went to a place where the players have to go once a week and meet up with each other. I had real fun."
Austin is an upcoming freshman at Springfield Lanphier who led his eighth grade team to a state championship from his point guard spot. The two have been close for some time now.
"I've known him for awhile. I don't know how we met, but we're real good friends. I think it was at a camp."
Okafor joins a high school team that boasts 6'-9" sophomore Tommy Hamilton Jr. and a couple other players in the 6'-8" range. Hamilton's dad grew to 7'-3". It could be scary for opponents the next three years if Okafor continues to grow as expected.
"My doctor says I might grow to 7'-2" to 7'-3". I'm looking forward to that. I like that because it will help me out."
His dad shelters him from the recruiting rat race as much as possible. But he is aware of several schools who are already active in his recruitment.
"Some of the schools I know that are working on me are Illinois, DePaul, Michigan State, and Purdue so far. My dad doesn't really tell me too much. He tries to keep me away from that."
While there are rumors Austin may wish to make an early commitment, Okafor is willing to wait awhile.
"I don't want to commit until my junior year. I have a lot of time to see what college I want to go to right now."
While Okafor is being used primarily in the low post at this time, he says he is working on developing an all-around game where he can also move around on the court. He has no preference on style of play when considering potential colleges.
His personal goals may as yet be undefined, but he and his teammates have dreams.
"We're hoping for a state championship. We're talking about nation-wide."
Okafor admitted to nervousness with interviews, but that will change sooner than later. If he continues to improve his game, he will be a popular interview for many years to come.