Category Archives: Duke Basketball Recruiting News

Jahlil Okafor
Adidas Nations 8/3/13
Garden Grove, CA

Getting Down To It with Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor Adidas Nations 8/3/13 Garden Grove, CA
Jahlil Okafor
Adidas Nations 8/3/13
Garden Grove, CA

Everyone knows that Jahlil Okafor is an extremely high priority recruit for the Blue Devils, and his performance this past weekend at the Adidas Nations camp showed why.  If you’ve never seen him play before, the big man from Chicago really brings to the table everything you’d want in a low-post, power player.  He’s 6’10″-6’11″ and a very solid 270 pounds or so, with round shoulders, thick legs, and a solid backside.  But he’s very, very agile as well for a man his size.  He is nimble around the rim when the situation calls for it, he runs the floor very well, and he can handle the ball skillfully for a big guy.  One big thing I like about him is that he knows he’s an inside power player, and so you don’t see him jacking up 20 footers.  He doesn’t want to be Kevin Durant.  Defensively, he challenges a lot of shots, he talks well, and he’s just a presence in there.  There were a few scouts who said they thought he should be more consistently dominant, that he should take better advantage of his size, that he needs to bring greater energy every time out, but I frankly didn’t see that at all, and I don’t think that’s going to be a problem going forward for Jahlil or for whatever program is lucky enough to welcome him.

The kid has excellent body language too.  Both on and off the floor he’s upbeat, positive, and likable.  The other guys clearly like playing with him.  Jahlil is very personable, he looks you in the eye during conversation — just an excellent young man in all respects.

Here’s what Jahlil had to say this weekend about his experience with USA Basketball this summer, the state of his recruitment, the manner in which Duke is recruiting him, how many people’s perceptions of Coach K are simply wrong, and a number of other topics.

[private]
BDN: All right. I’m at the Adidas Nations event with Jahlil Okafor, who just finished up a pretty nice win, I guess you guys would have to say. How has the event been for you so far?

JO: It’s been a lot of fun. I love coming down to Adidas Nations, you know, it’s a lot of fun playing with guys like Jaquan Lyle, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, you know some of these guys it’s my first time playing with them. Kavon Looney and all these guys, so it’s a lot of fun playing against different competition and different styles of play, so I’m really enjoying myself.

BDN: That was one of the questions I was going to ask you. It must be a different kind of experience for you to play with some of these guys that you’ve been playing against all summer in AAU.

JO: Yeah, definitely. I am coming off the USA Basketball thing, so that’s where I played with Justise Winslow before, but I played with Stanley Johnson last year with USA Basketball, but this is my first time playing with him all summer, and it’s my first time ever playing with Kavon Looney. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m really enjoying myself.

BDN: Obviously everybody in the Duke world is watching pretty closely what you’re doing and you and Tyus and everything. It’s easy to lump you two guys together, but it’s probably a little bit unfair because each of you is your own person. What are you thinking in terms of visits? I know you have one planned to Baylor. What about beyond that?

JO: We’ve talked about it. We don’t have any set dates yet. But I’m sure we’ll take a couple more together. [Note: this interview was conducted three days ago. Today Jahlil announced he'll be taking an official visit to Kentucky on September 9]

BDN: You mentioned your experience with Team USA. Tell me a little about what that was like to put USA on the front of your jersey again on your chest.

JO: That was amazing. It’s an experience like no other. This was my third time playing, but with the 19-and-under level I was playing up a few years older, playing with a bunch of college guys. In the past 26 years they only won two gold medals for the 19-and-unders so there was a lot of pressure on us. USA Basketball called upon us and told us it was a really big deal if we win or not. It was an experience like no other to talk to George Raveling, who is a bigtime college coach and he’s big in international basketball, and –

BDN: What about the sense of pride you must have had putting – and I know you’ve done it before – but putting on that red, white and blue jersey?

JO: Definitely. That’s something we talked about. We talked about how the teams before us came down here and lost. We’re walking around with our heads high. If we would’ve lost, it’s not the same. So we definitely had a lot of pride and we didn’t want anybody to beat us.

BDN: What kind of differences were there with the international game versus the American game that you’re used to?

JO: I think I thrive in the international game. Mainly due to being in a set system with Billy Donovan and Shaka Smart and Tony Bennett, so I think that really helped me thrive. And also I had really great players on my team like Montrezl Harrell, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Rasheed Sulaimon. So they weren’t really able to doubleteam me, and I really thrived in international play.

BDN: It’s kind of an interesting stage now of recruitment. The AAU season is done. What do the next couple of months hold for you? What are you going to be doing?

JO: After this I pretty much am going to be winding it down. I may do the Elite 24 –

BDN: All you guys must be tired.

JO: Yeah, I’m exhausted. But I wouldn’t want to mess with these relationships for anything. I love coming here. But after this I’ll get ready for my senior season. I’m looking to commit before my senior season kicks off. I really don’t want to drag it on and just have everybody waiting and just put that stress on myself and my family. So I would like to commit before my season starts.

BDN: It’s funny. Some guys like to kind of extend it as far as they can. Others want to get it over with. You’re in the – kind of make your call and –

JO: Yeah, definitely. If I know where I want to go, I’ll just want to get it out of the way. I don’t want to have everybody waiting and everywhere I go asking me where am I going. I’ll just want to get it over with and enjoy my last year.

BDN: Do you feel like there’s more information about the schools that you’re considering that you still don’t have, or do you feel like you have the information you need, and you just need to make the call?

JO: I think the main thing I have to do is get down on campus. That’s when I can make my call. That’s why I’m really looking forward to my official visits. I get down to campus, get a chance to talk to the players, pick their brains, hang out with them, see how they interact with the coaches. That’s what I’ll learn.

BDN: How much contact are you in with the coaching staff at Duke?

JO: I talk to them four to five times a week. Coach Capel, Coach Wojo, Coach K calls me once a week. I might get a text from him maybe two times a week. You know, when a guy like Coach K calls you to check up on you, it’s got to make yourself feel kind of good.

BDN: Kind of gets your attention?

JO: Yes.

BDN: You have a good relationship with him?

JO: Yeah, I have a great relationship with Coach K.

BDN: What’s your impression about the kind of guy that he is, the kind of coach that he is?

JO: He’s a great guy. Everybody thinks he’s – a lot of guys have an attitude about Duke. They’re like, “Do you ever talk to Coach K?” And they always say that their impression of Duke is that he’ll just have their assistants talk to them ‘cause he’s so bigtime. But he’s not like that at all. He calls you, he texts you, he recruits you just like anybody else, like any other coach. Coach K is a great guy. A lot of people get the impression that he’s really serious but he’s hilarious. He’s really funny. I love Coach K.

BDN: You know, you’re not the only person that’s told me that. A lot of other guys have said the same thing. He’s a funny guy –

JO: A jokester. (laughs)

BDN: And he makes you know that he actually cares about you as a person.

JO: Definitely. He really makes you feel like he cares about you.

BDN: All right, listen. I know you’ve got places to go. Your knees alright? I see you’re icing your knees?

JO: Yeah, I’m icing just, just because.

BDN: You do that all the time or –

JO: When I can.

BDN: I really appreciate it.

JO: No problem at all.

BDN: And I wish you nothing but the best with your decision.

JO: Thank you. I appreciate it.

 

[/private]

 

Key Duke Targets, Jones, Winslow Set to Play on ESPNU

Semi others PEach 12 016Duke fans will get the opportunity to see some big time Duke Basketball prospects on TV this week. ESPNU will carry the Minnesota based Howard Pulley Panthers versus Massachusetts-based BABC at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando in a game slated to start at 7:00 on Wednesday.

Howard Pulley features top Blue Devils target Tyus Jones, a PG who is quite simply the best at his position. But recent stellar play from Reid Travis now has him on the radar in what has the makings for an outstanding class.

On Thursday evening in a game that will also start 7:00, the Houston Hoops AAU team which features another big timer in Justise Winslow will take on Each One Teach One.

The Each One Teach One team will have the home edge being from Florida and Grayson Allen plays for this organization, who is the only commit in the 2014 class to date.

Justise Winslow has a monster day.  Rick Crank for BDN
Justise Winslow Rick Crank for BDN

Each One Teach One also produced recent Dukie Austin Rivers and Houston Hoops produced current Blue Devil starter Rasheed Sulaimon.

Fans can also scout future rivals in North Carolina verbal commitment PG Joel Barry and the smooth wing forward Justise Jackson.

It is worth noting that Allen has played sparingly at times since joining his AAU team this season but he has been showing off his skills of late, including some nice one hand throw down dunks.

In Reid and Jones, you will see as good a two-man show on the AAU circuit and players who benefit from said chemistry.

Jones has long been one of the Blue Devils top targets alongside Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. And there are plenty of other kids right there as well including Kevon Looney.

Read more about Duke Basketball recruiting by becoming a BDN Premium member for there are sure to be some major moves in the coming months and we look forward to bring members word from our top prospects in Disney land.

Checking in with Duke prospect Justise Winslow

 

Justise Winslow has a monster day.  Rick Crank for BDN
Justise Winslow has a monster day. Rick Crank for BDN

No player in the country has been playing better basketball than Justise Winslow of late and the hot prospect definitely benefitted from his recent play with Team USA.  During the Nike Peach Jam, Winslow showed off his skills set and now sports  as complete a game as any prospect on the Nike EYBL circuit.  In short, Winslow has very few weaknesses.

The Texan can take you off the dribble, post up smaller and larger players, crash the boards, step back for a smooth mid range jump shot or nail the three on offense alone. And did I mention he brings the ball up court like a point guard and can hit the open man with his passes.  And Winslow can defend as well, having the ability to guard up to four positions if needed.

It doesn’t take long to appreciate Winslows on the court exploits, but he’s just as impressive off the court where he fires back answers that are clear and concise to reporters, many of whom seem in awe at how articulate his retorts can be.  Winslow after all, goes to one of the top schools in Houston and as you will see in the following interview, he is a competitor in the class room just as he is on the hardwood.

I’ve seen Winslow play in well over twenty games on the AAU circuit and what you look for over the years is for a player improve and Winslow is flat-out playing his best basketball ever and in my eyes is a top ten player in his class.  Which ever team gains his services at the collegiate level will get a solid citizen and as good a wing as one could want.

Check out the latest on Justise Winslow with our interview where we discuss the schools on his list, his timeline, Team USA Basketball and more.

 

I know Arizona, Duke and other schools have been on you hard, but what it your current list of schools? [private]

Well, right now I’m still at ten schools and there are no leaders or anything like that. North Carolina, Duke Florida, Texas A & M, Baylor, Houston, Arizona and Stanford. And there are some new schools trying to talk to me like UCLA, Indiana and Michigan.

Yeah, I don’t know when I will sign for sure but want to do so by November. I just want to make sure I am signed by then.

Coming back from playing with Team USA overseas has to be tough on the body.  You didn’t have long to prep for the Peach Jam.

Yeah, it was tough and that’s why I sat out the first game of the Peach Jam. I learned a lot by the experience and I’m just looking to take all the knowledge gained and just look forward to try to display it out here and be the best I can be. It was tough adjusting to the time zone again but that’s no excuse. I’ve got to know my body and do what’s best for it. So, yes, it was tough and I’m adjusting.

Can you talk of  your experience?

It’s just a big difference playing with those guys because most of them have been to college other than the three of us, so the speed of the game and they’re just stronger and bigger I got a lot out of the practices and the coaches helped me understand the game and how to defend ball screens off the ball. It was a great time.

At this point in the process are you starting to feel the pressure knowing a decision is looming? You have all these coaches looking at you and probably texting you before you get off the court. Are you feeling the pressure.

I was feeling the pressure at first but my family told ,e to just forget about it and play basketball. One day it will come to me where I want to go to school and ,y family told me not to force it but just go out and be a kid and have fun.

Who will play important roles in your final decision. Your parents? I know you’re close to your brother as well …

Yeah. Just my immediate family. My coaches will play a little part, but mainly my family.

I know you’ve been asked of a package deal with Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor …

I don’t know how big of a factor, but it is a factor and being able to go to school with those guys and make that program elite. I want to go to school with them but all three of us have to do what is best for our families. If it happens that all three of us go to school together, that would be the best. So, I’m really excited and if it does hold up, I will be very happy.

And which teams were all three of you considering from your list?

I think Baylor, Duke, Kansas. I think that’s it.

What is it like playing in front of all the major college coaches?

Umm. You know it’s kind of exciting at first but you just have to be yourself. You can’t go out there and just try to please those coaches but be yourself.

What are your plans moving forward?

I may take time off and the last event will be Orlando for me.

Will you take some time off in the near future?

Yes, definitely a time. I wish I had more time to spend with my family and relax at home but my team needed me, so I thought taking off the first game in North August was the best thing I could do for my body. In August or September I will keep working on my game and will take some time then for my family.

I know your family is big on education.  Have you thought about what you might take in school?

I like math and physics so numbers are my thing. So, maybe something in business or engineering. My family is really big on academics and I go to one of the top schools in Houston. So, I pride myself on that … being a competitor on the court and in the class room I think I do a lot of things good and some things great, but I think my versatility and all around game is what upgrades me from other guys.  [/private]

 

2016 Wing Vincent King is on the Duke radar

Vincent KingDuke is generally slow to get involved with some younger kids, but the talented Vincent King garnered their attention this pas weekend at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina.  King has not been back long from an overseas trip where he helped Team USA roll through the competition.   The LeBron James Shooting Stars U-16 team was one of the best this season and King was part of that.  His play in North Augusta was seen by many coaches who were also scouting some of his talented teammates and the calls are sure to roll in after the evaluation period for this talented young man.  Vincent King is a guy to keep an eye on moving forward.

It’s the first time I have been able to see you play this weekend and I’m impressed. Where did you learn your basketball skills?

I learned from my Dad, he played overseas. He’s Vincent King and I’m junior. (goes by V.K.)

How would you describe your game in your own words?

I’m very patient, I don’t like to force a lot of stuff but to remain poised and get my teammates involved and play good defense.

You’re a young guy but I am sure you are already hearing from a lot of schools.

My [private] Dad has been hearing from a lot of schools, he feels like I’m not really old enough to handle it just yet, so I just keep it that way for now. So, he handles all that stuff.

Did you have a dream school growing up?

A dream school? (pause) No, not really. I watched a lot of schools and it will be three years for now. A lot of things can happen between now and then.

Will you continue your AAU career with the LeBron James Shooting Stars?

For now, yes.  I’m playing with a lot of the lot big time players and there are a lot of schools here.

(the reason I asked the question above was that the team/roster was more or less thrown together this season and many of the kids have never played together)

Do you try to pattern your game after any particular player?

I try to pattern my game after Lebron, Kobe and players like that.

You were just overseas representing your country with Team USA. Tell me a little bit about that experience.

It was a great experience, especially with the way we played. In my first game we scored 99 points, so it was fun. The experience, doing whatever was fun.  I had time to grow and learn.

I’m kind of from the North Carolina region. What do you think of schools like Duke and North Carolina?

Those are great schools. I like those schools a lot and also the education is great there too. You have to work for everything you get there with those schools.

Being from Ohio are you hearing from the local schools like Ohio State?

Yeah, they offered me and I have a great relationship with the head coach and assistants.

Which schools have offered to date?

Ohio State, UNCC, Wisconsin, N.C. State, Iowa State and some others as well. It’s humbling to see a lot of schools come in early.

What do you do in your down time?

Try to get out there and play golf a little bit. My Dad runs a gold company, so I try to get out there some.

I spoke briefly with Mr, King after the interview who is very hands on and sits on the bench with the team.  He’s a personable guy and tall meaning his son could grow an inch or two yet.  He runs a non-profit golf organization which helps kids in Ohio and has roots and family in North Carolina somewhere in the Western part of the state.  He grew up rooting for North Carolina and was excited to see Coach Williams watching their game.  When asked if this was bad for Duke, he said no, but it was clear he had some heart-strings attached to UNC.  Duke will recruit Jackson in time and Coach K did take in his game while watching dual games and came away impressed.  Luke Kennard, his teammate had good things to say about the youngster as well. Talk about this interview on the message board for members. [/private]

Duke showing interest in 2015 SG Charles Matthews

peach 057One of the hottest players in the class of 2015 is 6-5 shooting guard Charles Mathews and his play during the recent Nike Peach Jam did nothing to cool him off.  In fact, it was clear that Duke and Mike Kryzyzewski had started to recruit Matthews as he stood side by side with John Calipari to take in his game.  Kentucky offered Matthews in June ans since that time he’s on his way to becoming a household name.  Matthews can swing to the point guard spot as well with his skill set and his active presence on the court is hard not to notice.  Matthews claims there are no early leaders and that he would not make a decision until his senior season.  Blue Devil Nation caught up to Matthews to get his thoughts on Coach K and the recruiting process to date.

What are you trying to accomplish while participating in the Peach Jam?

I’m just trying my hardest to come out here and win and gain experience while advancing in the tournament.

How would you describe your game in your own words?

I’m just a really versatile player who plays defense and can get to the basket as well.

Which schools have been the most aggressive of late in your recruitment?

Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State and Providence. [private]

Who have you talked to from Duke in the past? {private]

Coach K and Coach Capel.

He’s a Chicago guy like you. Cubs or White Sox?

I don’t really get into baseball, maybe the White Sox.

Where are you from in Chicago?

Southside

Louisville is showing interest.  Did you see Rick Pitino? (other site)

No, I didn’t really see him.  I don’t pay much attention to the coaches.

Where did you learn or who taught you your basketball skills?

Just playing in the gym with my big brother, cousins and Father.

You played with some Louisville players recently … (other site)

I think Louisville is bringing in some good guards, so they’ll be good.

Will you take any unofficial visits after the evaluation period?

It depends on my mom and whether she wants t go to some schools.

What do you do in your down time?

I just work on my craft and build consistency in my game.

Kentucky was watching you and I know they’re interested.  How do you feel about them? (other site)

It means a lot to me that they are coming.

You said that Coach k called you.  What did you talk about?

He just talked to me about being a Chicago guy and he said he was going to start recruiting me as well. It means a lot you know, Coach K is a legendary coach, one of the great names.

USA Basketball. Is that something you would like to get involved in?

Yes. it’s a dream of mine to represent my country doing the sport I love to.

What do you have, a hip pointer? (icing his hip)

Yeah, it’s kind of tightening up on me in the games.

Are there any early leaders?

I am open to all schools right now and just trying to build relationships with the coaches.

Who are your favorite NBA players?

I like Kevin Durrant and Derrick Rose.

Whats in your game console?

I like to play NBA 2K or College Hoops. Those are the only two games I play.

Thanks for your time and good luck the rest of the way.

Thank you. [/private]

Catching up with 2015 prospect Skal Labissiere

prosMake no mistake, Skal Labissiere is clearly one of the top prospects in the class of 2015 and his play continues to draw hoards of coaches on the AAU circuit.  Labissiere runs the floor like a Gazelle said one major college coach and I have to agree.  If you are looking for a smooth operator who glides up and down the court showing off his length and impressive offensive skills, then Skal is the prospect for you.  As he gains strength, his potential could be frightening in that he seems to be showing constant improvement during each event.  We spoke to Labissiere during the NBAPA Top 100 Camp recently and took time to follow up with him on what has happened since while covering the Nike EYBL Finals also known as the Peach Jam.

How many teams have called since I last saw you at the NBA Top 100 Camp?

I haven’t had that many but Duke called, Baylor, Texas, Tennessee and that’s about it.

So, how did you originally come to the United States from Haiti?  [private]

My guardian, Gerald Hamilton is a part of a non-profit organization that helps kids from other countries and help people play sports and reach their dreams.

What are your impressions on college basketball in the United States?

In Haiti. we do not watch college hoops, we watch the NBA, so I do not know much about the college game/

Did you have a favorite NBA player growing up?

Kobe and the Lakers. He’s a person I would love to meet.

If you could have dinner with any coach all time, who would it be with?

John Wooden. I have books which talks about him.

You have all the major college coaches in the gym to watch you, what are your feelings about the growing attention?

When I came to the United States I didn’t know basketball was that serious and that the college recruiting is so crazy. On the court, it is really physical and the game is fast.

Do you have an idea when you will make a decision on where you will play college basketball?

Probably my senior year. I am going to take my time.

What are the most important factors for you when choosing a school?

The system. I want to go somewhere you can run and look at what kind of guys they have there. I want to check out how things are off the court as well and play with guys who have good character.  I know I have to earn my playing time and put in the work once I get there but I just want to have a good relationship with the coach and the teammates around me.

Will you take all of your alloted official visits?

Yes sir. I will take all five official visits.

Have you taken any unofficial visits to date?

Memphis and Ole Miss

What do you like the most about basketball?

Just, you know, I just have fun playing the game.

Any idea on what you would like to study in college?

Probably something to do with business.

Thanks for your time.

Yes sir, no problem.