Tag Archives: Jahlil Okafor

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Duke Freshman Can Bring It!

SONY DSCThere are plenty of reasons for excitement when talking Duke Basketball in that the program constantly maintains excellence.  It’s nothing new for Duke to have a banner class of freshman coming in where they will be molded by Mike Krzyzewski into a unit upon his return for duties with USA Basketball.

Having covered the AAU trail for many years and the young men coming in ad nauseam, the one thing that stands out to me is the overall maturity of this bunch.  Many times, it’s hard for the fan base to realize that these guys are still teenagers and until they’re on campus it’s hard to get a really good feel for how they might react to the new and faster game speed and all the other intangibles with concern to adjustment.

Duke will get an immediate infusion of talent from their incoming class and we take a look at what some of these adept newcomers bring to the table which are all the opinions of one man who saw them play multiple times.

Semi others PEach 12 012Tyus Jones - When I started covering Tyus Jones heavily during his rising junior season, the one thing I remembered from seeing him at a younger age was that he knew how to win.  Jones was not especially flashy, so there was no early grab in my mind’s eye when he was a rising sophomore.  As I continued to watch him I saw a cool customer and a player that would stuff the stat sheet in a steady manner.  It was like, did this guy just do all that while I was watching when looking down the box score.  That led me to realize that this young man was a true point guard and one who made everybody around him better.  In short, he’s a winner.  Jones has a knack for controlling the game and he helped his Howard Pulley AAU team over achieve in that they had little around him in comparison to other teams on the Nike circuit.  Jones is not going to jump out of the gym or go down the lane for a flamboyant dunk.  But what he will do is find the open man and help them to have the flashy play.  At Duke, Tyus Jones will have a lot of weapons around him and that should make his acumen for dishing assists even more impressive.  Another thing you will see when watching Jones is that he remains emotionally stable at all times. He moves on to the next play and that puts him in position to always help his team.  Jones draws the defense in at times but he is also adept at slithering through the lane for an easy lay in when others are looking for the kick out and he has the ability to knock down the jump shot.  Jones will need to work on his on ball defense at the college level, but Duke got the best pure point guard in the class and a kid you will fall in love with for his commitment to his teammates and winning.

Peach 12 more pics 014Justise Winslow - Known by the nickname of “Chief Justise,” Justise Winslow brings a very solid skill set to the court.  What you will first notice about young Winslow is his toughness and his ability to guard multiple positions.  Winslow has the ability to pull his defender out or take them to the rack and he can easily post up smaller defenders when mismatches come his way.  Winslow has a good handle and you can bet that the Duke coaching staff will use him as a defensive stopper early on.  Like Jones, Winslow stays level when playing the game, but he has a fiery can-do side and he’s physically mature for his age.  Winslow can shoot the jumper with good range or power in the lane on offense and he likes to mix it up.  His value to this coming years team will likely be on the defensive end where his footwork is ahead of the curve.  On the offensive end, he can draw some mismatches and like all the Duke freshman, he can run the floor.  Winslow is one of the more versatile players I have seen coming into Duke and you will love his confidence which is a vital part of his game.

Jones, Okafor DukeJahlil Okafor -  Duke got their man of choice in the middle in Chicago native Jahlil Okafor.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski is not one to guarantee a starting role or playing time to any prospect, but he’s already said that the offense would look to run through and around the best post player during last years recruiting class.  Okafor has good hands and like the aforementioned two incoming freshman keeps his cool on the court rarely getting too high or too low.  He was a beast on the AAU courts last summer and he has a long running relationship with Tyus Jones which will provide immediate chemistry.  Okafor knows how to use his frame and get a player on his hip and he has good court vision.  The Duke staff has obviously been working with Okafor on nutrition and in the weight room and the budding star has reshaped his body or frame.  It’s a little harder for me to project Okafor in that I have yet to see him play with a trimmed down frame, but common sense says he is likely to be even quicker on his feet which is vital as the college game is much faster than AAU ball.  Okafor is the most likely of the freshman to be one and done, so Duke fans should enjoy him while they can.  Having a true post player to play alongside Blue Devil veterens like Marshall Plumlee will help to give the team the ability to get out and press or trap more in that they have a man to slow down the break aways in the post.  And Okfor will certainly help to develop Sean Obi, the big man transfer from Rice who will be eligible the following season.

AllenGrayson Allen - During the annual Nike Peach Jam, Allen sent word to Duke that he was playing in an event just down the road called the Peach State Classic.  Allen grew up a Duke fan and was playing for an AAU team that was not on the national radar.   It didn’t take long for Mike Krzyzewski to take a look after word came back from assistant coaches that he can play.  At the time, Allen was ranked in the top 100 at best but as more evaluators saw him and Duke offered he entered the top 25’s of many.  Allen is one of those “Did he really just do that?,” kind of guys.  He can throw down some impressive dunks which belies his look test at first glance and smile while doing it.  Allen can also drain the ball from deep and has the ability to become a fan favorite with his dunks.  Many may remember Olek Czyz exciting crowds at the N.C. Pro AM years back, with his dunks but Allen does similar things with an all around game in tow as well.  Allen enjoys playing the game and that is important and he takes a joke well.  He was quick to give me a smile when I joked with him about his size 17 at the time flappers or show size.  Maybe that’s why he has such surprising up’s.

Collectively, this is one of the more impressive classes the staff has been fortunate enough to land.  There is balance in that there is a true post player, a true point guard, a versatile wing and an explosive wing.  But in the end it will come down to how they integrate with the Blue Devils veterans players.  This seasons Blue Devils will be a mix of very young players and some guys who have seen the ACC wars. We’re not that far off from seeing these kids first hand and what they look like after the capable coaching staff has worked with them.  The public will have a chance to see this years version of the Duke Men’s Basketball team on October 25th for Countdown to Craziness.  Tickets are currently available through the Duke ticket office.

Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor Package Goes to Duke

Semi others PEach 12 008Cameron Indoor Stadium will be a extra lively tonight but not because there is a game against Florida Atlantic.  Just a couple of hours prior to tip-off, the nations top center Jahlil Okafor and the top point guard Tyus Jones committed to play their college careers at Duke University.
Now that the anticipation is over and the two have become the package deal they said they would, Duke will turn its attention to superb wing Justise Winslow.
Okafor and Jones made their decisions on ESPNU, each from their high school.  The Blue Devils were fully involved throughout their recruitment with Coach Mike Kryzewski taking on a huge role.
SONY DSCIn Okafor, Duke gets the post player it covets and he’ll allow players on the roster to move to their more natural positions.  Okafor is a dominant post player with the ability to anchor a defense all by himself.
Jones is the ultimate team player and a point guard who found his Howard Pulley teammates in an effortless manner on the AAU circuit.
Jones and Okafor made a recent trip to Duke for their official visit and they also attended Countdown for Craziness the season before last.
While a lot of hype surrounded their recruitment, the two became a package deal as they said they would.
Semi others PEach 12 012The Blue Devils were always in strong with the duo and they never let up their efforts to make them know how coveted they were.
It was quite simply, a huge day for Duke Basketball recruiting.
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I like the Blue Devils’ chances with the Big 3

Every Duke Basketball fan in America knows that some of the nation’s finest prospects will visit campus this weekend. The nation’s top point guard Tyus Jones, the nation’s top center Jahlil Okafor, and a well-rounded wing in Justise Winslow will make their official visits, including taking in Saturday’s exhibition game with Bowie State.

All three recruits have visited Duke before, but this is it:  it is the last visit on their schedules, and that means a lot.  I mean, how often do we save the best for last in life?  Of course, having them on campus means the Blue Devils will have an additional chance to show off their facilities and their dedication to basketball.

There has been plenty of worry amongst the fan base.  Just last week people were trying to say that Jones wearing Kansas gear while on his visit there must be a sign. Oh no! Let the panic begin!

Semi others PEach 12 008But the reality is that he wore their gear out of respect, just as Harrison Barnes did in one of our more famous pictures, which has now been turned into a constant meme on the World Wide Web.

Just recently, some have said, Jones would not like playing second fiddle to current point guard Quinn Cook, but didn’t Jay Williams and Chris Duhon fare quite well together?  And have you seen how many wins an undermanned Howard Pulley AAU team pulled off under his leadership?

You can find a rumor or unwanted speculation on any message board, but having been through many of these recruiting decisions before, the fan in me is pretty relaxed.  Why?  First off, as I said, the last visit means more than some think. In my opinion it makes the prospects more the Blue Devils’ to lose.

Peach 12 more pics 011Second, as good as Kansas is and as much respect as I have for their program and what Bill Self has done, the ACC compared to the Big Twelve these days, well, there is no comparison.

Would you rather play UNC, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville and go down Tobacco Road, or would you want your primary rival to be Kansas State or whichever team happens to pop up next year to have a good season in a conference where Oklahome and Texas could bolt for the Pacific coast at any time?

My contention here is that the ACC is prime time in every way, and you will play on what will be an amazing stage. The education and campus are top notch in Durham, as is the location. You’re right in the midst of the Triangle area, which is one of the top places to live in America, and you have the beach and mountains on either side. Semi others PEach 12 012

Then there is the court time Duke offers. Tyus Jones will sit for nobody, and he’s a consummate winner on the court. Jahlil Okafor has a wide open spot to walk right into and he’s sure to talk with fellow Chicago native Jabari Parker while on campus, and Jabari will surely mention the freedom the Duke system is allowing him.

As for Justise Winslow, a solid baller in every aspect of the game, Duke offers elite basketball and a top-notch education.

In my opinion, it is down to Kansas and Duke for Jones and Okafor, and Arizona and Duke for Winslow.  I for one like the odds of Duke getting the stellar class they are seeking.

If you had a child presented with the opportunities Duke offers, to play for the Olympic coach and a living legend, what would you do?  When the Cameron Crazies cheer their names and the team plays together as an excited crowd urges them on tomorrow, odds are good that I will not be the only one realizing the opportunity at hand.

Duke Basketball Recruiting Update

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BDN Photo – Reid Travis sits with Semi Ojeleye and Marshall Plumlee at a Duke football game during his visit.

The Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball staff has been steady on the recruiting trail of late but they’ve now returned home, at least for the moment. Such is the busy nature of trying to nail down this coming years class, not to mention gaining an early edge on underclassmen.

There is still [private] no word on Kevon Looney and where he leans, but it’s safe to say Duke is right there. The parents seemed sold on the opportunity in Durham but we all know it is eventually up to the kid himself. Looney will make his decision public on October 31st. If you are looking for a leak of where he is leaning, let it be know that his family has for now anyhow, shut down the media.

There has been a lot of paranoia involving Jahlil Okafor and his camp has more or less shut it down for media as well. No date has been officially set as of yet and I do not expect that to change for the next several days. Coach Kyzyzewski and Jeff Capel made a trip to see Okafor recently and by all accounts it was a fruitful visit. Duke is very much in the think of the race here and anybody who tells you differently just doesn’t know what they’re talking about. No word of late on the package deal and one way to shut down talk of that is to distance yourself from media.

Meanwhile, Tyus Jones is winding down the process and like others, his camp has grown quiet as well. Much of this is due to the family just wanting to sit back and take it all in and I have a feeling you will not hear a whole lot from his way anytime soon as well other than a diary he, along with Okafor, are committed to doing.

Duke has also visited Justise Winslow over the break and all indications are that they are right there. Winslow has yet to make a public date for a decision and the Duke staff continues to work on him for a visit in October.  BTW, Arizona is trying to tell him he can co exist with other prospects.

There are a lot of visits being tentatively set but not much is leaking in that it is very liquid in nature but Duke is obviously trying to get guys ready to visit during Countdown to Craziness. I will give you dates if they are released and we should know more as CTC comes around.

The word on Reid Travis is that he enjoyed his visit but his camp is really making sure of their pending decision per sources. Stanford is very much in this race and I’m sure Coach Dawkins is telling him he is their Tyus Jones. This is going to come down to what the kid wants in the way of basketball and education. If he wants to be the man, he will pick Stanford where that type of situation is available. I know what some are thinking, people could point to Dawkins having to win but the Stanford push always education first. Still, Duke offers a good opportunity for education as well and I like the Blue Devils chances here and they’ve told him how he would be used and such.

Duke is also still in the running for Myles Turner who is red-hot right now. His family seems to be trying to ground him a bit per rumors and Duke did pay him a recent visit and they seemingly feel they are a player for his services. If all goes according to plan, we’ll hear from Turner soon.

The Blue Devils stopped in on Charles Matthews and Luke Kennard as well. Every team in the nation seems to be on Kennard but that is not stopping Coach K and company who feel they’ve made good early in roads. Coach K loves his game at the Nike Peach Jam and it appears he will remain at the very top of the Blue Devils wish list. Matthews has not been real serious yet nut that will change. Malik Newman is also getting attention and a visit and K seems to really like his exploits since playing for Team USA and I think they’ll be in the thick of this race.

Another underclassmen Duke visited recently was Diamond Stone. Coach James, Coach K and Capel made the journey to see him around the same time as Turner. It was very much a getting to know you session and by all accounts there is major interest from both sides, meaning all went well.

There is excitement in the air with the season about to start and you can feel it from anyone related to Duke be it the staff or the players. I saw several of the players during the football game last week and all were in good spirits, especially Quinn Cook. We’ll be adding to our update on the players which is in the archives soon and we’ll be concentrating on hoops a lot more in the coming week.

If any member is reading this and is not on the message board, send me an e-mail at watzonebdp@gmail.com and once I check the list, I will okay you for said board. A lot of the quick hit information goes to the board before our updates. [/private]

Recruiting: Let it play out!

Semi others PEach 12 008It never fails to amaze me how a simple comment or tweet in this case can send various fan bases into a frenzy this time of year. Yesterday, Evan Daniels of Scout tweeted that Kansas was the leader for three of the nation’s top front court prospects, including Jahlil Okafor. The less grounded fans took to social media and [private]various message boards in a panic that Duke was destined to lose Okafor, a big time prospect the Blue Devils covet. While there is no doubt that Kansas is in the race, there is no reason to believe with any sense of certainty that they land more than one or two at best of the prospects mentioned.

Fans freaking out is not uncommon. Every year fans get antsy as the big time prospects near their decision and  for good reason to a certain degree. Recruiting is a bit liquid in nature and things can turn on a dime, but let’s not forget that Duke has spent a lot of time with all of their main targets.

Folks have heard me say “let it play out,” on more than one occasion over the years and I am offering that advice again. Between now and the time Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Kevon Looney, Reid Travis and Myles Turner decide, there will be more tweets which make you uncomfortable but being a bit seasoned in my coverage has taught me to not overreact.

And if you perpetuate the rumors, it is almost a certainty that prospects will in time hear of them and be forced to address them. In fact, there are some folks who now intentionally create accounts on social media posing as fans of a certain school only to start to harass a key prospect.

I think it’s clear that Duke is in the running for all of the aforementioned prospects I listed, but they will not get them all but they’ll surely get their share.

I could speculate a lot here but I’ve found that too can lead to grief. For example, if I say Okafor is not a sure thing, many will take that as I no longer feel good about him landing in Durham.

Still, I will attempt to clarify the situation.

Word got out from a parent that he thought Duke was the leader and that got turned on its head in the age of instant media. Some Duke fans are uncomfortable being considered the leader and for good reason. In today’s recruiting environment and or the AAU trail, there are a ton of folks who are not what you might consider traditional media asking questions. One of the things which I have found bothers prospects over years of experience covering them is being asked non stop questions like, “Many feel Duke is the leader, is that true?” Then there are those who land one of these young mens’ phone numbers and they call despite the word that the camp may have shut things down. This creates pressure and a constant question in a specific manner can be annoying, so I think it’s fair to say teams do not exactly want that to happen.

It wasn’t that long ago when Duke was long considered the leader fort Greg Monroe who ended up at Georgetown. I sat and watched for two years at people pounding this young prospect with Duke is the leader questions. At first he took this in a good manner, but towards the end of his recruitment it clearly bothered him and John Thompson Jr. swept in and took advantage of the situation. The cold hard fact is that perception can be a problem.

Now I am not saying Jahlil Okafor is in the same boat as Monroe, only a similar one and his camp has now shut things down with media and I personally think that is good for the Blue Devil chances.

So, Kansas is the leader? I think that’s a good thing that tweet went out. As long as his recruitment has gone on and the fact he wants to make a decision in some public manner be it on the ESPNU recruiting show or another venue means he doesn’t want to tip his hand.

One of the things which gets to me is when these kids are not allowed their day in the sun. We have purposefully sat on information knowing a kid would select Duke in an effort to see that happen. But more often than not, it still leaks, usually from an assistant coach from one of the schools the prospect rejects and in one case a family member getting a little rub in the palm.

Trying to understand recruiting in this day and time can be maddening. Patrick Patterson chose Kentucky over Duke and Florida a few years back. His mom Tywanna Patterson gleefully exclaimed during a press conference “We shocked the world,” and they did. The Patterson’s made two schools feel like it was down to them and even told the Gators staff they were coming there per an impeccable source. We all know that Patterson chose Kentucky and for him but his family was deceptive in the process and wasted the recruiting budgets of schools without a seconds thought despite knowing what the intent was to be.

The Patterson’s were a typical family with concern to enjoying the process and while I do not agree with their methods of handling the situation, the key word is enjoy here which is what all these kids are trying to do.

But one must realize that these kids are far older than their age in the way they handle things. Adults have questioned them non stop on the AAU circuit and they become media savvy.

With twitter being so big, prospects have learned to use this tool in a more efficient manner and that has put a dent in many of the pay sites who can no longer break news as they once did.

No matter how a prospect goes about their choice of announcing their collegiate destination, they all want to enjoy the moment and that means they want a surprise.

Now there is more news that Okafor and Tyus Jones may choose a different school, but that in no ways means it will happen. It is but another nugget of many that will come out before their respective decisions are made.

Duke offers an immediate spot for Okafor to step in and he could play with his long time friend Tyus Jones. That’s alone is an attractive situation and reason for Duke fans to relax and to … .. …. …!

That’s right! Let it play out. [/private]