Monday, August 5, 2013
Okafor leads loaded Adidas Nations
By Dave Telep
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- When you break down the rosters for the 2013 Adidas Nations, you have to be pretty happy with the results.
For example, in Monday night’s championship game (9 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN), 19 of the 22 players on the two rosters are ESPN 100 prospects -- and five are in the top 10. And in the third-place game (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN), nine of the 12 U.S. players are in the ESPN 60 and another is ranked in the ESPN 25.
Talent-wise, this is a heckuva cherry on top of the month of July.
No. 1 recruit Jahlil Okafor has an official visit planned to Baylor and said Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona will also likely get visits.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), the nation’s No. 1 player, looks great. He’s in the best shape of his basketball life as far as I can tell. The conditioning came courtesy of a heart to heart with USA Basketball coaches Billy Donovan and Shaka Smart. “They sat down and told me about my diet,” Okafor said. While he hasn’t lost weight (he stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 270) you can see the results in his body and with his bounce.
On Sunday night at Adidas Nations, there was a post drive, a lefty finish and -- brace yourself -- the quick feet of a ballerina. Okafor can simply move better now. It’s a good look for the most mature post player in the Class of 2014. He takes the court with confidence, knows who he is and punches the clock. There isn’t a better option for success in the paint right now than Okafor, and he’s playing that way.
No wonder he’s such a highly sought-after prospect. So where do things stand in his recruitment?
He has an official visit to Baylor scheduled and said Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona are likely to receive official visits. Arizona is an outlier in the package deal with No. 1 point guard Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley) -- the Wildcats are not on Jones’ list -- so that’s a bit of news.
Okafor has been to Duke before and the Blue Devils may receive his fifth official visit, with Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State also in the mix. But don’t read too much into who receives officials just yet. Okafor has made the rounds to a lot of schools already, and his familiarity with some might mean he doesn’t need to visit them officially.
Okafor’s improvement in his game, in addition to the added attention on diet, can be traced back to his time earlier this summer with USA Basketball’s U19 team. He battled daily with Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and said Stokes was the toughest player he faced during the summer.
All of the experiences and advice are culminating here at Adidas Nations. It would be fairly shocking if he didn’t have a big performance in the title game, where he’ll be matched up against No. 10 recruit Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Euless Trinity).
Around the gym
• No. 4 rising senior Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech) needed six stitches in his upper lip courtesy of an elbow from No. 46 junior Chase Jeter (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman).
• Here’s an amazing tidbit: No. 7 junior Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) was 4 feet tall as a 4-year-old.
• No. 8 junior Tyler Dorsey (Los Angeles/St. John Bosco) said most of the Pac-12 is on him. Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Florida, Connecticut and Louisville are also in the mix. When asked who was the most visible team this summer, he didn’t hesitate: “Arizona. They’ve been there since Day One.”
• ESPN 100 forward Reid Travis (Minneapolis/De La Salle) has eight schools for four remaining official visits. He already officially visited Gonzaga. Michigan State and Stanford are locked in, while Duke is now in the mix. That’s noteworthy because he’s AAU teammates with Tyus Jones. Could the Blue Devils, like Michigan State, be looking to pitch Jones and Travis together? No one in the building played with as much energy and tenacity on Sunday as Travis. He was incredulous after his first game -- he simply couldn’t understand how the effort level of players could be so low. Travis is the player he is because his effort never wavers. He laughed at the notion that guys were tired.
• The first game on Sunday was lethargic. Turner and Zimmerman were matched up but it never materialized. In his second game, Zimmerman went against Okafor, who was just too much for the youngster at this point. However, those are the two most polished post guys out here.
• Ohio State-bound ESPN 100 shooting guard D'Angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde Academy) has a game built for these settings. “The Flamethrower” can heat up in a hurry and is a natural scorer. As Thad Matta will see -- and probably already has seen -- he’s not a locked-in defender yet. But offensively? Whoa, the guy can get buckets. Off the dribble or with his sweet lefty stroke, he’s got game.