NCB On The Trail: Jahlil Okafor

The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


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The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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The two best prospects were Jahlil Okafor for the USA Team and Karl Towns Jr. for the World Team.

Okafor displayed his dominating low-post game and was virtually unguardable. He produced double- figure points (14) and rebounds (10) in only 27 minutes of play. If he gets into optimal physical condition, he can decide his future.

Towns was the only player on the World Team who could score with either hand. Okafor made it difficult for him to score because of his franchise size. He was in foul trouble most of the game so he had to sit and lost some of his aggressiveness.

Towns' future at Kentucky and beyond is extremely bright.

When you look ahead to the college game next season, Okafor should be battle-tested and ready to produce at a high level at Duke.

Towns has all the upside you could ever want in a big man. When you combine his size, shooting skills and impressive basketball instincts -- along with his defensive upside -- he could be really good at Kentucky.

With plenty of hard work and sacrifice in the offseason, they could be two of the better players in college basketball next season.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday, the USA team defeated the World team 84-73 for the first USA win since 2011. The USA squad featured a balanced attack as four players scored in double figures: Justise Winslow (Duke signee) led the USA team with 16 points, Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Kelly Oubre (Kansas) each scored 14 points and Tyus Jones (Duke) added 13.

Let's take a look at what we learned from this year's Hoop Summit.


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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


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CHICAGO -- Wednesday marked the 37th Annual McDonald's All-American game featuring the top high school boys basketball players in the country. The game took place at the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

Best low-post player: Jahlil Okafor


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McDonald's Game players to watch 

April, 2, 2014
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The basketball world will be watching the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday night (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) from the United Center in Chicago.

The 24 players selected to participate have already received the greatest honor in high school basketball, but with practices having started, they’re quickly realizing that this week is as much about things to come as it is a celebration of their careers to date.

The game isn’t just a chance for these players to excite their future fan bases, but also to perform, in many cases for the first time in their career, in front of NBA scouts and front office personnel expected from all 30 teams. It all but ensures a competitive few days of action as the players are always anxious to make a good impression.

That type of environment is also ideal for our ESPN RecruitingNation staff as we take one of our final looks at the top players in the country before ultimately putting the Class of 2014 player rankings to bed. With that in mind, we asked our team of evaluators which player they were most interested in observing this week:


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CHICAGO -- The prestigious McDonald's All American Game annually brings together the best talent in high school basketball, all on one stage. Here are a few game matchups to watch for this year's star-studded event, which can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday night at 9:30 ET.


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Recruit and return: Duke 

March, 21, 2014
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To return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Duke and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Tyus Jones
G: Quinn Cook
G: Rasheed Sulaimon
F: Amile Jefferson
C: Jahlil Okafor


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video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

It's hard to separate these guys. Both are difference-makers in high school who will make a big impact in college.

Today, I would take Duke commit Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), because he can score inside not only with size, but with moves and a soft touch. He also has learned how to pass out of the post, which is another skill that takes most big men years to learn.

It's rare to find his game with today's post players. Okafor's body has changed, as he runs the floor better and is much more mobile, which helps when defending.

Kansas-bound Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie) is a physical specimen who is a great rebounder and finisher. He has won us over with his relentless approach.

I made a hard decision, but believe me, you win with either one of these prospects.

Playing the comparison game 

February, 20, 2014
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It's a constant topic of conversation: Which player does this prospect remind us of?

Well, given that the current college basketball season has been dominated by freshmen, we took a look at Jeff Goodman’s latest ranking of college freshmen and played the comparison game.

Duke’s Jabari Parker reminds us of Duke signee Jahlil Okafor.
Although they obviously don’t play the same position or have the same style, the similarities are there, and not just the superficial ones such as their hometown of Chicago or college destination. Although Parker does his work primarily from the perimeter and Okafor on the block, Okafor has that same level of maturity that will allow him to adjust to offensive structure just as quickly as Parker has. Furthermore, Okafor likely will take over for Parker and become the immediate focal point of the way Duke plays in the half court. The Blue Devils have tailored what they do offensively to Parker this season, and they’re likely to do the same for Okafor next season.


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A very interesting question about a possible new trend in recruiting.

As we all know, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014, Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), and No. 4 Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley) decided together to attend Duke. They met on the basketball court when they were very young (third grade), and were invited to play for USA Basketball together in high school.

They first developed a friendship off the court, then became great teammates on the floor. Together, they experienced a high level of success.

Through their friendship and basketball talents, they both decided to attend Duke and be teammates.

It was a well-thought-out plan, not some fly-by-night deal.

They realized that they needed and wanted each other's talent on the floor and friendship off the court. I believe they will support each other when things get tough.

I am totally good with two guys going to the same school together, as long as it's well-thought-out for both parties. Remember, there is always a risk with this type of deal because it might work out for one, but not for the other. It really helps if the two players involved have a friendship based outside of basketball.

I am in favor of a good plan, but not some random package deal.

Nike Extravaganza recap 

February, 3, 2014
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The 19th annual Nike Extravaganza was quite possibly the best collection of talent in its tenure. When you have Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young) going head-to-head with Arizona-bound Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), that is about as good as it gets. Add in USC-bound Jordan McLaughlin (Etiwanda, Calif./Etiwanda) putting the St. John Bosco defense on skates and recent ESPN 100 entree Elijah Stewart (Los Angeles/Westchester) scorching the nets, it further solidifies the claim that the event was loaded.

A load in the paint

Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
2014, C, 6-foot-10, 270 pounds
Status: Signed with Duke
Okafor didn't get many touches because of Mater Dei's collapsing zone. Once teammate and Saint Louis signee Miles Stewart started draining 3s, it opened up some breathing room for him to operate. He gathered most of his stats on offensive rebounds and utilizing those magnetic hands he possesses. At this level, he can dominate with his length, strength, and post skills. However, Okafor has limited lift and he struggled at times corralling rebounds despite having a significant size advantage.


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Video: Okafor talks McDonald's invite

January, 30, 2014
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Matt Schick interviews No. 1 overall senior and Duke commit Jahlil Okafor minutes after it was announced that Okafor would participate in the 2014 McDonald's All American Game in his hometown of Chicago.

2014 ESPN 100: 10 things to know 

January, 30, 2014
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Here are 10 things to know about the updated 2014 ESPN 100 player rankings.


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