UK, UofL chase Jahlil Okafor, top center prospect of '14 class

broberts@herald-leader.comJanuary 8, 2013 

Jahlil Okafor

WHEELING, W.Va. — A who's who of college basketball powerhouses are already chasing Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 post player in the class of 2014.

On Saturday at the Cancer Research Classic, Okafor named off a list that included Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State and several other major programs.

Okafor won't even be playing college ball until the 2014-15 season. Some of the coaches on that list would like to see him at their school a little earlier.

"I won't say who, but some of them have mentioned that it might be good for me to reclassify," Okafor told the Herald-Leader. "They say there's really no point for me to go another year (of high school). But I'm just taking my time and enjoying it."

Okafor later said he would "definitely not" reclassify to 2013. Talent-wise, he's already among the best in the country.

Rivals.com and MaxPreps rank the 6-foot-11, 270-pound center as the No. 1 overall prospect in 2014.

ESPN analyst Dave Telep, who has Okafor rated No. 2 overall, compared the Chicago big man to former Ohio State star Jared Sullinger.

"If you look at him from a college perspective, you know exactly what you're going to get," Telep told the Herald-Leader. "He's going to flirt with a double-double every time he steps on the floor. He's going to guard his man. You have to account for him on both ends."

Okafor wowed the crowd at Saturday's event, scoring 32 points in a variety of ways in Whitney Young's 78-49 victory over nationally ranked Neumann-Goretti (Pa.).

Kentucky and Louisville are certainly paying attention.

UK assistant Orlando Antigua watched Saturday's game, and Okafor was one of the first 2014 prospects to receive a scholarship offer from the Cats.

He doesn't plan to take any more college visits until after the high school season but said that Lexington would "definitely" be on his list of destinations when that time comes.

"Kentucky speaks for itself with all of the NBA players that they've produced," Okafor said. "That's my dream. That's a school that could help me out with that. ... It's definitely an attraction for me."

Louisville is another possible landing spot.

Rick Pitino traveled to Chicago earlier this season to attend one of Okafor's practices. They spoke about how he could fit in at Louisville, where Okafor's friend and former AAU teammate — sophomore Wayne Blackshear — starts for the Cards.

Okafor said Pitino talked to his father — an assistant at Whitney Young — for 20 or 30 minutes. That conversation yielded some interesting info from Pitino, who has never had a one-and-done player.

"He told my father he feels I'll be a different big man," Okafor said. "One-and-done is something he mentioned that I can do at any school. But he would like for me to do that at Louisville.

"If that was something I was interested in, he said that's something I could do there."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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