UK recruiting: No. 1 prospect Okafor plans quick trigger on college decision

broberts@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2013 

Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Basketball prospect for Class of 2014 (Photo by USA Basketball)

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The No. 1 player in high school basketball is still trying to figure out where and when to take his five official visits, but he's also aiming for a quick end to his recruitment.

Chicago big man Jahlil Okafor said Thursday that the trip to Baylor at the end of August — with top point guard Tyus Jones — is the only official visit on his schedule.

Okafor narrowed his list to eight schools earlier this spring. UK joins Baylor, Arizona, Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas, Illinois and Duke as the programs under consideration.

The 6-foot-11 center said he's hoping to take all five official visits and see all eight schools on his list before making his final decision, which he would like to make sooner rather than later.

"I don't want to hold it out and wait until the end," Okafor said. "I'm looking to sign sometime in the fall. That's the plan, but we'll see."

Kentucky, Baylor and Kansas are the only three campuses he's never visited.

Okafor said UK's coaching staff has been in regular contact throughout the spring and summer periods.

"I've been hearing from them a lot recently," he said. "Coach Orlando (Antigua) and Coach (John) Calipari are just checking on me."

Another constant on Okafor's phone has been top-10 prospect Karl Towns, who is UK's only commitment so far from the class of 2014.

"I'm really good friends with him," Okafor said. "He texts me all the time. He's really talkative, to say the least. He talks to me a lot about Kentucky and how much he loves it. How he thinks if we went there, we'd dominate."

When the previous quote hit Twitter on Thursday, Towns immediately responded by tweeting that Okafor "is like my brother."

Towns — a 7-footer from New Jersey — is also listed as a center. He's been billed as a Dirk Nowitzki-type player, but he looked more like a traditional big man during June's National Basketball Player's Association Top 100 Camp in Virginia.

Okafor and Towns joining forces would mean two big bodies in the paint, but Okafor doesn't see that as a problem.

"I think Calipari could definitely work something out," he said with a smile.

Alexander explains visits

Chicago big man Cliff Alexander caused quite a stir last week when he said that neither Kentucky nor Michigan State would get one of his five official visits.

Alexander, who is ranked by ESPN as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2014, will take officials to Arizona, Kansas, Memphis and Louisville. He said he didn't need to take one to UK or Michigan State because he has already visited those campuses.

Many observers pointed out that Alexander has also already visited Kansas, yet the Jayhawks will receive one of his officials. Alexander clarified that Thursday, saying that his parents accompanied him on his trips to UK and Michigan State but did not go on his unofficial visit to Kansas in June.

"I want to get down there and show my parents," Alexander said.

He made it clear that UK and Michigan State are still high on his list. When asked if either school had dropped a notch in recent weeks, Alexander said, "Not at all" four times before adding: "I still love them. They're still recruiting me hard."

The other schools on his list include Indiana, Illinois, DePaul and Baylor.

Alexander visited UK for Big Blue Madness in October 2012.

He will visit Arizona in September, Kansas on Oct. 4 and Memphis on Oct. 18. He has not yet scheduled a date for the trip to Louisville and said he hasn't thought much about the fifth official visit.

A college decision didn't sound imminent.

"I'm not committing any time soon," Alexander said. "I don't know when I will commit."

Trouble at Prime Prep

LSU freshman Jordan Mickey and Texas A&M freshman Karviar Shepherd have been ruled ineligible for the 2013-14 season by the NCAA, according to an ESPN report Thursday.

Both players are considered Top 100 prospects in the class of 2013 and both attended Prime Prep Academy in Texas last season. Top UK target Emmanuel Mudiay also attends Prime Prep and the NCAA ruling could raise questions about his eligibility for the 2014-15 season.

The ESPN report said the "academic issues" in the cases of Mickey and Shepherd were related to the school, not the individual players. "The kids were misled by the school," a source told ESPN.

Mudiay is considered a top-five overall prospect in the class of 2014 and said earlier in July that he plans to visit UK for Big Blue Madness in October. He and Tyus Jones are the only two point guards that Kentucky has offered.

Josh Perkins, a Colorado native who will play his senior season at Huntington Prep, is also on the Cats' radar. John Calipari watched Perkins play in an event in Philadelphia on Wednesday, and assistant coach Orlando Antigua saw him play Thursday.

Cal watch

John Calipari spent the first day of the July recruiting period in Philadelphia watching 2014 targets Emmanuel Mudiay, Rashad Vaughn and Josh Perkins, among others.

On Thursday morning, Calipari was in South Carolina for Peach Jam. Among the players the UK coach saw during the first session were Stanley Johnson, Tyus Jones, Malik Newman, Charles Matthews and Jayson Tatum — a class of 2016 recruit who already has a UK offer.

Newman, a 2015 guard from Mississippi, scored 40 points in a losing effort while Calipari, SMU Coach Larry Brown and North Carolina Coach Roy Williams watched from midcourt.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com. Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/06/26/2693998/kentuckys-noel-might-be-no-1-pick.html#storylink=cpy

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