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Basketball Wed Nov 14 2012

Spotlight on Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor

jahlilyoung.jpgA funny thing happened when Huntington Prep's Andrew Wiggins reclassified from the class of 2014 to 2013. Though this move knocked Simeon's Jabari Parker down from number one on most lists of top seniors, it boosted another local player in the class of 2014: Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor.

Now the number one, two, and three in the Rivals, ESPN, and Scout rankings respectively, Okafor has a chance to make his mark on a city that hasn't seen too many quality big men in recent years. Using the RSCI aggregation system, only five post players from Chicago have landed in the top 100 nationally, going back to 2003: Mac Koshwal (Boys to Men Academy; 2007), Brandon McGee (Crane; 2007), Anthony Davis (Perspectives; 2011), Mike Shaw (De La Salle; 2011), Nnanna Egwu (St. Ignatius; 2011). Davis obviously stands out, but part of what makes him so special is that he is so nontraditional, so skilled on the perimeter--you know, that whole late growth spurt thing may have played a role in that. And the others? Koshwal's working to make it in the D-League, McGee bounced around and finished an unremarkable career at Georgia State, while Shaw and Egwu still have three years left at Illinois.

After averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds as a sophomore at Whitney Young, Okafor had a huge summer, securing the MVP at the FIBA U17 World Championships while leading Team USA to a gold medal. He's also shown an improved back-to-the-basket game, along with incredible composure and maturity. Most big men his age, for whatever reason, just don't like mixing it up down low, but Okafor does. Of course, his national profile has risen, and he's now coveted by everyone from Duke to Arizona. And now that Parker may miss the Chicago Elite Classic, Okafor may be the season opener's big draw.

Photo by Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

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