Beach Ball Classic Basketball

Jahlil Okafor’s AAU coach believes he and Tyus Jones headed to Duke


There may not be a more important story line for the 2014-2015 basketball season than where Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor decide to go to college.

The best point guard in the Class of 2014 and one of the most technically sound big men to come through the high school ranks in a long time — who also happens to be the top recruit in 2014 — haven’t been quiet about the idea of playing their college basketball together.

The question that everyone wants to know: Where do they end up?

Jones is down to seven schools and Okafor is down to eight school, and six of them are recruiting both — Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, Baylor and Duke.

The latter is the team that many believe will end up getting both players, and that speculation was fueled by some quotes that were given by Mike Irvin, a coach for Okafor’s AAU team, Mac Irvin Fire.

“[Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] was at every game, he was the only head coach that was really following Jahlil all over the place,” Irvin told Michael O’Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times. “If [Cliff Alexander] was sitting out it would only be Coach K watching that game. In my mind Duke has a really good chance to land [Okafor]. Coach K has done a good job of recruiting him.”

“I think there is a great chance Tyus is going to Duke,” Irvin said. “So if [Okafor and Tyus] are going to school together…”

Okafor’s father said last week that he believes his son still has no idea where he’s going, and I’ve yet to see an interview where either Okafor or Jones really opened up about where they want to go to college. They may be 17 years old, but they’re media savvy; how many times have you heard them open up about how close their friendship is?

Whatever the case, if Jones and Okafor do end up going to school together, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where that team isn’t the favorite to win the national title.

Unless, of course, Andrew Wiggins pulls a Marcus Smart.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.