Minnesota Boys All State Basketball

Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones commit to Duke

2 Comments
source: Getty Images
USA Basketball

The single biggest recruiting haul in the Class of 2014 finally made the decision about where they are headed to play their college ball.

Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are headed to Duke.

The story of the friendship between Jones and Okafor has been told over and over again. They met playing for Team USA’s U16 squad. They became became close off the court, which only made them play that much better together on the court. They decided they wanted to play their college ball together, eventually deciding on the school that was long considered their leader. 

Jones is a 6-foot point guard that is the definition of a “true” point guard. He’s got an uncanny ability to throw pinpoint passes regardless of their difficult, not only getting the ball to his teammates, but hitting them in the shooting pocket in a spot on the court that they can score. Jones also is terrific leading the screen and roll. He’s a throwback.

And so is Okafor, only he plays a very, very different position.

Okafor is a massive low-post scorer. He stands 6-foot-11 and checks in at about 270 pounds, but he’s nimble on his feet and can really score on the block. He’s a real, honest-to-goodness center, and that’s something you don’t see at any level these days, especially one this big and this polished at this young of an age.

Combined, these two are enough to make the Blue Devils a favorite to win the 2015 National Title.

Think about it like this: Duke just added a guy that will be one of the best big men in the country. They also happened to add a guy that may be the best distributor in the country. Now, if I had to make an assumption at this point, it would be that Duke loses two of Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon, with Hood and Parker the most likely duo to head to the league.

But that still means that Coach K will have Sulaimon, Matt Jones and Duke’s third freshmen, Grayson Allen, on the wins. And he’ll likely still have Amile Jefferson and Semi Ojeleye to play at the four alongside Okafor. That team would be good enough to compete for the ACC title right now, let alone in 12 months.

Okafor is the No. 1 recruit in the country, according to Rivals, and Jones is No. 5. Allen checks in at No. 34, which means that these commitments should slide Duke up to the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

Here is Rivals lead scout Eric Bossi’s take on Okafor: “Jahlil Okafor is one of the most skilled and poised back to the basket centers to come along in some time. He establishes and holds positions, finishes with either hand and is a great rebounder. Okafor isn’t a high flyer but fully understands how to use his skill and size advantage.”

And Jones: “Jones is a heady floor general and a tough competitor. He runs the show and is in total control of what is happening while he has the ball. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and shoots with accuracy. Jones isn’t the biggest or most explosive athlete but he has great body control and balance.”

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
Leave a comment

Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.