Jahlil Okafor

Assigned Reading: Learn more about Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s top recruit

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You’ve probably already heard the name Jahlil Okafor.

The 6-foot-10 Whitney Young Magnet High (Ill.) center is the nation’s consensus top player, and is Duke bound, staying true to his word that he would attend the same college as Apple Valley High (Minn.) point guard Tyus Jones.

Okafor will only continue to grab national attention next season when he, Jones and Saint John’s High (Texas) small forward Justise Winslow — another top 10 recruit according to Rivals — hit Durham, joining the Blue Devils. Talk of Okafor will spill over to that following summer, leading up to the 2015 NBA Draft, where he’s projected to be the top pick.

On Tuesday, Chicago Magazine posted a lengthy profile on Okafor. Terrance Noland documents the relationship he has with his father, the college recruitment which began in eighth grade. And an emotional portion, where Okafor discusses the death of his mother when he was only nine.

As Noland notes there is definitely two sides of Okafor.

There are two Jahlil Okafors. There is the one you see on the court: all power dunks (he once broke a rim during a game), spin moves, stare downs, and various other displays of domination. “He’s a fierce competitor, with really no regard for the people in the other jersey,” says his Whitney Young coach, Tyrone Slaughter. “It’s like a war to him.”

Then there is the other Jahlil, the one most fans don’t see. This is the one who intentionally keeps his booming bass voice at low volume off the court so that he won’t intimidate people. The one who would rather hole up in his room with Netflix or PlayStation than be out on the street, where he’s recognized more and more. The one who is shy around strangers but unleashes his gravelly cackle around his friends. The one who feels hurt when he’s attacked on Twitter (“I wonder if they would say negative stuff if they realized how nice I am,” he says). The one who fetched water for his AAU teammates while he was sidelined last summer with a twisted ankle. The one who tells his father he loves him every time they get off the phone.

This is a terrific read on the latest star player from Chicago, who just turned 18 two days ago. Click here to read the entire piece.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?