Earlier this week, Jahlil Okafor announced his top eight schools in his college recruitment. This matters because Okafor happens to be the top player in the country for the class of 2014, according to Rivals. The Chicago junior attends Whitney Young High School, the alma mater of Quntin Richardson and more recently Sam Thompson, is massive, standing at 6-foot-10 and weighing 280 pounds. Okafor’s list of eight schools includes nearby Illinois, along with fellow Big Ten schools, Michigan State and Ohio State. For Illinois fans, it would seem to be very exciting to be on the shortlist for such a talented player. But that might not be true.
How seriously Okafor is considering Illinois is questionable. While Illini fans may feel they now have at least a one in eighth chance at the top player in the 2014 class, I don’t think Okafor is seriously considering Illinois.
First off, there is so much pressure for Okafor to include local U of I. The Illini have a big presence in Chicago and it can’t hurt hurt Okafor’s popularity in his hometown to include them in his final-eight list. There is no harm in having them on the list, even if he is not seriously considering Illinois, as it at least allows the outward appearance that Okafor is keen on Illinois and giving them a chance. Really, this is just good public relations to include Illinois in what is really a meaningless list. There is nothing binding about it, just Okafor acknowledging the program and showing some respect to it.
Secondly, Okafor has made it clear that he would love to play with his good friend Tyus Jones in college. Jones is no slouch himself, currently ranked as the no. 3 player in the country for the class of 2014. Okafor was even quoted saying there was a “99.9%” chance the two will play together in college. While it is sweet to see the two good friends wanting to play together, it is troublesome for Illinois fans, as Jones didn’t include Illinois on his own list of eight schools. Jones and Okafor actually have the same list, except Jones has his own local school, Minnesota on his list instead of Illinois and Okafor has Illinois, but no Minnesota. The message to take away here is that Okafor and Jones both wanted to give a gesture of good faith to their local Big Ten schools, but are not seriously considering either.
Sure Illinois is on Okafor’s top-eight list, but at this point they are huge longshots to get the services of the Chicago phenom.