August 28, 2013

No. 1 coming to Baylor

Let it sink in that the No. 1 basketball recruit in the country is taking an official visit to Baylor this weekend.

Sure, Baylor has landed some top flight recruits including No. 2 Isaiah Austin in 2012. But considering that Chicago Whitney Young Jahlil Okafor andRivals top-rated rated player has Baylor among his five official visits speaks to what the Baylor coaching staff did making the impression with the family so he would visit Texas.

"I visit with coach [Scott Drew] often,'' Okafor's father Chucky said. "There's not a time when I can talk with him to have a question answered or anything else. Jahlil has formed just a great relationship with the staff. That's why we're coming Friday.
"We want to get a grip of the environment of the campus and visit Texas. It's going to be hard to do everything in two days.''

With Damyine Durham already committed, the Bears are looking to add four to this class. There's the probability of looking for five should Austin declare for the NBA draft next spring. Okafor likely will be a one-and-done. But wherever he goes, it could be special. At the USA U19 World Championships, he came off the bench and averaged nearly 11 points and five rebounds per game as the United States went 9-0 and won the Gold Medal.

While Baylor football begins the 2013 season Saturday, this is a historic recruiting weekend for the basketball program. No. 2 player Tyus Jones is visiting as well. Okafor and Jones have talked about becoming a package deal wherever they go.

Baylor earns the first chance to make an impression. Okafor visits Kentucky (Sept. 9) followed by Arizona (Oct. 11), Kansas (Oct. 18) and Duke (Oct. 25). This isn't the first time the Bears have battled these college basketball blue bloods for top recruits. But it isn't often when they are on the official visit list with them either.

"Well, coach Drew did a great job of marketing the program and everything Baylor has to offer,'' Chucky said. "He made it very intriguing. Baylor is a good program and then what Robert Griffin III and Britney Griner did put the school on the map at the same time. You know they want to win national championships.''

Baylor has had its fair share of quality big men come through the program including Perry Jones III. Austin helped lead the Bears to the 2013 NIT championship.

Freedom to work the floor and not being planted on the block is a system that the 6-10 Okafor is comfortable playing. Okafor won't have to add much more to his frame since he's already listed at 270. But he's being heavily pursued because he can score in a variety of ways and run the floor.

"They do allow their big men to move and make plays,'' Chucky said. "He can do what other big men have to do around the basket. This is player friendly.''

Everything points to Okafor making a commitment decision once he's finished with the Duke visit. If so, then he is expected to sign in the early signing period that begins Nov. 13.

That will complete an exhausting road for Okafor who has been in the spotlight for as many as six years. The attention has been nonstop. The pressure and expectations have been overwhelming.

"He has a great support system from his core friends,'' Chucky said. "He's still the same person as he was years ago. He's worked as hard now as he did on Day 1 and hasn't become complacent.''

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