Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones seem determined to make history
Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones -- the consensus top-two prospects in the Class of 2014 -- are set to become college basketball's first package deal consisting of top-five recruits who are unrelated and from different states.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Tyus Jones remembers the first time that he played against Jahlil Okafor. They were at the AAU Nationals in Orlando. They were in third grade.
"He was a tree," Jones said of Okafor. "Biggest kid in the tournament by far."
So, not much has changed over the past nine years. Okafor is still almost always the biggest kid in the tournament. He's a 6-foot-10, 260-pound post player who is awesome at basketball. Jones is awesome, too, by the way. And the two of them continue to insist they're going to do something rare, possibly something that's never been done before.
They swear they're going to pick the same college.
Probably on the same day.
And, if they do, one school will get the consensus top-two prospects in the Class of 2014 -- Okafor is ranked No. 1 while Jones is ranked No. 2 -- as a package deal consisting of unrelated recruits from different states, which, far as I can tell, has never happened. Sure, elite recruits have attended the same school before. Lately, that school is usually Kentucky. But have two consensus top-five recruits who are unrelated and from different states ever planned in advance to attend the same school?
Nobody I know can think of an example.
I know because I asked.
"I guess when you look at it like that, it is kind of rare," Jones told me on Thursday afternoon here at the Nike Peach Jam. "But that's what we're going to do. We're trying to accomplish something at the next level. So that's what we're going to do."
Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Ohio State are the six schools that both Okafor and Jones are considering, which is among the reasons why Baylor's Scott Drew, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Kansas' Bill Self, Kentucky's John Calipari, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Ohio State's Thad Matta were all courtside Thursday here at the Riverview Park Activities Center. The two friends -- Okafor a center from Chicago, Jones a point guard from suburban Minneapolis -- have already scheduled an official visit to Baylor for August, and Jones said they'll likely also coordinate their other four official visits to ensure they see the same places at the same time before making a final college decision, most likely sometime in the fall and before November's national signing period.
Could they change their minds?
Of course, they could.
And, after talking to multiple coaches involved in the recruitment, I can tell you that there are some who remain skeptical that Okafor and Jones will follow through with their plan. Nobody is dismissing the idea, exactly. But one coach told me simply, "I'll believe it when I see it." Either way, Okafor and Jones seem sincere and determined to make history and commit together somewhere, at which point Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State or Ohio State would be ensured of enrolling the nation's top-rated recruiting class. So this will be an interesting development to monitor regardless of how it goes, one that could quite literally determine college basketball's 2015 national champion.
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