Jahlil Okafor sat courtside at the United Center in Chicago on April 3 watching intently as players in the McDonald’s All American game raced up and down the court launching jump shots and throwing down creative dunks.
Okafor, a center at Whitney Young (Chicago) who is the consensus top junior in the country, was primarily there to support his friend Jabari Parker, a forward at Simeon (Chicago) who scored 10 points to help the West knock off the East, 110-99.
Parker made the same trip that Okafor did the year prior; taking in the game he said he’d “always dreamed of playing in.”
Naturally, Okafor has similar dreams.
“This is where I want to be next year,” Okafor said. “I’m not assuming that I’ll automatically be picked. I just want to continue to work hard so I can have the best chance to be picked. That and the Jordan game are the two games every kid wants to be a part of.”
Okafor’s modesty is duly noted, but, barring injury, he’s a virtual lock to suit up in both games.
Here’s a look at just a few of the names you can bank on seeing in next year’s two most prestigious postseason all-star games.
Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago), C
Why he’ll make it: Okafor is the most dominant player in the junior class, and could make a strong case as the most dominant player in the country, period. He’s automatic with his back to the basket, his face-up game is unstoppable and his 15-foot jump shot keeps the defense off balance.
Tyus Jones, Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), PG
Why he’ll make it: Jones controls tempo exceptionally well and has a knack for always making the right play. He’s automatic from the perimeter and has excellent quickness and ball handling ability, which allows him to get anywhere on the court. Jones makes everyone around him better.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Prime Prep (Dallas), PG
Why he’ll make it: Mudiay is the most physically imposing perimeter player in the country and is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane. He’s a defensive hound with exceptional speed, quickness and ball handling ability, making him a major matchup problem.
Karl Towns Jr., St. Josephs (Metuchen, N.J.), F
Committed to: Kentucky
Why he’ll make it: Good luck finding a more versatile player at Towns’ size (6-foot-11). He’s streaky from the perimeter and has a wide array of low post moves to keep the defense off balance at all times. Towns is also an excellent passer and he plays with a motor that won’t quit.
Trey Lyles, Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis), PF
Why he’ll make it: Lyles is the total package; when he faces-up on the low block there’s very little the defense can do to stop him. He’s also got an accurate mid-range jump shot, which allows him to dominate consistently.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.