When Richmond’s Joel Okafor dons a basketball uniform this weekend, he’ll be representing the state of Indiana.
Red Devil coach Joe Luce sees it as a tremendous honor for his point guard — and for the RHS program.
Okafor will play in two Junior All-Star games this month, starting with Saturday’s Indiana-Kentucky Junior All-Star meeting at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.
“I don’t think, individually, there is anything more important than representing the state of Indiana in All-Star games,” Luce said.
Okafor will also help the Senior All-Stars get ready for their two-game series with their Bluegrass State counterparts. A Junior south team member, Okafor will play June 11 at Columbus North in the Indiana Junior-Senior All-Star Game.
“I think it will be fun and I’m looking forward to it,” said Okafor, who helped RHS end North Central Conference and sectional droughts this past winter.
Okafor is one of six south players, along with Gary Bond of Indianapolis Scecina, Harris Brown of Indianapolis Howe, Adam Eberhard of Evansville Memorial, Brennan Gillis of Ben Davis and Bronson Kessinger of Corydon Central.
They’ll team with the core Junior All-Star group of Ryan Cline (Carmel), Davon Dillard (Bowman Academy), Hyron Edwards (East Chicago Central), Jordan Geist (Penn), Josh Speidel (Columbus North) and K.J. Walton (Brownsburg).
Okafor, an all-state selection by both the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association and the Associated Press, has been getting valuable court time this spring with his AAU team.
“I play against really good guys, and that has helped me to go against good competition,” Okafor said. “Every time I step on the court I get to play against really good guys. Every day, I have to bring it. That just really helps my confidence and helps every part of my game.”
Both of Okafor’s All-Star games will be doubleheaders with the girls All-Stars. The girls start at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 6 Wednesday. Tickets are $6 both nights and available at the door.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Luce said. “I think it says a lot about not just Joel, but our whole program and what our team was able to do this year with the success that they had, getting some championships under their belt.
“It’s something hopefully that will bring a positive light to Richmond basketball … his individual honor will be something that our younger kids will see as quite a big deal and they’ll strive to improve so they can be the next one. That’s what you’re always hoping, that the success of the team and the individuals catches on so others begin striving for that same success. He’s just raising the bar again, and hopefully setting another level for our guys who are younger to reach for.”
Richmond finished 22-3 last season and 6-0 in the NCC. The Red Devils won their first conference championship since 2002, and first outright since 1988. They also captured a Class 4A sectional championship, the program’s first since 1996.
Okafor was an all-NCC selection who averaged 8.5 points per game for the Red Devils in 2013-14, and also dished a team-high 6 assists a contest.
Okafor, a tenacious defender, led the Red Devils with 2.1 steals per game.
“When you look at his stats and evaluate him overall, the thing that is most impressive with him is his overall ability to win and lead his team and be consistent every day,” Luce said. “I think that’s what most coaches notice about him. I don’t think it will be any different being a member of this team. He’ll be a guy looked to kind of be the glue for the team, and be a leader from the point guard position and be consistent defensively. If you need him to score he will, and if not he’ll do a great job to lead his team.”
There also are Indiana-Kentucky Junior All-Star games Friday at Greenfield-Central, and Indiana Junior-Senior All-Star games Monday at Logansport featuring the Junior north team, along with the core group.
The Senior Indiana-Kentucky All-Star games are June 13 at Transylvania University in Lexington and June 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“I think it will be fun playing with those guys,” Okafor said.