The last weekend in August is a big one for Baylor athletics. The Baylor football season kicks off with high expectations against Wofford on August 31st at 6:30pm CST. But it also marks the visits of two elite basketball prospects in the class of 2014.
6-10 270 lbs Center Jahlil Okafor from Chicago (Whitney Young HS; Mac Irvin Fire AAU) and 6-1 170 lbs Point Guard Tyus Jones (Apple Valley HS; Howard Pulley AAU) have plotted to play together in college and have been consistent with that message. They only have three official visits scheduled together: Baylor (August 30); Duke (Oct 25) and Kansas (Oct 18). They also plan to visit Kentucky separately- Jones plans to visit the Wildcats on September 27th. Okafor is planning a September 9th visit.
The Crystal Ball predictions on 247 Sports are overwhelmingly in favor of Duke- 100% of the predictions on Okafor and Jones (outside of my own predictions) have selected Duke as the school of choice. Jahlil Okafor's AAU coach has recently told a Chicago media outlet that he would be surprised if they chose a school other than Duke. But Jahlil's father has refuted that saying that the kids want to take visits and decide where they believe the best fit is.
The recruiting analysts seem to be dismissing Baylor, but should they? Baylor may be the best fit for this duo and here are some reasons why Baylor could shock the basketball recruiting world and land these two top 5 prospects in the 2014 class.
Blood is thick
Trust is huge when it comes to recruiting. Elite prospects like Okafor and Jones don't expect to be in college long so they often crave freedom and minutes more than tradition and systems. Jared Nuness played for Homer Drew (and Scott as an assistant) at Valpo before joining the Baylor coaching staff in 2010. Nuness is Tyus Jones' cousin. Jones has been on the Baylor campus before his recruitment heated up and was impressed.
Minutes and Team
Jones and Okafor are going to play significant minutes wherever they choose to go to school. But the roles and path at Baylor seem to be more defined than Duke, Kentucky and Kansas at this point. Baylor loses Cory Jefferson, Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin to graduation. They are also likely to lose Isaiah Austin to the NBA draft but that is not a certainty.
You could see Okafor gobbling up Cory Jefferson's minutes and Jones getting all of Heslip and Franklin's minutes in the backcourt. And if Austin left early for the NBA draft, more minutes would open up. The remaining nucleus of the 2014-15 Baylor basketball team would include guys that would be good complements to Okafor and Jones. 6-8 270 lb Ricardo Gathers (JR in 2014); 6-6 240 lb Ish Wainright (SO); 6-0 180 lb Kenny Chery (SR); 6-6 220 lb Royce White (JR-SR depending on waiver); 6-7 210 lb Taurean Prince (JR) and 6-3 195 lb Al Freeman (SO) would give players like Okafor and Jones enough talent to make a strong run at a national title. The possibility of having Austin for his junior year would make this team even more attractive.
Wouldn't the same be true at Kansas and Duke? Probably more so at Kansas. Kansas has a very young team. It is hard to find anyone that doesn't expect Andrew Wiggins at Kansas to go pro after his freshman year. 6-9 260 lb Tarik Black- transfer from Memphis (SR) will also use up his eligibility. After that, it is a bit of a crapshoot. 7-0 250 lb Freshman Center Joel Embiid could declare for the NBA Draft. 6-8 225 lb Sophomore Perry Ellis and 6-5 230 lb Freshman Wayne Selden are two others who might go pro early. It is not an ideal situation for a pair that is looking to make a Fall decision because so much will be up in the air for how that squad will look in 2014-15 and what minutes are available.
Duke is similar to Kansas in that regard. Quinn Cook- their starting PG (12 ppg; 5 asst) will be a senior when Tyus will be a freshman. The backcourt is crowded with guys like Rasheed Sulaimon; Matt Jones; Rodney Hood expected to be on the roster in 2014 (Sulaimon has the best shot at going pro early). Okafor's minutes at Duke seem more certain. Kentucky is always up in the air and it is why many players that choose Kentucky wait until the Spring signing period to make the decision especially at the point guard position.
Another big factor for Duke is Coach K's preference to have seniors running the show at point guard- especially after the Austin Rivers experience where Rivers (the #1 recruit in the nation in 2011) averaged more turnovers (2.3) than assists (2.1) during his only year in Durham, NC. Quinn Cook is one of the best point guards in the country but not likely to be an early draft entry after his junior year. It is hard to imagine that he will be relinquishing point guard duties his senior year.
Not to be underestimated with the Okafor family is their commitment to Christianity and how that may influence their comfort level on the Baylor visit. Also, it is your players that sell the program. Guys like Ish Wainright and Ricardo Gathers have a lot of charisma. The morale and attitude around the program has always been good but reports are that this year has been exceptional in terms of practicing hard and unselfishness. If Jones and Okafor want to get the decision over with, Baylor could be their pick.
1. Clearly defined roles and playing time
2. Strong supporting cast
3. Coach who gives his players freedom- especially point guards
4. Much higher roster uncertainty with Duke, Kansas and Kentucky due to a lack of graduating seniors and questions on what players will be good enough to declare for the pros in a very deep 2014 draft