Duke class in spotlight for McDonald's All-American game
Finally, there may be relief in sight for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Less than two weeks after a shocking upset to Mercer in the NCAA tournament, a day after losing assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski to Marquette and as Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood contemplate leaving early for the NBA, the Hall of Fame coach will likely be watching all four of his 2014 signees show off their skills at the 37th Annual McDonald's All-American Game.
The game annually showcases the 24 best high school senior basketball boys players in the country.
The Duke class, which may be one Krzyzewski's best, is led by 7-0, 270-pound center Jahlil Okafor, who won the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year award. Okafor follows the footsteps of Parker, a fellow Chicagoan who also won the award the last year before starring for the Blue Devils.
The class also features point guard Tyus Jones from Apple Valley, Minn., and shooting guard Justise Winslow from Houston. Jones and Winslow were selected to the West squad.
The less heralded recruit of the class, Grayson Allen from Jacksonville, Fla., put on the biggest show so far at the dunk contest on Monday. The 6-4 guard wowed the crowd by leaping over Okafor to claim the title.
"That was our objective, to showcase the four recruits going to Duke. Our Twitters were going crazy," said Okafor, who will team up with Allen on the East team.
Okafor and Parker are close friends, but he says he won't try to convince him to say at Duke for another season.
"I've been in contact with him, but I haven't asked him to stay or leave. It's whatever he wants to do," said Okafor.
While NBA general managers wait for Parker's decision, they were lined up at the practices leading up to the game, which caught Okafor's attention.
"I learned how important these practices were going to be a week ago. I never knew there would be NBA GMs all across the sidelines," said Okafor.
Okafor is not the only dominant big man from Chicago selected to the game. Cliff Alexander, a 6-9 forward from Curie High, will be going head-to-head against Okafor as a member of the West team if he is cleared to play after injuring his wrist in Monday's dunk competition.
"I would hate for Cliff not to be able to play in this game," said Okafor. "Just like me, it's been his dream to play in this game. I would be bummed out if he's unable to play and I'm sure he would be to. That's the worst-case scenario, him not being able to play in this game."
Alexander has powered up the player rankings because of his size and athleticism. The Kansas commit beat Okafor's high school team for the Chicago Public League Championship, but the win was negated after the league ruled Curie used ineligible players.
Tyler Ulis, a 5-9 point guard from Chicago's south suburbs, was also selected to the game as a member of the East Team.
"I am very proud we get to represent the city of Chicago. Show them that there is a little more to it than just the violence you see on TV," said Ulis.