Bauman: Is Jahlil Okafor the best prep big man in America?

As a sophomore in high school, Jahlil Okafor carried a little extra body weight on him. With soft paws and the ability to carve out room on the block, combined with his passing ability and excellent footwork, he’s been a load to handle down low since he stepped foot into Whitney Young High School in Chicago.

Since playing on the AAU circuit, Jahlil has lost some weight while adding some strength and girth, which has helped to display what he’s capable of turning into at the next level — and beyond — as his body and game mature simultaneously.

Okafor can score at will most of the time at the prep level, and his passing and vision make double- and triple-teaming him extra dangerous for opponents, especially considering the highly talented team that surrounds him.

“Jahlil, I feel like, is the best player in the nation,” said Paul White, a beneficiary of Okafor’s post presence. “Nobody can guard him one-on-one. So when that double-team or triple-team does come it definitely opens it up.”

His coach, Tyrone Slaughter, shared that sentiment.

“I know that [Okafor is the best player], he’s talking about what he thinks, I’ll talk about what I know,” said Slaughter, referring to White.

“If you have to stick him one-on-one there is no one person who can do it. Other good players in this country you can defend them one-on-one, the people that are in the conversation, they have been defended one-on-one. There is no one individual that can defend him one-on-one.

“Fundamentally, I can say without equivocation that he is the best player in the nation.”

“We would like to see him block more shots,” said Slaughter of where he can improve. “We’d like to see him rebound out of the area more, but to his defense the reason why that doesn’t happen to the extent we’d like to see it is because he plays extended minutes… so we take some of the good with the bad.”

That being said, Slaughter couldn’t be happier to have a true post player who takes pride in what he does around the hoop.

“He’s an outstanding post player in a day when most people in the post like to face the basket and do other things,” said Slaughter. “He takes great pride and pleasure in playing with his back to the basket. When we need a basket we know we can throw the ball to him and expect to get something.”

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Provided he stays in shape and continues to work on his game, Okafor’s future is clearly a bright one. He’s already been part of USA Basketball’s U16 and U17 teams, the latter of which he won a World Championship with and was named MVP of during the summer 0f 2012, averaging 13.6  points (47-79 FG, 59.5%) and 8.3 rebounds. With a ‘Who’s who’ of powerhouse programs recruiting him for college, Okafor will have his pick of the litter, in due time.

Read on for a list of strengths and areas to improve for the most dominant prep big man in America right now:

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