Securing the Package: The 6 Schools in the Running for Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor

By Mike Young on July 23, 2013 at 4:00p
9 Comments

Allow me to hack into the dreams of six college coaches, Inception style: Tyus Jones dribbles to the top of the key, while Jahlil Okafor steps up, sets a screen, and barrels down the lane to receive a pass from Jones.

This elite pair are looking to team up, dominate college hoops

Each day, the dream becomes one step closer to reality. Pundits have popularized the phrase “package deal.” Okafor and Jones embrace the term and continue to insist they’ll be committing to the same school in the fall.

That pick and roll combination would make Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Ohio State instant national title favorites in 2014-15.

It’s why the intrigue surrounding these two won’t subside – in addition to the unprecedented nature of two highly ranked, unrelated players selecting the same school.

Although Duke is widely considered to be the favorite to land both, it doesn’t mean the other four schools are completely out of the running, nor are they poor fits for the pair:

Baylor

Together, Jones and Okafor have visited one school and disclosed plans to check out another school – Baylor.

After separate, unofficial visits and in-home visits with five common schools in the spring, the pair revealed Waco, Texas would be their next stop. Also helping the Bears’ cause is Houston native and five-star forward Justise Winslow, who might visit the school with Jones and Okafor.

Over the past six years, head coach Scott Drew plucked numerous recruits out of his talent-rich state of Texas – topping the University of Texas (something, something, Mack Brown recruited him as a safety). That momentum translated into two Elite Eight appearances.

With another top 20 recruiting class incoming, Drew has the pieces in place to surround Jones, Okafor and Winslow – but they desperately need Jones to bolster their backcourt.

As OurDailyBears.com writes, the late August visit from Jones, Okafor and possibly Winslow, will be the most important weekends in Baylor basketball recruiting history.

Duke 

lolwutOkafor, inspired by Mason Plumlee 

Duke is the only school to receive an on-campus visit from Okafor and Jones. Part of the reason why they’ve been installed as the favorites is the duo’s visit to Durham, N.C. in October of 2012.

On behalf of USA Today, Okafor blogged about last year’s trip to the Blue Devils’ "Countdown to Craziness."

"I talked to Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski a lot about the plans he had for me if I were to come to Duke and I loved everything he was saying," Okafor wrote. "Tyus was watching Coach K’s interaction with Quinn Cook, since Quinn’s running the point, and I was watching everything that Mason Plumlee was doing. I was really impressed with him."

There’s no denying Coach K’s success at Duke: four NCAA titles, 11 Final Four appearances, and nearly 900 wins as the Blue Devils coach.

However, a common criticism of Krzyzewski is his inability to develop the classic back-to-the-basket big man. It doesn’t concern Okafor.

"I don’t like when coaches say: 'Don’t go to Duke and end up setting screens.' That’s a major turnoff to me," he wrote. "Plus, I don’t know what they’re watching because I’ve never thought big men did that at Duke…They put lots of big men in the league so that’s just a lie when people say that." 

Winslow is considering Duke, as well – as if they needed another reason to be considered the preferred destination for the Jones and Okafor "package deal."

Kansas 

The third program to appear on Jones, Okafor and Winslow’s combined list is the Jayhawks.

This isn’t undeniable evidence they will all pick the same school, however.  Okafor told SI.com’s Seth Davis that Winslow isn’t necessarily going to join him in college.

"We would like [Winslow] to go to school with us," Okafor said, "but it's so hard to find three different families and have all the situations add up."

Regardless, head coach Bill Self is still searching to fill major holes on the 2014-15 roster. Behind Andrew Wiggins, the Jayhawks incoming freshmen are arguably as talented as Kentucky’s hyped class. 

Wiggins is almost assuredly headed to the NBA, and incoming freshman center Joel Embiid – one of the top two centers in 2013 – might declare, as well. If that’s the case, it will leave KU with a thin front line and landing a center will become a necessity for their 2014 class.

In May, Okafor wrote about his interest in the Jayhawks.

"A lot of people say that Kansas doesn't want a freshman to just come in for a year and have a huge impact, then leave," Okafor said. "I've never believed that, but I know Andrew [Wiggins] will prove that it's not true... I'll definitely be watching close to see how they handle a player of his talent level." 

Right now, Kansas could use an upgrade at point guard. Unless Naadir Tharpe or freshman Frank Mason makes a huge leap, they probably wouldn’t beat out Jones – who made an unofficial visit to Lawrence in February –  for the lead guard role in 2014.

The Jayhawks have made up significant ground on Jones and Okafor already. If they close out like they did with Wiggins, the Jayhawks will reload in 2014

Kentucky 

PLZ don't take away another Final Four banner, NCAAUK recruits itself, no need to beg

If Duke is the prohibitive favorite, consider Kentucky a dark horse in Okafor and Jones’ recruitment.

Sure, they don’t know exactly how many scholarships they’ll have for 2014, and they already have a commitment from the second-ranked center in the class, Karl Towns Jr. Jones and Okafor are still considering joining "Big Blue Nation."

UK offered Winslow last week, becoming one of the four schools considering all three.

While Okafor has yet to visit the campus, Jones went to Lexington in January.

"I definitely see what people mean when they say that Kentucky fans show a lot of love, because they definitely let me know that they wanted me down there,” Jones wrote, for his USA Today blog. "…it just showed me how big the program is to its fans. I love that."

No coach has the recent pedigree of producing point guards like Calipari. He’s also helped produce two big men, who went on to become the number one overall pick and number six pick in the last two NBA drafts.

Calipari’s recruiting and player development skills – even after only one year – make the Wildcats the top annual destination. It’s why they’re still in the running for Okafor and Jones.

Michigan State

The Spartans 2013 class is a slight disappointment, considering their aspirations for Jabari Parker. He ended up going to Duke, leaving Michigan State with two three-star recruits.

Tom Izzo will always get the most out of what he has. This year, he has an experienced squad, likely to finish among the top two in the Big Ten. After this season is a mystery. Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are seniors and Gary Harris might jump to the NBA.

Izzo would love to make a splash on the 2014 recruiting scene with the nation’s top duo. One of the nation’s top recruiting analysts believes they will have a difficult time convincing Jones, however. 

"Behind the scenes I don’t know if Michigan State can get both of those guys, but I think they can get one of them," ESPN’s Dave Telep told the Detroit News. "…it’s gonna be a tougher road with Tyus Jones… the point guard they have the best chance with is Tyler Ulis."

Okafor might be a better bet, as Telep implied, especially if they’re able to land his AAU teammate, Cliff Alexander. Although, that is not a necessity for Alexander – who told the Lansing State Journal the chances of him and Okafor ending up on the same college team are “very slim.”

Ohio State

They sing, in unison: "gonna rise up, gonna kick a little ass, gonna kick some ass in the USA!"Thad Matta can mold a good big man  

Even without Okafor or Jones in 2014, Thad Matta will put together a top-10 or possible top-five class.

The perception is that the Buckeyes have cooled on Tyus Jones and vice-versa.  If the offer to Kaleb Joseph is any indication, Matta still is intent on adding another point guard to the class.

Unlike many other schools pursuing Jones, the Buckeyes don’t have an immediate need at point guard. Shannon Scott will be a senior in the 2014-15 season and D’Angelo Russell can handle the position – although both are capable of playing off the ball.

On the other hand, the Buckeyes pitch to Okafor is simple. They could use another big man, and he would fill a similar role as Greg Oden or – a more direct comparison – Jared Sullinger.

Surrounding Okafor with a lineup of Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross (if he doesn’t go to the NBA – a number of wings available to fill his spot, if he does) is incredibly tantalizing.

However, it’s doesn’t seem to be realistic without bringing in Jones. Both remain adamant about going to college together.

"We're pretty sure of it," Jones told USA Today’s Jason Jordan. "I definitely see why people would think we're just talking. So many guys have said things like this before, but we're serious."


For the record, Okafor also lists Arizona and Illinois. Jones is still looking at Minnesota. Those are the only three schools in which there is no current, common interest.

 

 

9 Comments

Comments

chowoon97's picture

If they really want to play together, the Buckeyes is out of the picture. 
If Okafor wants to compete and be closer to the national championship, 
the Buckeyes is the best fit... 

EazyElmo's picture

I would love it if Thad and Co. could pull off the upset by getting one or both Okafor and Jones but there is just one nagging thought in my head. With Okafor and Jones basically declaring for the draft and the loss of Amir, Trey and Shannon, I just don't know if starting the search all over for a big man in 2015 is worth it. If only Trey would have taken a redshirt his freshman year my fears would be gone. But a National Championship might be worth all the headaches of reloading the next season.

Gametime's picture

Don't think it would be starting over with Carlton Bragg, Ben Simmons (D'Angelo's teammate), Esa Amad, and guys like Dave Bell, Craig Victor, & Elbert Robinson potentially being Buckeyes also, I don't think the cupboard will be bare.

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

raiderred's picture

It would be great to have another mike conley and greg oden type pair again

Jordan Wagner's picture

I don't see Tyus Jones coming to Ohio State. If Okafor insists on being a package deal, it is looking like they'll head to Duke. If Okafor goes out on his own, I think he'll be a Buckeye. 

skid21's picture

I absolutely agree. I follow hoops recruiting as closely as I do football and Jones to OSU is at best a long shot from what I've read. Even some of the committed recruits saying they are recruiting Okafor but not Jones. There seems to be a lot of offers and interest from OSU to other big men so I'm thinking maybe this package deal has some legs to it. I may in the minority of thinking landing these two for a year doesn't guarantee a NC as much as landing one of the other bigs Matta has offered. As good as these two are they aren't Oden and Conley so another big for another year may give us a better shot considering the 2015 possibilities. Add those to the 2014 commits and you're talking about a hellva team.

9Route's picture

Be your own man Oky!

I'm just happy to be here

Schwizzle1985's picture

How did Okafor and Jones form this bond that requires them to play in college together?  They are from different cities and haven't ever played on the same AAU team to my knowledge.  Over the years I have seen the majority of these package deals fall through. However, with all the publicity they are giving it, it will be hard to back off at this point.
I don't really see Shannon Scott as the reason Jones won't come to OSU.  First, Jones is that good, and second, Scott has already proven he can play with another PG on the floor.  I would think after Duke, Minnesota is probably the best bet for Jones.  UM has convinced top recruits before to stay home in Royce White and Kris Humphries, so it wouldn't be totally shocking.  

UrbanBuckeye's picture

Can't stand Duke... They're up there with TTUN when it comes to basketball.

In Urban We Trust!