We all know where Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s Cliff Alexander stand. They are coveted high-major college prospects ranked among the top players in the country — potentially, one-and-done players who could be NBA Lottery selections 23 months from now.
This past week one, Okafor, was playing for his country overseas for USA Basketball’s U19 team, winning a third straight gold medal. The other, Alexander, was dropping jaws with his stellar play at the LeBron James Skills Academy. By Thursday night they were back putting up big numbers — Okafor with 17 points,16 rebounds and 2 blocks and Alexander with 23 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks — in the Mac Irvin Fire’s 83-73 win at the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam.
In reality, with seven of the same schools on each of Okafor’s and Alexander’s final lists, there will only be 11 schools actively watching this terrific big man tandem this month. Okafor is down to a list of eight schools and Alexander’s final list has been trimmed to 10.
What will be watched closely is how they fare this month of July with many other eyes watching these must-have big men. We will see how it shakes out nationally when the calendar turns to August and national evaluators examine Okafor and Alexander.
Will Okafor maintain his No. 1 ranking? Will Alexander solidify the No. 2 spot or, based on his head-turning play at the LeBron James Skills Academy, even be able to vault ahead of Okafor?
Sure, it’s a nice honor to be ranked as the No. 1 prep player in the country. There is a little swagger that goes along with being recognized as the best. But these two respectful kids like one another, play together and have grown closer over the past several months. They’re two terrific talents who will be going at it — and enjoying it — for another nine months at the high school level.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has taken some time to talk with many college coaches who are familiar with both Okafor and Alexander. Each coach was asked 10 questions in which they had to answer one of two ways: Okafor or Alexander.
Below, the City/Suburban Hoops Report broke down the two Chicago prep basketball giants, using the answers 16 college coaches provided in regard to their respective games.
JAH vs. BIG CLIFF
✔ Alexander (9)
The quotes: “Cliff is stepping out more and more and looking more comfortable. You hope he doesn’t fall in love with that.” … “Cliff can step away from the basket and shoot it. That’s not part of Jahlil’s game.” … “He [Okafor] can face up, put it on the floor and get to the basket better than people realize.”
✔ Okafor (13)
The quotes: “Cliff is coming with that jump-hook, now.” … “No question it’s Jahlil, who has as good of a true back-to-the-basket game as you’ll see for a high school kid. It’s impressive.” … “Physical, big, plays in the post comfortably and those HANDS!. Gotta go with Jahlil.” … “Jahlil is impossible to stop on the block one-on-one at his age. He just backs you down.”
✔ Alexander (16)
The quotes: “I go with Cliff. I think this is one area Jahlil really has to become more dominant in given his size.” … “Cliff is a glass cleaner.”
✔ Alexander (14)
The quotes: “Cliff just has that advantage with his athleticism.” … “Cliff is a quick leaper, doesn’t take much to gather himself and has better reach.”
✔ Okafor (16)
“Jahlil is a solid passing big man, which is going to help him immensely.” … “The difference is Jahlil can hit a moving target.” … “Okafor understands the game better at this point, so it helps him in this area.”
✔ Alexander (16)
The quotes: “Cliff.” … “Cliff.” … “I’ll take Cliff.” … “Alexander, easy. That’s his greatest strength for a player his size.” … “Big Cliff can run, jump with the best of them.”
✔ Alexander (9)
The quotes: “Ugh, that’s tough because Cliff can block shots. But Jahlil is just so big around the basket.” …. “Both are pretty [darn] good rim protectors, but Cliff is a better shot blocker.” … “Okafor keeps players from their favored spots.”
✔ Okafor (14)
The quotes: “He [Okafor] is just so polished. His footwork on the block, his true back-to-the-basket game, his touch around the basket — at this point you can’t beat it.” … “I give slight edge to Okafor even though Cliff has come so far.” … “Cliff’s offensive ability is like night and day compared to a year ago. But Jahlil is still more advanced.”
✔ Alexander (10)
The quote: “Cliff’s athletic ability separates him, and he has so much more to learn, so I give his upside a slight edge.” … “People keep saying Okafor is a little tapped out. Puh-leeze.” … “Cliff has come so far from his freshman year it’s scary, while Okafor just steadily gets better. Cliff’s rise excites you.”
The guy I want on my team five years from now?
✔ Okafor (10)
The quote: “I do think Cliff may have slightly more upside, but he’s still reaching it. I’m taking Jahlil because of his legit and massive size and he’s a bit more of a sure thing.” … “Toughest question, by far, that you’ve asked me. Flip a coin, man. I guess I go with Okafor.” … “I go with the 6-10 kid [Okafor] over the 6-8 kid [Alexander]. … “We’re starting to see it but I don’t think we’ve come close to seeing how good Alexander is going to be.” … “Ooooh. I go back and forth. I’ll go with Jahlil.”
The Alexander and Okafor Lists
Okafor’s list: Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State.
Alexander’s list: Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville, Illinois, DePaul, Indiana, Memphis, Baylor and Arizona.
The National Rankings
No. 1 Rivals.com
No. 1 Scout. com
No. 1 ESPN.com
No. 2 247sports.com
No. 4 Rivals. com
No. 6 Scout.com
No. 2 ESPN.com
No. 10 247sports.com