Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was the first to text Chicago center Jahlil Okafor at midnight on Friday.
And it caught the Whitney Young big man by surprise.
“Oh yeah, that impressed me a lot,” the 6-foot-9 Okafor said by phone from the USA U17 trials in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I didn’t expect Rick Pitino to text me, maybe the assistant. But it stood out to me that the head coach texted me first. I really appreciate that.
“Rick Pitino was the first one to text me. He texted me right at 12, so he was the first one to text me.”
The much sought after 2014 big man said he also heard from Georgetown, Arizona, Ohio State, Michigan State, Providence, Illinois, DePaul and others.
Okafor was one of three Windy City natives to make the list of 14 finalists for the USA U17 team, along with guard Kendrick Nunn and forward Jabari Parker, both of Simeon.
Okafor said he and Parker — the top-rated player in the Class of 2013 who is featured in this story — have casually talked about colleges, but Okafor doesn’t expect Parker to still be on campus by the time he arrives in 2014.
“We talk about it,” Okafor said. “It’s nothing really that serious. With Jabari, there’s no telling how many years he may be in college but we talk about it.”
A year ago, Okafor, Parker and Nunn were all teammates on the USA U16 team that won the gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Parker was named MVP and Okafor averaged 14.6 points and 9.2 rebounds.
“I remember last year when I made the team,” Okafor said. “It was so much stress because I was hoping I made the team and it was a great feeling. It was one of the first times I actually cried. Just being happy so it’s just a great experience.”
He made the initial cut for the U17 team by doing what he does best and he plans to keep on working that way.
“I’m trying to stick with my game, which is just my post-up game, staying physical on the blocks and rebounding and playing defense,” Okafor said. “Those are the things I’m looking to do.”
As for now, he has no other visits planned but will always remember that Pitino texted him first and plans to visit Louisville sometime down the road.
“I’m just worried about this USA thing but I’m sure I will take a visit down to Louisville eventually,” he said.
Photo: USA Basketball
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.