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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.
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Tuesday / May 28.
  • Okafor Misses Dunk, But Takes First Step Toward Final Four

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    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jahlil Okafor missed this wide-open reverse dunk attempt against Robert Morris here Friday night, triggering the ire of Coach K as a result.

    The Duke coach shouted and frowned on the sideline and let Okafor know just exactly what he thought of his show-boating.

    “You can’t do that, that’s the easy message,” Coach K said after No. 1 Duke pummeled the No. 16 Colonials 85-56 in a second-round South Region game at TWC Arena. “Don’t do that.”

    In the celebratory Duke locker room, coaches and players alike were asked about the misfire on the dunk attempt.

    “I don’t think he will try it again,” Duke assistant Jeff Capel said dryly.

    Okafor, the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, was asked if he expected some ribbing from his teammates.

    “I don’t know, maybe a few jokes but not too many,” Okafor said.

    The 6-foot-11 Okafor may have missed the dunk, but he finished with 21 points and teammate Quinn Cook went 6-of-10 from the beyond arc for 22 points as the Blue Devils took their first step towards what Okafor hopes will be a Final Four appearance.

    “You definitely think about it,” Okafor told me. “It was definitely in my head even though we just won our first one. We have five more to go, that’s why we have older guys on this team who let us know, ‘No, that’s not the way to think.’ It’s one game at a time.”

    This is Okafor’s first college season.

    And it will be his last, too.

    He will be either the first or second pick in the NBA Draft, and fans of the Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers are all dreaming about landing him.

    Up in Philadelphia, the Sixers beat the Knicks, 97-81, on Friday, helping the Knicks solidify the NBA’s worst record (14-55).

    The Knicks now have a 57 percent chance of finishing with sole possession of the the NBA’s worst record, according to NumberFire.

    NBA legend Magic Johnson earlier told SNY.tv the Knicks  “can’t go wrong” with either Okafor or Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, who is also Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller’s choice for the Knicks should they earn the top pick.

    Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who finished up in China, and Arizona wing Stanley Johnson — all freshmen, too — are also projected among the top five picks by DraftExpress.com.

    Okafor’s career could come to a close any day now.

    Duke will get San Diego State game on Sunday, with a trip to the Sweet 16 in Houston on the line.

    And you can bet Coach K is motivated is to keep winning, even at the age of 68.

    “I wanna win, I still have the desire to want to win and to prepare to win,” he said.

    Coach K will be back at Duke next year, but Okafor won’t.

    Before he worries about appeasing fans in New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles, Okafor wants to end his college career with a run at a national championship.

    “We want to put it all on the line on Sunday, realizing this could be our last chance to win a national championship this year,” he said. “So hopefully we can get that done [Sunday] and head to Houston.”

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    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.

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