All Hail @TarikBlack25 #theairupthere
Tarik Black just floated for way longer than any man his size should be able to. This place is in shock. #KUbball
Cross off 'Tarik Black impersonating Blake Griffin' on your Kansas basketball bingo card
Sweet Mary Mother of God ... Tarik Black's dunk ... Ohhhhhh wwooooowwwww. Make sure to watch SportsCenter for this one
Guess you can say, Tarik's magna dunk got me a little excited !
The Kansas bench really enjoyed this Tarik Black dunk over Texas tonight. REALLY enjoyed it.
I'd like to thank everyone for your support. I'm blessed to have it and thankful for it.
Tarik Black grinned when asked what he’ll give Andrew Wiggins today on Wiggins’ 19th birthday.
“In my family the tradition is you have to take as many punches as your age or take one punch and that one punch is very hard. You have that option,” Black said. “We’ll see how it works with him. I might cut a deal. I might say, ‘if you make these three three-pointers in a row, I won’t get at you.’ If not, sorry everybody,” Black added.
Black loved the reaction of his teammates after his one-handed skywalking slam dunk in the second half.
“I saw a video. The bench went nuts. Those are my guys, my brothers. You know everybody is excited when Niko Roberts can hold Wayne Selden up,” Black said with a laugh. “Wayne was climbing up his back.”
Black said his own back locked up a bit in the second half. “I’m good,” he noted of his physical health.
KUAD postgame notes
KUAD Box Score
KC Star Photos
#KUCMB Gameeeedayy! #LetsGetThisMoney
Ku blows out Texas and Alabama beats MU on the weekend of my bday! #RollTide #RockChalk #24
2/22/14, 7:27 PM
Yes, Kansas is erratic. Yes, Kansas is young. But the Jayhawks' best might be better than anyone else's best.
2/22/14, 9:48 PM
Arizona,Florida,Wisconsin,MSU,Kansas Duke,Cuse, all far more deserving of 1seed than Wichita State it isn't really close
All of the Jayhawks were running — even Joel Embiid.
So when Kansas’ big man ran the floor on a fast break and Embiid flashed open in the lane, Naadir Tharpe had to reward him. Embiid caught the ball at the free-throw line, took one step and bent his arm back as if he were a pitcher unloading a fastball. Then he fired a 100 mph strike into the hoop.
The dunk sent Allen Fieldhouse to a frenzy and was fast-break point No. 10 for the Jayhawks, who ran as frequently as they have all season. The result was a flurry of early baskets and Texas turnovers, and by halftime both teams and fans wondered if there was a point of playing the second half.
“They put a beating on us in Austin (81-69 on Feb. 1) and we’re No. 1 and they are right behind us in the league race,” Black added “Coach (Bill) Self is a feisty guy. He wanted to win for the conference race. He also wanted this for a personal thing. It was kind of a vengeance type thing.
They beat us at their house pretty bad. We had to make sure it was just as bad. Really truly he (Self) wants to make it worse. That’s the mentality we took ... of our coach,” added Black, who finished with nine points and five boards.
As Black said, the victory was huge. Up three games with four to play, KU can wrap up at least a share of its 10th straight conference title with a win against Oklahoma (20-7, 9-5) on Monday night. Texas, like OU, is three games back.
“Coach said it was probably the most important weekend of the year to date,” said Black, whose dunk came long after the outcome was decided. KU led, 46-18, at halftime.
“I have two other dunks that might compare,” the Memphis transfer added. “I jumped over a guy vertically in high school. Two years ago in the Bahamas against Minnesota I had a nice little dunk where I caught a guy. I’ve heard Dr. J (Julius Erving) and Blake Griffin,” he added of others who could pull off this type of dunk. “I’m blessed to be Tarik Black.”
"I talk about our guys not being as tough as we'd like them to be, which we're not, but they are prideful," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Texas whipped us down there the first time. I said all along this game wasn't about the league race as much as it was playing Texas."
The game actually played out in similar fashion to the first meeting, only this time it was Kansas that played flawlessly and Texas that looked like a mess.
After the Longhorns jumped out to an 8-3 lead, they managed just one field goal over an 11-minute stretch as the Jayhawks launched a 32-5 run that put the game away.
…Just how bad were the Longhorns in the first half? Try 6 of 29 from the field and 5 of 12 from the foul line, with five turnovers and three assists. They were dominated on the boards, dominated in the paint and, well, dominated just about everywhere else, too.
Taylor, who had 23 points in the first meeting with Kansas, was 0 for 10 from the field as the Jayhawks built a 46-18 halftime advantage. And even when Texas managed to score -- as it did out of the break -- Kansas often answered with two buckets in return.
It kept going like that throughout the second half as the Jayhawks outscored Texas 26-0 in transition and 38-22 in the paint, allowing them to empty their bench early.
Statisticians have a number for everything else, so why not decapitation execution? Translation: Stop the opposing point guard’s dribble before he gets anywhere near the paint. Cut off the head and the body dies.
Since the nerds haven’t yet found a way to quantify that important aspect of winning basketball games, words must do.
Kansas University’s decapitation execution against Texas in Austin: Very poor. In Lawrence: Excellent.
One victory away from clinching at least a share of his 10th consecutive Big 12 title, Kansas coach Bill Self had never heard of the stat of the future, “decapitation execution,” but he always has been a big proponent of “cutting off the head,” of the other team by stopping the point guard’s penetration.
“We decapitated better today,” Self said.
…“Naadir was fabulous, even though he didn’t make shots,” Self said. “He set the tone defensively. We kept them out of the paint for the most part in the first half.”
Self was every bit as complimentary of Mason, saying, “Frank’s shot it really well in practice, but he hasn’t shot it worth a flip during games. He hasn’t scored and he’s just waiting to bust out.”
Nothing reverberated, though, like the dazzle of Andrew Wiggins, who turns 19 today and steadily enough has been coming of age and beginning to fulfill his immense promise.
But Wiggins' half (15 points) and night overall (21 points, six rebounds) was a quantum leap of sorts.
With two dunks and three three-pointers in a span of 6 minutes, Wiggins was evoking wows even as the echoes of the previous one were still caroming around Allen.
And then there was the fact that it came against Texas, the lead pretender to KU's throne and 81-69 victor over the Jayhawks on Feb. 1.
"We got embarrassed at their place; we wanted to do the same thing to them," he said, adding, "I was fired up for this game."
That was only six games back, and it was particularly exasperating for Wiggins. He was stranded somewhere between tentative and off-kilter as he made just two of 12 field goals. He finished with seven points before he fouled out for the first time in his collegiate career.
Never mind that it was the only time in the last 10 games Wiggins hasn't been in double figures and that it came immediately after he'd gone for 27 against TCU and 29 against Iowa State.
…"He's playing great; how can anybody say (otherwise?)," Self said. "The last game, he drove it for us to win the game. This game he shot for us to win the game. And look at the guy he guards.
"The guy he guards usually doesn't get very many. . . . I thought he was really good."
And now the Jayhawks can clinch at least a tie for their 10th straight Big 12 title on Monday against Oklahoma. That doesn't necessarily answer what will become of Kansas in March, which will go a long way towards defining Wiggins' legacy.
But it does say that Wiggins is arriving just in time.
KC Star Gregorian
A conference championship for Kansas now appears almost certain. But for this Kansas squad more is expected. This is a team that starts three former McDonald's high school All-Americans, and features a fourth player who is a future NBA lottery pick (Joel Embiid wasn't invited to the McDonald's game). The Jayhawks played like a Final Four team Saturday night in Lawrence, translating ability into performance at both ends of the floor. The question moving forward for Kansas is, how often can it play like this? Is a performance like Saturday's an infrequent event, or is Bill Self's team starting to hit its stride?
For the Longhorns, everyone knew coming in that this past week was the most difficult on the schedule. Now the Longhorns need to bounce back after two big losses for a home game against a reinvigorated Baylor, before travelling to Norman for a rematch against the Sooners.
Former Kansas center Eric Chenowith was in the building on Saturday night. His timing could not have been better — or worse. KU freshman center Joel Embiid finished with six blocked shots, surpassing Chenowith’s KU freshman record of 62 blocks. Embiid now has 68 blocks on the season. He also finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in Kansas’ 85-54 victory over Texas.
“It was a great accomplishment for me,” Embiid said.
Kansas coach Bill Self was hopeful that Embiid’s minutes on Saturday — he played just 21 in the blowout — would allow him to be more healthy for Monday’s game against Oklahoma.
• KU freshman point guard Frank Mason finished with 14 points on six-of-seven shooting, spurring a transition attack that dominated Texas. The Jayhawks outscored the Longhorns 26-0 in fast-break points.
“You look at the fast-break points, that was a big deal right there,” Self said. “We blocked shots or had steals and long rebounds that led to baskets. He kind of spearheaded that.”
• Kansas’ 31-point victory was the largest in the all-time series with Texas. The Jayhawks also won 12 conference games for the 14th straight season, thought to be the longest such streak in the country.
Wiggins put on an offensive show, contributing 17 points and 4 rebounds in the first 12 minutes.
“When I score early, I think that brings confidence to my game,” Wiggins said. “Especially if I hit a three, I feel like, ‘Ah, I’m on fire’ automatically.”
The Jayhawks pushed their lead to 46-18 at halftime as Texas made just 6 of 29 field goals in the opening 20 minutes (21 percent). Self later called it the best defensive half for his team this year.
The second-half highlight for KU came with 5:15 left, as Tarik Black took a pass in transition and rode the body of Texas' Cameron Ridley before tossing the ball into the hoop.
“Live, I thought that was the best dunk we had all year,” Self said. “I thought that was a pretty special play. I had no idea what he was going to do, and he just kept going up.”
Black said he took off so far away from the rim because it’s a play that opposing big men normally aren’t expecting.
KU’s bench erupted afterwards, with Wayne Selden Jr. jumping so much that he actually leapt over the bench.
“I didn’t see it during the game, but I saw a video of it after the game. Man, I love those guys,” Black said. “Those are my brothers. I love them to death, because they went crazy.”
Andrew Wiggins, man. The KU freshman was so good in getting the KU offense going in this one that he simply could not catch and shoot the ball quick enough during one stretch in the first half when he appeared to be in the zone and feeling it perhaps as much as at any point this entire season. His numbers were good — 21 points and 6 rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting, 3-of-5 from three-point range — his defense was great and the whole package moved Wiggins higher on some pretty impressive freshman lists at KU. He now has 442 points this season, which puts him two points behind Brandon Rush for fourth place on the all-time freshman scoring list. With at least six games remaining and potentially as many as 13 more, expect Wiggins to continue to climb that list. He already owns the top spot for KU freshmen in free throws made (128), free throws attempted (169) and freshman scoring average at 16.4 points per game.
LJW Tait: The Day After
Eliminating Taylor as a scoring threat was a major focus for the eighth-ranked Jayhawks (21-6 overall, 12-2 Big 12), who used multiple defenders on the slithery guard and saw their efforts pay off. Of course, given that Saturday's meeting was the 21st all-time between Barnes and KU coach Bill Self — Self now leads 13-8 — none of that surprised the 16-year UT head coach.
“They didn't really do anything different than we expected them to do,” said Barnes, whose team missed a golden opportunity to pull within a game of KU in the conference race and fell to 20-7 overall and 9-5 in Big 12 play. “We just lost confidence because of the way we were playing and it snow-balled.”
“I think if we played Kansas again, we could beat Kansas if we do what we do,” Barnes said. “But we have to do it. I don't think we have the margin of error that they do.”
Because of that, along with a general lack of execution, 34 percent shooting, 11 missed free throws and an offensive output 23 points lower than average, Barnes left Lawrence compelled to borrow a line from Self.
“I think we should probably refund the fans,” Barnes began. “What was the team that Bill talked about? Topeka YMCA? They probably would've given 'em a little bit better game because we sure didn't give 'em a game.... They beat us and they beat us good.”
Texas coach Rick Barnes said something to make Bill Self laugh as they chatted in the handshake line following Kansas University’s 85-54 victory over the Longhorns on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I don’t remember exactly what he said,” KU coach Self said after the Jayhawks upped their lead in the league standings to three games over five-loss teams UT, Iowa State and Oklahoma.
“We have a good relationship. He brings me Beef Jerky every time we play. I thought the Beef Jerky he gave me in Austin ... something was laced in it. Obviously it was not good because I ate half the bag before the game started,” Self added of KU’s 12-point loss to the Longhorns on Feb. 1 in Austin.
…Former KU guard Kenny Gregory, who has retired after playing overseas since his college days, attended his first game in Allen Fieldhouse since he left KU.
“It’s great to be able to finally get back to a game,” said Gregory, a 35-year-old native of Columbus, Ohio, who played at KU from 1997 to 2001.
Asked at halftime what impressed him the most about KU, he said: “Defense.”
LJW Keegan Ratings: Wiggins is KU’s top player vs Texas
Nothing in college basketball is more impressive than Bill Self winning 10 Big 12 titles in a row.
No statistic is cited more frequently in college basketball analysis. It is mind-blowing and unthinkable and hard to process. For the uninitiated, it sounds like something that could only happen before 1960. “Are you sure you’re not talking about John Wooden?” people will ask. Nope. It’s Kansas coach Bill Self that’s led the Jayhawks to at least a share of nine consecutive regular season Big 12 championships, and it’s all but guaranteed the streak will reach double digits after the No. 8 Jayhawks routed No. 19 Texas 85-54.
…When Self’s team began conference play on January 8 with a home game against Oklahoma, the continuation of Kansas’ crazy streak was no sure thing. Over the past seven weeks, with impressive wins over the best teams in arguably the top conference in the country, Kansas erased doubt whether it would finish the regular season atop the league standings. Among them: the big road win at then-No. 8 Iowa State on January 13, the home victory over then-No. 13 Oklahoma State on January 18 and, two days later, a 10-point decision at home over then-No. 24 Baylor.
Kansas had no trouble handling Texas on Saturday, thoroughly outclassing a team ranked No. 32 in Pomeroy’s team rankings that is on track to earn a top-six seed in the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee doesn’t factor margin of victory in the selection process, but its members do have eyes, and what they saw is hard to dispute: a legitimate national championship contender.
The last time Kansas was swept in a Big 12 series was in 2001 by Iowa State, a feat that helped the Cyclones claim a second straight conference crown. Somewhere, Larry Eustachy has Polaroids of the celebration.
Since then, the Jayhawks have made it through 12 straight seasons without being swept in a Big 12 series. Most of those were when the league was split into two divisions. Yet this is the second year of the full round-robin, with nine home-and-home series comprising the league slate.
…Bill Self and his staff will have you scouted. KU students will know your every tick and get you flustered. The rest of the sellout crowd of 16,300 will chime in.
As for the Jayhawks, they will be enthused by all that, and more.
Add the extra motivation they felt after getting handled by Texas in Austin and, well, the Longhorns had no chance.
…A chance to claim at least a share of a 10th consecutive Big 12 championship now awaits when Oklahoma visits on Monday. Self again figures to gain his team’s attention.
“It’s not every day that you get a chance to clinch at least a piece of a championship at home,” he said, “so I think our guys will give us some good concentration.”
What the Jayhawks brought to the floor against Texas was too good for any Big 12 opponent to touch.
I also posted this stat on Twitter, but I thought it accurately summed up just how dominant KU was against Texas: UT posted 0.83 PPP against KU (its previous worst this year was 0.88) while KU scored 1.31 PPP (the previous high against UT was 1.21).
Offensively, KU did a great job of limiting turnovers against a passive defense, as the Jayhawks' 11 percent offensive turnover percentage tied for their best mark of the season. KU also was strong on the offensive glass and especially efficient inside the arc, making 24 of 39 2-pointers (62 percent).
The real story was defensively, though, as KU took a step towards trying to show it's not Bill Self's worst KU team ever on that end. The Jayhawks jumped from 35th to 27th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency, and though that's still not good for a Self team (25th is his worst ever), it's a positive step for a squad that hadn't shown this kind of intensity or effort in its two previous road games.
Less than a month before the NCAA tournament, Jayhawks coach Bill Self appears to have achieved another milestone in what is already a Hall of Fame-caliber career. Somehow he’s taken a roster filled with six freshmen and five new starters and molded it into a selfless, cohesive unit that is one win away from winning its 10th straight Big 12 title.
But there’s no need to stop there.
When the Jayhawks display the same type of chemistry on the court as they do off of it, they’re the best team in America. Kansas may not look like the country’s top squad every time it steps on the court.
But the Jayhawks’ A-game vs. anyone else’s A-game? Give me Kansas every time. Syracuse, Florida, Duke, Wichita State...none of them are capable of playing at a level as high as the one Self’s squad displayed Saturday night.
“At the end,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said, “I think they can be the best team in the country.”
Self didn’t try to downplay the subject.
“When we click on all cylinders,” he said, “we can play with anybody.”
The good teams take away your pride. The Jayhawks snatch your kidneys.
Over the past nine seasons, Kansas coach Bill Self's teams had been given a chance to "avenge" 11 Big 12 losses -- there haven't been many -- via a rematch in the regular season or the league tournament.
The average margin of victory for KU in those 11 payback games: 16.3 points.
No ice. No bathtub. No note.
No mercy, either.
"I don't know if it means much, other than the fact our guys are pretty prideful," Self said after an 85-54 curb-stomping of No. 19 Texas on Saturday, a little payback for an 81-69 KU defeat in Austin on Feb. 1.
"And when somebody gets us, they may get us, that happens, but usually we've done a decent job of bouncing back."
Yeah. Yeah, you could say that.
"You've got to know, after we played as well as we played against them the first time," Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said of the eighth-ranked Jayhawks, "that they were going to be ready to play."
Ready? The band was ready. KU's roster was salivating. This puppy was over 12 minutes in, sometime between Andrew Wiggins' second 3-pointer, which made it 21-10 at the 8:57 mark of the first half, and his third, which pushed the lead to 24-10 with 8:20 to go until halftime.
The hosts blocked nine Texas shots -- seven in the first half, six by future millionaire Joel Embiid -- racked up seven steals and outscored the 'Horns on fast-break points by a margin of 26-0.
KU strung together a 25-2 run midway through the first period, a stretch so dominant, so one-sided, you half expected former Texas football coach Mack Brown to resign again, just on principle.
Fox Sports Keeler
VIDEO: KU half time show
Happy Birthday to @22wiggins. One of the coolest and nicest kids I have ever coach.
Vote for Wiggs for the Wooden Award
Four-year-old Tarik Black was sure he could make it across the street, running behind his friends as they tried to beat a streetlight near an Atlanta park.
He never made it. A car struck Tarik from behind, the force knocking his shoes off and launching him into the air and onto a nearby patch of grass.
Tarik didn’t start crying until the ambulance came, and after looking him over, his older brother, Bilal, was surprised not to find any bruises.
When Bilal, 12 at the time, was asked whether Tarik needed medical attention, he turned to his young brother.
“You want to go to the hospital?” he asked.
Tarik shook his head.
“I just want to go home.”
...After loosening the laces on his blue hightops, Kansas senior forward Tarik Black leans forward in his chair as he begins to tell his story.
It’s a Friday afternoon in early January, and the 6-foot-9 Memphis transfer has just finished a practice at Allen Fieldhouse — something that would have seemed absurd a few years ago, when he was a 15-year-old who had never played organized basketball.
Black knows he’s a statistical improbability in other ways, too. Many of his peers in Memphis fell victim to the streets. Few others were blessed with the opportunities he’s received.
Those closest to him say there’s one way he’s made it this far, and that’s because his upbringing led to a different sort of toughness — one that is unique even to college basketball, where the term is often thrown around loosely.
Just ask KU coach Bill Self, who was surprised during one game when Tarik went down with an ankle injury. “ I didn’t know you could hurt him,” Self said.
Or teammate Naadir Tharpe, who says he never has seen his teammate lower his head during a practice or game, no matter how bad the situation was.
Or listen to Bilal, who said his brother didn’t back down from him, even though there was an eight-year gap between the two.
It’s this same toughness that has helped Black through this season — one that started with sizable expectations and a Big 12 preseason player of the year nod but hasn’t always gone the way he had hoped.
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
Big 12 / College News
Florida's 75-71 road victory against Ole Miss was as unimpressive as the team's narrow home victory earlier in the week vs. Auburn. But the Gators' credentials (Just two losses on the season; wins vs. Kansas, Memphis, Kentucky) and winning momentum has them positioned to take over as the No. 1 team in the country and replace former No. 1 Syracuse, now loser of two in a row.
Although Wichita State's 29-0 record (the Shockers beat Drake on Saturday) will create an argument for the top team in the poll come Monday, this Florida team is too good and nationally respected to be outdone by a mid-major team.
With six days to prepare for a team that has struggled all season on the road, Oklahoma turned Saturday's home game against Kansas State into a confidence booster heading into the final four games of the Big 12 season.
Buddy Hield scored 18 points and Isaiah Cousins added 17 to help Oklahoma beat Kansas State 86-73 and begin to clear up the Big 12 standings with four games remaining in league play.
"I was really, really happy for our guys. I thought they opened the game sharp on both ends of the floor and attacked offensively," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber was not as big of a fan of the schedule and it's tough to blame him — the Wildcats were the only Big 12 team to play two teams coming off a week's rest this season.
Weber's team lost them both. The other came at Iowa State 81-75 on Jan. 25.
Eight conference teams had the break built into their schedules — Baylor and Kansas opened conference play later than the other schools and used the time for a nonconference game.
Only one, TCU, played their next game after the break on the road. TCU and West Virginia — in Saturday's loss to Baylor — were the only Big 12 teams to lose coming off the break.
“I hope the league looks at it — your number of double road games, your number of three-out-of-four road games,” Weber said. “Gotta make sure if we're going to have a good league to have a balanced schedule for everybody but credit to Oklahoma. They were rippin' and roarin' and we knew when they get going, they can score some points.”
OSU routed Texas Tech 84-62, a verdict that didn't so much revive the season as it revived morale. This was a team and a school and a town and a fan base that needed to remember how much fun winning can be.
And a coach, too. Most definitely the coach.
Ford's job status has become a major issue in this season-gone-sour, and lost in the speculation of how OSU could find $10 million to pay off a coach with five years left on his contract, was this. Who knows if Ford even would want to keep coaching at a place that was growing so disenchanted with his product?
No one wants to captain the Titanic.
But OSU hoops 2014 hasn't sunk yet. Not after Saturday, when the Cowboys took apart a Tech team that had been playing very well.
“Doesn't mean we're back,” Ford said, referring to the status that once had the Cowboys ranked fifth nationally but had slipped to ninth in the 10-team Big 12.
“Doesn't mean everything's perfect. It means we're capable. It's fragile. We can't take anything for granted.”
But at least this OSU season has a pulse. Ford was right. The return of Smart showed that this team is capable.
The Cowboys butchered what had been a tough Tech defense. Le'Bryan Nash was a dunking machine, Phil Forte scored 20 points and Markel Brown got to catch his breath, all because Smart was back. Not the Smart of January, but the Smart of November, who makes the game easier for his teammates because of quick hands and sharp eyes.
Smart was in triple-double territory, with 16 points, 10 assists and six steals.
"Do we deserve to be No. 1?" Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall asked rhetorically following Saturday's 83-54 win over Drake. "I can't say that. But if not, let's just have two divisions."
All the bluebloods above the line, and the mid-majors below. A section of elitist fans, coaches and -- yes -- some media have already seen to it in regards to Wichita State. They'd have a better point if the Shockers weren't, you know, coming off a Final Four season.
"That doesn't count," Marshall said sarcastically.
…So Marshall has embraced the undefeated chase. He digs his team being compared to Boise State and its BCS fight for respectability.
"I love Boise State," he said. "I watched them all the time, the Statue of Liberty against Oklahoma. We're the Boise State of college basketball."
CBS Dennis Dodd
Big XII composite schedule (includes results, highlights, stats)
ESPN College GameDay Schedule
2013-14 TV Schedule
JaQuan Lyle enjoyed his weekend visit to Oklahoma State and heads to Kansas on Monday.
“Great!! Loved it,” the 6-foot-5 Lyle told SNY.tv of his Oklahoma State visit.
Lyle was on hand to watch Marcus Smart’s return from suspension.
Smart went for 16 points, 10 assists and six steals in an 84-62 win over Texas Tech.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford has pitched Lyle on the the possibility of replacing Smart next season.
Lyle heads to Kansas on Monday and to Memphis March 7. Oregon is the other school in his top four and he has already visited.
Lyle then plans to make a decision over spring break March 15-23.
Saddled with foul trouble, Okafor played sparingly in the second half before fouling out late in the fourth quarter of Friday's Chicago Public League championship. The game was billed as Okafor vs. Curie's Cliff Alexander, but Okafor had to watch a record four overtimes before Young finally lost to top-ranked Curie, 69-66, on a last-second corner 3 from senior guard Kamar Marshall.
But even in his disappointment, Okafor could appreciate the magnitude of a game that just wouldn't end.
"Huge," he said. "It was a legendary game. It was epic."
Hey, it didn't lead the late SportsCenter for nothing.
Okafor, a 6-foot-10 center, and Alexander, a 6-foot-9 athletic dynamo, have big things ahead of them -- and I'm not talking about the state playoffs. Next year, maybe they'll meet in the Final Four.
Alexander, the third-ranked recruit in the ESPN 100, is heading to Kansas for one season after declaring himself a "one-and-done" player at his signing day event. Okafor has No. 1 pick written all over him.
If Parker goes No. 1 in the draft this year and Okafor the next, they would make it four Chicago Public League products in eight years as the top overall pick, joining Derrick Rose (2008) and Anthony Davis (2012).
Almost certainly, neither Okafor nor Alexander will see their sophomore year in college. That's why this title game was supposed to be so special. It was billed as their heavyweight matchup, the rare confluence of two top-ranked big men in a city typically dominated by hard-driving guards. So, naturally, it didn't quite turn out that way.
There were few one-on-one moments and Okafor didn't play for much of the second half because of foul trouble, and Alexander plays on a team where the guards, though talented, seem to suffer from a rare form of half-court amnesia where they forget the most explosive player in the country is on their team.
Unrequited post-ups aside, Alexander played the entire game and had 20 points and 12 rebounds. More important, he was the guy with the cheap medal hanging around his neck after the game.
…The two stars are friends, just like Okafor was buddies with former Simeon star Jabari Parker, who is now starring for Duke. But the big question around Chicago is who will be a better college and pro player, Alexander or Okafor?
When asked who's better, Alexander laughed and said, "I'll let you all answer that one."
He had the bragging rights, that's for sure.
The consensus seems to be that Okafor is better now, while Alexander has the higher ceiling.
Okafor, a true center, is more polished and efficient, from his footwork in the paint to his media interactions. He has slimmed down, but still looks heavy at times. Meanwhile, there is something magnetic about Alexander, who skies for one-handed snatch rebounds and transition dunks.
Okafor, used to competing with Parker for top dog status, is enjoying the competition with Alexander.
"It's a lot of fun for the fans, and he's playing great," Okafor said. "So he deserve to be in that conversation."
Both will gain immediate dividends from better teaching, conditioning and coaching in college. Alexander, in particular, will enjoy getting regular touches from guards instructed to feed him at all costs.
I believe Alexander is still calling for the ball in the low blocks, maybe even in his dreams. Before the fourth overtime, I snapped a picture of Alexander seemingly instructing one of the guards to get him the ball. He said it's frustrating at times, especially when Curie held the ball for long stretches during each overtime period, but he soldiered through.
KeVaughn Allen, a 6-2 junior shooting guard from North Little Rock (Ark.) High, attended Saturday’s game on an unofficial visit. He’s currently ranked No. 90 in the Class of 2015.
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