Since Jahlil Okafor and good friend Tyus Jones have indicated they will play together in college, we decided to take an in-depth look at some of the most (in)famous college basketball recruiting Package Deals over the years. Okafor and Jones are not the first All-American duo that specifically indicated they would play together and ultimately their legacy will be determined by their college team’s immediate success.
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“Package Deals” in college basketball recruiting have been around along time, but only a few times in history has it been as pronounced and documented as the one involving reigning Student Sports National Junior Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young (Chicago) and Tyus Jones of Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.).
The duo first gave hints it would team up in college at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championships in Mexico. The following summer, when Jones and Okafor were roommates in Lithuania on the gold medal-winning USA U17 team, the Package Deal grew from possible to likely, according to Jason Jordan of USA Today.
The Package Deal that began as a laughing idea in a foreign country will come full circle when the duo announces their college destination on ESPNU’s early signing period special on November 15 (4 pm ET).
All indication are Jones, the No. 4 ranked prospect in the Hoop Scoop Top 100, and Okafor, ranked No. 6, will head to Duke University.
Are Okafor and Jones the most acclaimed package deal of all-time? From a straight numbers i.e. player rankings perspective they are. When you consider whom has been involved in prior package deals, however, the answer isn’t so clear.
National recruiting analysts have varied opinions on the duo, as the results of the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker indicate.
“Right now, the senior class doesn’t have a clear number one prospect, nor does the junior class, so Mr. Basketball (USA) may be awarded on a consensus vote,” said panel member Van Coleman of The Basketball Channel and Hot100hoops. “Jahlil Okafor and Stanley Johnson, who garnered more first place votes than leader Emmanuel Muiday, seem to have a wider spectrum on where they rate according to the varied opinions of the voters.”
Some analysts consider Jones the best pure guard in the country; others favor Muiday. As Coleman indicated, Okafor falls in the same boat with regards to post players. Some recruiting networks tab him as the country’s top overall prospect, whereas the Hoop Scoop ranks him No. 6.
Regardless of their national ranking or where they chose to attend school, Jones and Okafor will ultimately be judged by how the lucky college they ultimately chose performs next season.
Let’s take a look at how Jones and Okafor stack up against other famous Package Deals.
Player-Player Package Deal
The duo that Okafor and Jones will ultimately be judged against is Greg Oden and Mike Conley, both of whom inked LOIs with Ohio State in November of 2005. Oden, the 2006 Mr. Basketball USA, was considered a once-in-a-decade type post prospect coming out of Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.). He was a consensus No. 1 prospect (in front of Kevin Durant) while teammate Conley was ranked No. 28 by the Hoop Scoop. In retrospect, Conley’s ranking was low, as he earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-American Game and is an above-average point guard in the NBA. Despite Oden’s well-chronicled injuries, the duo did produce in its only college season, leading the Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA title game.
Similar to Oden, in 1991 Chris Webber of Detroit Country Day (Birmingham, Mich.) was the consensus top-ranked prospect in the country. His longtime friend, point forward Jalen Rose of Southwestern (Detroit), was a consensus top 20 recruit and also a McDonald’s All-American. Although a series of decisions led to Rose and Webber becoming the two most famous (and productive) members of the “Fab Five”, Rose stated on a conference call for the ESPN 30 for 30 Fab Five documentary, that he and his childhood friend were a Package Deal before becoming high school stars. The duo wasn’t necessarily bond for Michigan, more just a case that Webber and Rose wanted to go to college together.
Forward Juwan Howard of Vocational (Chicago) and guard Jimmy King of East (Plano, Texas) actually made the first pledge to play together at Michigan. Howard was the first to commit to the Wolverines. He and King formed a friendship on their official recruiting visit and it was Howard that reportedly influenced King to attend Michigan and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Rose and Webber wanted to play together,” Coleman said. “Them and Oden and Conley are the best examples people understand. Others talk about it (being a package deal), whether it was the real, deciding factor to do it is another question. There are a lot of packages, but these are legitimate ones that went through.”
Player-Coach Package Deal
By far the most common deal is one where a top 20, national level recruit either follows his previously hired high school/grassroots coach at the same college, or where the coach and recruit join the program at the same time. On a few occasions, the coach joins the college program alone within a few years. This deal dates back to the John Wooden era (pre-1975) of college basketball and the coach most notorious for this was LSU’s Dale Brown.
Ron Abernathy, the coach at Shawnee (Louisville, Ky.), joined Brown’s staff the same year his star player Durand Macklin joined the Bayou Bengals in 1976. “Macklin was supposed to go to Louisville, but Dale Brown got that done,” said Hoop Scoop Publisher Clark Francis.
In 1979, Redemptorist (Baton Rouge, La.) star player Howard Carter was joined at LSU by his high school coach, Rick Huckabay. In 1987, it was announced Jim Childers, the head coach at Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.), would join Brown’s staff for the 1988-89 season. Who was going to be a freshman for Brown that year? McDonald’s All-American Stanley Roberts of Lower Richland. Brown also got two more prized recruits in similar fashion during the 1980s.
Louisville was a hotbed for national recruits in the 1970s and 1980s and Ballard High’s Jeff Lamp and Lee Raker were joined at the University of Virginia by their high school coach Richard Schmidt, who won a state title in 1977 with four division one players on his roster. For a detailed look at this type of package deal, check out this collegehoopedia.com story.
Father-Son Package Deal
This type of deal was made famous by Larry Brown and by Kansas, in particular. It’s probably most associated with Kansas because it has produced tremendous results. In 1983, after leading Page (Greensboro, N.C.) to a No. 2 ranking in the USA Today Super 25, forward Danny Manning spent his senior season at Lawrence (Lawrence, Kan.). He went to school a stone’s throw from Kansas because Brown had hired Ed Manning, Danny’s father and his former ABA teammate, as an assistant. Manning, a Mr. Basketball USA finalist for 1983-84 who even got a tryout for the 1984 Olympics, delivered. Kansas reached two NCAA Final Fours and won in all in 1988.
Bill Self coached the Jayhawks to the 2008 NCAA title and Mario Chalmers, a 2005 Student Sports All-American at Bartlett (Anchorage, Alaska), was named MOP. Mario’s father, Ronnie Chalmers, joined Self’s staff as the Director of Basketball Operations when his son enrolled there.
Although this type of package worked for Kansas, it’s results are definitely a mixed bag compared to a Player-Coach Package. Most of the high school coaches have gone on to be respected college mentors, but the family member who follows his son in most cases quietly left the staff once his son left. In a couple of rare cases, the player didn’t even enroll at the same school as the hired family member or close acquaintance, as is the case with LeRon Ellis (USC) and John Wall (Baylor).
Not Once, But Twice
Wade Houston gets special recognition for being part of both a Player-Coach and Father-Son Package Deal. In the fall of 1975, Houston’s team at Male (Louisville, Ky.) opened up ranked No. 1 nationally by Basketball Weekly. The team featured two of the nation’s finest players in Bobby Turner and Darrell Griffith, the latter the consensus No. 1 senior in America. Colleges from all over the country courted Griffith, but it was almost a forgone conclusion that he would stay home and attend Louisville.
After all, Houston became the first African-American coach ever at Louisville after coaching Male to a 27-1 record in 1976. He joined the program the same year as Denny Crum’s prized recruits. In 1979-80, Griffith led the Cardinals to the NCAA title, but unfortunately his former high school teammate Turner was no longer on the team.
For 13 years, Houston was an assistant to Crum before becoming the first African-American head coach at a SEC program for the 1989-90 season. Tennessee hired Houston and he brought along his son, Ballard (Louisville, Ky.) All-American Allan Houston, with him
Jalen Rose also gets special dual mention among college basketball’s recruiting Package Deals because he’s not only linked to Chris Webber, he’s also linked to Perry Watson. Rose’s coach at Southwestern (Detroit) joined the Michigan staff in the fall of 1991.
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