Jahlil Okafor, a Duke-bound center and the most decorated player in the 2014 class, closed out his high school career with another national all-star game MVP award. The Whitney Young of Chicago standout had 29 points and 9 rebounds to pace the East to a 158-147 victory at the Jordan Brand Classic in New York. Mr. Basketball USA Cliff Alexander shines for West club.
This year’s Jordan Brand Classic was the event’s highest scoring game ever. The two clubs in one of the nation’s most prestigious national all-star games combined for a whopping 305 points as the East club defeated the West Club 158-147 Friday evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The up tempo game (and lack of transition defense) meant a plethora of points for the participants. In the end, however, the cream rose to the top as the nation’s top four voters in the final Student Sports Mr. Basketball USA Tracker combined for 95 points.
The big winner of the quartet at the Jordan Brand Classic was Duke-bound center Jahlil Okafor, who turned in an MVP performance at the McDonald’s All-American Game in his hometown of Chicago on April 2 and also led the Team USA to victory at the Nike Hoop Summit on April 12.
Of the quartet, Okafor was the only one to play for the winning club at the JBC, as he finished with game-highs of 29 points and nine rebounds. He led an East surge that gave it a 112-98 lead with 11:17 to go in the game. By that point, the Whitney Young standout had 21 points and seven rebounds. The event’s single-game scoring record of 34 was set in 2003 by NBA star LeBron James.
In the three national all-star contests he participated in, Okafor averaged 20 points and 8.7 rebounds. He’s currently ranked No. 7 in the class by the Hoop Scoop, but has made a push for the top three with a late season surge after an up-and-down regular season for Whitney Young.
Okafor certainly wasn’t the only standout for the Jordan Brand Classic’s East Club. Small forward Kelly Oubre Jr., bound for Kansas, finished with 23 points, including 3-of-4 3-point field goal attempts that went in. Oubre’s play on the post-season all-star circuit and at Dick’s Nationals for Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was impressive to say the least.
With 13:13 remaining in the game, Oubre’s two free throws made the score 104-93 for the game’s first double digit lead by the East. The East Club’s lead grew to as big as 17 points in the second half.
After scoring just three points for Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit, Indiana-bound shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. of Marion (Marion, Ind.) bounced back with a nice outing. He finished with 23 points for the East Club.
Among the three Mr. Basketball USA finalists on the West club, the most impressive performer was National Player of the Year Cliff Alexander. This year’s Mr. Basketball USA honoree from Curie (Chicago) had a 23-point, 8-rebound performance and dominated play in the first half as the West trailed by only a point (72-71) at halftime.
Alexander dominated the interior with his presence and threw down a couple of authoritative dunks. He also had blocked six shots (no one else had more than two) and made offensive players think twice about driving in near him.
Point forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), who finished second in the balloting to Alexander for Mr. Basketball USA honors, led the West with 24 points. He knocked down 3-of-5 3-pointers and was smart enough to realize if he leaked out in transition, he could get easy looks at the rim. Johnson, headed for Arizona, has shown on the national all-star circuit that he’ll be able to contribute in a variety of ways next season at Arizona.
Power point guard Emmanuel Mudiay of Prime Prep (Ft. Worth, Texas), the most consistent vote-getter in this year’s Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, added 19 points and 6 assists. He’s proven over the last couple of weeks he’s about as unguardable on the perimeter as any player in the country. Mudiay is bound for SMU.
Miami-bound guard Ja’Quan Newton of Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) was MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic’s Regional Game. Look for Newton to get some All-American acclaim when the 20th Annual Student Sports All-American Team is released next week.