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Video: Cliff Alexander Talks Kansas

Curie 2014 power forward Cliff Alexander announced his decision to attend Kansas on Friday afternoon.  ChicagoHoops caught up with Alexander shortly after the decision in this one on one video interview to break down all angles of the commitment.

Click To Watch Cliff Alexander Discuss His Kansas Decision




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Cliff Alexander Decision Day Primer

Well the craziest recruitment I have ever covered will come to an end soon.  The way this has gone you never know though.  The nation’s top power forward Cliff Alexander will make his college decision on Friday afternoon.

The first time I saw Alexander was at the Chicago Hoops Memorial Day Classic.  I caught up with him before the game as we had talked on the phone previously, but this would be my first time seeing him person.  The first play of the game he swatted a shot right into my hands and winked.  Maybe that should have been a sign of what was to follow.

Alexander early in his career was extremely raw, but still very productive.  Offensively all he could really do was dunk, but he did it with power and a lot of force.  He sealed well, ran the floor, and would finish up on the glass.  Defensively he has always had a great feel for blocking shots.

As his career progressed his game has grown considerably.  His combination of strength, power, and athleticism is still his calling card.  He can move bodies on the interior, but is agile enough to beat them in multiple ways.  The biggest leap of his career came this past spring and summer while playing in the Nike EYBL.  His post-game matured tremendously including adding more variety than just dunking.  He put in a quick hook shot and refined his baseline spin.  His ability to seal and finish in the high/low game is the best I have seen in a young prospect in a long time.

He has even added a face up game which he can utilize out of the post to knock down a mid-range jumper.  At the Nike EYBL in Minnesota he showed improvement even in his three point game knocking down a pair of threes then turning to the stands where he proceeded to throw up the “three goggles”.  This will never be his go to game, but he has shown it is in there and can be developed.

Cliff is a solid passer when double and tripled teamed.  At times he can get frustrated by the constant two and three defenders being run at him, but is more than willing to give it up to an open shooter than force a shot.  Rebounding is the area he has always excelled at.  He is the best rebounder in the country with his tenacity and desire to grab every single missed shot.  In every setting I have seen him in whether high school, AAU, or camps he has been the best rebounder on the floor.

Another area he has always stood out is playing with a high motor.  On both ends of the floor he plays with energy and never stops moving.  He might be the best post at running the floor nationally.  Alexander will secure the rebound, sprint right down the middle of the floor, receive the pass, and dunk it.  This is a small thing that gets him a couple easy baskets every game.

Defensively he is a superior shot-blocker.  He has tremendous timing and anticipation coming from the weak side.  He has also become a great shot blocker when guarding his man in the post.  Alexander has disturbed some of the best post scorers nationally over the last several years.  He anchors in the paint and doesn’t give up any ground.  If they try a spin move he will stone them.  For everything he does offensively it will be his defense and rebounding that will impress NBA scouts.

This past spring and summer Alexander played with the Mac Irvin Fire in the Nike EYBL where he averaged 16.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.1 assists per contest.  As a senior he will lead Curie into the season as one of the top contenders for a 4A state championship and a prime candidate for Mr. Basketball in Illinois.

Oh yea the recruiting stuff.  The first time I spoke with Alexander the schools that he mentioned were Ohio State, Illinois, Arizona, Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa, and USC.  Over the next several years he would quickly pick up nearly every offer the country with his starring play on the circuit and in camps.  The three schools that were always heavily linked to him were Kentucky, Michigan State, and Illinois.  He said it over and over.  There is no top three.  Those three kept coming up as the only contenders until he released a list and then chopped them off one at a time including cutting early favorites Kentucky and Michigan State.

Before we get to the finalists you can’t talk Cliff without talking twitter.  He has kept everyone guessing with his daily tweets.  Alexander will say something that could have everything to do with recruiting or absolutely nothing at all.  Regardless it would be analyzed and dissected by every fan of the teams he was considering.  That would be followed with messages at him to go to their school.  It has been crazy to say the least.

Ok now to the decision.  Alexander will announce Friday between Illinois, Kansas, DePaul, and Memphis.  He took official visits to all four schools.  Those official visits were followed by unofficials the past two weekends to Illinois and Kansas.  The way this recruitment has gone there is no telling what could go down, but I know one thing there are a lot of people excited to see where he goes and put a wrap on this show!

Check out these ridiculous new highlights from Cliff’s summer and fall courtesy of Scott Comeau of BallisLife.

Click To Watch Cliff Alexander Video Highlights




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Vic Law Inks NLI With Northwestern

Northwestern really kick-started their class with the verbal commitment of St. Rita small forward Vic Law during the summer.  Law was the single biggest stock riser in the state regardless of class last high school season.  The forward has great size, a feathery touch from the outside, and gained the ability to take over games.

He vaulted himself into one of the top 10 prospects in the state.  Law took his visits early in the process and then decided Northwestern was the place for him.  Wednesday he signed his NLI to link him to Northwestern forever.  He says it was a big day for the program.

“Northwestern has just taken a step towards a basketball tradition today.”

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Jahlil Okafor Decision Day Primer

The nation’s top prospect Jahlil Okafor will make his college announcement today.  I remember the first time I saw Okafor as a freshman with Whitney Young at the Marion Best of the Midwest Shootout.  He and eventual Georgetown commit Paul White played very little, but you could tell they were the most impressive prospects in the gym by far that night.  At that stage his size and potential were so intriguing.

Like any truly great player Okafor got better throughout the course of the last four years.  The senior is just bigger than everybody else on the high school level.  His strength and power around the hoop is remarkable.  He does a tremendous job of knowing how to use his physical tools and carving out space on the interior.

What separates him from every other prospect in recent memory is his elite skill level on the block.  He has a wide variety of post moves and has a great feel for when to use each one.  He can beat an opponent with a drop step, sealing, double moves, or a hook shot.  In the paint he can either finish with power or a soft touch often times using the glass.  Okafor has also developed a face up game that has allowed him to soften up the defense.  He can knock down shots from 15-18 feet on a semi regular basis although he doesn’t take a ton of them.

Okafor is a plus rebounder that does a good job of boxing out and securing the basketball with his large hands.  He is an above average passer that is more than willing to give up the ball when a double team comes.  Defensively he is an anchor down low that doesn’t allow his opponent to get deep post position.  He is a solid, but not prolific shot blocker.

Early in his career he wasn’t overly mobile considering his size, but he has made big strides in that area and his overall athleticism.  It hasn’t become uncommon to see him beat the other team down the floor for easy transition buckets and he can even handle it a little in the open floor.

Okafor ran with the Mac Irvin Fire in the Nike EYBL throughout his prep career.  This past July at the Peach Jam he averaged 16.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.0 rebounds per game.  As a senior he will lead a Whitney Young team that is the favorite for the 4A state championship coming into the season.

Now to the recruitment.  The first three offers were Illinois, Michigan State, and DePaul.  He would quickly pick up every single offer in the nation and the ones that didn’t knew they were just wasting their time.  Okafor kept his recruitment on the down low for the majority of his career.  At different points it seemed like there were different front runners.  In late May 2013 he cut his list to 8 schools in Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The part of this recruitment that hasn’t been like any other was his connection to close friend and top point guard Tyus Jones from Apple Valley High School in Minnesota.  The two bonded on and off the court playing for the USA National Team.  A great big man needs someone to get him the ball and the pass first floor general Jones did that.  They have stated for a long time they would be a package deal.  Most of the times these do not work out, but this was different.  Most believed they would eventually go to the same school.

Okafor took four official visits in the fall to Baylor, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas.  He visited Baylor, Duke, and Kansas with Jones.  If they were to play together it would have to be one of those three.

So here we are now the day of the decision.  It is still those three, but most believe it is really down to Duke and Kansas.  Duke seemed like the leader for the longest time in this battle.  They appeared like the program that caught his eye early in the process with their tradition, connections to Chicago, and his good friend Jabari Parker going there.  In the last few months Kansas has made this a sprint to the finish.  The Jayhawks did a tremendous job on the visit of selling him and Jones on what they could do in their one year at Kansas.  This is really too close to call.

Watch what Friday’s big winner will be getting in these new highlights of Jahlil's summer play by Scott Comeau of BallisLife.

Click To Watch Jahlil Okafor Video Highlights




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Jahlil, Cliff & Tyus To Announce Friday

So what are you up to Friday afternoon?  There are a trio of high school basketball players that will shape college basketball next season and possibly the NBA beyond that are making a minor decision that not a lot of people will pay attention too.  Ok maybe people will care……..A LOT!

Let’s start with what we knew coming into the day.  The nation’s top power forward Curie’s Cliff Alexander will make his decision on Friday afternoon.  This recruitment has been as exciting as any has been in a long time with twist and turns not every day, but every hour.  It will come to an end on Friday with a choice between Illinois, Kansas, DePaul, and Memphis.

Then the nation’s top center Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor announced he will make his selection on Friday as well via his twitter.

“BigJah22: I'm excited to announce my college decision on Friday Nov 15th, 3pm at Whitney Young high school. Be there and thanks for all the support!”

Okafor has kept his recruitment relatively on the DL for a future #1 overall draft choice.  He hasn’t done a lot of talking.  It has been assumed for a while that it is down to Duke and Kansas.  Really this one could go either way.  There are reasons to believe it could be either one.

Wherever Jahlil is, Apple Valley (MN) point guard Tyus Jones isn’t too far behind.  At the exact same time of Okafor’s tweet the nation’s top point guard (finding a theme in this) announced his decision date on twitter.

“@TyusJones06:  I'm excited to announce my college decision on Friday Nov 15th, 3pm at Apple Valley High school. Be there and thanks for all the support!”

These two intend on playing together in college so it will most likely be a Duke/Kansas battle for Jones as well.  The Minnesota native is a pure point guard in the mold of a Chris Paul.  He is a winner that makes everyone around him better.

One interesting thing to note is who goes first with these announcements between Jahlil and Cliff.  They will be announcing close to each other, but not sure on the exact order yet.  There will be no last minute change of decision, but you would have to think they will know where each other are going before it is announced on national television….Right?

Also how will Jahlil and Tyus announce considering they are most likely going to the same school?  Kind of anticlimactic to do one after the other.  Remember Harrison Barnes using Skype to announce his choice by bringing up Roy Williams on the screen.  Could we see something similar?

If this couldn’t be any crazier Duke will play Kansas in Chicago on Tuesday night at the United Center in the Champions Classic.  Okafor is expected to be in attendance.

Quite simply Friday will be the biggest day in recruiting in a long time and possibly ever considering three of the top 5 prospects in the country are deciding on the same day within hours of each other.  And two are from Chicago.  Enjoy it folks.  The craziness is about to end, but we still have four more days to go.

Here are some highlights from the epic battle between Okafor and Alexander in the state playoffs last season courtesy of our man Scott Comeau with BallisLife.

Click To Watch Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander Video Highlights


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