Jahlil Okafor is one of the nation’s top recruits, so he’s familiar with playing in new gyms as schools and tournaments try to attract his Chicago (Il.) Whitney Young squad to showcase his talents. Still, even Okafor never imagined that he’d compete where he did on Saturday night: His church.
You have to read that prior sentence literally for it to resonate to its most accurate effect. Okafor, one of the top overall recruits in the Class of 2014, played a varsity high school basketball game in his church, not a gym attached to or affiliated with his church. Literally, on his church’s floor.
As it turns out, the strange setting did nothing to limit Young’s explosiveness. The 6-foot-11 post presence scored 21 points and added 7 rebounds in a 61-46 win against Lisle (Il.) Benet Academy. In the process, he had to work through some initial discombobulation with trying to line up jumpers near where he usually walks in to pray.
The game was held in a custom-made basketball stadium called the House of Hope Arena, which was staged at a suburban megachurch where Okafor and his family attend. The arena sat 10,000 fans, though the attendance for the city-suburbs face off was far short of capacity.
"This is actually the church I attend, so I was kind of hoping I had a good game here," Okafor told the Chicago Tribune. "It looks totally different. It was really weird when I walked in the gym and saw all that open space. It was unique."
Open space or not, Okafor was dominant again, earning the highest praise from the star of the team he deposed.
"Obviously Okafor is a monster,” Benet senior Pat McInerney told the Tribune. “At some point you just can't stop him."
Maybe Benet was just trying to wrong house of worship. After all, synagogues and mosques may still be available for future contests.