February 14, 2010
Just when DePaul thinks it's done something right, it goes out and screws it up again.
Jahlil Okafor is a 14-year-old. (Yes, he is a distant cousin of Emeka Okafor.) He is also the prized recruit of DePaul's 2014-15 recruiting class.
Still in eighth grade, Okafor is already 6-foot-7 and doctors said he could top out at 7-3. Those kind of genes tend to catch quite a few coaches' eyes at an early age.
Interim Blue Demons coach Tracy Webster, who may or may not be given the title of head coach at the end of this season, has gone after Okafor "early and often," a phrase that was born out of Chicago.
Listen, this kind of courtship is greasier than a muffler-shop floor, but it's not new to the game. We have to accept the fact the NCAA can't do much about stopping coaches from, at a minimum, informally offering scholarships down the road. Chasing young prospects is allowed, and we have to accept that.
But the issue lies with the fact that DePaul athletic director, Jean Lenti Ponsetto (pictured), commented on the recruit. That's a no-no.
"This is a young guy we've been talking with for a long time, and who has been to games and we have a relationship with because his uncle works for the Rosemont Police Department," Ponsetto said. "I think it's a prospect who has grown up around DePaul basketball. I think he's probably a fan and someone who has been a fan for some time, since we have played in Rosemont for the last 30 years."
Anyone affiliated with a recruit cannot comment on said recruit until he or she signs with the program. It's serious stuff. Heck, I cover high school sports in Connecticut and I couldn't get a golf coach to talk about a player moving across the country to play in the Pac-10 because the rules are that strict.
It's also believed that Webster publicly confirmed the program's strategy to ChicagoHoops.com.
Okafor's father, Chuck, hasn't taken the offer too seriously yet. It's probably because DePaul is terrible and is overmatched in the Big East. Nice recruit if you can get him, but this courtship may be star-crossed from the get-go. It remains to be seen what will happen with DePaul, as ESPN Chicago's story just went up over the weekend.