Rush the Court: With the summer recruiting window now closed, who are some of the top performers in the Class of 2014 and what makes those players so special?
Dave Telep: To be honest with you, I have not had time to really process all of that yet. But I think when you are talking about 2014, you have to include Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, IL/Whitney Young), Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, MN/Apple Valley), Cliff Alexander (Chicago, IL/Curie), Myles Turner (Euless, TX/Trinity), and Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas, TX/Prime Prep Academy) – in some order. I think with this class, whoever ends up being number one right now will be challenged and pushed throughout the year by the rest of the guys. I think we learned a lot in the month of July, but I do not think we have one guy who is ripping away from the rest of the pack to a point where he cannot be caught.
Jahlil Okafor is the complete package at the post position. His ability to catch the ball and position himself near the basket is outstanding. Cliff Alexander probably had the best summer – start-to-finish – of any big guy in the country. He is a large human being who is relentless and loves to rebound. Tyus Jones is the ultimate game manager. Skip Prosser used to say about Chris Paul, “I hand him the ball at the start of the game and at the end of the game, he hands it back over in good shape.” To me, Tyus Jones is that same kind of player. Emmanuel Mudiay plays the game like he is on skates. He reminds me of John Wall a little bit with his approach. They are different players, but they are both scoring point guards, with good size, scoring ability, and really want to just rip it and go. With Myles Turner, I am not sure two years from now we will look at this class and Myles Turner will not be the best prospect. When you stack up all these guys in-terms of long term potential, I am not sure that there is anyone who is like Myles Turner.
Jeff Borzello: The three weeks in July were great for helping to establish the rankings because you were able to take into account head-to-head matchups and things like that. Jahlil Okafor is just so skilled. There are not many guys his size that are able to do the things that he does. He passes so well, he can play in the high post, and he can play in the low post. When you look at his AAU teammate Cliff Alexander, the guy is just a physical specimen. He is stronger than most players he goes against. He might be the most productive big man in high school basketball. He might not be the best prospect, but he is so productive because he is so big. Myles Turner is probably the biggest riser of the past two months or so. He is a seven-footer who can shoot threes, run the floor, he is a great shot blocker, and might be the best interior defender in the country. It is kind of fun to compare the elite point guards – Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay – just because they are so different. Tyus Jones is more of the cerebral/runs-the-team winner. He is a really good passer and keeps things under control. Emmanuel Mudiay, on the other hand, is a legitimate possible future NBA All-Star. He is that talented. His ceiling is extremely high, he is stronger than most guys he goes against, he can get in the lane at will, and he is a much improved jump shooter. The elite guys in the country do a lot of different things. This year, they are not too similar in their skill sets.
RTC: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have long made known their intentions to play college basketball at the same school. This is definitely a unique situation given the fact that Okafor and Jones are from different states, are not related, and are two of the top players in the Class of 2014. What are your thoughts on this rare situation and is there any possibility that this package might get broken up?
Telep: Most of the time when two guys tell you they are going to school together, you are just waiting for the ceiling to fall in. You do not necessarily believe that things are going to work out the way they let everyone believe it will. However, the dynamics of this relationship is very special. You have two guys who already won a gold medal together at the 2012 FIBA U-17 World Championship and roomed together during the games in Lithuania. They have spent a lot of time together. One is the best point guard and the other is the best post player in the class, so you can understand why they would want to go to school together if they are already friends. It almost makes too much sense. Now, there are colleges as we speak that are trying to rip and pull this package away – as they should – because they do not think they can get both guys. Just to give you the reality of the situation – Minnesota is on Jones’ list, but it is not on Okafor’s list and Illinois is on Okafor’s list, but it is not on Jones’ list. On the other hand, you have a group of other schools (Duke, Kentucky, Baylor, Ohio State, etc.) that are actively going after both players. One official visit is already scheduled at Baylor and I strongly believe another one will be set for Duke. I would imagine a lot more will come out about both guys’ recruitment over the next few weeks, so we will have a better idea of where things are at with it.