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Chicago native, Whitney Young star Jahlil Okafor will be attending Duke University next fall.
A year ago Whitney Young failed to capitalize on the momentum gained from a city title, as they lost for a third straight year to rival Simeon in the Argo Sectional Final, ending their state championship dreams. But despite the disappointing end to a successful 27-3 season, the Dolphins are back and more experienced than ever, hungry to finally get to Peoria come March. Head coach Ty Slaughter's squad enters the 2013-14 season as the team to beat in the city and has no desire to remove the bull’s-eye that has been placed on their back, feeling no pressure being dubbed No. 1.
“Since I’ve been here we have pretty much considered ourselves the best team in the city, the best team in the state,” said Duke-bound center Jahlil Okafor. “We always knew we had the potential to win both city and state so it’s really no pressure from the outside, it’s really the pressure that we put on ourselves every day in practice and what coach Ty installs in us; letting us know that nobody really likes us just because we are called Whitney Young."
So what do Young's opponents really think of them?
"We are perceived as stuck up and every game in Chicago the other team is going to call us soft just because we go to Whitney Young," Okafor continued. "So I don’t really feel any pressure I just know everyone is hoping that we lose.”
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A below-par finish coupled with the aspiration to bring home a state championship -- the last one being in 2009 -- the Dolphins' three seniors, Okafor, Miles Reynolds, and Paul White, are focused on one thing: proving their superb talent now matches the three years of experience the trio has together. And even though all three have signed to different Division 1 schools, they remain motivated to win, saying all they are missing now is a state championship.
Reynolds, a heady floor general and speedster who can turn on the jets in transition, signed with St. Louis University while White, a crafty 6-foot-8 low post scorer and strong defensive presence, signed with Georgetown University. White will join head coach John Thompson III who has coached notable forwards like Boston Celtics' Jeff Green and the Washington Wizards 2013 No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter Jr., making White’s dream of one day playing in the NBA promising.
And while both signings were indeed noteworthy, the most anticipated announcement came from Okafor, who had all of America tuned in to ESPN just a few short weeks ago as he decided to take his talents to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Okafor is eager to learn from the winningest head coach in basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski, and help lead the Blue Devils to yet another national championship alongside best friend, Apple Valley H.S. point guard Tyus Jones, who will be joining him at Duke.
"My relationship with Coach K is great," Okafor went on to say. "That was kinda the tipping point for me to choose Duke. Coach K is considered the best coach in college basketball if not the best coach regardless of any sport. I felt like if I went to Duke he would shape me as a better person not just a player and just the brand of Duke itself is really going to be beneficial for me also. But I love Coach K to death."
[RELATED: Chicago native Jahlil Okafor chooses Duke]
But before the Young trio can embark on collegiate goals, they first have to conquer their senior season which is set to begin December 7 against a powerful St. John Bosco team at the second annual Chicago Elite Classic at the UIC Pavilion. The California squad is home to the lethal 2015 guard Tyler Dorsey -- reminiscent of a young John Wall -- 6-foot-6 UCONN commit Daniel Hamilton, and White’s fellow Georgetown signee Tre Campbell.
And while this is no easy task even for the No. 1 team in the city, Slaughter remains confident in his team and is proud of the progress the Classic has taken in just its two short years of existence.
“Our team is perfect on the season. We have zero wins and zero losses, if it could all end that way it would be great but unfortunately it won’t,” said coach Slaughter. “We open up on Saturday against a very good St. John Bosco ball club out of California with two outstanding players and we look forward to playing and having a good time at the Classic. And as coach Rob Smith [Simeon High School] said this is something he and I talked about for about three years and one year we said why not try to do it. If you look at the field this year, at the top of the program, we have some of the best teams in our state. There is no doubt about it. When you look at the program and the event itself, we have 17 ESPN Top-100 players and that’s an incredible feat to do it right here in Chicago.”
Saturday's games are set to tip-off at 11 a.m. Click here for the full schedule.
Be sure to watch High School Lites at 11 p.m. every Friday night on Comcast SportsNet to see a new episode of DRIVE: Whitney Young Basketball, presented by Northern Illinois University. Also, check out the DRIVE: Whitney Young Basketball preps page for updates all season long here on CSNChicago.com.