Will Jahlil Okafor be a pied piper?

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Will Jahlil Okafor be a pied piper?

Elite basketball players like to play with elite basketball players.
They choose to play together on AAU teams in the summer. They transfer from one high school to another to be teammates. And, in some cases, they agree to go to the same college.
Call them pied pipers.
They are recruiting magnets, the kind of skilled or charismatic players who attract other blue chip players. The Wonder Five did it at Kentucky, Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton at UCLA, Cazzie Russell at Michigan and Quinn Buckner at Indiana.
Jahlil Okafor could be another. Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 junior is rated as the No. 1 player in the class of 2014 nationally by Rivals.com, a drop step ahead of 6-foot-4 guard Emmanuel Mudlay of Dallas, Texas, guard Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, Minnesota, and his close friend, 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander of Curie.
Okafor has talked to Jones and Alexander about going to college together. They are being recruited by many of the same schools, including Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Ohio State.
"We talk about how much fun it would be and how great it would be to go to school together. We're like brothers. We're in the same national spotlight. We go to some of the same camps and that brings us closer together," Okafor said.
"But I'm not worried about making a commitment now. All of us are focusing on this season. For me, it's all about this season. My goal is to try to help my team win the state championship. I'm very hungry for it, eager to achieve it. Then everything will fall into place for me."
How good is Okafor?
"Okafor needs to be an even greater defensive presence if Whitney Young is to win a state title," said recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "We think that he will be and that he is more than up to the task.
"At the same time, Okafor still needs to receive even more touches offensively. In the past, there have been too many instances in which Whitney Young has run its offense away from him. We don't see that happening this season."
The Schmidt brothers claim Okafor is more polished than former Mr. Basketball stars Rashard Griffith of King and Eddy Curry of Thornwood at the same stage of their careers. However, as of now, they agree that he isn't a better defender than Prospectives' Anthony Davis, who led Kentucky to the NCAA championship as a freshman and was the NBA's first draft choice last season.
"Davis is the most skilled big man that we have seen come out of Chicago in recent memory, maybe ever," Roy Schmidt said. "That is in no way a knock on Okafor. It is simply something additional for him to strive for."
Okafor was disappointed with last season's 17-10 finish. Anything less than a state title was a disappointment. But he thinks it will be motivation for this year's team, which returns three starters and two promising transfers who figure to make an immediate impact.
"Youth affected us last year. We started three sophomores. Lack of experience was a factor," Okafor said. "Being there once and knowing what it takes to get to the state title game will help us to win this year. Following the coach, trusting the direction he leads us and staying together as a team will give us an edge."
Okafor, a distant cousin of NBA star Emeka Okafor of the Washington Wizards, has been in the spotlight since seventh grade when he was recruited and offered by DePaul in violation of NCAA rules. Last summer, he was tournament MVP for the gold-medal winning USA team in the FIBA Under-17 World Championship.
But can he generate a team chemistry with White, Peak, Reynolds, Madison and Toye in Whitney Young's bid to spoil Simeon's bid for a fourth Class 4A championship in a row?
"We have a lot of great players," Okafor said. "I look forward to playing with Peak and Madison. I am expecting a breakout season from White. And I am expecting a breakout season from Reynolds, too, because he has more experience."
Okafor embraces the new roles that Slaughter has outlined for him--dominant defensive player and team leader.
"With this team, my points won't go up. That's OK as long as we're winning," he said. "I want to increase my rebounds to 15 or more per game and be more of a defensive presence under the boards. I want to be able to defend and help my teammates out by being more vocal and more of a shot-blocker.
"It's a new role for me, being the team leader. It won't be hard to adjust to being more vocal. It's easy to lead when everybody trusts each other. My approach? You have to be different to each player. Depending on the situation, sometimes you have to yell or pull them aside. The role is new for me but I'm learning as I go. I usually lead by example."
And nobody does it better.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria won't be fazed by rebuild

White Sox manager Rick Renteria won't be fazed by rebuild

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Rick Renteria knew a White Sox rebuild would be a possibility when he took over as manager and he’s not afraid of the challenges it presents.

Same as he told them in October, the new White Sox manager said on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings on Wednesday that he’s OK with whatever direction the team chooses to head. Given the events of the past two days, when the White Sox reigned in four elite prospects in pair of blockbuster deals for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, Renteria has a pretty firm grasp of what’s to come.

Shortly after trading they traded Sale to the Boston Red Sox for four minor leaguers on Tuesday, the White Sox acquired three top pitching prospects from the Washington Nationals for Eaton on Wednesday. Despite what promises to be an inexperienced roster in 2017, Renteria plans to take the same open-minded approach into next season as he always has regardless of the makeup of the roster.

“We're obviously going to miss Chris,” Renteria said several hours before the Eaton deal was completed. “He was an integral part of our organization and our team. My only concern is obviously whatever players, what group of players I have, those are the ones I have to manage. So at this point, we have what we have right now and we'll see how it continues.”

When he hired him on Oct. 3, general manager Rick Hahn said he did so in part because the Renteria could handle a veteran roster equally as well as a youthful one. Hahn mentioned Tuesday that the entire major league coaching staff has been restructured with player development in mind, including the additions of third-base coach Nick Capra and bullpen coach Curt Hasler.

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Regardless of whether or not the team planned to compete next season, Renteria expected to at least work with some younger players. It’s the way of the world, promoting prospects to the majors with the idea it’s the final step in their development, Renteria said. Renteria didn’t sound as if he’s worried if he was inundated with prospects.

“There was talks of the possibility, but there was nothing set in stone at the time obviously,” Renteria said. “Younger players are filtering in a lot sooner than they used to in the past. You still have to continue to teach at the Major League level, and that's one thing that's evident throughout.”

Renteria said the key to players young or old is communication. Either way his approach would mostly be the same.

“Every human being is the sum total of all their experiences, so you've got to get to know people first, see what it is that motivates them, what kind of clicks with them to get them to act out on certain things that you might have them perform on a more consistent basis,” Renteria said. “I think that baseball has its own language. It's something that is indescribable at times. But working with the younger guys, I relish it. I look forward to it.

"But I also look forward to working with older veteran players, too. It's the same. My approach doesn't change a lot, other than you give people with experience their place.”

White Sox deal Adam Eaton to Nationals for Lucas Giolito, two others

White Sox deal Adam Eaton to Nationals for Lucas Giolito, two others

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The White Sox completed another blockbuster deal at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday night, sending Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals.

One day after they traded Chris Sale to Boston for four minor leaguers, including two elite prospects, the White Sox traded their outstanding leadoff man for three more top prospects, including pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Washington’s 2016 first-rounder Dane Dunning is also in the deal.

The Nationals’ top minor leaguer and MLB.com’s third-rated prospect in the game, Giolito was one of the main players included in a reported package for Sale only two days earlier. A first-round draft pick in 2012, the 22-year-old right-hander features an outstanding fastball-curveball combination.

Lopez is the No. 38 overall prospect in baseball and Dunning was selected with the 29 th pick in the June draft.

Giolito is the second top-5 prospect the White Sox have added in two days along with infielder Yoan Moncada, the 2016 minor league player of the year, who came over from Boston in the Sale trade. The White Sox also acquired right-hander Michael Kopech, the 30th overall prospect, in the Sale deal.