has watched many games live at the United Center in Chicago. Wednesday, he stepped on the court in uniform for the very first time.
The Whitney Young (Chicago)
7-foot center made a good first impression, taking home co-MVP honors at the 37th McDonald's All American Game with 17 points and seven rebounds in the West's 105-102 victory over the East before 17,116 fans.
Down 102-101, Okafor took a pass from Arizona signee
of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
off a pick-and-roll play and slammed it home with 38.7 seconds left. Following an East miss, Kansas-bound Kelly Oubre
of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
sank two free throws with 19.1 seconds left to give the West a three-point cushion.
Three-point skills champion and Indiana-bound James Blackmon
of Marion (Ind.)
missed a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left and the West ran out the clock from there. Blackmon finished with 13 points. See a slideshow from the eventJustin Jackson
, a 6-7 home-schooled player from Houston and headed to North Carolina, led all players with 23 points for the East and earned co-MVP honors. He made 11 of 14 shots.
Okafor, who last week was named the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year
, said at halftime that finally playing at the United Center was hard to believe.
"It's surreal," he told a national television audience. "I've watched a lot of games here before but never played here. It's a lot of fun. I just hope we can pull out a victory."
Thanks in part to him, the West did, just as its coach Frank Allocco practically promised. In a blog he has written for MaxPreps the last three days, the De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
coach was informed that the team that won the scrimmage the day before the game has lost every time.
The West won the scrimmage Tuesday and reversed the trend with Wednesday's victory.
"The good news is that we won the scrimmage," he wrote Tuesday. "The bad news is that reportedly the team that wins the pregame scrimmage has never won the actual game in the entire history of the event.
"We plan to change that trend (Wednesday)."
They definitely did, thanks largely to impeccable ballhandling. The West committed just five turnovers — surely a 37-year low from the event — and also got 15 points from Emmanuel Mudiay
, a 6-4 guard from Prime Prep (Dallas)
headed to SMU, 14 by UNLV-bound 6-6 guard Rashad Vaughn
from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
and 11 by Oubre.
"For all the talent these guys have, what's amazing to me is their basketball IQ," Allocco said. "They all really seemed to like each other as well. That made a difference in the end I think."
During the final timeout, Allocco told Johnson, coming off an undefeated high school season, to keep his promise.
"We made a pact that he wasn't going to lose this season," Allocco said by phone. "He made the big play and Jahlil made the big basket. It was a great game and just an unbelievable event. Coaching these guys has been one of the highlights of my life."
, a 6-4 guard headed to Ohio State from Montverde Academy (Fla.)
, added 11 points for the East, which took 21 fewer shots than the West. Tyus Jones
, a 6-1 guard from Apple Valley (Minn.)
headed to Duke, took just five shots, scored seven points but played a superb floor game with 10 assists.
Okafor will now take his game to Duke, where he might reunite with fellow Chicago standout and AAU teammate Jabari Parker, who has yet to announce whether he's headed for the NBA or coming back for another college season. Okafor, who leaned on Parker heavily during his recruiting process, was asked all weekend if he knew what college basketball's Freshman of the Year was going to do.
Okafor told us last week: "I just repeat to him, what he told me. Sure, I would
love him to come back and we play together. But he's got to be happy and
if that's the NBA next year, good for him."
On Wednesday, Okafor was just thrilled to leave Chicago a winner.
"The ovation he got out there tonight was amazing," Allocco said. "He deserved all of it. Not just for the game he played and the career he's had here, but because he's such a genuine great young man."West 105, East 102EAST (102)
Cliff Alexander 4-11 1-3 9, Justin Jackson 11-14 0-0 23, Myles Turner 2-3 2-3 7, Tyus Jones 3-5 0-0 7, D’Angelo Russell 5-10 0-0 11, Theo Pinson 1-5 1-2 3, Isaiah Whitehead 2-5 2-2 6, Melo Trimble 0-5 2-2 2, Justise Winslow 4-6 1-4 9, James Blackmon 5-11 2-2 13, Karl-Anthony Towns 3-6 0-0 6, Kevon Looney 3-8 0-0 6. Totals 43-89 11-18 102WEST (105)
Trey Lyles 3-7 2-2 8, Jahlil Okafor 8-15 1-2 7 17, Emmanuel Mudiay 6-15 3-4 15, Grayson Allen 2-6 0-0 4, Stanley Johnson 4-10 0-0 8, Joel Berry II 3-6 0-0 7, Kelly Oubre 3-13 5-5 11, Devin Booker 3-8 0-0 8, Rashad Vaughn 5-11 2-2 14, Reid Travis 4-8 0-0 8, Tyler Ulis 2-5 0-0 5, Thomas Welsh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 43-110 13-15 105.East
51 51 — 102West
50 55 — 1053-point goals:
East 5-19 (Jackson, Turner, Jones, Russell Blackmon Jr.), West 6-28 (Booker 2, Vaughn 2, Ulis, Berry II). Rebounds:
East 57 (Alexander 11, Looney 11), West 53 (Lyles 8). Assists:
East 23 (Jones 10), West 22 (Mudiay 6). Turnovers:
East 12, West 5. Blocks:
East 7 (Towns 2, Looney 2), West 6 (Oubre Jr. 2).