Beyond The Game: Jahlil Okafor


(Okafor’s Senior Basketball Photo. Photo courtesy of

Life isn’t fair. Everybody learns that somewhere down the road. In one way or another, life is going to screw you over. It is just a matter of time. If you are lucky it happens at a time where you can just accept it for what it is. Some aren’t lucky however, and have to realize this at an early age. These events test your strength as a person, if you can persevere, you can do anything.

Jahlil Okafor, The Duke University Freshman Center who was ranked as the #1 overall player in his high school class had to accept this fact at the age of nine years old. In a recent Bleacher Report article, Okafor described how when he was nine years old he watched his mom die. When at home one day he saw his mom struggling to breathe-coughing and gasping for air. At first not believing it and thought it was a joke. But the struggle did not stop. He then called 911, and just waited and listened to the ambulance sirens pierce through his head as he just watched his mom struggling to stay alive. He rode along in the ambulance and then was left in the waiting room at the hospital praying for good news. The doctor came to him and broke the news to him and his 11-year old sister that their mother had passed away.

I could not imagine having to go through that now as an adult, I can’t even comprehend what was going through 9-year old Okafor’s mind. He could have easily gone down the wrong path, but no, he has since dedicated his life to honor his mother. Now at 18 years old, he is a daunting 6-foot 11-inch behemoth wreaking havoc on the basketball court. This kid is the real deal. He spent his childhood after that focusing on two things: his academics and basketball. He wanted to make sure when it was all said and done, he knew that his mom would be proud of him.

Averaging 14.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game, this kid is an absolute force down low. What many coaches love about Okafor is his attitude. He is a very reserved person, and just a true leader. Even being a freshman he is going to be looked at by his teammates to lead the team. He has said that he rarely  feels that pressured, he goes out and does his thing. He had said that he has never been on a stage like playing for Duke, but he is excited for the opportunity.

It’s early, but this kid is slated to be a top draft pick next year. He has the ability to be a prolific big man at the NBA level which has been lacking the past few years throughout the league. I believe this kid can be great because he has gone through so much for only being 18 years old, I think he can face anything that is put in his path. It surely will be a treat to see this kid play this season, and hopefully he will help Duke go deep in the tournament. Having been kicked out of the tournament in their first game two out of the last three years, Duke needs a spark, and I am confident Okafor is what they need to compete. His story is truly a sad one, and I hope it all works out. He sure deserves it.


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