College Basketball

Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor will enter NBA Draft

Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (15) blocks a shot by Wisconsins Frank Kaminsky (44) during the first half in the NCAA championship game on Monday April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Okafor has decided to enter the NBA draft.
Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (15) blocks a shot by Wisconsins Frank Kaminsky (44) during the first half in the NCAA championship game on Monday April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Okafor has decided to enter the NBA draft. rwillett@newsobserver.com

After successfully checking one dream off his list by winning a national championship, Jahlil Okafor is ready to tackle another: playing professional basketball.

Duke announced Thursday in a release that Okafor will enter the 2015 NBA draft.

“I recall at the age of six, promising my mom and dad that when I made it to the NBA I would buy them both different colored trucks,” Okafor said in the release. “They would laugh with me in support and encouraged me to dream big and work hard. With that being said and now at the age of 19, my dream is still alive! My freshman year has been an amazing experience to say the least. It exceeded my expectations!”

With his 6-foot-11, 270-pound frame, massive hands and combination of footwork and soft touch rarely seen in a player that big, Okafor was destined to be a top draft pick before he stepped foot on campus. And Krzyzewski never pretended that Okafor would be at Duke for longer than one season – he told the Durham Sports Club at a luncheon before the season began, “We’ll have him this year, and then he’ll be one of the top picks.”

So Krzyzewski’s comments in the press release came as no surprise.

“What a great decision!” Krzyzewski said in the release. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Jahlil and he has earned it. Obviously, he has done an incredible job here at Duke and he will always be a part of our Duke basketball family. We could not be happier for him and his family.”

Okafor became the first freshmen in the 61-year history of the ACC to win player of the year, averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. He also won every notable national freshman of the year award as well.

It’s hard to pick a best performance for Okafor. In the discussion would be his career-high 30 points at Virginia Tech, which came after he missed a game with a sprained left ankle – all of them were needed in the Blue Devils’ 91-86 overtime victory. He had 20 points in the revenge home win against Notre Dame. The 26 points he scored against San Diego State in the round of 32 represented his most dominant NCAA tournament performance.

Okafor becomes the sixth Duke freshmen to go one (year) and done, joining Corey Maggette (1999), Luol Deng (2004), Kyrie Irving (2011), Austin Rivers (2012) and Jabari Parker (2014).

He is the only one to leave Duke with a national championship ring and banner.

The five previous freshmen early entrees were each selected among the first 13 players in their respective drafts.

Decisions on the NBA draft from point guard Tyus Jones and forward Justise Winslow are expected in the coming days.

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